This month’s focus on gratitude has made me shift my focus to an unlikely source: my body. I am a sexual assault survivor and a former anorexic. Like many women, I hate my body. A big part of that is a very common response to sexual assault. When I was in therapy, my therapist had me do an exercise where I focused on a part of my body that I could say I loved, and I would express gratitude for that part of my body. I have never worked my way up past my toes.
Eating disordered behavior was also a response to the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. When I was a teenager, my goal in life was simply to disappear. Fortunately, I made some good friends in high school who helped me discover feminism and come out of my shell. Feminism has helped me learn to love my intellect, my sense of humor, and my passion for activism. But I am still learning to love my body.
My goal for the month of November has been to express gratitude every day. I am going to continue working on this goal even after the month is finished because I have noticed a very positive shift in my attitude and energy as a result of focusing on the things I have to be grateful for. So in an effort to express some love for my body, here is why I am thankful for my body.
My legs are strong, and they carry me wherever I need to go. I broke my ankle three years ago, and that slows me down at times. But I am very grateful that I can walk, dance, and jump.
I have ears to hear my husband say, “I love you.” My ears enable me to enjoy the soundtrack of my life, including the Christmas tunes I love, despite my Wiccan beliefs.
I can pick up my niece with my hands and give her a hug with my arms. I can rub her back when she needs help making a burp, and I can cook dinner for my partner because I have two hands to use.
My brain is eager to learn.
When I look at my face in the mirror, I see my mother and my grandmother staring back at me. These women have taught me what it means to be strong, and they have taught me how to raise my voice. I love that I will always have a part of them with me, even after they have both passed.
Eventually, my list will get longer. For now, I am taking small steps towards learning to love my body and express my gratitude for all of the wonderful parts that make up me.
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.