An Apology to Our Bodies

A moving and honest letter to our bodies that we put through too much and never thank enough, by Amaan Akhtar.


To my body,

I abuse you. I bully you. I have never truly accepted you. Because I was consumed in my belief that I can mould you. That I could shape you into something you’re not.

I conjure up wild fantasies of how and what we should be, chasing dreams that our legs cannot keep up with. Yet, you entertained the notion like a puppet manipulated with strings as you move onward and indulge the pursuit of our dreams.

I wanted you to become stronger. Faster. More athletic. Leaner. Taller. Sexier. But you failed to keep up with my incessant demands.  

In retaliation, I punished you. I pushed you harder than before. I starved you to exhaustion. And when that failed and I lost hope in these goals - sometimes, I overindulged you till our belly swelled to twice its size and we entered a “food coma” state that lasted for days.

But never, no not once, did I ever say ‘thank you’. Never did I show any gratitude towards your sacrifice and commitment, when I pushed you to the utmost extremities that would make anyone go mad.

At some point, I pretended to love you for what you are. However, I should have known that first I needed to accept you for what you are. Because without acceptance of your limitations and flaws, I am still a liar. I am still a torturer. I am still an executioner of happiness.

Behind these closed doors, I secretly despise the flaws. The scars, the afflictions, the abnormalities. Anything which remotely looks and feels out of place. Because we should look like everyone else. But we don’t.

Maybe we never will.

Our skin isn't smooth and flawless. Nor is our skin an acceptable ethnic colour that would shut down even the most casual racial insults. There are outrageous scars and blemishes that spoil our skin. I’ve attempted to mask them with lotions, creams and many more beauty products… but to no avail. And the imperfections still scream back and haunt me as I breathe.

Our face isn't symmetrical and beautifully proportioned. We glance in a reflection and only pay attention to the negatives: the large hooked nose, the bushy monobrow, the dark eyebags, and the yellow-stained teeth. We rarely see the character traits underneath. Because people make snap judgements based on our looks. And they will judge us and rate us and discriminate us because we are far removed from the “most desirable” in the human population.

We lie far below the ideal body standards. We have hairs growing in places of our body where we don’t want them to be. Darker hairs. Longer hairs. Sometimes an odd white hair. Yet, we are also absent of hairs in places of our body where they are expected to be.  

Nor are the muscles on our limbs sculpted like Greek statues, Hollywood stars and cover-worthy models. Instead, we scrutinise the pudginess all around

- on our bellies as they puff out and form a muffin top from a mere bite of food;

- on our arms and legs, jiggling away through our clothing as we walk around attempting to conceal parts of us.  

I know that I must ignore the background noise and learn to love you. But I don't. And I don't know why I can't silence the voices in our head and the opinions of those around us and just simply say, "Enough". Because you have given me everything and more. But I continue to take and take and take.

Until the day comes, one Friday evening in Spring, when I finally the realize the truth. As we lie there, our limbs anchored like lead to the mattress. As all the energy in us dies with each passing breath from our lungs. As our heart sinks low in our chest, burrowed deep in emotional pain. And our eyes are vacant, remaining fixated on the ceiling light above us, staring into nothingness. That is the day when we finally ask ourselves, "Have we taken too much?"

Because when does it become too much? When do you finally give up on us? When do our organs and limbs shut down? When do we develop a terminal illness? Will we ever learn to stop and think about your limits… or do we continue to push till we reach breaking point?

Or do we learn to accept you for what you are, because we may not have you forever. Someday, you will be taken from us, limb by limb, organ by organ, till we remain as nothing but a memory buried in the ground.

The truth is, we should be thankful. No, we should be extremely grateful for what we have. I still have all of my limbs intact. There are many who don’t. All of my organs still function well. There are many whose don’t. I am still alive. There are many who are not.

That is why I must make amends with you. And I am not the only one who needs to do this. There are thousands, if not millions of us, who cannot accept that what we already physically have is ‘precious’. We have all made grandiose comparisons and upheld lofty expectations for ourselves.

We want to be "great" and "exceptional". We want others to see what we see. Not what the mirror sees. Because we believe we are worth more than what that person in the mirror is. It just hasn’t shined through yet.

Yet, when will it ever be enough? When will you ever be happy with the way you were born?

Time is fleeting away and our bodies age more every day. So, perhaps we should act now. Perhaps, today we say ‘enough’.

Today, I have learned to accept you, and not to fix parts of you that will never be “fixable”.

From someone who is trying to love you more (and slowly getting there) each and every day.

Signed,

- A compassionate mind


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