Do you think of yourself as an endless improvement project? …Once I lose 10 lbs (or 20 or whatever magical number you dream of), once I disappear this jiggle from my belly, once I tone my thighs, lift my eyelids, and suck the jelly out of my butt, then I’ll be happy. Then my life will really start.
Did you know that losing weight and getting more exercise appear on most people’s New Year’s resolution lists, year after year after year, no matter how much they weigh or what kind of shape they’re in?
And what would happen if they finally lost the weight, got the exercise they thought they needed, and fit into those jeans they’ve hidden in the back of the closet? Chances are they wouldn’t even notice. They’d already be onto the next project… losing more weight, doing more reps at the gym, and continuing to believe that “If I can just reach this next goal, then my life will be really great.” Always chasing the dream that dangles out of reach. Always frustrated that we never get to sink our teeth into that damn carrot.
Why do we get caught up in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction?
Because we’re stuck in the mindset that our body is broken and we have to fix it: my body is flawed, and I have to constantly repair it. Or hide its ugliness when all else fails. Sometimes we even feel like we have to punish ourselves for being flawed, our miles on the treadmill substituted for the self-flagellating whip. No amount of improvement will ever be enough.
Stop trying to improve yourself. Your body is fine. You are not anyone’s improvement project, not even your own.
If you’re always trying to improve yourself, you will never be satisfied with who you are. We expect ourselves to improve in good times and bad. We cannot constantly improve. Life does not always get better. Give yourself a break.
But Kimber, you might say, I want to eat better. I want to do more yoga. I want to finally nail a two minute handstand. I want more out of life…. Believe me, I know. Here’s what I want:
1. Be an awesome parent, yoga teacher, and partner.
2. Get my book(s) published
3. Get both my ankles behind my head and walk around on my hands. (It’s just as cool as it sounds.)
4. Continue to learn how to love my body through all its changes.
5. Learn how to pop some fly breakdance moves on the dance floor.
So, how do we resolve the paradox of not getting caught in the futile cycle of constant improvement but still longing to wow our friends with our fantastic moonwalk? Is it wrong to want more for ourselves?
Nope. It’s not. The problem is where you start from. If you start from the place of believing that you’re broken, a million band-aids (or dollars) won’t fix you. If you start from the place of knowing that you are good, your body is good, your life is good just the way you are, then anything you add to that is good too. Just a different good. I’m not broken. I don’t need to fix my body. Since my body is already good (or fabulous, fun, and frisky), exercising and eating well are simply the whipped cream with a cherry on top. Mmm.
How do we start seeing ourselves as good?
1. Look for the good. Look for what’s good and workable in your body, in your life, and in your relationships. What’s workable? What’s delightful? What about your body makes you smile?
2. Change your definition of “perfect” to mean “good enough.” When a friend asks you how she looks and you say perfect, do you mean, “You look as good as a perfectly straight infinitely long line”? No. You mean, “You look great/lovely/good enough to head off to whatever adventure comes next.” You are perfect. You are good enough as you are.
3. Enjoy the process. Is the point of our lives to improve ourselves endlessly and leave a beautiful corpse? Let your life be about savoring, and relishing being alive, whatever life offers you, be it joy or grief, pleasure or difficulty.
4. Start with love. Love your life. Love your body. Act with love in your relationships and everything you do. Let your love for life guide you.
In the Love Your Body workshop (next one coming up in Sept!), we discuss the difference between self-discipline and self-devotion. Self-discipline is when we say, “I’m going to the gym everyday, I’m going to do tons of yoga, I’m going to eat tons of greens and no sugar. I’m going to make myself do all these things [because I’m broken and the only way to fix myself is by being hard and demanding on myself, by denying myself things I enjoy and forcing myself to do things I hate.]
Self-devotion says, “I’m going to the gym and doing yoga as often as I can because my body enjoys it and it feels good when I exercise. I eat healthy, fresh, delicious food because that’s one of the ways I show my body I love it. I delight in treating my body this way [because I am whole and worthy and my body is amazing. It’s fun to treat my body with love-- like it’s my best friend.]
The to-do list of Miss Self-Discipline and Ms. Self-Devotion might look the same:
· Go for sunrise hike in the hills
· Yoga class
· Write blogpost
· Make vegetarian dinner for friends with lots of greens and mixed berries for dessert
But the impulse behind them is totally different. Miss Self-Discipline is hoping her to-do list will finally make her whole… but it never adds up to lasting happiness. Ms. Self-Devotion knows she’s already whole, and that taking care of herself in a loving way is just another way of enjoying life.
You are enough. Your body is good enough, your life is good enough. Just as you are. When you love yourself, improvement is beside the point.
Love Your Body Blog: Part 54