Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Body gratitude

This is the fourth post in a series where I'm sharing my ongoing lessons about body-image and body-acceptance. Part one set the scene. In part two, I shared about how it's helped to become aware that the way I view my body might be distorted and not reflect reality. In part three, I talked about obsolete defense mechanisms and letting go of them.

Today, I want to talk about the popular theme of "gratitude" and what I've been learning about how it relates to body-image.

As anyone interested in personal development (or just has access to social media) knows, there's certainly a growing awareness today of the importance of being grateful for what we have. For someone who's been unhappy with their body appearance for a long time, becoming consciously grateful can help soothe some of those negative thoughts and feelings. Specifically, I've experienced relief by diverting attention from what my body looks like to what it can do.

I want to talk about this photo for a moment: 

One of the nasty surprises I've experienced about negative body image is that after I removed the original source of my unhappiness, my mind just moved on and found new things to criticise in my appearance. One of them is the thickness and chunkiness of my thighs. This is not something that had ever bothered me before I lost weight and got into fitness, even if, physically, my thighs were probably even bigger back then.

I took this photo in December 2017 because I loved these new tights. Despite being very conscious of my thighs in the photo, I still wanted to share it, so I posted it on various social media platforms. 

But while I was feeling very negative about this aspect of my appearance, when my ballet teacher saw it, she commented instead on something I could now do, not on how I looked — how I was holding my feet. The difference in focus between what I noticed and what she noticed in the photo is the whole point here, neatly summed up.

Yes, my thighs are big. That's a product of many thousands of kilometres of running and cycling over the last few years, and hundreds of hours of dance and dance-fitness. These are the legs that allow me to do those things. At one point, after noticing my thighs in a photo of myself after finishing a half-marathon, I despaired and I wanted to stop, or at least cut down on running; but I realised how sad I would be to give it up.

My life-coach highlighted this decision to me. These legs are a by-product of doing things I love. They have literally been shaped by love! (How cool is that?) And in choosing to keep doing those things, I choose these legs too. How about being grateful for being able to run and cycle and dance on them instead of agonising about what they look like?

And, more fundamentally, be grateful for a healthy, well-functioning body. From my own family background, I'm all too aware of how quickly and completely that can be taken away through accident or illness.

I'm admitting that this gratitude still does not come instinctively to me. When I bring it consciously to mind, it certainly helps me. My hope is that gratitude is like a muscle, and that the more I practice it, the more powerful it will get.

By coincidence, yesterday, my coach Marina shared some thoughts on just this same theme, a lot of which spoke directly to me. Here's a chunk of it, shared at her invitation, with my emphasis added to the parts I felt most personally relevant:

Start loving YOUR body. It's a gift you get to live this life in. It's your play/adventure/growth humanness suit. It's a miracle.

Annnnddd....The least important part about it, is how it looks.

YES!.. it deserves to be nourished & cared for... which YES!... will help it to look it's healthiest best self... but if you've only one idea or image in your mind of how your body should look for you to love it... well:

ONE, you'll likely often be unhappy

& TWO, your body is sadly experiencing the opposite of unconditional love.

There are billions of bodies on this planet, many containing minds within them are looking at 'other bodies' wishing to trade. And ironically those 'others' are looking at 'others' wishing to trade too.

We are a mad crazy bunch aren't we!!

So let's remember....Happiness isn't always about changing & getting what you want. It's mostly about loving, celebrating & cherishing what you have.

If you'll never be six foot plus, why waste this lifetime wishing away your contentment and joy...when instead you could embrace being a pocket rocket of awesomeness with a juicy big heart and lit soul.

It's just a huge waste of energy.

Do you really want to trade your days and prana (life force) for discontentment and unhappiness??

Instead- Let's all move from STRESSED + SELF LOATHING to BLESSED + SELF LOVED today ...

Shift from picking on & BULLYING (coz honestly that's kinda what we do) your body, to lovingly complimenting it, like you do others....maybe for it's appearance....or even for the endless miracles it performs each day.

Read the whole post here.

The next entry will be the last in this series and will describe shifting my attention from things I don't like about my appearance to things I do like.

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