Body image is an important topic for women, I talk and write about it often. I recently got on my typical positive body image kick at a yoga class. I talked about accepting yourself as you are and striving to be the best version of yourself. This best version is the healthy version.
In class I was having the students hold some yoga poses for several minutes. As I did this, I spoke about body image, acceptance and believing in ourselves. I found some quotes that I shared with them.
“Everything is beautiful when you stop looking for flaws.”
As we held a seated forward fold pose.
“…and I said to my body, softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’”
As we moved into wide legged straddle. I decided to hold this a bit longer then move to each side.
As they held that same pose and moved their bodies toward their left leg I read,
“If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would you still be beautiful?”
I elaborated, “I’m not asking you about the words you speak to others, but the words you speak to yourself,” I said. We moved to the right leg. I asked them to breathe in and say, “I am” then exhale and say “beautiful”. No one said the entire phrase audibly. They spoke, “I am” aloud but did not speak “beautiful” aloud.
“You know I think you are all beautiful inside and outside but when I ask you to say, I am beautiful, I am asking you to acknowledge your unique beauty. No one else looks exactly like you. No one does things exactly like you. You are unique and you are beautiful. You need to start owning that,” I told them.
“It took me over 50 years to own that and many days I still don’t, but I am trying to remember each day how incredibly unique I am,” I said.
We finished up the class with a long Savasana as I told them to focus on their breath and breathe in and out as they said to themselves, I am beautiful.
To close the class, I read this poem from an anonymous author:
“Nobody tells you
It is ok to call yourself beautiful
It is ok to smile at mirrors
And it is perfectly fine
To say your own eyes are pretty.
It is wonderful to love your waist and your legs
Regardless of their size
And you are not conceited if
You use your fingers to list
Everything you are good at
Rather than point at all your own flaws.
You can acknowledge you’re smart
And that you will go places
And you will be someone
Greater than your mistakes
You can’t always expect
Other people to believe in yourself
I read this and I could tell the class listened and it hit a chord with most of them. As people began leaving, my only new student that day, made her way to me.
“Can I see that last thing you read so I can copy it down?”
“Sure” I told her, “but why don’t I just text it to you.”
“Ok, but can I write down the last part now?”
“Of course,” I said and read the last part to her.
…you can’t always expect other people to believe in yourself for you…
She was older than 40 and younger than 70. She was smiling and I assumed she wanted the quote for a child or grandchild. She looked at me and said, “Thank you for today. I really struggle with how I look. I am glad I came, and I will be back.”
I smiled and said, “see you soon.”
A poor body image does not just affect teenagers. It does not go away after a certain age.
Body image doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter how old you are or how young you are. It doesn't matter what size you are. Some of the people I have known with the biggest challenges centered around body image are some of the slimmest people I know. That doesn't mean their body image issues are not valid. Most of our body image issues come from experiences in our life. Someone may have called you a name like “little hippo”. A beautiful woman I know was called that name by her brother when she was young. It shaped how she viewed her body all of her life. Even now at the age of 80+ she still worries about her weight. You also may have heard one comment that changed how you see yourself.
To love your beautifully unique self, you have to change your mind set. You have to believe in yourself, your worth, strength and truth. That is easy to say and harder to do. Start small by just replacing the negative self-talk with positives.