Do you have a favorite mug or dish that you love to use? I have several from Anthropologie that bring me such joy when I use them. And with pretty much anything I own, I try my best to take care of it and keep it in mint-ish condition. After all, I am the girl who keeps her shoes in their original shoe boxes. So one day when one of my favorite bowls from Anthro chipped, I was a little sad. I found myself not wanting to use it because it was now flawed. I would use it as a last resort bowl when all of the others were in the dishwasher. Silly right? The bowl was perfectly functional, but the chip in it bothered me.
I recently returned from my second weeklong Wildhearted Retreat in Mexico. Myself and 8 other beautiful souls attended the retreat together. We stayed in the jungle off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. On our first morning there, we threw on our swimsuits and hiked down to the beach for our first session. As we stood in our circle, a wave of self-consciousness seemed to pour over each of us. Our fearless leader, Ashlie, could see that we each were holding onto some type of complex with our bodies. She invited us to get the unkind thoughts of ourselves out in the open. We each went around the circle and shared to the person standing next to us what we didn’t like about our bodies. Rather than saying “I will always have love handles. No matter how much I workout, they will never go away,”...we turned to the person next to us and replaced “I” with “You”.
“You will always have love handles. No matter how much you workout, they will never go away.”
“That extra 15 lbs you gained is really showing in your swimsuit.”
“You look so bloated.”
“Damn, your cellulite really shows.”
It was a challenging and authentic experience. When I turned my statement towards the person next to me, I could really feel the impact of not just thinking it, but actually saying it too. It was eye opening.
Society teaches us that you have to look a certain way - especially women. If you’re a certain weight, you either can or can’t wear a swimsuit, skinny jeans, shorts, leggings...to name a few. When the weather starts getting warmer, you better get your tan on and start toning your abs and arms. I sadly even hear these comments in yoga sometimes - “Swimsuit season is coming! Work your abs!” Or “It’s almost tank top season, get those chatarungas in to tone your arms!” Yes, yoga is a form of exercise and will transform your physical body, but declarations like these can be mentally damaging and counteract the purpose and intention of yoga.
And I’m not excusing myself from this kind of talk. I’ve caught myself saying it as well - “burn your energy during core so you can enjoy brunch after!” I am pretty health conscious and do believe in eating a well-balanced diet and exercising for health and mental well-being; but this doesn’t excuse me for how I view myself or others.
After we went around the circle, we then shifted the conversation to a positive and said what we love about ourselves and/or body.
“I am super proud of your dedication to yoga and how it has transformed your mind and body. Be proud of how far you've come.”
“You are so beautiful inside and out. You have the most beautiful, genuine spirit.”
“I am so impressed and motivated by your dedication to getting up at 5:15 am 4x a week to go to boot camp. You rock.”
Shifting the conversation to a positive transformed how I view myself and others. And it made me appreciate how far I had come. Until a year ago, I never felt confident or comfortable wearing a swimsuit. It wasn't necessarily because of how I looked in it, but rather how I felt on the inside. I am super proud of all of the time and hard work I’ve devoted to transformation - both physically and internally. And it’s not just with wearing a swimsuit. I embrace my body, it’s shape and size, and how it was uniquely created to fit me. And I appreciate this with others as well. We were not all created equal and we should embrace that with one another.
When I returned from Mexico, I reached in my cabinet and the first bowl I pulled from the stack was the one that’s chipped. Rather than sticking it on the bottom and grabbing another (like I usually do), I chose that one. It’s still fully functional and serves its purposes of holding delicious food. It is perfectly flawed; and it serves as a reminder of standing in a circle on the beach, embracing the internal and external beauty that each woman holds.
How are you perfectly flawed? Can you embrace with love and appreciation what you see as a “flaw” rather than with disgust and loathing?
The next time you start criticizing yourself, pause. Turn the conversation to someone else. Would you say those things to the other person? Then why do you say it to yourself? Turn it to a positive and declare what you love, or how proud you are for the hard work and self-care you’re giving to yourself. And if you hear your friends saying it about themselves, call them on it. Remind them of what you see and what makes them unique.