Thursday, 22 May 2014

Imperfect beauty

About 8 months ago I was struggling with an unknown sickness that caused me to react to food. I found myself throwing up a different times through out the day and night. At first I though it was food poisoning or a cause of the stomach flu. When it didn't go away and my health continued to decline I finally realized something else must be going on. Digestive issues have always been apparent in my life, however this was different.

I started loosing weight fast, that happens when you can't keep food down and I eventually became fearful of eating all together. I finally (with some pushing from my husband) went to the Doctor and was rushed through different test, including a CT scan.

Through out this process I kept my sickness quiet, as I was teaching yoga along the way and didn't want to worry any of my students or colleagues. The interesting thing about this experience, is that as I was loosing weight, I kept getting comments from my students on how "good I was looking" and questioned what I was doing to "look so fit". What I really wanted to say was "throwing up after every meal". It was the truth, I was sick and couldn't keep food down and for some reason people were seeing this as looking good, or being more fit. It happened so often that I began questioning how people perceived me before I was sick and became anxious about gaining the weight back.

I believe at some point in most peoples lives (both men and woman) we have felt insecure about our appearance or dealt with body images issues. As a child I remember watching my mother (who is incredibly fit and still has 6 pack abdominals) complaining about the size of her thighs or commenting on the calories of particular food at the dinner table. I also remember a boy at school telling me that I would be "a lot prettier if I didn't have freckles or glasses" (all things I couldn't change), so inevitably became incredibly aware and insecure of my external appearance. These experiences (and more) drove me to question my own body and if I looked good enough.

Last week I spent 4 days in palm Springs with 25 amazing woman. Woman who were all intelligent, thoughtful, funny, articulate and beautiful in their own authentic way. Each of them had a unique sense of style which in turn allowed them to express themselves through clothes in their own authentic way. There was no woman there with the same figure or build, yet each beautiful from head to toe. You could tell some were confident with their appearance and others that were more hesitant.

I sure don't have all the answers when it comes to resolving societies obsession with external beauty and how the media is portraying beauty, however I see the value in continuing my self love practices, and work daily with acceptance and gratitude. I do this not only for my sanity but also so I'm able to model a healthy figure and mindset for my daughter, who watches my every move. I choose not to watch the news, and stay away from fashion magazines. I look for the good first when I undress in front of the mirror and be mindful to stand tall when I stroll alongside the swimming pool in my bikini. I resist comparing myself to other woman (this is a hard one), especially those who obviously are built differently than me. I'm enthusiastic about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which include daily movements that encourage joy, playfulness and a sense of well being. I eat food that nourishes my body and fuels me for the day and am mindful of the power of my inner conversations and mind chatter, which allows me to see the choices I have in thinking/feeling a particular way about my self. In other words, I am not my thoughts and the way I speak to  myself matters, so being sensitive to the inner relationship I have with myself allows me to shift from negative self talk to a more positive dialogue.

Brene Brown says that shame can not exist if we speak our truth and connect with others by sharing our stories and be vulnerable with each other. It's not easy to speak about your insecurities, or share your feelings about your appearance. Yet, it's a lot scarier to keep holding it in and secretly beating yourself up. So how about this summer, instead of stroking the demons within every time you pull out your swimsuit or encourage hate filled criticisms or unrealistic comparisons, what if we started a conversation about our true feelings towards our appearance and started the process of making peace with where we are and choosing to look for the beauty in all aspects of our Self. Commit to healthy, well balance habits that speak to our heart and acknowledge the innate beauty within each of us. Encouraged other woman to do the same, by continuing to share your story and supporting each other in recognizing their beauty along the way. This won't always be an easy task and will be a process that you're continuing to "work on" for the rest of your life, but I'm hoping to spark something within you that sees the value in changing the way we feel about our appearance or maybe the way we perceive beauty.

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." Confucius

With you on this path, sharing from my heart to yours,

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