Last year, I had an eye-opening epiphany. I was looking at photos of myself from a music festival I attended in 2010, back when I was 22 and could rave all weekend and still wake up on Monday, not feeling like bitter death was living inside my soul. I was marveling at myself, my body, thinking how tiny I use to be. Look how nicely those high waisted shorts lay on my bod, so much room for me to shove three slices of pizza down my throat and not have to undo the top button. Then, the sad memory crept in that I use to think I could be thinner back then. Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Chelsea Jeheber. (I sheepishly raise my hand) How awful I was to myself, my body was beautiful, it was perfection and I thought I could be skinnier? What I would do to have that body today, I'm WAY bigger now then I was then.
Some time passed before I stumbled upon the jean shorts I was wearing in that photo, buried deep in a drawer, like some relic of my youth. Let's try these babies on, I thought to myself, perhaps as some form of emotional masochism. Expecting to take on the form of a stuffed sausage, my eyes widen as they buttoned all the way up. Holy fiddlesticks, they fit! Sure, they’re a tad tighter now, I am the proud owner of a yoga bum, but they most definitely fit.
Then, shame swept over me as I realized only a few weeks ago I’d convinced myself I was so much bigger now than me in that photo. Why couldn’t I see that? My parents didn’t raise me like this. Mama didn’t raise no fool. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a household where body shaming wasn’t prevalent, I didn’t grow up hearing phrases like “I’m so fat” or “I feel ugly.” Instead, I was told that I was kind, I was smart, I was important, and often.
But what was I was lacking was my own self-worth. Your parents and family can love the bananas out of you, but at the end of the day, that will mean diddly squat if you don’t love yourself first. At the time, no matter how thin I was, it would never be enough, there was always something to complain about, something to obsess over. My love for myself was not unconditional, and completely conditional. When I looked at photos or saw my reflection in the mirror, l saw something different, I felt different. I didn’t feel thin, and there was always room for improvement.
I’m no doctor and was never diagnosed, but what I experienced back then can be compared to a mild form of body dysmorphia, a mental disorder where you constantly worry over a perceived flaw in your appearance. I lacked the ability to see the true beauty that I was; my arms could be thinner, my stomach flatter, but upon reflection now, I see I had the body I always wanted. Right now, at this moment, I have the body I’ve always wanted, and it took years of hard emotional work to truly get to that frame of mind.
Unbeknownst to me, the hard work started the day I stepped onto my yoga mat 7 years ago. Struggling with body image, I wanted a different body and thought yoga could give me just that. What my practice gave me instead was the beautiful gift of self-love, of unconditional love for my body, and every ounce of me that comes with it. I found the true strength and beauty from within. Ohhh magic! This didn’t happen overnight, but every day I became stronger, in body and in mind.
I was also gifted the acceptance of change. I’m not sure if you know this guys, but change is inevitable. Yet we still fight it like some crazed change-fearing ninja assassins. I would see my strength one day, and be completely fragile the next. My mind would radiant with endless joy, only to be dark and stormy a few days later. I learned self-compassion, self-love, and with these tools, I am able to project that love and compassion onto people I encounter every day.
Love your body where it is. We are all on this journey of self-improvement, mentally and physically. You must first be able to love yourself exactly where you are, exactly as you are to move forward. Do not move through this life from a place of fear but rather of a place of love, and you'll more likely to get the results you want.
As I sit here today, I am a 30-year-old woman and I love my body exactly as it is. I’ve worked hard physically and mentally to get to where I want to be. I am disciplined with my yoga practice and fitness regime while still allowing days of rest when I’m feeling tired or not up to it. I eat food that nourishes my body while still eating a freaking cookie every once in a while. And, anytime time a negative thought or obsession with my body tries to creep in, I allow it to breathe then pass. I remain calm and present because I know how amazing this vessel of mine is.