I was raised as a strong, independent woman. (Thank you Mom and Dad and all the other individuals in my life who helped me get here).
As a young person, I participated in 4-H from age 9-15 and learned to stand in front of people, give talks and presentations, learned all kinds of useful skills and was in positive relationships with other young people and adults. I held every office in our club including President and received awards and praise for my accomplishments. I was a swimmer in middle and high school and had many groups of friends through school & my youth ministry at church.
I wouldn’t say I was part of the “in” crowd but on the periphery. I was friendly with everyone. I was a good student, although I was more the tortoise than the hare. When it came to academics, I worked hard. I was also involved in student government.
College and grad school were more of the same. As part of my path, I even developed a course for The George Washington University’s Exercise Science program called Beauty & the Concept of Health. (Always teaching what I need to learn).
Sounds good doesn’t it? I was very well-rounded. However, there was one thing I wasn’t – thin. I wasn’t heavy by any standard either – oh, what my older eyes can see that my younger eyes couldn’t.
When I was younger, my body image was skewed. I think I started dieting in the 5th grade. YES – 5th grade! Even with all my accomplishments, I couldn’t see past this container that is my body. Ironically, I knew I was smart, I knew I could swim faster than most of my classmates, and I had great friends who loved me. But, I just could not make peace with how I looked. If only I was thinner. If only I had different hair or bluer eyes etc.
As I grew older, I softened a bit and had beautiful epiphany moments where I realized that, “I am good just as I am.” But then, POW, when a stressful event or a difficult moment interrupted my life all the equanimity went out the window.
I know. My profession requires that I unabashedly stand in front of you wearing skin tight yoga clothing while lovingly teaching non-judgement as I guide you into postures you might think impossible to achieve!
When I’m teaching, I am in a beautiful bubble. I feel comfortable. I’m doing what I love and, I must admit, I know I do it well. In that moment, it is about the student, about the collective, about the yogic way that guides me and us to a place where there are no internal or external mirrors. I am the witness. I am watching from outside of myself and what I see is beautiful. The Zoom revolution does, sometimes, take me outside of my bubble. As I am teaching you, I see myself on the screen. I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that sometimes my shoulders sag with the realization that my body type still provokes my inner critic to suggest damaging adjectives and inspire feelings of disappointment. Add to this a sprinkle of menopause and a dash of aging, and I have a great recipe for an eternal negative body image dialogue.
My thought process often goes like this: How can someone look at me and think I know what I am talking about when my body looks like this? Crazy, right? Well, the mind is sometimes crazy and it can be a bit of a spiral.
I want to scream back at myself (and sometimes do), “You have been training, studying and learning, for over 30 plus years. You have worked with and helped thousands of people over these years. Get over it.”
If only it were this simple.
We all have “stuff” that we carry around for our whole lives. We have “stuff” we think we have let go of and then it shows up again. It is a work in progress, just like we are a work in progress.
What have I learned and continue to learn? The intensity is less, the effects last less time and it’s easier to stop the spiral from happening. I am more aware of my inner critics, the board of directors who sit in my brain. I can shut them down more quickly.
This is why I’m spending this year working on self-love and self-acceptance as my theme and sharing it with others. I’m 54 and I want this way of conversing with myself to be less and less a part of who I am as I continue my journey.
Here is what I am doing:
- Not letting the voices in my head get away with their criticism
- Adding dance and feminine movement into my weekly routine
- Embracing all my body parts with love and kindness, including self-massage
- Eating foods that fuel me as well as those that taste delicious
- I am enough just as I am
- I am perfectly imperfect
- I don’t need to know it all
- Continuing to learn
- Showing myself compassion
- Forgiving myself
- Showing up for myself
- Choosing myself
- Remembering that self-love is a process
So, what do we do?
We remember we didn’t get here overnight. We remember that self-love is a habit just like any other habit. It takes time, practice, forgiveness and more time to cultivate. It is a process and it’s not just about self-care like taking a bath or getting a massage. It’s about choosing ourselves everyday and getting to know ourselves. It’s about self-exploration.
It might include limiting alcohol or going to bed early and waking up early.
It might be exercising regularly or practicing gratitude (gratitude for yourself that is).
It might be joining that yoga class or practicing on your own. Yoga is one of the best ways to meet yourself.
It might just be slowing down, giving yourself more time to get somewhere or get something done.
It’s about giving yourself the same kindness you would give others.
It’s about good choices. Good choices lead to other good choices.
It’s knowing that small steps make a difference.
It’s about lifting other women up as they lift you up.
It’s about finding other women to BE with on a regular basis.
It’s about the rest of your life and how you want to show up.
It’s powerful medicine.
Looking forward to hearing your stories and supporting one another along the way.
Here’s to making self-love easier.