Do you constantly critique your body?
What does your mind chatter sound like every morning when your getting ready for your day in front of the bathroom mirror? Is there a voice heckling you while you adjust your blouse and do your hair?
Does this voice leave you emotionally deflated before you even step out of your front door?
As you walk down a street and catch sight of yourself in a reflection, do you take a split second inventory of all that needs to be slimmed down, smoothed out, plumped up, erased or tightened up?
There is so much talk these days about loving ourselves but what does it mean when it comes to the way we see our bodies?
My Broken Mother-Daughter Relationship Deepening My Commitment
When I first learned that my own strained relationship to my mother was at the heart of much of my body loathing, my commitment to my self care deepend and turned my initial desire to simply ‘look good”, into a dedication to be more whole and happy from the inside out.
Bodily Loathing Replaced With Gratitude
Beginning my self care journey by caring for my body was the simplest place to start because it was the most concrete way to begin to change my life for the better. I started at the foundation through sleep, food, movement, hygiene. After two decades of being on this self care journey, I can’t say I live in a perfect and unshakeable state of self acceptance and self love, but I can say I’ve come a long way. I used to see my body as a creature with impulses and desires that needed to be wrestled down into submission through harsh self talk, self deprivation, stringent diets, detoxes and exercise routines. I was full of self loathing
Being consistent in my self care grew my love for my body and changed the way I see it in the following ways:
- I now see my body as a miraculous vehicle that has its own intelligence that’s always informing me about what it needs so I can enjoy being in it.
- My body has instinctual wisdom that sizes up much faster and more comprehensively, any situation I’m presented with, in comparison to my brain. It may be to walk away from certain people that for whatever reason, make my stomach turn or to let my tense shoulders soften when my 2 year old niece wraps her whole hand around my pointer finger and pulls me to see something that caught her attention at a park instead of give in to my habit of checking my phone “in case” I missed something
- Taking the time to stop in my day to tune into what I need, requires that I stop the flow of thoughts that are planning for the future or reviewing my past. Have you ever forgotten where you parked your car in a parking lot and pressed the keychain remote to make your car beep? In that moment, your flow of thoughts stopped and your focus became attentively fixated on the sounds coming from every direction around you
Pausing throughout my day to listen to what my body is telling me is no different. To ask it what it needs and earnestly listen, requires me to stop the thoughts and be present. This practice of stopping my thoughts to attune to my body has become a habit and now simply feels like a non-stop ongoing conversation.
- In regularly taking this pause, hearing what my body’s saying, taking action on it’s messages and reaping the rewards of having done that, I’ve further cultivated a trust in the wisdom of this internal communication process.
The rewards have been:
- A sense of ease within my own skin
- Close calls that keep me safe from situations that later revealed themselves to be dangerous,
- Profound pleasures that no money can buy in surprisingly simple things. One such pleasure took place on full moon night in the dead of winter in which I answered my body’s call to take a stroll that night. When I told my 7 year old to come with me and he asked why, I had no answer for him, since I had never done it before. When we finally did leave, we were both mesmerized by the deafening silence the fresh snowfall had created and the faint tint of blue that sparkled all throughout the rural landscape. We made a magical memory that night and he still brings it up from time to time.
- It takes some strength to listen to the wisdom my body is telling me. Many times what it needs is not convenient for me and I need to push outside my comfort zone to heed it. There are times my gut informs me about the environments I’m in and the people I’m interacting with, and the truths it tells me can be just plain ugly and unpalatable. There have been times I’m interacting with someone and my stomach is increasingly turning the more I ignore my body telling me to walk away even though it may seem impolite or socially awkward. Other times the inconvenience is in it telling me to rest when I have a tight deadline or to eat certain foods prepared in a certain way or to move vigorously in some way.
- My body is my home that I take with me everywhere. I create the ambience with how I clothe it, scent it, groom it, feed, it, rest it and celebrate it. Wherever I am, I take it with me and listening to it makes it a friendly, cozy even embracing place to live
- When I’m able to give my body EXACTLY what it wants, I have what I call a “hit the spot” experience. Have you ever seen a child eat something they absolutely love and they begin to hum, wiggle their bottom or dance with that food in their hand? It’s a moment of unbridled pleasure and joy. When I give my body what its asking me for, my body celebrates in different ways.
If I’m doggone tired and give myself a power nap with eye cover, ear plugs, comfy spot to lay my head and a timer on vibrate, the deep relief as I let my head sink into a soft pillow has a sweetness to it unlike any other. One rainy summer night I had to pick up something from my car in the driveway and on a whim got excited about the idea of taking off my shoes and walking in a puddle. The darkness of the night sky was like balm for my computer weary eyes and the sound of rain and the coolness of the rain water on my feet was exhilarating and soothing at the same time. It was as if my soul had taken a long sip of some sort of deeply primal nourishment from the elements. I almost howled at the moon from the sheer glee.
- The more I practice heeding its call in the moment, the less my mind goes to where my body SHOULD be, or BEST WAS in the past. Giving my body what’s its asking for places me in the moment, it helps me meet my body where it actually is now and embrace it.
- When I don’t let myself feel the feelings I need to feel, they stay in my body like a congestion of sorts and show up as knots in my shoulders, painful cramps during my cycle or headaches. I used to think Journaling, meditation, therapy and movement were for my mental health but it’s all connected.
- My attempts to forcefully “get my body in line” with stringent diets, detoxes, and exercise were not sustainable in the long run and only made the pendulum swing in the other direction. The desires’ become so ravishingly unmanageable that I couldn’t help but to succumb to unhealthy binge like indulgences of all kinds. It’s best to meet my body where its at and work with it
- Replacing my critical thoughts with the question, “What do I need now?” directs my thoughts into inquiry, wonder and connection. Replacing the judgment with this question creates healthier inner dialogue within me. If I can be more compassionate to myself in that way, it creates an overflow in which it’s much easier to share this compassion with others in my life and enhances my relationships
- The human body is an animal that communicates through sensations and desires. Not all the technology in the world will change the fact that our bodies have cellular memory of living in nature, hunting gathering and living in sync with the rhythms of the earth. That is why so much research is out about how our stress levels continually trigger our primal flight or fight response. Our body in many ways is an animal trying to clumsily navigate the complex situations our fast paced life exposes it to, whether its digesting fake food from a box or processing the exorbitant amounts of online information were exposed to everyday that we have, for the most part, very little influence over.
- My mechanical efforts in initially caring for my body, morphed my relationship to it, until a seed of self love was planted. Regular, yet messy and imperfect attempts at self care nourished that seed and eventually led it to the current relationship in which for the majority of the time, I’m grateful for it and enjoying it.
- Asking myself the question what do I need now , trains my attention to be present, get out of my head and in many ways embrace whatever situations I face in my day as they are. This attitude of acceptance is a much more resourceful place from which to make choices compared to that of judgment and makes me resilient when faced with challenges
- My body’s needs are always changing, depending on the time of year, the time of the month, how much sleep Im getting or what I have going on. The more skilled I become at listening and responding to what it needs, the more it gifts me with insights into the desires of my heart. Heart, mind and body are all connected and when one is in harmony and happy it affects the other two and I’m led to choices that place me in the flow of life where I can easily make things happen as opposed to forcing things to happen.
How has your self care changed the way you relate to your body?
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Sending you love, a reminder to take care of yourself and a big thank you for stopping by!