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In Sickness and in Health

Text: Kyriaki Mallioglou

Images: Lieke van den Belt

A room of 70 people looks towards the front of a lecture hall. A damning pressure builds up in my chest and threatens to spill into the silence. I cannot hold it in any longer; I cough. No control, no cooperation, just the supreme verdict of the body. I exit the room with quick movements and proceed with my body’s wishes. One thought prevails: ‘I hate my body’.

From our first gulp of air until our last, we go through many different transitions in body and in mind. Fantasies of futures where the strong human mind can leave the frail human body have been part of science fiction for decades now. But where does this dislike, or even hatred, towards our own bodies come from? Where did it start and where will it end? Why should we hate something that is going to be with us our entire lives? It goes through so much: colds, ten-hour parties, sixteen kilometer hikes, traumatic accidents and so on. Yet here we stand, in one piece, rushing to our 9.00 AM lectures having stayed up till 3.00 AM the night before.

We ignore the fact that we push our bodies to the limit and jump straight to hating its shortcomings. Hating our life-companion helps us push through the frailty of our humanity and allows us to create a space where our mind feels that it can do more than its body allows. Fitness gurus and life coaches will force mantras and affirmations onto us, and this seems to work for a while. But why does it work? Positive thinking, like replacing words such as hate with love, can have a huge effect on people’s general well-being. The repetition of mantras has also been proven to work in terms of achieving more, being productive and having a higher quality of day-to-day life.

‘Your body is your temple’; so give it offerings, pray to it and above all, worship it. Staying healthy does not just entail eating salads and exercising, it also involves treating yourself with the respect you deserve. Getting the hiccups or being hungover are not moments of weakness, but a reminder that you are alive. You have to coexist with your hair being perfect right before showering, with getting a cramp while stretching too hard in the morning, with weird stabbing pains in your organs after laughing too hard. Implementing mental frameworks is easier said than done, but making the switch from a negative to positive outlook can skyrocket your performance in the show of life.

Next time you get mad at yourself for getting the sniffles while needing to study in a silent library, remember that you are married to your body. You are required to nurse it, feed it and get it through the test of time; in sickness and in health it is yours to cherish.

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