It feels as if it is a societal expectation. That we should feel unhappy with the way our body looks. Im speaking about young women, but I don’t really believe this is a problem that just one sex or age group is dealing with. I was a very young woman when I began to long to have a different, better body. It became a habit/pattern to look in the mirror and grimace at the current body part that I was scrutinizing. To look for flaws instead of beauty. I made up that to respond any different would make me look conceited.
I then spent all of my 20s abusing my body although not the way your imagination might be firing right now. My abuse came in the form of overworking it and undernourishing it. Which is extremely ironic because I was working in fine dining restaurants in LA, Paris, Milan and Germany. Surrounded by sumptuous food and yet not partaking. I worked my body for 16 hours a day for most of my 20s. I skipped most meals and forgot to drink water….for a decade. I did not have an eating disorder….at least not the classical type. I loved food, in-fact I was madly in love with it. On my days off I ate splendidly, putting a 3 course lunch at a famous Parisian restaurant on my visa card. Hey , it was my professional requirement! But when I was working my profession demanded a very high level of productivity and I simply forgot to eat. My desire to do a good job overrode all the messages my body was screaming at me. When the voice from my lower back got too loud, I took 4 ibuprofen. Again, I made up that to stop working to eat a plate of food (even if it was eaten while standing at my station, which is how I ate the few meals I did scarf down) would make me look lazy, ungrateful etc..
I don’t know if there is a connection but I started getting horrible migraines when I was 23 and I still get them. I fought them and cursed them for the last 14 years. Then about 6 months ago I found a way to have gratitude. I had slowly learned over trickling time that I needed to eat, drink water, get good sleep, and move my body to avoid migraines that knock me out. My migraines ensure that I take extremely good care of myself. Too good….no wine 🙁
So this past August I was at Muse Camp in the postcard perfect Oregon wilderness. I was laying on my yoga mat after an incredible workshop by Jay Fields of Grace and Grit Yoga. And it hit me. My body was not me. I was not my body. And if I thought about my body as a separate being and I thought about how I had treated that being……well all my shame came up. It was one of those smackers that make me tear up and since I was laying on my back my tears rolled down the sides of my face. And it itched. And I decided not to move (since we were in final relaxation and I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t lay perfectly still!) I decided to just let the tears slowly leak out. I thought about all the times I had talked shit about my body, both internally and externally. I thought about all the physical abuse and neglect. But the thing that hurt the most was realizing that I had very seldom said a kind word to or about my body. And yet my body still showed up for me everyday, selflessly. And after we were done, I stood up, grabbed my stuff, walked to a bench near blue lake, opened my journal, and wrote the first thing that came to my mind. “Love letter to my body” 8/23/14 is the header. This is what followed.
I am sorry. I am sorry for all the times I have neglected you, insulted you, harmed you, ignored you, spoke bad of you, compared you, felt smug about you.
I am sorry I haven’t really seen you, listened to you, made time for you, nurtured you, accepted you, and loved you.
I am so grateful for your strength, I am so grateful you grew my son and brought him into this world. I am so grateful you have stayed with me through all of my highs and lows. That you have risen to every challenge I have asked of you.
I see you. I honor you. I love you. I am asking you to give me a chance to show you that I mean all of this. Love, Rose
I then wrote out all the ways I could love my body along with a list of affirmations.
Positive Body Affirmations
I love my body
My body is just as it is today, and that is great.
My body is strong
My body is beautiful
My body supports me and I support my body
My body has wisdom, I listen to its guidance
My body heals feely when it is taken care of
I nurture my body
I treat my body with respect.