Dr. Elayne Daniels

I want to talk to the body-haters out there. Look in the mirror, then fill in the blank: “I hate my…..” What body part du jour grabbed your disapproval this time? Your thighs? Hips? Stomach? Butt? Chin? Neck? Cultivating love for your own body is easier said than done and takes more than cliché affirmations or inspiring poems about body image. It can, however, be done.

If you’ve spent most of your life comparing yourself to others, the idea of actually loving your body may seem laughable. Awkward. Even impossibleWhile hating your own body is common, it’s not natural. No one is born in a state of self-loathing. No one. 

We learn to be at war with our bodies.

Feeling better about your body doesn’t happen overnight. But your body image can actually change for the better over time. (Though probably not from spending time on your Insta feed or watching Mean Girls clips.)

How you feel about your body is affected by so many things — especially the messages you received (or didn’t receive) at a young age. 

What did your parents, siblings, and peers say or do that made you shrink into shame about your body? 

What did they not say or do that would have been validating to your body image and sense of self?

Often, the way people see themselves is set into place early on. And that’s a big reason that beliefs about your body — especially the negative ones — can be resistant to change. 

Add in the representation of bodies on television and in movies, fashion, and social media, and those beliefs become ingrained..

Changing those negative, even dangerous, beliefs is an unraveling process. 

It took years of being in the presence of untruth and body negativity to get to a place of hating your body. It will take a long time to transform them.

But every step in the right direction is a transformation in itself. And it all starts by putting yourself in the presence of truth, kindness, and gratitude regarding your body.

Today we’re going to step into positivity through poetry.

Here are 8 of the most beautiful poems about body image to inspire you, even when your self-confidence is minimal.

“We are all born/ so beautiful/ the greatest tragedy is/ being convinced we are not” (Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey)

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The steride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman 

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or 

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,   

They say they still can’t see.   

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,   

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.   

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.   

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

(Maya Angelou, from And Still I Rise)

“The body is not a… hurdle to be surmounted on the way to enlightenment.”

(The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor)

“Why do you live in your body like you will be given another? As if it were temporary. You starve it, you let anyone touch it, you berate it. Tell it that should be completely different. You tug at your soft flesh, wish it thinner, wish it gone. You fall in love with those who praise the way it sighs under their hands, but who praises the way it holds up your weight, even when you are falling apart?”

“Your body is a museum of natural disasters. Can you grasp how stunning that is?”

(Your Body by Warsan Shire)

“You are worth more than a waistline… more than any naked body could proclaim in the shadows. You are no less valuable as a size 16 than a size 4…are no less valuable as a 32A than a 36C. Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood.”

(Love Your Body by Mary Lambert)

“I am a woman with flaws. I’m not a woman with flaws, I am a woman flawed, and yet soaring high with every imperfection tattooed on my skin marking moments in time where I learned to love myself, to love the curves and angles that make me unique. I am my own kind of beautiful.”

(Flawless by Sara Niles)

Our sense of worth is often entwined with feelings about our body — and often, our body is viewed not with kindness or love but with deep shame,
But feelings and facts are not the same, the truth is, your worth is innate, irrefutable, accepting who we are and how we are in this moment — that is endlessly beautiful.

(Untitled by P. Bodi)

I am soft,

In more ways than one.

And there is no shame

In the quiet revolution 

That comes from

Letting yourself

Settle into your own skin

And saying

“This is not a place I’ve always loved,

But I’m learning and I’m trying.”

Peace.

(Key Ballah)

And on a lighthearted note….

-author unknown

Ultimately, poetry about body image can be a source of hope and inspiration, reminding all of us that we are not alone in our struggles. There is beauty and strength in the collective. I’m talking about shared humanity — whatever the size, shape, capacity, gender, or (fill-in-the-blank) of your physical body.

While there is no “voila!” moment when it comes to body love, maybe, just maybe, body image poetry such as what’s included here can provide a seed to nurture, tend to, and grow.

Ultimately, poetry about body image can be a source of hope and inspiration, reminding all of us that we are not alone in our struggles. There is beauty and strength in the collective. I’m talking about shared humanity — whatever the size, shape, capacity, gender, or (fill-in-the-blank) of your physical body.

While there is no “voila!” moment when it comes to body love, maybe, just maybe, body image poetry such as what’s included here can provide a seed to nurture, tend to, and grow.

Dr. Elayne Daniels is an international psychologist, coach, and consultant with a private practice in MA. Contact her here for more information. For more about body image, check out these blog articles. 

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