How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself. Follow Kimber as she shares her journey to loving her body, the joys and sorrows of yoga teaching, and venturing into the wilderness of writing and publishing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Love Your Body Blog Part 39: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Growing up in the Midwest, the notion was firmly inculcated into me that saying anything nice about yourself (i.e. I’m beautiful, I’m a good person, I have a great smile) demonstrated a conceitedness that would incontrovertibly result in the sky opening up and God striking you down with his mighty lighting sword. Complimenting yourself, or even accepting a compliment, was therefore something to be avoided at all costs. You just didn’t do it. If you accidentally said something that smelled ever so slightly of hell-borne vanity, people would back away from you, shaking their heads and looking fearfully toward the heavens. It took me years to get out of this habit.

When women tell me they feel it’s self-indulgent and vain to devote time and energy to loving their bodies, I know what they mean.

In our culture it’s fine to openly criticize and make fun of yourself.

We’ll even pay to watch it; many a stand-up comedian has made their living off this goldmine of self-deprecation. And even movie stars, who are often famous because of their looks, are rarely quoted enjoying their bodies or appearance. Instead we’re treated to their latest commercial remedies for aging and their frustrations about their own bodies and self-image.

Remember the Queen in Snow White? She loved her body, right?

Well, she loved herself as long as she believed she was The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. And she was willing to poison her step-daughter, fling evil spells, and transform into a fire-spewing dragon to defend the title. Truly loving your body isn’t about seeing your body as better than anyone else’s. Or as worse. Loving your body is about seeing beauty in all bodies, as well as in your own.

By loving your own body, you help others see the good in their own bodies through the reflection of love and acceptance in your eyes.

Who do you know who loves their body? How are they in the world? Do they seem selfish and self-indulgent, or do they seem connected and loving? Loving your body isn’t about outer appearances, or falling in love with your own image in the reflecting pool like the Narcissus of ancient mythology. When you love your own body, you love it beyond its outer form of skin and face and dimples on your thighs; you love the life that moves through it, the support it gives you, and the wisdom and experience it shares with you. Loving your body means you see yourself and your body as worthy of love, and helps you see others as worthy of love as well.

You fill yourself with love and treat yourself as your best friend, and that love spills over into the rest of your life, offering more friendliness and love to all those your life touches.

Loving your body doesn’t make you selfish, in fact, it makes you more self-less. Taking good care of yourself, getting in your yoga practice or movement, eating well, sleeping enough, all of these things help you take care of the people who matter to you and even leave you with some energy left over to help them feel special and loved. When you are feeling depleted and unloved, it’s incredibly difficult to show affection and care for anyone else. Forgiveness and compassion arise easily when we’re feeling content and easeful with ourselves. When you feel loved, it’s natural to love the world.

Think about it, who would you rather hang out with: your friend who constantly makes mean jokes about her body and is unhappy and short-tempered, or your friend who seems comfortable and happy in her body and her life, and who accepts and loves you just the way you are? Which friend would you rather be?

Loving your body makes you a better friend and a better person. There’s only one way to find out if it works. Try it and see.