Bodies are personal. We live and grow in them. Every experience you’ve ever had, your body webt through with you. While bodies are not static or unchanging, they are constants in our lives.
We may love our bodies for the things they can do, they way they feel, or how they look. We may hate our bodies for the things they can’t do, the way they feel, and how they look. We may feel both ways at once, especially if our bodies are disabled or deviate from social ideals.
Girls and women (and people mistakenly thought of as girls and women) are subject to heightened scrutiny about our bodies and how they appear to others. Some internalize these messages and others reject them. Most do a combination of the two.
Seeing only this last piece of the puzzle – societal disdain for certain bodies and parts – men and boys who mean well will tell the girls and women they care for or desire “I like a girl with meat on her bones” or “more than a handful is too much”. Men will try to assure women that they find their bodies attractive, as if that was the problem.
But maybe the problem is chronic pain due to weight, and a man’s preference for curves won’t address her concerns. Maybe her clothes don’t fit right and she can’t afford to buy new ones. Maybe she needs to gain weight for health reasons and worrying about whether her breasts will exceed a handful f she does so won’t help.
Even when someone has low self-esteem about their appearance, the solution is not outside esteem. If the problem lies in her own perception, then the answer must come from within. Outside validation may make someone feel good in the moment (or not), but it won’t carry them through dark nights alone. Self-esteem is an issue of self.
So how can you let someone know you’re attracted without stumbling over their body and self-esteem? Stay positive. Tell them they are beautiful and lovely. Don’t contrast their body with others, or with their body in the past. “You look wonderful” is a compliment and a complete sentence. It doesn’t need “now that you’ve lost weight” tacked on.
Finally, give the people in your life permission to have complicated and personal feeling about the body they live in. Don’t make their body about your preferences and opinions, even if your preference is for their body and your opinions are positive. No one else’s body is about you, so their feelings about their body probably won’t be about you either. And that’s okay.