5 Ways to Rejoice your Body – Pt 1
03.07.2014 — Health
Every woman has been privy to or seen some version of this.
I call it the “throw your body under a bus” routine. It’s most commonly used in small groups of women, and, in my experience is usually preceded by just one person making a negative statement about her body – and everyone falling into an obligatory line of self-deprecating comments.
I find it incredibly awkward mostly because I practice not hating my body. And by practice, I mean:
“repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency: Practice makes perfect.”
Why the image of her about to fall off the beam? Because.. frankly, this is a hard practice. It’s harder than yoga. It’s harder than running. It’s almost even harder than being married or having children. And we leave the love of our bodies, the rejoicing of our bodies.. to some external force that is supposed to approve of us. And this judge, jury and executioner is a culture of savage beasts, where the odds are most certainly not in your favor.. and even if they are, they still photoshop you.
So, I woke up this morning, with that same little voice. It’s the voice that says this, “You’re getting old. See those under eye wrinkles. Ew.” It says, “You’re fat. Butt dimples. Gross.” It says, “Your hair is dry.. you need a hair cut.”
And my favorite, “You’re a fraud. Your feet are weird, you’re ears are too big. Your nose is funny; You have side burns. You could use bigger calf muscles. Your eye lashes need some oomph. Your left front tooth is slightly smaller than your right front tooth. You have hips ( gasp ). That outtie belly button from your second child will never go away. Your uterus is falling our of your stomach. Your eyes brows look like oscar the grouch. You have no eye brows! Mustache! Age spots. Tiny little smile lines. BIG little smile lines. Grumpy between the eyes lines. When was the last time your colored your hair?! Have you slept lately? Hello… what’s wrong with you!!?”
That voice. Anyone else have that voice? I know you do. I’ve heard it come out of your mouth.
But, most days, I don’t wake up with that voice. Or it’s very small and homely sounding now. She does make her way out sometimes, especially when I’m tired or it’s the end of a very long night or day. But my practice of rejoicing my body keeps her in check. Here’s what I do:
1. Take personal responsibility for your body and how you feel about it.
I start here, because our culture is full of blamers and whiners. We sit around determining the cause of our “insert new thing here” with scientific and psychological savvy, and then we do nothing about it.
It’s his fault or her fault. The culture makes me feel ugly. It’s those magazines. It’s my boyfriend. It’s my friends. It’s my mom or dad. It’s… whatever.
And behind that is a massive avoidance of personal responsibility.
Guess what? You choose what you watch. You choose what you read. You choose your friends and your boyfriend. You choose what you tell yourself. You choose what others are allowed to tell you. You choose the exposure you have to your parents.. (assuming you’re an adult at this point).
If you say you have no choice. I would challenge you and said.. then you choose to have no choice. Because, … darling, you do have a choice.
So – below are choices you can make to practice the rejoicing of your body. No one can do this for you. Your body falls within your property lines. It is yours.
2. Stop reduction.
There is a widely encouraged rule of thumb. It’s called reduction. It’s pervasive in our culture. We reduce people to all kinds of things. Sexual orientation. Occupation. Gender. Role. Race. Education level. Socioeconomic status. Habitat.
We also reduce our bodies to small dissections of itself. Eyes, lips, cheeks. Legs, nose, ears, hair. Stomach, butt, feet.
Rather than taking a holistic perspective. We opt for a reductive perspective.
Why is this harmful? Because it’s not true. No woman is just legs. or ears or teeth or hair. To say such is to remove her humanity and turn her into an object of speculation. I’m not saying that we cannot appreciate our lovely qualities. To be honest, I like my hair. I’m grateful for it. But to reduce a person to one thing is to deny their full humanity. It is to simplify and quash the full self. And to love and rejoice a person, we must take them whole.
To love and rejoice yourself, you must practice viewing yourself wholly. Mind, body, heart.
3. Practice loving words.
The best way to combat that voice of hate is with a voice of kindness. When I look at the root of that mean voice, I realize it’s a combination of words I’ve heard other people say about people or words people have said to me over the course of my life.
When I was in, maybe 11th grade, I was arguing with some guys about picking on a girl in one of our classes. Their response was to draw a stick figure of me with massive hair and side burns. Literally, the guy passed the drawing over to me, snapped his fingers at my face and said “No!”
Was I silent after that? Maybe for 30 seconds… in high school, I wasn’t really the lie down and take it type. But it did give me a slight complex about my face. Did I have side burns?! omg, no wonder I can’t get a boyfriend!
No human or thing can flourish under the weight of contempt.
It will whither and die. Studies show that the greatest predictor of divorce is contempt. So you can imagine that having contempt for yourself will not create a better self, but a withering self.
In order to love yourself, you must speak kind words. Start with small words, small acts. I chose to believe a friend who I trusted. She told me, “Lora, you are beautiful.” It was embarrassing. What? No I’m not.. I have sideburns and cellulite! I slammed my right finger in a door.. it’s weird. Hello! But she was trust-worthy. A trust-worthy person is someone who speaks both hard and beautiful truth. If you have a sunshine blowing friend.. who never says anything to you that is challenging or difficult to hear, they’re not a shining example. But a friend who can speak both hard and beautiful truth can be trusted. And she told me that I was beautiful.
I was floored. I chose to hear her words over the other words. She said I was beautiful. Those words have given me strength in my dark and dreary hours.
There are truer words about you than the hateful ones.
4. Surround yourself with encouraging people.
This is a boundary-building exercise. Negativity breeds negativity. Call yourself to a conscious-awareness of the people with whom you spend the most time.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I do an emotional audit with some frequency. It is incredibly important to surround yourself with people who draw you up and not push you down.
Now, this doesn’t mean you ditch your friend in a time of need or that you are not available to bear the burden of sorrow or grief. No, I’m talking about a negative temperament that sees the gray side of life executively and cannot be roused from the slumber of gloom.
To assist with curating good friends and good boundaries. I love this book and this book.
5. Take an audit of your input.
This speaks to number 3. But it’s incredibly important to determine the root cause of dissatisfaction. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
My health teacher always said, “Garbage in garbage out.”
I know, personally, movies with graphic sexual violence are not good for me. They screw with my head. I figured this out when I got married, and I realized that I thought all men were exploitive jerks who only used women for their own ends. As it turns out, there are many good men out there who rejoice, respect and honor women, my adorable hubs among them.
But, the vast majority of my input had spoken contrary to that. You can imagine how well that mentality went over. I had to undo my input. I stopped watching movies, reading books and spending time with people that supported and promoted that view. I, in turn, said yes to positive world-views that encouraged healthy male-female relationships. I surrounded myself with groups of people that included good men and good women.
If you spend your life reading things that makes you feel bad, that promote a world view that is reductive, demeaning and hateful toward your body. You will take on that mindset.
Take an audit of your input.
As we move into the weekend, I send out happy thoughts, and let’s practice together, rejoicing our bodies and speaking truth and love to each other. It is one of the most important works we can do as women.
How do you rejoice your body?