I used to hate myself. Hate my body, especially.
Hate's a strong word, but even still, it doesn't feel big enough to describe the loathing that went on inside me.
I hated my knees, my ankles, the size of my ribcage, my breasts, my arms, my skin color, the shape of my hands, the gap between my toes, the width of my shoulders, my thighs, my nose, my eyebrows, my hair, my butt, the length of my torso, and my belly.
Which is basically all of me.
And not at all all of me.
Where was I taught that body parts were who I was? That they're for observing? For judging? For pleasing someone else?
Where did I learn how to objectify my own body? Being objectified by someone else is one thing because, well, there are some creepy people out there (we reason). But objectifying myself?
Rendering my own body as just a thing in my own self perception?
I never thought twice about it back then. It was the way things were. My friends were doing it too. It never occurred to me how much I was fighting against myself when really, the fight was external. I'd just internalized it.
I'm an abuse survivor.
It's during my adolescent and teenage years when my body was undergoing enormous changes that the emotional abuse was at its worst. Day in and day out, I dealt with the fierce hatred of an adult who was supposed to love and care for me.
When your own father communicates to you in a thousand different ways that he hates you, you start to hate yourself. And when you're not able to fight back, you turn the war inside.
Not all women share my story, but so so so many have body-image issues. Did you know that 97% of women report having at least one body-hating thought in a day?
Women objectify their own bodies for so many reasons. Self objectification is a symptom, an effect. We do it in response to something.
Because we internalize external abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Because we've been raped. Because we were criticized. Because we're objectified by the culture. Because we have trauma. Because we were praised for our appearance. Because we were taught it's not ok to make mistakes or be human. Because we were taught that women need always be dieting. Because we're taught our worth is in a man's attraction to us. Because we watched our mother hate her body. Because we were taught to compare ourselves. Because we're lonely and think we shouldn't be. Because we believe we're supposed to be perfect.
I could go on.
This isn't about claiming victimization, but rather taking a sober look at what we've been through, the impact it had on us, and what we made it mean.
In my experience, body-image issues don't heal by absorbing the reverse messages, (although sometimes that can help). Hearing that we're beautiful, for example. That can still feel like objectification and we can refute it, so it's not an effective healing strategy.
Body-image issues heal from inhabiting our bodies and feeling them from the inside out.
So instead of the idea that your legs are too thick, you learn how to quiet the abusive thoughts in your mind and actually feel your legs. Their strength, their sturdiness. Their ability to ground you.
When a woman can learn how to feel her body instead of objectify it, she can eventually learn to listen to the wisdom inside. She can learn to feel pleasure in her body. She can learn to feel appreciation for all that her body is doing for her to keep her alive. And thus, she enters into a partnership with her body rather than a war against it. Genuine pleasure and appreciation heal. Therapy helps too.
For me, Forrest Yoga is where I learned to feel my body more deeply. It's where I got in touch with how it feels to have a beating heart, a skeleton that moves fluidly, a body that can find balance, and muscle tissue that can open and flush fresh energy through my body.
The felt experience of my body was so much deeper and different than my shitty ideas about myself. At first I had to feel through layers and layers of rage, numbness, and disquiet, and there were many times that my yoga practice was simply an internal tirade about what I couldn't do, what was wrong with my body, and what wasn't working.
But something kept me coming back to my yoga mat.
Eventually, over time, that old toxicity cleared out. I started being able to actually listen to the teacher and hear a kindness that I could apply to myself. And now, even where there's tension or pain, feeling a layer deeper provides me with a sense of love, tenderness, and devotion.
So many of the things I used to hate about my body are now my favorite things. And the list of what I love about my body is far longer than the hate list ever was. I enjoy my body most days. May it be so for you too.
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Love and more love,