Loving yourself is life-altering. It changes how you see yourself, how you behave, how you treat others, and how others treat you. When you learn to approach the world from a place of radical self-love, you interrupt the system of oppression that inflicts wounds of shame on all bodies. In this book summary of The Body Is Not an Apology, poet and activist Sonya Renee Taylor provides guidance that teaches you how to practice compassion for yourself and celebrate every body.
Learn how to break free from negativity and celebrate yourself as a work of art.
READ THIS BOOK SUMMARY IF YOU:
- Want to cultivate a positive body image
- Are looking for ways to embrace every part of yourself
- Feel overwhelmed by media messages about what your body should like
Modern culture constantly sends you messages about your body, telling you what looks best, what’s acceptable, how to feel about yourself, and what you can do to improve. Additionally, it issues binary labels with which to identify your body: gay or straight, able or disabled, black or white, misfit or beloved. But in fact, individuals make up a diverse spectrum of desires, colors, and abilities.
Unfortunately, all these labels and messages are more powerful than words. They’re part of a cultural ideology designed to make you feel ashamed, vulnerable, and apologetic of who you are. They deplete your inner resources and diminish your sense of self, making you believe that you’re never quite good enough.
If you find yourself focusing on your flaws, berating yourself for your shortcomings, or despising your imperfections, it’s time to embrace a new way of looking at yourself: radical self-love. Radical self-love is a way of making peace with your body and the bodies of others by putting aside judgment and practicing compassion. Instead of putting yourself and others down based on how they look, you can change your relationship with your body — and the world.
How do you do this? You have a natural strength within you, and you must nurture it and protect it from the influences that seek to diminish it. Discovering your inner strength as the source of your self-love will help you live your most vibrant, unapologetic life.
Making Self-Love Radical
Improving self-esteem, developing more self-confidence, thinking kindly of yourself — these are all worthy goals. But they’re not enough. The Body is Not an Apology offers you more: the safety and permanence of radical self-love. Once you learn how to access your place of radical self-love, negative feelings — such as when your self-confidence is lagging and you’re feeling low — become transitory. Even the concept of self-acceptance sets the bar too low. You’re not on this earth to merely accept yourself; you’re here in this body to celebrate, express, and expand yourself!
Radical self-love really does begin with bodies, both your body and the bodies of others. Your body experiences the material realities of the poverty, injustice, discrimination, and violence that are abundant in the world. Racism, sexism, fatshaming, homophobia, and other prejudices are acted out on the body. Human bodies around the world are wasting away from famine, being beaten into submission from abuse, and deteriorating from neglect. That’s why radical self-love is a transformative force: It starts from within you to create a world that honors every body. When you deeply value your body and the bodies of others and enact those values through your choices, you disrupt the systems that perpetuate economic, social, and cultural oppression.
The best part of radical self-love is that you don’t have to acquire, discover, or develop it — you simply have to access it. It’s already inside of you as a part of the core of who you are. Think about the last time you saw a toddler playing. Were they worried about their squishy bellies and dimpled thighs? Did they seem concerned that their pants were getting tight? Of course not. There was a time when you also thought your body was simply amazing. You could run! You could jump! You explored the world without considering what other people thought about your body.
But the older you got, the more susceptible you became to the oppressive cultural and media messages about your body. Maybe your skin color, hair, or size wasn’t right. You only saw people who looked a certain way represented in television series and movies. Makeover shows taught you that adopting food restriction and unsustainable exercise regimens (combined with dramatic plastic surgery interventions) were the only way to make yourself appealing to others. Everywhere you turned, you were bombarded with messages about your undesirability, inadequacy, and failure. No wonder you started to believe that you needed to apologize for your body.
But these beliefs can be dismantled, and it begins with learning exactly how they take hold.
Shame, Guilt, and Apology
There are certain bodies that it seems society doesn’t want to see: fat bodies, sick bodies, aging bodies, brown bodies, disabled bodies, poor bodies, subversive bodies. These bodies are ignored, degraded, neglected, or devalued. If you identify yourself as belonging to one of these categories, cultural pressures can make you feel as though you’re bothering others simply by existing, and you may internalize the expectation that you should be apologizing for yourself. You might start to believe that your body, simply by being part of who you are, arouses discomfort in others, and you might start accepting their prejudices toward you as a result.
A feeling of deep bodily shame often begins in youth, sometimes as a response to changes in your body, such as a growth spurt, gaining or losing too much weight, or hormonal fluctuations. These changes can suddenly alter how you orient yourself in the world and can even cause you to adopt beliefs about your intrinsic value, leading you to wish that you were different. Pressures from family and social groups often reinforce these internal narratives instead of refuting them, which causes even more harm to your self-image. As a result of these influences, you lose touch with the radical self-love you were born with and adopt an attitude of shame and guilt.
Internalizing society’s messages about your body is the result of political and economic systems that perpetuate body-shaming and oppression, and these messages feel inevitable. The fear, discomfort, and self-loathing that result from living in a world that rejects those with bodies deemed undesirable leads to fear-based ways of living, such as constantly feeling like you should apologize for yourself. Some people even begin to feel a sense of “body terror” based on the social responses and violence they encounter as a result of simply being in their body. In a world where rhetorical and physical violence against people of color, the disabled, LGBTQ bodies, and others is regularly occurring, the impact of body-based terror cannot be understated. For some the outcome is traumatic; for others, it is fatal.
Building a Radical Self-Love Practice
Radical self-love begins with an internal, individual transformation that expands outward to bring more acceptance and compassion to others throughout the world who are suffering from bodily oppression. Connecting with your inherent sense of self is to reclaim the radical self-love that inhabits the core of who you are. But to do this, you must set aside any negative beliefs about yourself that have been programmed into you through the world’s intolerance. You must face your fears of rejection and overcome the inertia of living in a fog of shame and self-doubt.
To access your inner resources of radical self-love, it helps to ask yourself challenging questions about the ways in which a body-shaming mentality has affected your life. You might ask yourself, “How have my feelings of discomfort with my body kept me from living as fully as I possibly could? What have I settled for? What have I given up because of my belief that there’s something wrong with my body?” These questions help articulate the choices you’ve made as a response to feeling ashamed of your body, and they can help create a more complete picture of the many ways that body-shaming has limited your life and hindered your dreams.
Becoming more aware of your thoughts is another way to access the radical selflove within you. Remember, society is always planting thoughts about “good” bodies and “bad” bodies in your mind, setting up constructs for what you should see as desirable, normal, and beautiful. Those inputs from the external world are bound to invade your mind from time to time. But it’s liberating to learn that thoughts are only thoughts. They’re transitory and temporary, and you can choose to let them simply pass through your mind instead of making them part of your worldview. Access your radical self-love by choosing to reject the thoughts that do not serve you.
A New Way Ordered by Love
Accessing the radical self-love within you is a journey that involves changing how you think, behave, and live. That may sound daunting, but there are four simple ways to dismantle body shame and excavate harmful thought patterns. These four pillars of practicing radical self-love are:
- Taking out the toxic: Decrease your exposure to sources of toxic shame, including movies, shows, magazines, music, and people that deliver negative messages about your body and harm your self-worth. Replace these with time in nature, reading, reflection, or dancing — any activity that celebrates the natural joy of life and helps you tune in to what’s truly valuable to you.
- Mind matters: Identify and refute the voices and influences that perpetuate messages of body shame and oppression in your mind. Instead, listen more carefully for the voice of your authentic self and expand your mind’s capacity for self-love by speaking to yourself kindly and encouragingly.
- Unapologetic action: Don’t avoid looking at or touching your body. Take time to become comfortable with your body. Once you do this, you can resist the message that your body is bad or disgusting with the knowledge that your body is capable of wonderful strength, complex feelings, and positive experiences. Care for your body indulgently and without apology and find activities that invite you to feel the delight and satisfaction of being in your own skin.
- Collective compassion: Put radical self-love into action by becoming a part of socially transformative movements that affirm the inherent worth and value of underrepresented, undervalued, and underprivileged people around the world. Part of your healing process involves opening yourself to others and learning to trust them. Moving beyond self-reliance to collective compassion allows you to acknowledge that the world is here for all bodies to enjoy.
Your Radical Self-Love Toolkit
Do you treat your body like a hand-me-down car? Do you barely keep up with regular maintenance or pay it just enough attention to get you through the day? Do you trash your body, littering it with junk food or forgetting to give it the resources it needs to run well? If so, you might want to consider doing things differently.
Listening to and responding to your body’s needs is powerful. It’s a way of telling yourself that you’re important and that what you need matters. When you access the radical self-love within, you stop treating your body like an afterthought — like a vehicle that gets you where you need to go — and instead, you start cherishing it and giving it what it needs to run well. Your body needs clothes that fit comfortably, food that nourishes it and provides energy, enough sleep to run well, and regular health checkups. The time you invest into providing care for the material needs of your body is directly linked to care for your mental and emotional needs as well. You might be surprised at how much better you feel when you start incorporating self-care practices into your daily life, and these can lead to a cascade of other positive changes, too.
Along with taking care of yourself physically, you should also practice care with how you speak about yourself. Radical self-love doesn’t require you to be less of yourself to make other people feel more comfortable. You don’t have to be apologetic, self-deprecating, or self-effacing — no matter what people expect of you. How you speak about your body, both to yourself and to others, affects how you experience being in your body. If you speak about your body as being strong, unflinching, and capable, you’ll feel more expansive and powerful. Spend time each day speaking kindly to yourself, using phrases such as “I love my body,” “My body is my ally,” and “I have the body I need to live my best life.”
An essential part of making peace with your body is telling yourself stories about how fantastic, strong, and unique your body is. Think of what it’s capable of and what you have experienced in it. Think of what you’ve overcome and what you dream of accomplishing. Your body isn’t a constraint — it’s a vessel for your soul and a tool for living a vibrant and satisfying life.
One of the most transformative things you can do for yourself is to write yourself a new story. Get rid of all those cultural messages and narratives from your past that are swirling around in your head — the ones that tell you why your body is wrong and how you should change it. Instead, choose to come up with a new story for yourself.
Remind yourself of your innate beauty every day. Put away judgment and practice compassion for your body and the bodies of others. Embrace a new way of looking at yourself; embrace radical self-love.
About the author
Sonya Renee Taylor is an author, poet, speaker, humanitarian, and activist. She is the founder of the “Body is Not an Apology” movement.
Sonya Renee Taylor is the Founder and Radical Executive Officer of The Body is Not An Apology, an international movement and organization committed to radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation. Sonya’s work as an award winning Performance Poet, Activist and transformational leader continues to have global reach. Sonya is a former National and International poetry slam champion, author, educator and activist who has mesmerized audiences across the US, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, England, Scotland, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands as well as in prisons, mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, universities, festivals and public schools across the globe. Believing in the power of art is a vehicle for social change, Sonya has been widely recognized for her work as a change agent. She was named one of Planned Parenthood’s 99 Dream Keepers in 2015 as well as a Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s 2015 Outstanding Partner awardee. She was named one of the 12 Women Who Paved the Way for Body Positivity by Bustle Magazine and in September 2015, she was honored as a YBCA 100, an annual compilation of creative minds, makers, and pioneers who are asking the questions and making the provocations that will shape the future of American culture; an honor she shared alongside author Ta’Nahesi Coates, artist Kara Walker, filmmaker Ava Duvernay and many more. Sonya and her work has been seen, heard and read on HBO, BET, MTV, TV One, NPR, PBS, CNN, Oxygen Network, The New York Times, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Today.com, Huffington Post, Vogue Australia, Shape.com, Ms. Magazine and many more. She is a regular collaborator and artist with organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth 1in3 Campaign, Association for Size Diversity and Health, Binge Eating Disorders Association (BEDA), Yerba Buena Cultural Art Center and numerous others. With a B.A. in Sociology and an M.S.A. in Organizational Management, Sonya continues to be a fierce advocate and activist for intersectional, global justice. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Split This Rock, an organization calling poets to a greater role in public life and fostering a national network of socially engaged poets. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors for SisterSong, a pioneering Women of Color reproductive justice collective. She is also actively engaged in the movement for Black Lives and the Anti-Police Terror Project in Oakland, CA. In 2011, Sonya founded The Body is Not An Apology, an international movement and organization focused on radical self-love and body empowerment. In 2015, The Body is Not An Apology joined the world of digital technology, creating a comprehensive tech platform to connect the globe around issues of radical self-love and intersectional social justice. The Body is Not An Apology’s online platform www.thebodyisnotanapology.com, hosts a digital magazine, radical education web based workshops, its own social networking site and online forums. TBINAA’s content reaches over 250,000 thousand weekly, with website visitors from over 140 countries. Sonya lives in the California Bay Area with her Yorkie, Anastasia Duchess but continues to tour globally sharing lectures, workshops and performances focused on radical unapologetic healing and personal transformation.
Personal Growth, Nonfiction, Self Help, Feminism, Mental Health, Psychology, Social Justice, Health, Race
Queer, Success, Motivation, Self-Esteem, Politics, Social Sciences, Women’s Studies, Feminist Theory
Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies.
The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world-for us all. This second edition includes stories from Taylor’s travels around the world combating body terrorism and shines a light on the path toward liberation guided by love. In a brand new final chapter, she offers specific tools, actions, and resources for confronting racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. And she provides a case study showing how radical self-love not only dismantles shame and self-loathing in us but has the power to dismantle entire systems of injustice. Together with the accompanying workbook, Your Body Is Not an Apology, Taylor brings the practice of radical self-love to life.
“To build a world that works for everyone, we must first make the radical decision to love every facet of ourselves…’The body is not an apology’ is the mantra we should all embrace.” –Kimberlé Crenshaw, legal scholar and founder and Executive Director, African American Policy Forum
“Taylor invites us to break up with shame, to deepen our literacy, and to liberate our practice of celebrating every body and never apologizing for this body that is mine and takes care of me so well.” –Alicia Garza, cocreator of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and Strategy + Partnerships Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
“Her manifesto on radical self-love is life altering–required reading for anyone who struggles with body image.” –Claire Foster, Foreword Review
“Poet and activist Taylor (A Little Truth on Your Shirt) packs important ideas into this concise volume on body empowerment. “Radical self-love is not a destination you are trying to get to; it is who you already are,” she counsels…The author’s sensible and empathetic tone will lend comfort to readers and help them to see that no matter what their body type, they are beautiful.” -Publishers Weekly
“‘Survival is damn hard,’ Sonya Renee Taylor says in the introduction to her marvelous new book, The Body Is Not an Apology. A writer, poet, educator, and performer, Taylor brings the message that self-sacrifice and self-flagellation keep us from our highest good. Her manifesto on radical self-love is life altering—required reading for anyone who struggles with body image.” -Claire Foster, Foreword Review
“What spiritual teachers like Marianne Williamson refer to as natural intelligence, Taylor calls “radical self-love”. She has a way with action-packed words. When others talk about negative body image, she responds with “the body is not an apology”. And she’s written a whole book in response to the question “How do we live our highest, most radically unapologetic lives?”… Covering topics like Body-Shame Origin Stories, Media Matters, Body Terrorism, Changing Hearts, and Unapologetic Agreements, Taylor seeks to put the history, politics, and solutions of this topic into a logical, organized, and motivating format.” -Anna Jedrziewski, Retailing Insight
“From the moment I met Sonya Renee, I knew my life, my world, and the way I view myself and others around me would never be the same. The Body Is Not an Apology is essential reading for those of us who crave understanding and those who are already on the path to learning how beautiful and complex our bodies are. It will empower you with the tools to navigate a world that is often unkind to those of us who whether by choice or design don’t adhere to society’s standard of beauty. Her words will echo in your heart, soul, and body just as they have in mine.” —-Tess Holiday, Plus Model, Author & Founder of Eff Your Beauty Standards
“The Body Is Not an Apology is a gift, a blessing, a prayer, a reminder, a sacred text. In it, Taylor invites us to live in a world where different bodies are seen, affirmed, celebrated, and just. Taylor invites us to break up with shame, to deepen our literacy, and to liberate our practice of celebrating every body and never apologizing for this body that is mine and takes care of me so well. This book cracked me open in ways that I’m so grateful for. I know it will do the same for you.” —Alicia Garza, cocreator of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and Strategy + Partnerships Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
“The Body Is Not an Apology is a radical, merciful, transformational book that will give you deep insights, inspiration, and concrete tools for launching the revolution right inside your own beloved body. Written from deep experience, with a force of catalytic energy and so much love.” —Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and In the Body of the World
“In 2017, #thefirsttimeisawmyself was a trending hashtag and Netflix campaign. As a disabled woman, #thefirsttimeireadmyself may well have been this book. Thank you, Sonya. Bought two copies, one for me and one for my daughter.” —Rebecca Cokely, Senior Fellow for Disability Policy, Center for American Progress, disability rights activist, and mom
“Sonya Renee Taylor is a treasure that this world simply does not deserve. The Body Is Not an Apology is the gift of radical love the world needs! We are all better off because of her presence, talent, compassion, and authentic work. Thank you, Sonya, for all that you do.” —Jes Baker, aka The Militant Baker, author of Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls
“In these times, when the search for answers to the mounting injustices in our world seems to confound us, Sonya Renee Taylor offers a simple but powerful place to begin: recovering our relationship with our own bodies. To build a world that works for everyone, we must first make the radical decision to love every facet of ourselves. Through lucid and courageous self-revelation, Taylor shows us how to realize the revolutionary potential of self-love. The body is not an apology’ is the mantra we should all embrace.” —Kimberlé Crenshaw, legal scholar and founder and Executive Director, African American Policy Forum