Thursday, February 10, 2011

Loving our bodies unconditionally. Finally.

I am furiously determined and full of righteous anger today, so if that doesn't interest you, then sign out!

I have been confronted this weekend with the judgments of a woman who has no comprehension of the work I do.  She has asked to be taken off my mailing lists.  Of course I have no problem with that - anyone has the right to get the mail they want and to not get what they don't want.  I have no desire to confront people with images of my work - wait, that's not true.  Today I actually want to confront every person in the world with the images of my work. 

I want them to confront their own uptight, rigid, fear-ridden judgments about bodies.  I want them to look at the bodies I've painted, to really see them.  So what if some of the women have tiny breasts?  Or huge pendulous ones.  Or big hips.  Or no waists.  Or saggy butts.  Or 36-24-36 hourglass figures.  Or scars.  Or warts.  Or whatever the fuck they have.  It actually isn't about our bodies, people.

It is about who we are on the inside that counts.  And if we as a society or as an individual are spending all our time focused on the outside package - breasts, hips, thighs, faces, clothes, haircut, shoes, lipstick - whatever - then we are missing the most important thing there is in this world - the gorgeousness of our souls.  We are each of us spectacularly fabulous human beings.  Even the badly damaged ones.  Yes, those of us who are damaged are amazing and deserving of love as well.

And it pisses me off that some people don't get that.  I hate it that they have the gall to judge someone based on their appearance and don't even take the moment to let go of that knee jerk reaction.

Lately I have photographed women who are overweight, who have piercings and tattoos, whom I might have walked past with trepidation in the past because their choices were unfamiliar and uncomfortable to me.  But let me tell you, those women are enriching my life immensely.  I am finding a depth of soul in them that I LOVE.  They are deep, rich, soulful women with an enormous capacity for love, self love included.  Heavy though they might be, they have come to terms with their bodies.  They love them.  Yes, they love their breasts and their bellies and their hips and their thighs.  All the parts that would make some people walk past them and sneer.  What a loss to those frightened people to miss the soulfulness.  Do your own work, people.  It's your stuff if you can't see their humanity. 

A dear friend shared her belief with  me that we are all part of God's artwork.  The old gnarled tree in the forest doesn't deserve our distain just because it isn't bright and young and perky and flexible and springy.  We don't usually detest a tree.  We respect its age.  We look at the crags and splits and wounds and admire the patterns that have been created by the years of being alive.

Why can't we do that with people?  Why do we judge people's appearances?  Why do we ignore elderly men and women?  Are we really so frightened of our own mortality?  Of our own ugliness?

I encourage you to not give in to those fears.  I encourage you to sit with them, to become aware of them, to journal about them, to let yourself feel them fully.  Only then will you be able to see others with compassion.  Only then will you be able to face yourself with compassion.

Imagine standing in front of the mirror and caressing your body.  Tell yourself with utter love and compassion how deeply you love yourself.  Allow yourself to feel all the pain you've taken on about your appearance - the comments you've overheard from others, the insistence others have thrown at you that you be or look different than you do.  Look at your own flesh while you do that.  Know that you are precious.  A child of God.  Deserving of unconditional love.  Your body is the vehicle for your soul here on Earth in this lifetime.  How can you NOT treasure and bless it?  It is allowing you to be here right here, right now, walking or crawling or sitting or standing or lying on this planet right now, today, in this very instant.  You are experiencing the amazing gift RIGHT NOW of being with yourself in all your glory and your pain and your suffering.  Perhaps you can feel a glimmer of hope, the thread of hope that you, yes, YOU, are deserving of love.  That you are a worthy person.  That you deserve to be loved.  Nothing but love. 


  1. Bravo, Susan! This post is so very powerful, it brought me to tears!

  2. Rock on sister! You, my dear, are a true inspiration.

  3. This is the best thing I've seen in such a long time! I've already passed it on to so many of the beautiful women in my life. I can't help but share.
    Thank you for these works of beauty.

  4. Wow! It's about time... :)

  5. You speak from your heart. Thank you.

  6. this brought me to tears too. yes. as a painter, I can get into the zone of witnessing beauty with other peoples bodies, even my own, in the past, while painting. then the searing pain of programming returns. thank you for more momentum to stop the violent madness.

  7. Susan, Thank you very much for your words, they are beautiful. However the world is not full of people who think like Susan unfortunately, and they don't see the beauty that you see. Even though I look like these women and I try my best not to judge others on their appearances. When I look in the mirror the sneers I've seen so many times in my short life, is on my face as well, though I do wish there was a way I could see the beauty in me that others might be seeing; I don't. And even though you've said such beautiful words and though those words have touched me, I know that when I take my bath I will see that sneer again on my face. And when I leave my house I will see it on others, and when I try to get a job, I know that the chance is dim that I will be taken seriously. So despite what you've said, I know I will never be completely accepted by anyone, even my own family, until I can find a way to look like how I know the world will want me to look. But Thank you for your words, they are brave and touching, I wish you luck on your endeavors :)

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm so sorry you have such pain around how you look. Some time last year I did an informal survey on Facebook asking people what they thought made a woman beautiful. The most common response was that she looked like she FELT beautiful! It wasn't physical attributes so much as it was her smile or her confidence which people found attractive and compelling.

      It is very painful to feel un-beautiful, and it is difficult to choose to feel beautiful, especially when it feels untrue, but perhaps you can focus on what it is about you which IS beautiful and exude that to others. Based on how intensely and beautifully you write, it sounds like your SOUL is gorgeous. I wish you all the best.