We are not our bodies.
We hear this line a lot but despite knowing this, most of us derive a great deal of our self-worth based on how we perceive our bodies.
Lest anyone doubt this, just walk into the nearest bookstore and see the new crop of diet books lining the shelves promising to make us trimmer, sexier or just better than our current self. The most common New Year’s resolution usually involves improving the body in some way with the goal of losing weight at the top.
I am not immune from this preoccupation with my physical body. As someone who recently had my second child, I think about my body a lot.
I freely confess that I was not in love with my body for most of my pregnancy. Besides suffering from back and hip pain, I was annoyed with the fact that pregnancy physically slowed me down. By the time I entered my third trimester, I had to give up my much-loved Ashtanga yoga practice—something I did not have to do with my first.
I also hated the fact that by the last month I could no longer see my feet.
In a nutshell, I felt like a stranger in my own body.
Forget wanting to get back into my pre-baby clothes—all I wanted was to feel at home again in my own body.
Indeed, the day after my son arrived, I was practically in ecstasy that I could see my feet again.
While I am pretty much back to my “normal” self, the experience of being in an alien body is still fresh in my mind. Interestingly enough, it made me appreciate the body I have now. It isn’t “perfect” but it is pain-free and allows me to be physically active.
That in and of itself is a gift.
For the vast majority of us, our bodies are a gift even if we don’t always realize or appreciate it. Instead of longing for the perfect body, it is more practical and healthier to honor the one we have now.
Below are three tips to start appreciating the body we have now regardless of size and any flaws we think we have.
Try at least one or better yet all today:
1. Get moving.
Given our increasingly sedentary lives, it’s easy to forget that bodies are meant to move. Our prehistoric ancestors were hunter-gathers.
There is something beautiful about seeing a body in motion.
While some may think “body in motion” means running or engaging in some sort of athletic event, just walking is pretty amazing when we think of all the steps involved. (We often forget about it because walking seems natural but if you’ve ever been around a baby and watched it go through the stages of standing, crawling and eventually walking, you’ll see there are quite a lot of steps to master before we walking becomes second nature).
Dancing is another activity that is marvelous.
While some people (myself included) find the idea of dancing in public or around others as only slightly less terrifying that appearing naked in public, there is something very liberating about dancing in a group.
Conscious dance, which is a holistic, non-choreographed kind of movement is very popular in many areas and tends to attract people of a wide range of ages and body types. (Anyone who is interested in joining a local group or starting one themselves may want to check out a site like meetup.com).
2. Focus on three things your body can do.
As a yoga instructor, I often hear new students talk about the things their bodies cannot do—I cannot touch my toes, I cannot hold certain poses. Instead of asking students what they can’t do, I ask what they can.
There are certainly more than three things that most of our bodies can do but three should be the bare minimum.
It may be helpful to write these things down and display them on a mirror, fridge or somewhere we can see them regularly.
3. Put our “flaws” on display.
Most of us—especially women—go to great lengths to hide our flaws (fat arms, big bellies).
For years, I hated my chunky legs and wouldn’t wear shorts least they be visible to the world. However, a few summers ago when it was over 100°F, I decided to go out in public in pair of rather short shorts. A funny thing happened: no one seemed to notice them, much less stare like I had thought they would.
Even more amazingly, I soon forgot about my legs.
Putting our perceived flaws on display may allow us to see that what we think is a big deal really is not.
If the idea is still too scary, then start out by doing it in the privacy of our own homes. While it may not seem like much, just going around our private spaces for a day and getting a look of our “problem areas” from time to time in a mirror may be just enough to convince ourselves that they really aren’t so bad after all.
Liking our bodies isn’t always easy. Not only are we encouraged to focus on the negative, but it almost becomes second nature for many.
However, there is a simple way to start liking our bodies today.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock