When we dislike our bodies, when we feel uncomfortable in our own skin, we may start silencing our voices.
Because we haven’t lost weight, can’t adhere to a diet, can’t fit into a certain size or don’t fit into a certain standard, we become convinced that our voices don’t matter. That we haven’t earned the right to speak, to matter.
We dismiss our thoughts and opinions. We dismiss our needs. We neglect our feelings.
I subscribe to Anna Guest-Jelley’s newsletter (and you should, too; it’s filled with excellent and practical insights). Recently, she wrote something really powerful, which I knew, as soon as I read the words, that I had to share with you.
It’s a beautiful way of thinking about body acceptance. And it’s something I think so many of us forget. I forget.
Because body acceptance can feel tough. It can feel unnatural. But even though it feels uncomfortable, or awkward, or itchy or really hard, that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to hate our bodies or to feel disconnected from them.
Today, we tend to view exercise in the same way we view sweeping the floors, doing the laundry and organizing our dresser drawers: a necessary chore, a nuisance, a should.
We also see exercise as a punishment. A punishment for eating ice cream, a brownie or too many calories. A punishment for relaxing for too long. A punishment for a fun weekend.
I recently wrote this article on how to practice self-compassion when it’s the last thing you want to do. Because when we’re upset, so many of us revert back to what we know: berating ourselves.
We might do this in the moment. For days. Maybe even weeks.
We might do this after bathing suit shopping. After not running as fast or walking as long as someone else, or ourselves the time before. After an awkward interaction with our boss. After making a mistake. After doing, saying or experiencing anything we deem inadequate.
I appreciate my body.
I respect it.
I try to protect it.
And yet there are days when frustration fills
my bones at the same rate my breath does.
Days I wish I had more energy
Days I don’t understand why I’m slower
than everyone else in a workout class
Days I’m doubled over with disappointment that I’m not stronger
Days I resent my sensitivity to so many things
Days I wish I didn’t require as much sleep or caring.
So often, as we sprint through the day, the last thing we think about is our body.
The last thing we think about is the inner machinery that’s involved in the seemingly simplest of movements: opening our eyes in the morning; glancing about the room, hitting the snooze button (a few times); shifting our feet from the bed to the floor; walking (or running) into the bathroom; splashing water onto our faces; picking up a toothbrush; turning on the faucet for a hot shower.
In those few minutes, our bodies perform great feats.
Many of us leap into conclusions when it comes to our bodies. For instance, we assume that if a piece of clothing doesn’t fit us, it’s clearly our fault. It must be because we’re too curvy, our shoulders are too broad, our thighs are too big, our waist is too wide.
We do this with other things, activities and even people. Some of us play this blame game regularly. In the excellent book Yoga and Body Image, co-editor Anna Guest-Jelley shares the different ways she blamed her body.
I think bucket lists are wonderful. It’s important to have a place for contemplating and listing your ultimate dreams, for reflecting on the experiences, activities and actions that inspire you. The experiences, activities and actions you just know you need to do. The things that are calling you.
But I also love an idea I read about in Jennifer Louden’s latest book — A Year of Daily Joy: A Guided Journal to Creating Happiness Every Day, which is filled with beautiful quotes, tips, insights and images. The idea is to create a “thimble list.”
Today, in the U.S., we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., who had an incredible dream and helped make it a reality. Inspired by his powerful speech and Therese Borchard’s beautiful piece, every year I republish a piece on my personal dream (which I’ve updated since last year). It’s a dream that focuses on everything from how we treat each other to how we treat ourselves.
I have a dream that our society will stop judging, shaming and bullying people because of their size, shape and weight.
I have a dream that we’ll focus on cultivating healthy habits instead of remaining chained to the numbers on our scales (or calipers or clothes).
It is a new year.
But this doesn’t require being a new you.
Of course, you will see this phrase
in many places:
TV, magazines, websites.
You will hear it in conversation
at work, at the checkout line
maybe even at home.