You might be thinking, “What does my ancestry have to do with my relationship to my body?”. Your ancestry, your family of origin, impacts your story in a multitude of ways, because like it or not, it’s where you came from. Whether or not you were exposed to cultural traditions or stories from your ancestry, you still inherited your body configuration and your genetics from your ancestors. Their experiences impacted their choices, beliefs, and the way they viewed themselves, which impacted how they treated their bodies. Depending on your family of origin, it’s likely that part of the way your parents relate to their bodies can be traced back to things learned from your grandparents, who learned to relate to their bodies from your great grandparents, etc.
Also woven into your family history are the societal norms that existed at the time when your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were having their life experiences. Things like where they were born, what was going on in the world at the time, gender roles and norms at the time, what religious upbringing they had, their social status, racial issues that might have been at play, different places they lived or traveled, ideas that they were exposed to, cultural traditions, etc…these all had a hand in how your ancestors formed their views of themselves and of their bodies.
The societal norms in which you grew up in have impacted you and your relationship to your body as well.
You may have inherited a body configuration that falls in line with either your ancestral culture’s view of attractiveness and beauty or with the current standard of beauty in the country you grew up in. Or maybe you inherited a body configuration that doesn’t fall in line with either of those, but it falls in line with the standard of beauty & attractiveness of another culture somewhere in the world or with a previous standard of attractiveness in your culture that fell out of favor.
The point is, what has been deemed attractive by different cultures throughout history is subjective and unique to that culture at that time, based on their social traditions and beliefs. Your body may or may not fit within the current “American beauty standard” which we find ourselves so heavily influenced by, but your body configuration most likely does fall in line with beauty standards of previous generations, or of current cultures in other parts of the world, or what was deemed attractive in your ancestral heritage.
The current “American standard of beauty and attractiveness” is so prevalent because it’s so LOUD. We see it in marketing campaigns for every kind of product, in magazines, in the modeling and fashion industry, on social media, and in every type of media that we consume. Regardless of people’s ancestry, ethnicity, cultural traditions, or inherited body composition, they often compare their body to this unrealistic societal ideal. This makes many of us feel like we are constantly falling short, that our bodies are constantly disappointing us, and that we will never be able to achieve the “perfect body”.
The thing is, the “perfect body” doesn’t exist because the judgment of what is “perfect” is so subjective and different throughout the world and throughout history.
Getting in touch with our ancestral roots, learning about the traditional diets of our ancestors, gaining understanding about how the cultural traditions we were raised with have impacted our view of our bodies and ourselves, and learning to love and accept our inherited body configurations is key to loving and accepting ourselves long term. It’s also key to laying the foundation of a healthy, accepting relationship with your body and with food, one that can stand the test of time…and the test of diet trends, fashion standards, and constantly fluctuating beauty ideals.
Rather than wishing your body was different…what would it feel like to embrace it, to love it, and to honor it? Rather than allowing others to make you feel shame for or defined by your inherited body configuration, what would it look like for you to OWN it?
What would it feel like for you to love the body you inherited?
“Women who are big or small, wide or narrow, short or tall, are most likely to be so simply because they inherited the body configuration of their kin; to malign or judge a woman’s inherited physicality is to make generation after generation of anxious and neurotic women. It robs her of pride in the body type that was given to her by her own ancestral lines. If she is taught to hate her own body, how can she love her mother’s body that has the same configuration as hers? — her grandmother’s body, the bodies of her daughters as well?”
-Quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes