Yesterday I went to a hot yoga class. On the way to this class, I listened as one of my most cherished friends told me, through tears, that she can’t handle what she sees in the mirror. She asked me for tips to get out of her own head. On how to see herself for the strong, successful and beautiful woman she is. I had nothing. Because in that yoga class I did not focus on breathing, I did not focus on my set intention, I focused on how my stomach rolled and bunched in the mirror next to me. On how my arms looked more like holiday hams than arms. On how my butt blended right on into my thighs. I had no tips for her because I have spent my entire life looking in the mirror and picking and pinching and hating every inch of flesh that wasn’t tight and locked in its place (which evidently after pushing out a human is a lot of inches).
Last night I read a post from a yoga instructor whose body can contort into yoga positions I will never be able to get these tight mom hips into. She wrote that she hates taking pictures of her poses because it leads to self-scrutinization and obsession with how the pose should look. She wrote that she hates to teach in studios with mirrors because she sees that same behavior throughout her class as well.
Gabi wrote a while back about how she and I spent our entire teen lives picking ourselves apart. I remember being shocked reading that she had kept a weight journal, because if you knew the Gabi I know, she is so comfortable in her skin it is awe inducing. I spent a good portion of last night just rolling over the question of how Gabi got from writing, “Stop eating so much! Goal weight is 85lbs” to someone who could literally be a contestant on that show Naked and Afraid… only like…. Not afraid. Where and when did that switch flip? Was it as easy as turning on and off a light? Is it something she still struggles with? Gabi is my best friend and my sister, shouldn’t I just know these things? Shouldn’t it be as easy as just jumping on the phone and asking her?
Then the realization hit me, if I feel weird getting on the phone and asking my built-in best friend how she dealt with body dysmorphia, how am I supposed to talk about it with anyone? Least of all my most critical and judgemental friend; myself. Somewhere along the way from childhood innocence to adulthood, we forgot that our bodies were hand designed by someone who makes no mistakes. Someone who never does things by chance. Somewhere along the way we forgot that our bodies give us life, pull us through physical, mental and emotional hardships. We forgot that our bodies dance and run and jump and laugh and breathe. Somewhere along the way we learned the lie that our bodies are our contribution to the world. And you know what, that is a bunch of bull… well, you know.
Today I went to a hot yoga class. I was wearing a sports bra that cut lower on my stomach than most of mine usually do and I was wearing pants that cut higher than most of mine do. So I got this wild idea. I thought, I’m going to take my tank top off and do this in my sports bra and yoga pants today. Now if you know me, I am that person that changes in the bathroom stall in the locker room because… ladies, don’t look at me!! So today I thought I would try something. I parked my mat right next to that same mirror I hated myself in the day before. I fidgeted with my pants’ waistline for a few minutes, I adjusted my sports bra a billion times, and I took off my tank top. I looked at that two inch span of skin that was exposed between my bra and my pants and I forced myself to tell it that I loved it. That I accepted it. Then you know, of course a beautiful girl who has 0% body fat and virtually no sweat glands parked it right next to me. At first I was like, well this experiment has now gone to hell. But then I noticed that she was adjusting her sports bra just as much as I was. That she constantly hiked her pants over her ridiculously flat stomach just like me. Even though I felt that she had absolutely NO reason to be. Then I worked up the courage to look around the rest of the room. And I realized that literally no one was staring at my bulgey two inches of skin. I also realized that the room hadn’t caught fire with judgement or disgust. The class was still moving. And shirt or no shirt, my body was still doing what it was supposed to be doing; holding me up and carrying me through my discomfort.
Now the moral of this post isn’t that we should workout in our skivvies and get rid of all mirrors in workout facilities. The point I am getting at here is that no one, and I repeat no one, is paying more attention to the shape of your body than you are. My switch didn’t flip with my 24-hour realization, but it did help me realize that we all go through this battle with ourselves. I realized that whether I am as thin as a rail or can’t see my feet, the thing I really care about when I walk away from another human is not whether they saw me as a certain shape or size, but if they saw me as kind. We have so many things to bring to this world, and while I’m still working on my mind catching up to my heart, I know for a fact that not one of those things is a number on a scale. So show up and focus on the person you are under the skin, not the skin itself.
I love you and every quality and talent your powerful and capable body allows you to show up and bring to those around you.