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On Being in My Body

On Being in My Body

Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about my body.

That might sound weird, but hang with me.

As someone who has survived abuse of every kind, I’ve struggled with loving my body and seeing it as something good. When a boy takes advantage of you with his strength and violence, you see your body as weak and defenseless. When you are demeaned with every vile name in the book, you see your body as ugly and unworthy. When you are bruised and broken and bloody, you can’t possibly see your body as beautiful.

For so long, I was stuck. After breaking free from that hurtful relationship trying to hide my body. I didn’t want anyone, especially men, to notice me, to want me. I didn’t want to attract any sort of attention out of fear that it might turn nasty like before. My style evolved and I rid my closet of all bright colors, all bold patterns, anything that might catch an eye. I wore mostly black clothing, minimal makeup, simple hairstyles– nothing flashy or sexy or dramatic. I just wanted to fade into the background and go through life unnoticed and unharmed.

I resented my body, really.

I felt like my body had betrayed me by letting someone in like that, by letting someone get close to my body and use it like they did.

But, yet.

My body survived the abuse.

My body has healed from the hurt.

My body has grown– stronger, softer.

And I’m realizing now, years after the abuse, that my body truly is a powerful thing. Its ability to recover from such circumstances, to persevere through such pain… it’s something worth recognizing and celebrating.

My body is no weak thing, I’m learning.

In fact, I’m starting to actually see my body as something strong, something capable, something good.

As part of my healing journey, I’ve been seeing a Christian counselor weekly. He often gives me homework assignments for the days in between our sessions, and they’re often poignant and informative. One recent assignment focused on eye contact. He challenged me to spend time each day just looking at myself in the mirror. I was to start with 30 seconds, then add 30 seconds each day until I was up to 4 minutes. There were no other instructions– just look at myself in the mirror.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

To look myself in the eye and just simply see my own reflection looking back at me brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t looking in the mirror to improve my appearance with makeup. I wasn’t trying to correct a flaw with coverups and creams. I wasn’t trying to change what I saw or critique any part of me. I was simply seeing myself.

And what I saw was beautiful.

I saw hurt in my eyes. I saw strength. I saw tenderness. I saw pain, and fight, and a weariness, too. I saw the tears well up, saw my lip quiver, saw my eyes dart away in desperate attempts to find a diversion or distraction. I watched myself soften as the time increased. I watched myself settle. I started to see more peace. I started to be more okay with what I saw. I started to see things I was proud of, see things that I liked. I started to speak more kindly to myself, to have less to pull apart and more to praise.

It is no easy thing to be a woman in a body.

It is no small thing to spend time seeing myself and saying that what I see is something good.

It is no small thing to declare that my body is beautiful despite its brokenness, that there is strength in my body despite what feels weak, that my body is worthy of care, affection, kindness, love, safety, and protection despite how it has been treated and mistreated.

It is no small thing to believe that my body is powerful.

But I’m learning a lot about my body.

I’m seeing it grow and I’m grateful for it.

I’m seeing things shift and I’m celebrating that.

Because my body?

It’s strong.

It’s beautiful.

It’s good.

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Rachel Dawson

Rachel Dawson is a believer, editor, writer, social media manager, and bookworm living in Richmond, VA. She's the design editor for a handful of Christian sites by day, and runs The Rising blog and quite a few other creative and community-building endeavors on the side. You’ll often find her in coffeeshops with her nose in a book and a vegan latte in hand, but she’ll drop everything to swap stories and talk about Jesus with you. She also loves the Enneagram, doodling her sermon notes, Instagramming too much, tacos, and sharks... you know, the important things. You can find her online at racheladawson.com or @racheladawson on Twitter and Instagram.

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