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.
Last Sunday we talked about creating meaningful mornings. Today, let’s talk about evenings.
How do you normally spend your evenings? Do you plop on the couch and watch TV? Do you continue responding to email? Do you wash the dishes and clean up most of the night? Do you read or write?
Think about how your evenings look. Write down what you normally do. Then consider how you’d like your evenings to look.
The beautiful and intimidating thing about yoga is that it’s a time to stop and be still. It’s a time to be quiet with ourselves. Which many of us don’t do very often.
The other types of exercises I do are mostly high intensity (which I also love). Go. Go. Go. We sprint from one exercise to another, from running the stairs to doing push-ups to doing burpees.
And even though I work from home, my thoughts are usually focused on articles and ideas and errands and to-dos.
Even when I’m relaxing, it’s not the same as whatever happens when I’m practicing yoga.
Many days I feel disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed I didn’t wake up early. I’m disappointed I missed the morning yoga class. I’m disappointed I didn’t work hard enough. I’m disappointed I’m easily distracted. I’m disappointed I didn’t do the laundry or make the bed or organize that thing I was going to organize but haven’t. In months. I’m disappointed I wasn’t brave.
I feel this disappointment in the pit of my stomach. Churning. It’s a guilt that turns into regret that stays there all day. Almost like a mass. Eventually, it shrinks.
Mornings can be tough. Maybe you like to sleep in as long as you can, and end up getting ready for the day by running around your house like a crazed animal.
Maybe you have a basic routine you’ve been cycling through for years. Maybe you work from home and get to work right after splashing water on your face and brushing your teeth.
According to psychologist and Psych Central blogger Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D, in his newest book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, our mornings set the stage for the rest of our days. So when the day is filled with bumps, a good morning can help us navigate those challenges.
I’ve noticed that lately, my picture-taking has been sparse, even though there’s a camera (a great camera) in my smartphone, even though images make me happy.
Part of the problem is that I feel like I can’t live up to the stream of pretty, put-together pictures on sites like Instagram. (Why does it even matter? I’m not sure.)
But I’m going to change that.
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.