July 13, 2011

Why the Body Bind is My Nightmare

What would your Boggart be? I’ve no doubt that all of you have pondered this question many a time and come up with a plethora of suggestions. Spiders, failure, heights, ghosts, rejection, fear itself (oh, how noble of you!)–these are just a few Boggarts that spring to mind. Personally, I have an acute fear of being paralysed, like being hit with a permanent Body Bind curse. I have a recurring nightmare of suddenly being totally paralysed. In my dream, people I know keep appearing and saying provocative things to me. My mind is screaming replies but my body just can’t deliver. For this blog I have decided to elucidate on the reasoning behind this fear (though fear is never truly reasonable, when you break it down).

I don’t believe in mental blocks. I don’t believe in what other people tell me I can and can’t do. Basically, I have very little regard for the idea of “can’t”. Take the example of running a marathon: your mind tells you that you can’t do it, and other people may laugh and scoff when you tell them your ambition. But the truth of the matter is these statements are just illusions. You can run the marathon regardless of the naysayers. However, if you break both legs two days before the aforementioned marathon I don’t think anyone will contest that “can’t” becomes the cold hard truth.

This reality is why the physical body bind is my greatest fear and it is also why I think it’s so important that we love and care for our bodies as best as we can. It’s true that the mind is where all ideas are born, but the body is the tool that translates and expresses those ideas to the wider world. It is nothing but a vehicle for our greater creative purpose but if we don’t give it fuel and keep it in good working order it instead becomes another obstacle to transcend, a physical one, as well as the many million fictitious mental ones that society presents.

Unfortunately so, so many people are letting their own Negative Body Image be another type of body-bind that prevents them from living their life to the fullest. We feed ourselves negative thoughts about our body, thoughts like “I’m too fat”, “I’m too short”, “I’m too ugly.” Very quickly we glumly accept them as the truth, and thus we become imprisoned in our own body. We use them as excuses NOT to fulfill certain ambitions and lock ourselves into a cosy self-contained prism of isolation and fear. While writing this blog, the song by Arcade Fire, “My Body is a Cage” is playing in my mind. My body is a cage that keeps me / from dancing with the one I love / But my mind holds the key.” I’m no genius at interpreting indie band lyrics, but to me this song summed up the pain and frustration of someone who is in love with someone else but who refuses to act on these feelings because they feel their body isn’t good enough. They can’t let themselves be free. To anyone who has let their body cage their dream, I say to you, isn’t it true you might as well have been paralysed, hit with the curse?

These are harsh words, I realise, though I want them to be a wake up call to you. If you don’t use your body to its full potential, as a means of achieving your dreams, you are wasting it. You are no better off than someone who is locked in a total body bind curse. At the same time I realise how difficult it is to overcome this state of mind, and I know what a firm, unrelenting grip these thoughts can get on you. A few years ago I was haunted by destructive, negative thoughts like these. I used to get so angry and frustrated because I felt my mind didn’t match up with my body and that it prevented me from things I knew I was capable of doing. It took me a while to realise that all of this was an illusion. If I continued to abuse my body by giving in to my negative thoughts, I didn’t deserve to have the health and fitness I was blessed with. I would recommend all of you watch the film of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” a story about a man who suffers a terrible accident that leaves him paralysed. He is left with only the use of his left eyelid, and yet, all the odds against him, the man wrote a book about his life and journey by dictating it to a transcriber through that one left eyelid. That story really spoke to me and put things in such clear perspective. Continuing to allow such trivial things as body insecurities to control and dictate your day-to-day behaviour is continuing down a road of destruction and cowardice.

On the other hand, I don’t believe in sweeping these insecurities under the carpet. Doing that is almost as destructive as obsessing over these insecurities. Perhaps many of you bookish individuals who come from bookish families have been brought up to believe that beautifying oneself is a vain, self-seeking, and wasteful practise, as it does nothing to enhance one’s knowledge of the world. My mother grew up in a very loving, intelligent family, but she was not brought up to believe she was beautiful. Sometimes I ask her about her youth and the things she did, and so often her reply is “I didn’t have the confidence for that.” I’m trying to tell you that ignoring them is not the right way to deal with insecurities! Ignoring pain or problems doesn’t make them go away. The fact is you have a body and, as it encases the rest of you, it’s important that you are happy with it.

So I am giving you permission to make yourself feel beautiful! Do whatever it is you have to do to make yourself feel beautiful. If that’s keeping fit and healthy then go for a walk or run in the mornings and be determined to keep it up. Do your makeup, or if you’re bored and want to change your appearance, then dye your hair a different colour. Eventually, by doing these little things and feeling more beautiful, you will break through all the self doubt and find the negative obsession fading away. Don’t get lazy and tell yourself there’s no point; it’s important! Nowadays I know what I need to do to be happy with my appearance: I spend a few minutes in the morning picking out an outfit that will make me feel confident, and then I have the rest of the day, free from the old destructive thoughts, to pursue my creative pursuits– the most important thing!! But I know that if I didn’t take care of my body, I would get really down and feel incapacitated to do even the most menial everyday tasks. Do you ever have a day when you aren’t happy with your hair, or you get a spot, and then for the rest of the day that’s all you can think about?! Basically, my view on taking care of one’s appearance is that it’s important insofar as it helps you to forget your appearance!

We’re damn lucky to have our bodies, these strange, multi-functional machines, that let us leave our legacy on the planet. I hope you realise how powerful they are and decide that today you’re going to start treating it with love and kindness. Think of it like a child; if you were to continue to feed it on mental and physical abuse, and starve it of love and nourishment, how would it grow into anything other than an angry, embittered, cold-hearted delinquent? Whereas if you tell that child everyday that it’s beautiful, loved, and can do anything, there’s no limits on what it can grow up to be. It’s pretty simple: Serve your body best so it can serve YOU best.

Evanna Lynch from Harry Potter Series

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