I have always felt that my mind was the most important thing about my identity. Perhaps it comes from a childhood spent primarily within my own imagination. Perhaps it comes from an upbringing that did not focus on physicality, but on intellectual development. I was never gifted with talent for sports, but I was always smart. I was just terrible at most sports: I couldn't run very fast or very far, I couldn't kick very hard, I couldn't jump very high, I couldn't hit any ball that came my way. I was in swimming, and I did well at that. But that was all!
My family was never very physically affectionate; hugs and kisses were not part of day to day life, and I don't think I was a very cuddly child. As I grew, I wasn't happy with my body; I was always the tallest kid in my classes, and I hated it, so I slouched to make myself shorter. I was also a child who was always a bit chubby, and it took a long time for that baby fat to dissipate. When puberty hit, because my skin is so light and my hair is so dark, I hated the hair on my legs and under my arms because it was so obvious. I was always told that I was a pretty child, but I never really believed it. In many ways, I learned to work with what I had, hide what I didn't like, and to focus on other things, not physical, but intellectual. I learned to develop my mind and my personality instead of my body. I was never very "in tune" with my body, working hard to the point of ignoring pain and fatigue, not recognizing signs of illness, and not nourishing myself properly. I ignored and denied my body.
The one thing I could count on was my mind. I was always able to grasp things quickly as a child, and redeliver information on tests very well. I could memorize things and remember things very quickly. Not all subjects came easily at all times, and I realize now that the learning environment for each subject needed to be supportive and stimulating for me to be able to learn effectively, but for the most part, I excelled academically. As a result of this ease of mental process and the difficulty of physical process, I came to focus more on my intellect, and look at my mind as separate from my body. I came to believe that my body was only a shell, only a carrier for my mind and my spirit, that it was unimportant and inconsequential. This view has been extremely useful to me. I have been able to put myself in other people's shoes, to feel compassion for others. I have been able to connect with other people on this basis, and it has fueled my absolute belief in equality because I was able to see everyone else as more than their bodies, as beings with unique minds and souls and identities with hopes and dreams and goals.
It is only recently that I have begun to respect and cherish my own embodiment. Without my body, there would be no mind. I still feel that my mind is most important and valuable to me, but I have come to see my body as an important part of who I am. In fact, when I look back at my childhood, I have come to see that perhaps my unsuccessful attempts at sports were not only lack of talent. I was good at swimming, I had good lungs and endurance, so there's not reason to think that I wouldn't be good at running if I developed that. I had terrible eyesight as a child which I ignored until grade 7, so no wonder I couldn't hit or catch any sorts of sporting balls – I couldn't see them until they were on top of me!
So, finally, I am beginning to make peace with my body, and accept it as a vital part of who I am. It is how people recognize me, it is how I am able to transport my mind from place to place, I use it to make my living, and I need my body to keep my mind active. I have come to see my body as integral to my identity, and now I am making efforts to take better care of my body. My hope is that as I work towards better health and fitness, it will help my mental and intellectual development, and that I will really love taking care of my body and enjoy doing things I couldn't do before. As I exercise and tune my body, I am also finding mental clarity.