There’s a persistent philosophical conception (dating back to Plato) of the human existence being divided between the mind and the body. Modern marketing themes have targeted commercial products as being good for the mind, body and soul. The idea of ‘inner peace’ as being the harmony of those three ‘components’ of the human has been used and abused by today’s media. Inner peace is today packaged and sold on the back of purified water bottles, is legitimized with the knot on a black belt, is written into canon by self-help books that convince you the problem is with you. It’s advertised by beaming models holding a ‘less-fatty’ salad from fast-food franchises that are much more interested in profit margins than an individual consumer’s serenity. And while maybe some people are able to completely detach themselves from their physicality, for most people who are acutely aware of their perceived ‘flaws’, being self-conscious about one’s own body can seriously undermine their sense of inner peace.
But most people with body image issues won’t find lasting, meaningful solace from external means. After all, we develop those personal negativisms from those very same social and cultural sources. It’s that slender model holding the salad that reminds us that our breasts aren’t as large or shapely as hers. Or that we’ve got that spare tire around our midsection that’ll prevent us from ever landing us a date with a girl who looks like that. Which isn’t to say that the very model doesn’t find a number of flaws with herself, but the point is, we’ve been raised and conditioned to recognize and evaluate people based on their appearance. If our own doesn’t meet the standards established by our society, then we tend to view ourselves as inadequate or ugly because we imagine other people do. If we lived entirely by ourselves in the wilderness, in addition to being incredibly bored, at the very least we wouldn’t concern ourselves with our fat faces, our flat asses, our expansive guts, our stretch marks… you get the idea. (Hell, I’d be walking around naked but my preferred lifestyle is irrelevent to this article.)
A very important aspect of accepting our physical appearances is that, should everybody else in the world suddenly disappear and we were left entirely alone, our physical flaws would still be present. Those ‘skinny legs’ or ‘chubby cheeks’ wouldn’t change, but you simply wouldn’t be as conscious of them because there’s nobody to impress, or more appropriately, feel devalued by. Our self-consciousness is, quite literally, all in our head, and we don’t have to be specifically pleased by our body shape/size/appearance for it to have a profound effect on our mental and emotional well-being. Just as one woman might think that a pretty girl is conceited because of her appearance, she’s implicitly declaring to herself that she has no right to be self-confident while wearing her own skin.
Of course, the lens through which a person views their body generally comprises a portion, if it could be measured like that, of the various ‘issues’ inhibiting their ‘inner peace’. Physicality can only count for so much, right? But that harkens back to the distinctions between mind, body, and soul, in which the mind can be aloof and the soul content while the body suffers. I’ve known people who, if given the chance, will repeat their physical flaws to themselves as a self-reinforcing mantra and then plop down on a couch in front of the television with a plate of fried chicken because they just got home from a busy day at work and they need to mentally unwind. But then when they’re done, they’ll have some dessert, and before they go to sleep they’ll stand in front of the mirror again and decimate their image to themselves again, and they go to sleep convinced they look terrible.
Which isn’t to say that people don’t deserve to indulge themselves, but an important aspect of physical well-being is knowing restraint. It can be as bad, in different ways, to overdo it working out as it is to not exercise at all. Or not eating sweets at all if one’s got a sweet tooth will only build up the crave to eat them, and then when that person finally succumbs to the craving, he ends up eating himself sick. While a person’s body type is largely predetermined by genetics, there’s no good reason for a person to feel unqualified to view themselves as attractive outside of the artificial ones they’ve imported from other people, or as a result of their own actions.
The average individual will rarely have more than a passing influence on another person’s mind. So worrying about what other people think of you is a waste of time because, most times, they don’t care what you think of them or what they think you think they think (I’m dizzy now). The only justifiable reason for a person to feel they’re unattractive is because of their own actions, and even if one doesn’t exercise, a healthy body can be achieved through a sound diet and a more-than-sedentary lifestyle. It’s much easier to accept ones body image if one feels that their physical state is the result of a healthy lifestyle. People like to think of themselves as something more than a human animal. But if you think of yourself in that respect, you’ll soon come to discover that, as simply one more creature among many on a planet teeming with life and spinning through an endless solar system without much more tangible cause than the grace of gravity – well, various neuroses simply aren’t worth the effort.
That’s my kind of spirituality.
Now, to get naked.