Celebrate Your Uniqueness
Theresa Polley
January 3, 2017
September 21, 2023
My Journey

When I was running I hated my body. Since I've been practicing yoga, I love my 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 a 4-Day Love Yourself Retreat or a Self Love & Acceptance Retreat. Begin the journey of love, acceptance and compassion for your body and every aspect of yourself.

My Story of Hating My Body

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.

Finding Love for My Body

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) allows me to celebrate and accept every aspect of my body. It’s been a journey (and a struggle), but I feel like I have finally overcome the shame that used to be a constant part of my life.

Let Go of the Idea of a “Perfect” Body

  • Release unrealistic expectations of body size and capability.
  • Allowing grief for the release of what will never be.
  • A so called perfect body has nothing to do with happiness.

Acknowledge How Your Body Brings Joy

  • From walking to running to hiking to yoga.
  • The physical pleasures you enjoy.
  • Getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Holding or hugging a loved one.

Practice 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.

Be Good to Your Body

Pay attention to what your body is telling you - when you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, feeling depleted or anxious - only when you notice these things can you respond and act accordingly.

  • Get active. Move! Not just 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.
  • 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. Cooking at home is one of the best ways to eat healthy, day in and day out.
  • Practice mindful eating. 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.
  • Make a self love practice a priority.
  • Stop the negative self talk.

Acknowledge Chasing Anything 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 partner, 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!

Embrace Your Uniqueness at a Retreat

Begin the journey of love, acceptance and compassion for your body and every aspect of yourself at a 4-Day Love Yourself Retreat or a Self Love & Acceptance Retreat.

This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988

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Theresa Polley

Theresa believes ALL women have the right to live life on their own terms. In 2004, she created Retreat in the Pines to give women a safe space to be their authentic selves without apology while finding the healing and renewal they deserve.

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