Developing My Sense of Beauty
I grew up in the age of magazines. As I was developing my sense of beauty, it was largely shaped by articles like “How to Sit on A Lounge Chair, in Your Bathing Suit and Look Your Skinniest” and "The Best Outfits for Your Body Type." The glossy pages were filled with beautiful models who were perfectly thin, perfectly tanned, and perfectly blonde haired babes.
While I believe that the beauty industry has made strides to be more inclusive to different shapes, sizes, and colors, this image of "beautiful" has always been in the back of my mind. Even when I've heard the message that looks don't matter, beauty looks different on everyone, or that I, specifically, am not overweight, and would look horrible with blond hair. Something in me still likes to compare. It’s perfectly fine for everyone else to look beautiful just as they are, I believe that for myself too, but only if I look a certain way.
Experimenting with My Sense of Beauty
As I begin the last few months of my life before turning 30, I’ve noticed some significant changes in the way my body looks. Hormonal changes that have led me to believe that I'm even further from the image of beauty I store in my mind. At first, I thought maybe the issue was I was looking at to many Instagram accounts with before and after photos, perfectly toned women, and the right health trends to follow. But I realize that blaming the culture around me, even if it’s good, isn’t a solution for the dislike I show my body. The real culprit in how feel about me, is me.
I don’t know if it’s coming out of the winter hibernation, getting a new job, or becoming more busy but suddenly it is very clear to me how I have been thinking about, treating, and talking about my body. I’ve been lazy, sitting on the couch, eating lots of things that don’t make me feel good. Too tired to go work out, go on a walk, go to the beach, or go to yoga. AND I’ve been focused on my health, thinking about how to become less stressed and practicing experiments that create more connection in my life. As I delve into these, I am becoming more in-tune, more active, eating fresher-lighter foods, turning off the TV, and being intentional.
When I sit on the couch for several days in a row, working, while the TV is on, putting physical activity as the forgotten priority, I begin to get down on myself about how my body feels. And even when nothing has changed about the shape, size or way my body feels, when I wake up and start a rhythm, work with focus and spend my free time doing activities like going to the gym, going on a walk, or riding a bike, I tend to love my body more. Here is the intentional piece: when I choose to go to the gym and come home and eat a cinnamon roll, or I choose to spend a Saturday morning watching TV instead of going to yoga, I feel empowered, because I made the choice. When I make the active decision, I’m giving myself permission, not just blindly eating, not just lazily sitting.
Shifting My Sense of Beauty
I’ve heard this 1000 times from 100 mindful-work-out-yogi-type-people. "it’s not about the work out, it’s not about fixing what’s broken, it’s about learning to love what’s there." I've probably told my yoga students that. I guess I always thought that I felt that way already but it’s becoming very clear to me that I haven't. That I’ve been viewing movement and exercise as torture, ways to become more beautiful and fit. Here are some quotes I've recently heard on TV shows: "Better to look good, than feel good" "Beauty is pain." "Looking good is the best revenge." I've believed these! Every time I workout, or gotten a wax. In order to be beautiful I had to do things to myself that we’re going to be uncomfortable, maybe hurtful, and possibly be exhausting.
Here's the shift: the way that I show up in my life, the way that I choose to live, directly impacts the way that I love my body. Working out, being active, treating myself well, eating food that makes me feel good, it’s not torture. Even if I say it, it’s not torture to not eat a cheese plate that will make me sick, it’s love. It’s not torture when I say no to staying up late, it's love. When I say yes to going to the gym it’s not to beat myself up and become better, it’s to love who I am. To love the body I've been given and care for the body I've been given. I AM NOT THIS BODY, I am the soul in this body and it's my job to care for it. This is a practice for me, it's not always easy, and I plan to practice it into my new decade. This is something that I don't want to forget, it's about love.