I have a tendency to embody my fears, failures, discontent, and disappointment. I control these things by literally assigning them to my body. Certainly, I tell myself, I wouldn't be so lonely if I lost 10 pounds. I wouldn't be so shy if I was more toned. If I could look like her, I would be more confident in my strengths.
There are days, less now than there once were, that I cannot get dressed. I stand in front of my closet imagining myself in each item of clothing, mentally tearing myself to pieces. In these moments, I am paralyzed by a waking dream of myself. It is a repulsive image, one that makes me shudder and weep.
Something is wrong, friends. Something is wrong with our culture. I am working hard to embrace myself, to believe that I am beautiful because I am human. But, damn. It is hard work. It takes years, maybe a lifetime, of intentional self-love. Forget it for a day, and it's gone. You'll find me shaking under the covers, afraid to show my face in public.
There is a severe disconnect in the world as I experience it between body and soul. It seems that we are all so divided on so many issues. The body is not an exception. One group asserts the supremacy of the soul. Another group commends the objectification of the body. I find both of these perspectives to be profoundly harmful.
I have gathered that, as a woman, I am primarily important for my physicality. I suppose I should really say my sexuality. My body is something for men to visually ravage and toss aside when they are ready to move onto the next female object. Guys, I'm not hating on you. You've been taught to do this and I'm open to having a conversation with you about why it is or is not wrong. Interestingly, I find that as a woman, I have been programmed to do the same things to other women. While I am personally not sexually attracted to a woman, I still find myself assessing the attractiveness of her body, comparing myself, and moving on to the next.
I should have begun this post with a disclaimer about vulnerability. It's getting real.
On the other hand, I have also gathered that my body is something of a vehicle my soul is using to get around this earth. In this perspective, it is my inner self that is important. Emphasizing my physical beauty puts my inner purity in jeopardy because I may become vain and conceited. And so, in my moments of absolute self-hatred, I chide myself, saying, "You shouldn't care about these things! You are not the one you are meant to glorify."
I have spent a lot of time over the years analyzing this disconnect, but it is only when I consciously practice reconciliation of my body and spirit/soul/self that I begin to heal. In the times that I am aware that I am created to be the person I am -- limbs, face, hair, nails, thighs, core, likes, dislikes, personality, mannerisms, et cetera -- I understand that it is a glorious thing to reside in a body. Have you ever sat and considered your breath? Your heartbeat? The involuntary movements that keep us alive. Have you considered your eyes? Your ears? Your hands and feet?
Two of my dearest friends are Ironmen twice over. Their bodies are capable of moving for 12+ hours at an incredible pace. My father has been sick for many years, but despite his illness he is still able to walk, talk, eat, laugh, cry. My mother had breast cancer and had to have a surgery that altered her body significantly. Yet, she is still my mother, still in her body, still the most beautiful woman I have ever known. My grandparents are in their mid 80's. And, amazingly, they are still cleaning their own home, making their own food, driving, doing yard work, and giving hugs. My friend just went through a 75 hour labor. Seventy-five hours. She gave birth to an astoundingly beautiful child.
A week and a half ago, I read this post in which Laken encourages her readers to literally throw away their scales. I don't know about you, but I have had a tumultuous relationship with the scale. There are periods in my life during which this relationship is healthy and purely informative. More often, however, I become addicted to stepping on the scale and obsessing over the number on it. Five pounds is all it takes to send me into a self-deprecating spiral of "get it under control" and "why can't you get your act together."
The holidays are always difficult to navigate when it comes to weight. People talk about it all of the time. Women gingerly eat cookies while mumbling something about how they just "shouldn't" and how they aren't going to be able to fit into their jeans tomorrow.
Look, I understand that food addiction is a real thing and that it is harmful. Believe me, I understand. But shame is not going to fix it. I also understand that all too well. You are never going to heal by shaming yourself.
I know it sounds terrifying, but I've got to agree with Laken. Stop weighing yourself. Maybe not forever, but for a while. Stop defining yourself by the number. Start walking, practicing yoga, and taking deep breaths. Experience the glory of being in your body. When you eat, eat with joy and excitement. Taste. Savor.
Stop guilting yourself for eating that cookie. And if you eat 15, take a deep breath, acknowledge that it probably wasn't the best way to treat your beautiful, wonderfully capable body, and move forward.
I asked Jordan last week to hide the scale from me. I decided I wouldn't step on it until sometime after my birthday at the end of January.
It is really hard not to look for that scale. I am terrified that I will step on it 6 weeks to discover that I have gained a tremendous amount of weight. But, despite my anxiety, I am finding that I am enjoying my food more and eating more intentionally. Suddenly, it isn't about controlling a number, it is about caring for my body and my soul.
Ladies (and guys), if you're obsessed with that number, if you cannot break the cycle of driving a wedge between your body and soul, and if you take all of your sadness and anger and frustration out on your body, please take steps to reintegrate your self. Commit to avoiding the scale for the next month. Commit to practicing yoga or going for a long walk once or twice a week. Stretch for five minutes every morning. Take some time to pay attention to your body.
You are beautifully and wonderfully made. As am I. Let's work to remind ourselves and one another of that every single day.