I have spent a large portion of my life wishing my body was something different than what it is, comparing it to the bodies of other women. It started as a child. I wanted to be taller, thinner, more delicate. Instead, I remained on the shorter side, with a stocky build. I wasn’t gifted at sports and if I tried to dance, I was inevitably a beat or two behind everyone else. I felt awkward and frumpy, a hobbit among graceful elves. I even found it wildly unfair that I had a young woman’s body and was weaker and slower than my male friends. I saw myself as unfairly limited, mostly because I was only focusing on what my body couldn’t do.
My 20’s came and I still wanted to be something I wasn’t. I wanted to be the thin bendy yoga Momma. I wanted to be lithe and stylish and not have thick, short legs. I felt like I was a hippo among giraffes. I don’t think I’m alone in these kinds of insecurities. I often felt like aspects of my body that I didn’t like were some kind of mistake, as if G-d meant to give me a ballet dancer’s body and somehow made a mistake along the way. Or, I viewed them as a curse, a punishment of some kind, as if G-d had withheld gifts from me that He’d given to others.
It wasn’t really until my 30’s that I began to find peace with my body. Studying Judaism helped in a lot of ways. In the US, we’re inundated with the idea that anyone can become anything. In some ways, that’s freeing, but it also can be a recipe for being unsatisfied with who and what you are. In Judaism, I found a completely different mindset that accepted and reinforced that different people are born for different purposes. Just like a Levite can never be the Kohen Gadol, I’m never going to be 6 feet tall. On the surface, this seems wildly unfair. Why should a person be limited by their birth? Why shouldn’t we be able to become whatever we want, whether it’s the high priest or a ballet dancer?
I began to realize that the reason we can’t always choose our path is because it has been chosen for us. Everything about me is on purpose for a reason. My stubborness, my feistiness, and my inseam, all chosen for my specific, unique mission. I can’t be a long legged runner because then I wouldn’t be me…and no one else can fill my place in this world. I began to look at my body in a whole new way and I began to focus on what it COULD do.
Being short, I have a wonderfully low center of gravity. I’m hard to knock over and I’m strong. My bones are not dainty, but they don’t break easily. I can fit in small spaces and I can lift heavy weights. My body has been relatively trouble free for many years and has carried me through so many adventures. I easily backpacked through Europe without any back issues. I managed to survive in an industry where I needed to be able to lift 50lbs. I easily birthed two wonderful children and my body nourished them. My body is forgiving of all kinds of foolishness I’ve put it through and it puts on muscle easily, enabling me to be strong when I need to be. It’s a GREAT body when I need to squeeze onto an airplane and even though I can’t reach the top shelves in grocery stores, I’m strong enough to climb them.
I don’t always know what mission my Creator intended me for, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t being an Olympic runner or a rockette. That’s why I don’t have that body. I have the body that I was intended to have for what only I can bring to the world and once I started accepting that, I was able to start looking for the opportunities that are there to use my gifts to help others rather than envying the gifts others have. Often, the very things I would change about myself are the things that make me unique and uniquely suited to what I need to do.
This isn’t to say that it isn’t good to work on being healthier or improving those aspects of my personality that I can, but it’s important to love, accept, and appreciate the gifts I have been given and find a healthy balance between growing and loving myself as I am.
What is something about your body that you have refused to accept and how might it actually be your superpower?