Celebrate Your Uniqueness
Let 2017 be the year you celebrate you and what makes you unique. Let this be the year you embrace your body for all of the amazing things it allows you to do. And the year you stop chasing after the “perfect” body.
I posted this quote to Facebook in 2010. I’d spent most of my life punishing my body for not being perfect. Yoga allowed me to (finally) celebrate my body. Celebrate, not only the way I look, but more importantly, celebrate what my body can do and the way I feel about my body.
This is my story of how I overcame shame about my body. Maybe you can relate. If you’re struggling with acceptance for any aspect of yourself, join us for our Love Yourself Retreat. Begin the journey of love, acceptance and compassion for your body and every aspect of yourself.
I started hating my body when I was eight. My dad and brother called me fat and constantly made fun of me. I look back at photos from that time, and while I had baby fat, an 8 year old should NEVER be called fat. Over the next couple of years, I grew taller and slimmed down. But I STILL felt fat. I started hunching over as I grew taller – so nobody would notice me. My dad admonished me, “Stop slouching. Stand up straight. What’s wrong with you?”
Ha. I felt like so much was wrong with me. Not just with my body, but me. It’s interesting how the two are related.
In fifth grade, my best friend “unfriended me”. This was way before social media, so of course that happened in person, right before class. The reason? My boobs weren’t big enough! Who even has boobs in fifth grade you might wonder. My former best friend and her new best friend, that’s who. I heard a lot about my non boobs for the next several years.
It was especially challenging through middle school and high school. I didn’t want anyone to notice that I was fat (I wasn’t) or that I didn’t have any boobs (I did). But I thought I was fat and boobless, so that made it true. I hunched over even more. I wanted to disappear. I felt too ugly and too fat to be out in public. I was 15 years old.
As a teenager, I found the more I obsessed about what not to eat, the more I ate EVERYTHING. That continued through college. Except instead of just eating, I was eating AND drinking. In my early 20s, my “exercise” was to take the stairs instead of the elevator and park my car far away. I experimented with running…once or twice…and then realized it was pure torture and gave that up. Looking back at the photos during those times, I was more curvy than fat. But I still felt fat, so that made it true.
Isn’t it interesting how our perceptions shape our reality?
If you were ever teased or made fun of or called names about your body, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And you know how difficult it is to shake the voice in your head, even as an adult. At that point, your actual body size and capabilities don’t matter, because you’ve been conditioned to think of yourself in a certain way.
When I finally found love and appreciation for my body I was 43. That’s a long time to be uncomfortable in your own skin. Now I appreciate my body for what it allows me to do. And I appreciate my body’s limitations – I’ll never run a five minute mile (or even a nine minute mile), I’ll never put my foot behind my head in yoga (why would I – that just looks weird!) and in order to feel good and do what I do on a daily basis, I need to eat right, get enough sleep and not drink too much.
The following (plus my regular practice of yoga) allowed me to celebrate and accept every aspect of my body. It’s been a journey (and a struggle), but I honestly feel like I have overcome the shame that used to be a constant part of my life.
How to Love Your Body
Let Go of Your Idea of a “Perfect” Body
- Maybe there was a time when you felt like you had the perfect body. Just the right size, you looked great in all of your outfits and you felt good.
- Maybe there’s a celebrity or a friend who you envy their “perfect” body.
- Release the unrealistic expectations you have for yourself.
- Let yourself grieve.
- Find freedom when you realize you don’t need to have a perfect body in order to be happy.
Redefine Your Perfect Body
- Define what a perfect body means to you. Don’t use any size or superficial characteristics.
- Focus on what your body does for you. From walking to running to yoga to just getting out of bed in the morning. And don’t forget about the physical pleasures you enjoy.
- Take another look at your “perfect” body. Were you punishing yourself to get that body – running or exercising excessively? Denying yourself simple pleasures? Taking a “diet” pill or any kind of drug that was more than likely causing heart damage? Focusing more on exercise or diet than your loved ones?
- Consider if it’s really worth having a “perfect” body if you are actually doing harm to yourself – physically, mentally or emotionally? Is ANYTHING worth that?
Journal the Hate Away
- Write down everything you’ve ever heard or thought about your body. The good, the bad, the ugly.
- Then evaluate each one and determine if the statement is true about your body (how it is today).
- Write down everything your body can do – walking to yoga class, picking up your child, riding a bike, dancing (in the bathroom mirror where no one can see you or out on a dance floor where everyone can see you) or just getting out of bed in the morning!
Find gratitude for your body
- Gratitude for the things your body does (sometimes without you even asking) – every breath, every step, every move.
- Gratitude for your health and wellness.
- Gratitude for your digestive system and your immune system.
- Gratitude for your strength, flexibility and endurance.
- Gratitude for your sense of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing.
- Gratitude for the features that make you unique – your smile, your eyes, your strong legs.
Take care of you
- Listen to your body and you are in the present moment.
- Notice when you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, feeling depleted or anxious. Only when you notice these things can you respond and act accordingly to take care of yourself.
- Get active. Exercise is the most important thing you can do, not only for your body, but for your brain. You NEED to do something that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. Start small. Don’t schedule your first marathon or cross country bike ride just yet. Take a yoga class, join the Y, walk – fast, pull your bike out of the garage.
- Remember, if you sit and do nothing you will only feel worse, physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Indulge and eat what you enjoy. In moderation. Yes to dessert, why not? Yes, thank you, to a delicious roll with real butter. Yes to a glass of wine. Then add fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Enjoy hot tea, coffee or a water. Our ginger detox tea is perfect for keeping your digestive system healthy. Cooking at home is one of the best ways to eat healthy, day in and day out.
- Notice are you eating because you’re hungry or are you eating because you’re stressed or bored?
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Take quiet and alone time when you need it.
Acknowledge that a “perfect body” won’t bring you happiness
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking…”Life will be perfect when I…” lose weight, start running, meet the perfect man, get another job, and win the lottery.
But will you be happier? Really? You’ll still be you. Your body may be a different size and you may have more money, a different job, a husband, but at the end of the day, you’ll still be you. Complete with your talents, ideas, habits and faults that you currently have. It’s like the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Allow yourself to experience joy, pleasure, contentment, all of the beauty of life – today. Just as you are. Celebrate your uniqueness. Don’t let anybody shame you about your body, because you are perfect just exactly as you are. Here’s to you!