If I just didn’t have these worry lines…
If I just had a bigger bust…
We pin our hopes on our bodies. If our bodies would change, we tell ourselves, then everything else could change. And so we go about our body projects with vigor and grit and, if those don’t work, a bounty of shame spewing to make us get back on target. Then we wake up one morning and realize we got exactly what we wanted with our body– the lost pounds, the Botox, the boob job– and we still feel the exact same way, and we’re stunned.
Here is what you must understand:
How we feel? It’s not an outside job. It’s an inside job.
Yes, it it absolutely imperative that you take care of your body. Our bodies are our vehicles for life– they allow us to experience and participate in life and to get what we want out of life, we must do the work we can do to take care of them. But taking care of our body is very different from berating our bodies or forcing our bodies into submission.
Want to feel differently about yourself? Don’t prioritize changing your body. Prioritize changing your mind.
We have been taught to change our bodies. And sometimes, when that is hard, we disdainfully glance at the media and wish it would change- give us permission to be ourselves. But we are the ones with personal control, and we must recognize that changing our minds is the first step to changing our lives.
You control what you grant permission. But if I were to slip you some permission slips, here are the ones I might pass you like folded origami notes in the hallways of your mind:
Permission to change your mind about the media. The media does not know better than you what you should look like, how you should dress, the way you must present yourself. The media wants to encourage you to consume. But you really can decide for yourself what you need and what you don’t. You do not have to go for the ride. You do not have to be sold a bag of goods. You do have to buy-in. Make the conscious choice to resist the messages you are sent. Vote with your dollar, time, and voice. And realize that every single thing you buy (or show you tune into) tells the people behind that product that you want this in your life. Be careful what you choose because your dollar, time, and money are voting and insuring that we get more of it.
Permission to stop the self-deprecation. Somewhere along the way, women were taught to shrug off their strengths and minimize their successes. And it wasn’t just that we needed to be “aw, shucks” about what we did. We needed to really lay it on thick with what we thought we couldn’t do. “I can’t…” “I am so bad at…” “I could never…” “I am so sorry (not for an actual wrong doing but for something as basic as breathing sometimes)…” Self-deprecation becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. For our lives to change, for our minds to change, we have to let go of the habit. It is not okay for our instinct to be how can we punish ourselves with our thoughts, words, deeds. It has to stop and we’re the ones who must stop it. Begin to monitor everything that you have to say about yourself and change the tape in your head to gentle acceptance. When you really don’t love a choice you made, don’t shame yourself. Ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. What is the information that experience is sharing with you?
Permission to stop the cycle. Rarely do we keep our self-deprecation to ourselves. We share it, freely, further poisoning ourselves and contaminating the environments where we spew. We say, “I need to lose five pounds at book clubs” and the women sitting around the room instantly assess themselves. “Five? I need to lose ten,” says sweet Sarah who you always thought was just gorgeous. “Ten? I need to lose twenty!” says Ashley who you think of as just perfect. And suddenly, you think “well, gosh, if they need to lose 10 and 20 pounds, well, maybe I really need to lose 30.” It’s insane what we willingly do to ourselves and, inadvertently, to others. Look, there is no conversation less interesting than body conversation. I promise (don’t believe? Let me break down my curl pattern for you. You will never sleep more quickly or soundly.). So stop the cycle. Don’t start it with your friends and don’t let your friends perpetuate self-hate crimes when they start it.
Permission to see things in a whole new way. What if you embrace the idea that nothing is WRONG with you? Sure, there are still ways that we can each grow and learn but what if, suddenly, you were able to embrace the idea that all of life is journey? That we are all in process? We don’t need to have it all figured out? We just have to be willing to figure out? We just have to respect ourselves for our efforts? We just have to embrace life. Suddenly, everything changes.
For too long, we have been sold a false idea: that we will finally be content when our bodies change in some way. In actuality, we will only be content when our minds change—when we give ourselves the permission and the tools to be content. Let’s partner together in permission. Let’s share with each other the tools. Let’s change our minds so we can change the world.