I lived most of my life feeling shame about my body; its size, its shape, its little bumps, my thighs that jiggle, stretch marks from my pregnancy and that patch of cellulite on my left butt cheek that no matter how fit I have become just won’t go. I’ve hated the size of my thighs, the colour of my hair (red) and the many many freckles that cover my body. I grew up thinking I was fat and not beautiful and because of that thinking I made choices and settled for situations and relationships that weren’t healthy, because I felt they were all I deserved.
I have bought the magazines that made me inadequate and lazy, for not being a size 2; in those magazines I was looking for the holy grail of easy, fast, weight loss, because I was sure that if only I were thin I would love my body. I have purchased expensive and ineffective diet products and beauty creams in an effort to become more beautiful. I have lain in tanning beds risking skin cancer, because I thought tanned fat looked better than white fat. I have signed up for another long distance road race thinking this will be the one I would lose weight training for. I have put things I wanted to experience on hold because I thought I was too fat for pole dancing or to teach yoga. Back in the day of cameras and getting pictures developed at photo labs, before cell phones and easy to delete selfies, I would rush to the photo store to pick up the pictures; I would tear open the envelope and discard any pictures I hated, which were most of them. I tore into little pieces the chronicles of my life.
There was a time when I could not look at myself naked; I felt I was gross. I hid my body from myself, my husbands and the public. I wore long shorts, baggy tops and bathing suit covers. I made love in the dark and even began running at night so no one would laugh at me.
One day I just got sick of this thinking and so began the slow journey to self love. I began to force myself to look at naked body in my bathroom mirror and say out loud that I was beautiful, to smile at myself and to admire my breasts and hips. Slowly (very) I began to see my body differently. This was hard, it’s not easy to turn self disgust to self love, there were times when I turned my head in shame, times I wanted to cry, but I would make myself turn back to the mirror hear my own voice say “you are beautiful”. I have done this hundreds of times, probably more like thousands of times and then one day I stepped out of the shower and the first thought was “you look amazing”. I didn’t have to force the thought it just popped into my head it was moment I will never forget. With this thought began the dawning of a new freedom, the freedom from comparing myself to other women, from choosing clothes that hide my body and the freedom to just feel comfortable with myself. I worry less about my looks and I live my life doing what feeds my soul.
About 32 years ago I was on a beach in Mexico and this woman walked by in a bikini. I was all covered up, hiding my body and this larger woman was walking in broad day light in a tiny bathing suit, and at first I judged her. That’s disgusting I thought, but then slowly I began to feel envy, envy that she had the confidence to proudly walk down the beach in her bathing suit. My low self esteem caused me to judge another woman harshly. How often have we all done this?
Every time I judge someone Icreate separation, which is the opposite of yoga (union), I can only be at my best when I am part of the whole, not judging and blaming. So in this sisterhood of life, I can finally be a compassionate sister to other women, not judging and/or comparing but sharing and growing with them.
As I evolve in this place called self love I have begun to understand the actions of shame in myself and other women. As women we hide our body in subtle ways. We hide behind our children in pictures, we hide behind baggy ill fitting clothes, over sized bathing suit cover ups and we hide behind expensive clothes and fake whatever’s. We have bought one more guaranteed expensive diet product, lost weight then gained all of the weight back. We have looked at our aging bodies and thought we were unlovable, no longer beautiful so settled for things as is. We have bought one more thing, sometimes on credit because that thing temporarily made us feel beautiful. We have stood in front of mirrors and pulling and poking at our post baby bodies, thinking how disgusting we look. Which in itself is crazy because that body just gave birth to another being, so why should any changes be horrific? What is wrong with us that we don’t proudly show of our stretch marks as medals of honour? Had I received those scars in battle I would be a hero, but to receive them during pregnancy is shameful? How does this thinking make any sense at all?
Its summer time, an amazing time of year in Canada where the weather is good, the sun is bright and we can finally get outdoors swimming, playing with our kids and more. I beg of you to put down your shame, pull on the sheath of self love and live your life, as the saying goes “dance as if no one is watching”.
Today and every day until you realise you are beautiful I ask you to do this. Stand naked in front of a mirror, look at yourself and say “I am beautiful” say it even it if makes you cry or feel stupid. Say it until the day comes when you no longer have to, and then go out and live a “shameless” life.
So to women everywhere but especially to my daughter Margaux, I am so very sorry. I am sorry that I carried this inner dialogue of shame into our relationships. I am so grateful that I have experienced being a woman, a mother, a wife and a friend.