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My Body, My Bestie

by Marloe Esch RN, BSN, OCNSurvivorMarch 6, 2024View more posts from Marloe Esch RN, BSN, OCN

My Body, My Bestie: How to Nurture the Friendship of a Lifetime

Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for medical care. Always inform your healthcare team of any concerning symptoms you are experiencing, and consult with your provider before starting new treatments, therapies, or health routines.

Where are you right now? On the couch? Lounging in bed? Lunch break? Cancer clinic waiting room?

No matter where you are or where you’re going, who’s there with you?

Oh yeah, your body.


For most of us, our relationship with our body could probably be best summarized with “It’s Complicated.” We often treat our bodies like an embarrassing relative that we’d rather not be seen with, and we perseverate over all of the irritating (and sometimes, downright infuriating) physical limitations that we perceive our bodies to have. They’re never attractive enough, or strong enough, or healthy enough. They ache, they jiggle, and they require relentless grooming. They catch colds, smell bad, and secrete a nauseating number of weird fluids. Oh, and they also develop deadly diseases like cancer. Not that you needed any reminding.

So, sure, you and your body probably have some beef. The thing is, though, that the two of you are sort of a package deal. And honestly, the fact that you’re stuck with each other for life is as good of a reason as any to try and get along.

What if . . . you and your body were actually friends?

Begin where you are. If you hadn’t even thought to consider your body a friend until now, don’t worry. Lots of great friendships start out awkwardly. Don’t let a little weirdness get in the way of making an effort. You will quickly find that you and your body have a bunch of things in common and an endless supply of shared experiences to base a budding friendship on. So, what if you’ve been inhabiting this body for the last couple of decades and you still feel like strangers? Beginning where you are is always a good start.

Bond through shared experiences. You and your body have basically gone through everything together, right? All that history is worth some recognition. Consider writing down some meaningful life experiences in which your body has played a starring role. Perhaps it’s your first kiss, learning to play the piano, the first time you ran a 10-minute-mile, an epic backpacking adventure, or dealing with cancer. How have these shared experiences helped you better understand your body? We often take our bodies for granted. In what ways has your body “shown up” for you when it mattered?

Build body trust. One of the most important things in a friendship is trust—feeling safe in the presence of another. While gaining trust in relationships often takes time, the erosion of trust can happen in an instant. Like, for example, the body betrayal that somebody might feel after getting a diagnosis of cancer. However, it’s important to remember that your body didn’t develop cancer on purpose as some sort of evil scheme. Cancer happened to you and your body. Heck, your body might be having some trust issues of its own, wondering if you really have its best interest in mind after that one reckless decision you made that summer of your senior year (you know what I’m talking about!).

My point here is that trust is a two-way street. We may feel burned by cancer and resentful of the path it’s left across our lives, but our bodies always innately strive to successfully adapt in the face of change. So, in exchange for your body’s (annoyingly relentless) resilience, it’s up to you to find ways to show your body that you are trustworthy too, and that you’re committed to making it work for the long haul.

Bare your skin. True friendship is about being real and getting vulnerable with another person. Good friends validate each other’s worth by accepting the other just as they are. In the same way, your body also deserves to be seen and accepted just as it is! If the thought of sitting in front of a mirror to inspect the vulnerable aspects of who you are in your body sounds challenging, that’s because it probably will be. We’re not used to being kind toward ourselves. But that’s what friends do—they extend compassionate acceptance and warmth when we most need it. They honor who we are, rather than what we look like.

As you come across a self-critical thought or judgement about some aspect of your body, practice responding to yourself as you would to a friend. How does taking this perspective shift the tone of your words? Using the friend lens can begin to quiet the automatic and overpowering self-critical thoughts and judgements about your body that you may have previously mistaken for truth.

Break up with perfection. Do any of your friends have perfect bodies? OK, trick question, because the only answer is “no.” They’re human, and humans are innately imperfect. That’s part of our gosh-darn charm. Do you care that your friends don’t have perfect bodies? Of course not! So, if we also inhabit a human body with all its imperfect tendencies, why are we holding ourselves to a higher standard?

When playing the game of perfection, you will always come up short. That’s because perfection doesn’t exist. It doesn’t! How do you achieve something that’s impossible? You can’t! This is how perfection gets us stuck on the hamster wheel of if/then thinking: If only my body ____, then my life ____. But perfection is a mirage that we can never quite catch up to, and chasing this unattainable expectation will only ever lead us to feel perpetually less than.

Banish body shame. You know that overwhelming feeling of believing that if you do not achieve perfection (because you won’t—nobody can), you are somehow fundamentally flawed (which you’re not—nobody is), and therefore unworthy of basic human needs like love, connection, and belonging? That’s shame. Brené Brown describes shame as the “never good enough” emotion, and it’s pretty insidious.

Body shame emerges when we subscribe to the idea of perfection and erroneously equate how our bodies look with our innate worth as human beings. After cancer, this can show up in many ways. You might think “Now that my body ____, no one could ever love me/find me attractive,” or “Now that my body ____, I don’t deserve ____.” If a friend said one of these statements to you, how would you respond? We can count on our friends to remind us that our worth isn’t tied to our physical characteristics. Each time you notice shame-based self-talk, consider it an opportunity to boycott basing your worth on how you look.

But what does that mean?

Boycott basing your worth on how you look. There is so much more to your human form than your reflection in the mirror. Sometimes the easiest place to start is by focusing on how your body supports you—that is, it’s function rather than its form. So, what has your body helped you accomplish? Does it take you canoeing, swimming, biking? Have you, maybe, had a kid? Did your veins withstand the onslaught of chemo? Did your skin heal after an extensive surgery? Can your arms hug the ones you love? Can your hands make a meal for your family? Think about the things that being in your body allows you to do, big and small—enjoy a sunset, drive a car, connect with others, and make memories.

Brag about your body’s abilities. Good friends are always in each other’s corners, right? This means that in true bestie fashion, it’s actually your job to brag about what your body has done and can do. If a friend of mine is being modest, I’m quick to jump in and say—Hey, look what my friend did! They tried hard, persevered, made a difference, and did their best! I’m a cheerleader willing to amplify all the reasons that the human I call my friend is amazing. Just as we are so willing to celebrate the awesomeness of the people in our lives that we love— we can learn to do this for ourselves, as well.

Bridge the gap between negative self-judgments and positive affirmations with a hefty dose of body neutrality. If you’re not ready to celebrate your body just yet, that’s OK. Forcing yourself to think positive thoughts that you really aren’t on board with can feel just as badly as a harsh self-criticism might. For example, you might catch yourself thinking “my belly flab is so gross!” But trying to replace this harsh self-criticism with something like “my belly is beautiful!” can feel disingenuous and is not helpful if you truly don’t believe it. Instead, what if you came up with a more neutral statement that you could believe?

Replacing negative self-criticisms with neutral facts are a step in the right direction, and doing so can take us out of the self-judgement loop. Rather than either of the statements above, you could simply say “that’s my human stomach.” This is a True Fact. It is a human stomach, and it’s yours! I bet other people also have human stomachs. And all these human stomachs contain core muscles that help with stability and organs that turn food into fuel. True! Facts!

If you do this enough, you will find that there are plenty of True Facts that you can replace unhelpful harsh self-criticisms with. Skin protects us from germs, noses allow air into our lungs, thighs of all sizes can walk the dog, etc. Challenge yourself using the mirror exercise above to state a True Fact about body parts that you are otherwise inclined to disparage. I’m not talking opinions here; I’m talking objective, verifiable facts. We say negative things about our bodies so often that we end up believing our words reflect reality when they’re actually just subjective statements, often based on somebody else’s expectations that we’ve been taught to internalize. Thoughts are not facts!

Become aware of what your body is trying to tell you. Remember making up silly codes as a kid that only you and your bestie knew the meaning of? Whelp, turns out that speaking in code is your body’s favorite mode of communication, too. Bodies have a unique way of transmitting information that we sometimes have difficulty deciphering, and it can often feel just a wee bit passive aggressive. I mean, it’s all physical sensations and chemical messengers—subtle cues that we have to be mindful enough to notice and intuitive enough to interpret.

However, your body is just doing the best that it can using what it has to work with, and like a good friend, we can meet it in the middle. Begin to notice sensations in your body and map them to the moment. Body mindfulness is a skill that strengthens this ability. Try practicing with a body scan, mindful movement, or awareness of sensations meditation. Studying a new language takes time, so be sure to give yourself grace as you attempt to learn this unfamiliar lingo. As you get better at interpreting your body’s signals, your responses will become more in tune with what both you and your body need. Your relationship will sync!

Bring attention to your body’s stress signals. One of the ways our bodies care for us is by acting as the barometer of our stress level— sort of a built-in warning system, if you will. Our bodies carry our mental and emotional stress in the form of muscle tension, headaches, sleeplessness, a racing heart, sweaty palms, and any number of other unique physiological responses triggered by perceived stressors. Your body relies on you to notice these signals so that you can consciously take action to alter the tone of the situation.

Breathe into your belly. When we are stressed, our bodies often automatically resort to a shallow, quick breathing pattern that can make us feel lightheaded, sick to our stomachs, and anxious. It sounds arcanely simple, but a really compassionate (and dare I say, friendly?) way to respond to your body in these situations is to close your eyes and take in a slow, deep, belly breath. Offering a belly breath to your body is similar to reaching out and grabbing the hand of a friend who is anxious or struggling—it’s grounding and reassuring. Belly breaths are like pushing the pause button, because they create the space that your brain needs to logically sort out the issue at hand. The great thing about belly breathing is that it is a strategy that you can literally pull out of your toolbox anytime, anywhere. To learn how, try some Belly Breathing and Square Breathing exercises.

Believe in the power of connection. Have you ever looked at a Feeling Wheel before? If not, check one out for a hot minute, and tell me what you notice. Does it bother anyone else that about 75 percent of all of the feelings that exist are in the negative realm? And if we’re honest with ourselves, I’m sure we’ll acknowledge that this is a close approximation to the ratio of negative to positive thoughts we experience daily. However, spending time with a good friend can help remind us of the silver linings and the small wins in our lives. I don’t mean in a toxic positivity way; I mean that just the simple nature of friendships tend to have this effect. How often to do you feel better after connecting with a close friend? In a similar way, we often feel better when we connect with our bodies as well. Let me explain.

Bolster your body’s ability to tune into joy and pleasure. Moments of joy and pleasure within our bodies are not hard to find, but they can sometimes be difficult to notice or pay attention to. For example, consider all of your senses. For each one, write down three ways the sense can bring about joy or pleasure. These could be as simple and satisfying as sipping a minty herbal tea (taste), smelling freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (scent), feeling your cat purring on your chest (touch), the sound of rain on your window (hearing), or star-gazing (sight).

We use our senses all day, every day, to move throughout our worlds. Practice the art of noticing these small (and larger!) joys and pleasures in your body throughout the day. Training our brains to pick up on these positive vibes helps strengthen the quantity and quality of meaningful connections we make with our bodies. Taking the time to find these moments can amplify our appreciation of all the things we get to enjoy because of what our body can do. The mindfulness meditations above can help with this, too.

Boost endorphins through body movement. Our friends often motivate us to get and stay active, whether it’s a night out dancing, meeting at the basketball courts every Saturday, or just scheduling regular walks around the neighborhood. But that inspiration can also occur intrinsically, if you harness the power of a little friendly competition with yourself by creating some movement goals. It might be as simple as taking the stairs at work for one week or parking at the back of the lot on your Target runs. To turn up the competition, commit to a 30-day yoga challenge with Adriene or sign up for a charity run and download the Couch to 5K Running Program app. Just remember that every little bit of movement throughout the day counts, and that starting small is still worth starting.

Block out time to protect and maintain self-care. Prioritizing what your body needs is not selfish, it’s self-care. If you think about it, self-care is really anything that we do to strengthen and maintain our relationship with ourselves. Just like you carve out time for the other relationships in your life that are important to you, you can also carve out time for your relationship with yourself and your body. Commit to yourself by setting boundaries and blocking time on your calendar. Treating self-care activities like a date with a friend promotes follow-through and reduces the risk that you’ll stand yourself up. Make that date with your bad-ass bod, and don’t be late!

Last but not least…

Brush off the haters. Like any Swiftie knows, haters gonna hate. But ain’t nobody got time for that. So, shake it off and spend your energy on what’s really important in your life instead, like nurturing the friendship of a lifetime with the only body you’ve got.

You deserve to feel valued, safe, and cared for in your own skin. Taking a leap to embark on the journey of befriending your body is an endeavor that you won’t regret.

This article was featured in the March 2024 Friendships issue of Elephants and Tea Magazine! Click here to read our magazine issues.


Brotto, Lori. “Mindfulness Recording.” n.d. Accessed December 3, 2023.

Brown, Brené. 2018. Dare to Lead: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work. Random House.

“Couch to 5k.” n.d. Couch to 5k in 9 weeks running program. Accessed December 4, 2023.

Everyday Speech. n.d. “Everyday Speech” [YouTube Channel]. Accessed December 3, 2023.

Feelings Wheel. n.d. “Feelings Wheel.” Accessed December 3, 2023.

Mishler, Adriene. n.d. “Yoga with Adriene.” Accessed December 4, 2023.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Caring for Your Mental Health: About Self-Care,” (December 2022). Accessed December 4, 2023.

Neff, Kristin. n.d. “Self-compassion.” Accessed December 3, 2023.

Weingus, Lindsay. “Body Neutrality Is a Body Image Movement That Doesn’t Focus on Your Appearance.” Huffington Post. (August 15, 2018). Accessed December 6, 2023.

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