Over the last few months, I’ve been finishing up a little book I’ve been working on called Your Life in Bloom.
It’s my exploration of the art of courageously building a life – uniquely, boldly, and without turning away from challenges, flaws, and failures. One part of that is accepting, respecting, and loving your body as it is.
I feel like it’s so common: beating yourself up for not being perfect, even if that’s a totally unattainable goal (and if you reached it, you’d probably still feel unhappy anyway.)
Honestly, I don’t even know what my body really looks like – I’ve had a dysmorphic view of it for so many years. So now, I try and look beyond what the mirror is showing me and think about what my body gives me. Strength, flexibility, movement, power…. there’s so much.
In my own very individual case, focusing on getting stronger has helped me the most – whether that’s hiking in the mountains, gradually working up to deadlifting my bodyweight, or going to my local bouldering gym a few times a week. (Building muscle and feeling less delicate required some mental recalibration, but overall it’s been incredibly positive.)
Books have helped too, of course. Scroll down for some of my favourite books to read when you’re feeling insecure about your body to help you nurture more kindness and love towards yourself.
“You are not your body. Your looks do not determine your worth. But your body is your home. Your forever home. There is never any reason not to treat it with the most respect and gentle kindness. Honour the incredible vessel you have been gifted to enjoy this world in. Say the most loving and tender things to yourself and your body. Pour love into the parts of you that don’t conform to society’s narrow definitions of what a human being should look like. Be the most wonderful friend to yourself. Even if you’ve spent years or decades hating your beautiful, powerful body, that can stop now. The rest of your life can be loving and gentle and unceasingly kind.“Your Life in Bloom by Lucy Fuggle
Books to overcome insecurity and love your body as it is
1. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
For when you’re feeling insecure, perhaps the best reminder that you will never be as young and strong as you are now is from Barbara Kingsolver:
“When I was in my thirties I had these square hips left over from being pregnant and I just hated it. I kept thinking, ‘All those years before, I had a perfect glamour-girl body, and I didn’t spend one minute appreciating it because I thought my nose had a bump on it.’
“Now that I’m old, my shoulder hurts and I don’t sleep good and my knuckles swell up and I think, ‘All those years in my thirties and forties I had a body where everything worked perfect. And I didn’t spend one minute appreciating it because I thought I had square hips.’”
2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This is the bestselling story of Eleanor, who never thought that life should be better than fine. It’s a warm and uplifting novel about a wonderfully unique heroine whose weirdness and wit make for an irresistible journey as she meets Raymond, the bumbling, unhygienic, and incredibly kind-hearted IT guy from her office.
“Did men ever look in the mirror, I wondered, and find themselves wanting in deeply fundamental ways? When they opened a newspaper or watched a film, were they presented with nothing but exceptionally handsome young men, and did this make them feel intimidated, inferior, because they were not as young, not as handsome? Did they then read newspaper articles ridiculing those same handsome men if they gained weight or wore something unflattering?”
3. Your Good Body: Embracing a Body-Positive Mindset in a Perfection-Focused World by Jennifer Taylor Wagner
This book is one of the few on this list that isn’t just about overcoming insecurity to love your body, but also about moving and fuelling it.
During her 16-year health and wellness journey, starting at 336 pounds, Jennifer felt the anguish of torment from peers and strangers, let the scale dictate her moods, and cried herself to sleep all because of her “imperfect” body.
But ultimately, Jennifer realized that to overcome the negative feelings about her body, she needed to start with her mind. Before anything else, she had to let go of all the expectations of perfection.
4. The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
This quote will say more than anything I can write about why to read this book:
“Racism, sexism, ableism, homo- and transphobia, ageism, fatphobia are algorithms created by humans’ struggle to make peace with the body. A radical self-love world is a world free from the systems of oppression that make it difficult and sometimes deadly to live in our bodies.”
5. Bossypants by Tina Fey
If you just want a laugh about how silly it all is, give Bossypants a read. Or a listen – the audiobook is great. I love this section about the unrealistic beauty standards fuelling our insecurity:
“Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”
6. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Okay, so this book is less about body image and more about embracing your uniqueness. But romance books with autistic, imperfect, and refreshingly normal characters? Yes, please.
I love Helen Hoang’s writing – and I love how her characters have so much depth to them beyond their looks and diagnoses.
The first in her series is The Kiss Quotient, the story of Stella – an incredibly capable data analyst with a great wardrobe… but a complete lack of experience in the dating department. So she hires a professional.
“All the things that make you different make you perfect.”
7. More than a Body: Your Body is an Instrument, Not an Ornament by Lexi and Lindsey Kite
Oh, how I love this book title. Read this to remind yourself that positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good – it is knowing your body is good, regardless of how it looks.
“Girls learn the most important thing about them is how they look. Boys learn the most important thing about girls is how they look. Girls look at themselves. Boys look at girls. Girls are held responsible for boys looking at them. Girls change how they look. Boys keep looking. The problem isn’t how girls look. The problem is how everyone looks at girls.”
If you adore books, need a bit of a boost, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, check out The Sanctuary, a seven-day course from Tolstoy Therapy.