The New Self-Help

Making Peace With Your Body Is a Mighty Act of Revolution

The three tenets of radical self-love

Sonya Renee Taylor
Published in
5 min readAug 31, 2020
Book jacket cover for The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor.

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

Radical self-love — a deliberate unlearning of the internalized shame and discomfort we accumulate with respect to our physical bodies — is a non-negotiable step in the fight for a more equitable society.

I came to that realization by accident. A few years ago, when my friend Natasha told me she was worried she might be pregnant and didn’t want to be, I asked her why she had chosen not to use a condom with this casual sexual partner with whom she had no interest in procreating. Neither Natasha nor I knew that my honest question and her honest answer would be the catalyst for a movement. Natasha told me her truth: “My disability makes sex hard already, with positioning and stuff. I just ­didn’t feel like it was okay to make a big deal about using condoms.”

A reel of memories scrolled through my mind of all the ways I told the world I was sorry for having my big, Brown, queer, wrong, bad body. It was from that well of shared vulnerability that I told her: “Natasha, your body is not an apology. It is not something you give to someone to say, ‘Sorry for my disability.’” My friend wept. Suddenly, everything clicked.

On some cellular level, we know our bodies are not something we should apologize for. When we decide that bodies are wrong ­because we don’t understand them, we are trying to avoid the discomfort of divesting from an entire body-­shame system. But when we liberate ourselves from the expectation that we must have all ­things figured out, we enter a sanctuary of empathy.

Since that fateful moment with Natasha, I’ve identified three key tenets to help pry us out of the mire of body judgment and shame. I call them the Three Peaces:

Peace with not understanding

Understanding is not a prerequisite for honor, love, or re­spect. I know very little about the stars, but I honor their beauty. I know virtually nothing about black holes, but I re­spect their incomprehensible power. I do not understand the shelf life of Twinkies, but I…