52 Ways To Love Your Body(New Harbinger, 2016), by Kimber Simpkins is a guide for embracing the body that you are in. Learning to love your body means no longer wasting your energy on body hatred and giving yourself back all that time to change the world instead. In her book, Simpkins shares with readers many of her favorite ways to treat her body with love and let go of the yearning for perfection, feeding her true hungers, and freeing herself of the mean girl voice she bullied herself with for years. And best of all, these practices not only have helped her, but also have been life changing for the many students in her workshops whose shift from body hating to body loving she’s been lucky enough to witness. It may feel impossible to believe that peace can be made with your body and you can even learn to love it. Maybe you’ve spent your entire life until now wishing your body were different, and you’re thinking that one little book isn’t going to change that. But change is based on practice, and you have to begin somewhere. That’s what this book is offering you — practices that can change your life. Let the practices here inspire and support your quest to become the friend your body deserves. By coming this far, you’re already on your way.
In The Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse explains what it means to be real: “‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time… Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’”
So which do you want? Do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be real?
There are two basic definitions of perfect, one imaginary and one based on real life. Imaginary, ideal perfection is mathematic perfection — the infinitely long, perfectly straight lines that exist only on paper and in our heads. Ideal perfect inflicted on the human body becomes those images we have plastered to the insides of our heads (thanks, media!), images that have been photoshopped into a perfectly symmetrical, flawless, and unattainable standard of beauty. Ideal perfection leads us on an exhausting chase where we pull products off shelves and follow the next aging expert’s directions in our attempts to suspend the inevitability of time just a few inches away from the surface of our skin.
Real perfect is different. Real perfect means “good enough,” as in when I ask you, “Can I set the groceries here?” and you say, “Perfect.” Real perfect can also mean that something is fully, wholly, completely itself. You are perfect because you are already fully yourself—and you always have been.
Ideal, mathematical perfection doesn’t exist in nature and isn’t compatible with life. A perfectly round sphere exists only in one place…your imagination. How great would it feel to let go of this unreasonable standard of perfection that is impossible to meet or maintain?
American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne told a story about a scientist and his beautiful wife, whose only flaw was a birth- mark on her face. The scientist wants her to be perfect, so he sets himself up with his beakers and flasks to find a solution to remove the blemish forever. And in the end he finds just the thing, a medicine that removes the birthmark, but kills her in the process. She dies, but hey, she’s perfect! When we throw ourselves into the pursuit of physical perfection, we forget that removing the flaws from something sucks the life out of it.
- An infinitely long, perfectly straight line A perfectly round sphere
- A mathematical proof
- A photoshopped image that eliminates all scars, pores, and stretch marks
- The asymmetry of a tree
- A beloved, tattered stuffed animal
- The ocean and its mix of calm and wildness The moon with its craters and bumps
- A child’s toothy smile
When we look at a tree, we can see both its imperfections and its beauty. Maybe it has too many branches on one side, or is bare and straggly in places, but it’s perfectly itself. We can see what’s beautiful in its imperfections. You’re like that: perfectly imperfect. We’re not meant to achieve imaginary levels of perfection. We are meant to be fully ourselves.
In Sanskrit, the word for perfect, full, or whole is purna. Purna doesn’t mean idealized perfection, but perfection that comes because something is fully itself. You are wholly yourself, and you always have been, with all your strengths and weak- nesses, talents and flaws, successes and failures. By this radical redefinition of perfection, you are perfect now and always have been.
Why not redefine perfection for yourself, and give perfect a definition that includes you as you are?
Look at the categories on the previous page: ideal perfect and real perfect. Which category does your body fit into? Can you define perfection in a way that includes yourself, that makes space for a real, beautifully flawed human life? What resistance do you have to thinking about yourself as perfect already?
Don’t worry; seeing yourself as perfect doesn’t mean complacency. We can be perfect and still change and grow and learn. Instead of trying to fix our brokenness or imperfection, we come from the place of knowing that we are good enough already. Get real — dump the idealized version of perfection and give yourself permission to be flawed, wonderful, messy, and very human. Perfect.
To write your new definition of perfect onto your bones, post this aspiration someplace and repeat it as a mantra: “May I see myself as perfect, with all my flaws and beauty, just the way I am.”