Don’t tell me. You’ve tried being friendlier to your body, you’ve tried seeing the good in it, you’ve tried imagining it as a magnificent pillar of evolutionary achievement, but you’re still not feeling the love. Don’t worry. There’s still time. As long as you’re alive, as long as you have a body, there’s still time to fall in love with it.
If you’re feeling discouraged, don’t panic.
Many of us have a lifetime of negativity towards our bodies that takes more than a day, a week, or even dare I say, 22 blogposts to undo.
Perhaps you looked in the mirror this morning and saw your mean girl sneering back at you, or found yourself machine-eating your way through a box of Girl Scout cookies instead of taking care of yourself. That’s okay. Give yourself a break.
What would your best friend say? Again, we’re talking about your idealized best friend, not meanies like Simon Cowell or Ann Coulter. Your best friend who sees the best in you, who knows your faults and flaws, and loves you because of the complicated person you are, not in spite of it. Your best friend knows your talents and skills, has watched you live through pain and joy, and supports you unconditionally, but also won’t put up with any self-pity or rationalizing bullshit.
Maybe your best friend would say, “Oh honey, let it go. One step back doesn’t undo your two steps forward, and even if it did, you’re still on the right track. You just keep moving. You’ve tackled harder stuff than this. We’re in this together.”
“We’re in this together,” are magic words for me. I whisper those words to my body, and imagine my body whispering them back. In those moments when I’m feeling anxious about some new challenge life has thrown at me, “Body, you and I, we’re in this together,” is exactly what calms my blood pressure and bolsters my inner confidence.
Look back at the exercises and practices for learning to love your body that we’ve covered so far: the “Hi” practice, letting go of old, yucky rules about our bodies and replacing them with new ones, imagining meeting and conversing with your inner best friend and your inner demon, setting aspirations for how you want to feel about your body, dialoguing with the body about past trauma, making a list of things you like about your body, etc. Which have you tried? Which have resonated most for you?
Think about each practice as a seed you’ve been given. Maybe two of the seeds you’re excited about (Pumpkins! Strawberries!), and you put them in a cup of dirt on your windowsill and water them everyday.
One day perhaps you forget to water them, but you remember later, and they’re still growing fine, if a little slowly. Some of the other seeds, you’re not sure about. (Fennel? Rhubarb?) You’d like to plant them, but you don’t feel confident they’ll grow or that they're right for you. That’s okay, save them for later. Maybe some you’re pretty sure will never grow, or you don't want to grow. (Okra? No thanks. Pineapple? Around here? No way.) No problem, just hold on to them too. Plant them whenever you feel ready, or not at all. Just know you can return to them at some later date when you need them most.
True change doesn’t happen overnight, just like our little plant in the paper cup doesn’t grow into a magic beanstalk while we sleep. Sometimes we’re like a little kid who checks the paper cup every fifteen minutes, and then runs to Mom, saying, “It’s not working! Those seeds must be dead!”
Four of the most important words I ever heard came from one of my first yoga teachers: “Be patient with yourself.” Your love for your body will grow, slowly and surely, by planting a couple of seeds at a time, and letting them fully take root in your life. When you’re ready, you can plant more, letting your love for your body become a welcoming, flourishing garden, full of beauty and wonders you’ve only imagined. Not through beanstalk magic, but through consistent, tender care.
And don’t worry, the Love Your Body Handbook isn’t nearly through… still more seeds will be arriving shortly for you to plant or save, as you desire.
Next post: Get focused: turn your albatross into a faithful companion.