In a world that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.
These are words that rang true when I saw this short video recently:
In watching this clip, I felt a soothing rush of relief. Relief that I am not alone. That we, as women can claim our bodies and love them in their natural beauty right now. No changes or 'beautifying' necesarry.
This relief lasted about twenty seconds before my overactive mind started ranting…
"Really? I can choose to like myself just like that? It’s safe to choose love instead of self-loathing? It can’t possibly be that simple…" and on and on it criticised, raining on my parade.
Despite being a positive Body Image advocate, eating and body image counsellor and facilitator of Body Love Yoga workshops, like many of us, I too can easily get tangled up in mental stories of how inadequate I am; how I wish to lose weight; to look how I used to look; or how I want to look in the future. It is still a tendency of mine, to forget the simple truth that I can choose to stop the struggle with my body – moment by moment. Which is why I practice daily.
The interesting thing is that self-rejection is always based on the future or the past. In the present moment things are always ok, even when they’re unraveling (if this sounds improbably, try reading Pema Chodron's When things fall apart). Self-rejection relies on stories, and stories are never about what is going on RIGHT NOW. When we realise this, we also see that we are not trapped in a perpetual pattern of self-criticism unless we choose to be.
How do we experience this shift rather than just think about it? How do we regularly remember what is already good now, instead of being trapped in a never-ending sense of unworthiness? Well, you could strip down to our underwear in public with an invitation to draw on you for encouragement as this courageous woman did, (full kudos if you choose to take this approach!) OR, you could follow the simple technique that is always available to you. To become present to what is already here that is good and true and valuable.
By showing up for what is here right now, you begin to see that you are worthy of goodness.
Not convinced? Try taking ten seconds right now and notice as many things as you can in your immediate environment or imagination that are enough. Details that fill you up. Maybe the sensation of air on your skin, or the presence of your child, the turn of the seasons, a song you can hear or recall, or a memory of a recent experience that delighted you (or an older experience in my case, such as the coconut below prepared with such penache in Bali).
When we don’t allow ourselves to take in what is good around us - and within us - and savour it, we deny ourselves permission to enjoy, and therefore like ourselves in this moment. Instead we trade in our self-love for a fictitious story of fear about the past or future.
My daily time on the yoga mat is all about this practice of re-membering my own goodness, which I so easily forget. As I practice I actually become a member of my own life and skin, rather than someone living in an exile of forgetfulness. To inhabit this body in a compassionate and curious way is the underlying principle of my continual return to the rectangle of rubber that stands as a sentinel of yoga in my life. By the end of my yoga practice (so long as I’m choosing to return my focus to the breath rather than criticism) I feel inherently present in my body, and I feel free to ENJOY it, just as it is, without having to manipulate or change a thing….
This feeling of presence and enjoyment of my body is much like I imagine the woman in the short video might have felt when strangers encouraged her to shine, and covered her in hand-drawn love hearts.
It’s a big choice to like yourself. To like your body. To trust your worthiness. But it’s an even bigger choice not to.
The cost of not choosing kindness toward ourselves is to remain forever entrapped in self-improvement projects, spending our precious time and money trying to ‘get there’ in our body, our lives, our careers. The real joy we’re seeking lies in starting to like ourselves NOW, because when we get to the imagined future, it will be NOW too, and if we don’t like ourselves in the process of getting 'there', we’ll still be giving ourselves hell when we arrive. Never arriving at the point of permission to like ourselves leads to an endless cycle of women spending their time, energy, and money, on a consumer culture that relies on our self-rejection so that we remain hidden and insecure, spending money on a future self who never reaches the promised land of worthiness.
Let's come out of hiding and claim our rightful enjoyment of the body in this moment. This is what I see as a real revolution of body image. For our daughters to look back on our obsession with our bodies and laugh at how preoccupied we were with its shape.
May they ask us…did you go to the beach and soak up the sun and splash in the waves? Did you enjoy your body? Did you play? Did you like your body and treat it with respect? Did you welcome appreciation and praise from others, because you knew yourself to be worthy? Did you offer affection and receive affection willingly and with grace?
May we answer yes to each of these questions, and may our children, too, embrace their body as a counter-cultural declaration that we will not be sold a story of our inadequacy any more.
Lets re-write the Body Image story. Let it begin NOW, with us.