Imagine having a spouse who refuses to listen to you. Whenever you express your needs or desires, they say, “I don’t have time to listen,” or “That’s not what I want, so it’s not important.” Consider if this person also made major life decisions without consulting you, assuming that their dreams are all that matter.
You’d probably recognize this as a dysfunctional relationship if you witnessed it between two people. Yet it’s a pattern that happens all the time in the relationship with our bodies!
In fact, you might be in that situation right now.
As a Body Connection Coach, I help women heal their relationship with food and body image. One foundational aspect of that healing is learning the difference between a Body Partnership and Body Ownership.
(While this article is geared towards women’s experiences, the basic principles of body ownership/partnership also apply to men as well. So if you’re a guy who wants a better relationship with your body… keep reading!)
Ownership Vs. Partnership
In a partnership, you acknowledge the wisdom, desires, and values your body.
In an ownership, you reject or ignore your body’s insight… or you deny that your body has any wisdom at all.
Body ownership gives us the right to use and abuse our bodies. We can ignore our bodies hunger cues and nutrient needs, and follow diets and food dogma. We can ignore our bodies fatigue or need for movement. We can ignore our bodies pain, and put our bodies under the plastic surgeon’s scalpel.
Exploitative industries encourage this perspective, in order to sell products that ultimately disregard our bodies’ wellbeing.
- The diet industry tells us that we’ll find happiness if we force our bodies into a smaller size.
- The beauty industry tells us we’ll find happiness if we disguise our bodies meet the beauty standard.
- The anti-aging industry tells us we’ll find happiness if we preserve the appearance of youth.
If you’ve tried any of these approaches, you probably know that they don’t work. Yes, a crash diet helps you temporarily lose a few pounds, and Botox may temporarily erase your wrinkles.
But did those interventions allow you to feel unconditionally loved, safe, and at home in your body?
What those industries don’t tell you is that body ownership creates emotional, mental, and physical illness.
That’s because body ownerships cut us off from our intuition — the wisdom we need to live healthy and fulfilled lives!
Further, happiness, trust, and joy are impossible to experience within body ownerships. Only in body partnerships.
Creating a Body Partnership
Here are three ways to shift from a Body Ownership to a Body Partnership.
Listening Instead of Silencing
Western Medicine teaches us that when anything hurts, then something is wrong with our body and we need to silence the symptoms with pharmaceuticals. If we’re experiencing physical pain, such as indigestion or autoimmune symptoms, then we’re given medication. If we’re experiencing emotional pain, such as depression or anxiety, then we’re also given medication.
This ownership approach teaches us to blame our bodies for failing us, rather than exploring how we’ve failed our bodies. By “we,” I mean individual, familial, and cultural levels that contribute to mental illness and physical disease.
In a partnership, pain is a sign that we need to listen more closely to our partner.
Here are the areas I help my clients listen to their bodies. Consider if any of them might be appropriate for you:
How do you need to change your diet? Could you benefit from nutrition as a medical intervention to address a chronic or autoimmune illness? Or could you find freedom with intuitive eating to overcome yo-yo dieting, binging, and weight struggles?
How can you improve your levels of emotional literacy? Do you to process deep grief, anger or anxiety? Do you need improved communication skills so you can set boundaries, express your needs, and establish healthier relationships?
How do you need to heal sexual trauma or sexual self-expression? Are there unhealthy coping mechanisms or fears creating unfulfilling relationship dynamics?
How do you need to change your spiritual beliefs? Is your religious paradigm or past religious trauma contributing to a fear of pleasure, self-expression, or intuition? Or do you need a deeper sense of meaning and Divine connection to achieve deeper healing?
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase Love is an action, not just a feeling. The opposite of hating your body isn’t feeling love towards her… it’s action of listening to her.
Making shared decisions
In an ownership, you make decisions ABOUT the other person. In a partnership, you make decisions WITH the other person.
The first time I remember making a major decision with my body, I was 15. For the first time, I found myself truly pondering if I wanted to have kids.
Suddenly, I had a strange vision of giving birth and seeing a baby before me. In response, everything inside me recoiled violently. It was as if my body wordlessly said, “No. That will not be my life.”
Until that point, I hadn’t considered not having kids. I simply assumed, from what I saw in my community and family, that women turned into mothers. In that moment, informed by such a visceral and clear message from my body, I decided, “I am never giving birth.”
I felt an immediate sense of relief and relaxation, which I now know as the sensation of my body saying, “Yes, Lauren, that’s what I want.”
I also know what it’s like to force major decisions on my body without asking for her input, and I recognize when my clients are doing the same. Sometimes, they’re forcing their bodies into career paths, relationships, or family structures that their bodies want no part of.
This way of living tends to create chronic illness, mysterious health problems, chronic anxiety, insomnia, and depression that no medication can fix.
Our bodies are so wise and powerful that they eject us from lives that are not suited to us.
When that breaking point manifests, we can use it as an opportunity to start making joint decisions with our bodies.
I help my clients get in touch with their intuition at a deep level though techniques like hypnotherapy, energy therapy, journaling, and life coaching. That allows them to make life choices with their bodies input.
This approach requires a serious dose of courage and self-trust, because we need to navigate completely unfamiliar territory. As Joseph Campbell says, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
But intuitive, body-informed choices lead to the kind of career, relationships, and physical health that lights their hearts on fire. That’s the reward of having a partnership with your body.
Changing your perceptions vs. Changing Your Body
I transitioned my practice from nutritional therapy to Body Connection Coaching because I wanted to work at a deeper level of healing. I realized the underlying problem for my female clients was a distrust of their bodies and trying to force their bodies to look a certain way, and that can’t be fixed with diet or supplements.
Often, when they first speak with me, my clients often say, “Lauren, I’ll be able to love my body when I lose weight,” or “I just can’t feel good in my body looking the way I do.” I used to be under the same delusion — that in order to feel more happy and confident, I first needed to make my body look a certain way.
In a Body Ownership, your love your body only to the degree she conforms to the beauty standard, is free of emotional pain, or is absent of health symptoms.
But this isn’t real love; it’s conditional approval. In fact, it’s a method of inflicting emotional manipulation upon ourselves. After all, the underlying message is: I will only love you if and when you act and look a certain way.
Talk about an ownership!
In a Body Partnership, however, you say to your body, I will learn how to see you for who you truly are. I will override the societal brainwashing that has me convinced that you have to disguise and hide your true self in order to be worthy of my love.
Loving your body isn’t about changing how it looks. It’s about changing your own perceptions, judgements, expectations, and behavior towards your body.
While I respect people having different opinions on the existence of God and life’s purpose, I only work with clients who have a some kind of spiritual perspective and believe there is deeper meaning to life. That’s because I think our bodies are, in the words of the mystic John O’Donohue, faithful and beautiful friends of our souls.
In his book Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav defines a spiritual partnership as a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth. That’s what a healthy relationship with your body looks like — a partnership that fosters your spiritual growth.
Go Deeper: 3 Ways To Listen To Your Body
The opposite of hating your body isn’t loving her, but listening to her. I’ve put together three methods I use with my clients to help them access their body’s wisdom.
We all have different learning styles: the ways that we best process information and intuition. I’ve included three different techniques, so you can find what works best for you. Enter your email for access to the free resource.
If you’re interested in working with me, I’ll have client openings in late October. Check out my Food without Fear program, and you’ll find a link to book a free discovery call with me.