Some Thoughts on Self Love
Let me tell you what happened yesterday. I had a “crisis.”
That’s what my husband called it during one of my little meltdowns when he was trying to talk me off the ledge. And he was right. I had a body image crisis. I felt desperate. I felt stuck and unsuccessful. I cried a lot.
For as long as I can remember, I have hated my body. Ugh. Just reading those words feels vile. It feels like betrayal. Probably because it is. How can I hate the body that has carried me and supported me all of my life? It’s a strong body. It’s a healthy body. But yet I critique and criticize it every day. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, in one of my first yoga classes, that I began to realize just how horrible I am to myself.
I’m brand new to the practice of yoga. So when I started, I didn’t realize that an important aspect was to be gentle and kind to yourself. When the yoga instructor began talking about the importance of the words we speak to ourselves, I almost fell out of my downward dog.
We talk a lot about using kind words with others, but not as much about kind words to ourselves. As I listened to her speak about how hard we can be on ourselves, it became so obvious to me: I have been so harsh with myself.
In the few weeks since then, I’ve been waffling between self-acceptance and self-loathing. Old habits die hard and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to change my inner dialogue. It’s like I take two steps forward and then one step back. Then yesterday, it was like all of my progress faded away and my old inner critic rose right back up again.
Yesterday, I felt angry that I’m not seeing result fast enough. When looking in the mirror, I hyper-focused on my mid-section…my most troublesome area. My thick middle was all I could see. I went to the gym and opted for yoga over cardio because I thought that might be better for my mind. I thought I was mostly okay, but when one of the instructors at the gym asked “How are you today?” I started crying.
How am I? I am tired. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am tired of
this battle, physically and emotionally.
I can think of just a handful of times that I have felt good about my shape and size. Weight has always been an issue for me. Even as early as eight-years-old, I remember looking down at my thighs and feeling dismayed and self-conscious about how they spread out so wide when seated. My friends didn’t have thighs like that. My friends had skinny thighs that didn’t jiggle. My friends had flat stomachs and tiny arms.
I was much taller than all of the other kids, but I was also chubby. I grew up with “fat” being one of my characteristics, much like the fact that I had hazel eyes and blonde hair and freckles. My fat was just a part of me. Tall, blonde hair, hazel eyes, freckles, fat.
It didn’t help that I grew up with family members that placed
self-worth and value on a person’s physical attributes and appearance. Being
different was not okay. How you looked, mattered. Your body size and shape
mattered. Slim = Pretty. I remember watching the Miss America pageant with my
grandmother as a child. “See?” She would say, pointing to the
contestants in their swimsuits. “Maybe could be Miss America someday if
you were slim enough.” One time, she said to me, “You would be so
pretty if you would just lose some weight.” Most of my family was
perpetually “trying to lose weight.”
So many distorted messages.
I have countless examples. There’s no point in rehashing them because just those few examples make my points. Number one, we should not be teaching children or telling ourselves that the way we look defines our worth. Number two, the things we say to others, particularly children, can become their inner voice. I grew up around some people with imbalanced priorities and harsh judgments about others.
Looking on the positive side, as a result of those experiences, I have been very careful with the words I use with my daughter. Now I’m trying to do better with the words I use with myself. But unlearning years of a bad habit is hard.
I don’t hold a grudge about the things I was told as a child, because I believe the people in my life were doing the best they could do with the knowledge and resources they had at the time. I also believe that for some reason, this theme keeps recurring in my life because I have a lot of work to do in this area. Me. Just me. I have to do the work. No one can do it for me and it does no good to look back.
It’s time to break the unhealthy cycle.
So I’m striving for a better balance. Health and fitness are good things. I just need to be healthy in how I go about it. It’s not just about words, but also a mental state…..a state of loving myself and accepting myself, no matter what I was told, no matter the number on the scale or the size of clothes I’m wearing. It’s about getting to a place where I can work on myself without hating the current version of myself, meeting myself where I am and accepting the speed in which I progress. It’s rejecting what society says we should be and how we should look. Most importantly, it’s about mind/body/spirit all working together instead of them duking it out.
Basically, it’s about self-love.
So that’s where I am today. I don’t know if this resonates for you. If it does, I hope you know you aren’t alone. You are worthy of kind words, happiness and love.
You are beautiful.