I'm going through a break-up right now and I can't stop blaming my body. I feel like this is my body's fault for not being good enough, and I can't shake the thought that if I didn't look like this everything would have worked out. Is my body actually to blame? How do I get out of this mindset?
I guarantee you that everyone reading this is well practised at placing blame on their body when they're hurting. I've turned my body into the reason for things going wrong more times than I can remember, for everything from someone not liking me to having a bad day – it was always my body's fault. If I just looked different everything would be okay.
Looking back, there were two reasons why I always turned on my body for something to blame. First, because I was deeply invested in the idea that a perfect body brought a perfect life with it – something that I'd been conditioned to believe with every weight loss make-over and every rom-com fairytale where the happy ending only comes to the people whose bodies fit the part. Those people always ended up loved, happy and successful, whether it was Hollywood fiction, reality TV or an advert promising that real life would start with my new body. It makes sense that every time things felt so far from perfect, it became my body's fault, for not fitting the part.
Second, I've always been better at aiming my pain inwards towards myself than exploring where it truly belongs. It's more familiar to self-destruct than to believe that my emotions might be justified, and that I might even be allowed to show them to the world rather than holding them in until I implode. The body becomes an ideal scapegoat when you don't believe that you're entitled to feel things, to show that you are feeling things, and to hold the source of the hurt accountable.
Of those two reasons, one is very clearly a hollow manipulation of reality designed to sell us a fantasy that doesn't exist. But if we believe it does, we'll keep buying the products to make our bodies fit the part. And the other is a deeply fucked up belief that we don't even deserve to experience a full range of human emotion without shame because it might be inconvenient to the people around us. We would rather hurt ourselves than make other people uncomfortable by showing them how we really feel. Guess what's the same in both?
It's not actually our bodies' fault. And it never was. The idea that having a body that's perfect by cultural standards would shield you from anything going wrong in life is a lie. People with those bodies still experience pain, they still go through break-ups, they are not always loved, happy and successful without question. Those things are all more complicated than appearance.
Even if this person told you that they were ending the relationship because of how you look, it still wouldn't be your body's fault. It would be their fault for not being able to see that your value is so far beyond how your body looks.
And although it might feel natural to turn your pain inwards and take it out on your body, your emotions aren't something that you need to filter down into diet plans and self punishment for them to be acceptable. Let yourself feel. Without judgement. You are allowed to feel things without turning them into your fault.
The next time you find yourself thinking “my body caused this”, change the narrative to “my body carried me through this”. Even if things are painful, even if everything is going wrong, your body is showing up for you every day and fighting for you in ways you don't even realise. It's taken enough blame for things that weren't its fault already. And it doesn't deserve to always be the scapegoat.
You are deserving of a lasting relationship in the body you have. You are also deserving of a relationship with your body that's rooted in respect regardless of how things go. Because it has never been your body's fault that you were taught to turn against it in the first place.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.