Many of us leap to 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.
As she writes:
“While Weight Watchers didn’t mark the beginning of my weight-loss journey (more like a desperate attempt to end it after the apocalyptic warnings from my pediatrician that I was on the wrong end of the weight percentiles for kids, which horrified my tiny mother), it is a particularly notable stop along the way. Notable because, after ‘failing’ (those 10 pounds were one of my last award ribbons), I didn’t blame Weight Watchers. Instead, I blamed three things: (1) me, (2) my body, and (3) the fact that I hadn’t yet found the right diet.”
After discovering intuitive eating, Anna started ditching the diet mentality (she’d already tried 65 diets), and questioning her former beliefs about yoga.
“As I continued to work with reconnecting to my body’s own internal wisdom about what was right for me to eat, I began to play with the notion that maybe my ideas about my yoga practice could also be transformed. Although I loved practicing [yoga], I’d been secretly thinking all along that I’d finally really get it once I turned into one of the skinny bendies I usually saw on the mat beside me in class. But then one day, I had this thought: ‘Wait a minute…what if the problem isn’t my body? What if the problem is just that my teachers don’t know how to teach me or other people with bigger bodies?'”
What if the problem isn’t that your body can’t fit into those jeans or that shirt, but that their manufacturers made a bad piece of clothing? Or they don’t understand women’s bodies? Or they cater to a narrow group of people?
What if we feel uncomfortable in our own skin at the gym not because of our bodies, but because all we see are shaming posters about dieting and working out? Because the staff isn’t particularly friendly? Or the gym-goers make snarky comments to newcomers?
What if it isn’t your supposedly inadequate body that stops you from finding real love? What if it’s that you’re looking in the wrong places? Or the people you’re finding don’t share your values?
The next time you’re trying on a piece of clothing or a new class, the next time you’re going anywhere or you’re around anyone, pause before blaming your body. Or pause after the self-critical thoughts start. Just pause. And consider if that environment, activity, object or person is the right fit for you.
Why do you need to change your stripes to squeeze yourself into something? To contort, distort and twist yourself? Maybe you can find something that fits you well, instead.
This may be a yoga studio that welcomes people of all shapes and sizes. This may be a group of people who are kind and funny and don’t focus on fat grams or pounds lost or gained. This may be a different clothing company. This may be a nutritionist who focuses on intuitive eating and teaches you how to listen to your body.
Instead of assuming that your body is clearly at fault, inherently wrong, absolutely inadequate, pause to reconsider. This is a hard thing to do. I spent years (many years) condemning my body, assuming it was responsible for all the ills in my life.
What I’ve realized is that my body is just fine. In fact, she works very hard. And the best thing I can do for her is to acknowledge this. To be kind. To stop replaying the blame game, and realize that I don’t need to alter my appearance.
I don’t need to lose weight to fit into a dress or jeans or a gym. I simply need to find what fits me best.