As I watch my little goddess grow, I get reminded that we’re not born body-conscious.
My 15 month old is fully connected with her body, mind and soul and spends exactly zero time making judgements of herself.
She smiles when she sees her reflection in the mirror, she gets excited when she discovers her body can master a new movement and she stops eating when she’s full, while passing no judgement on what she’s eating.
I, too, was born with this freedom, yet, I do not remember the last time I felt this free in my own body. And I suspect this is true for most women.
I’ve been watching my teen stepdaughter struggle with her body image since about the age of 6, and that’s how quickly her love for her body got replaced by fears of what others might think. All it took was a comment or two in the school playground and the love affair quickly went downhill.
I can fully relate to this. In fact, I’m not even sure if I enjoyed 6 full years of unconditional love for my body. Instead, I’ve subjected it to nearly 3 decades of harsh criticism, anger, frustration and even hatred.
Luckily, the last of those decades has been a lot softer and a lot more filled with love and appreciation, but there’s a lot to make up for, if I’m honest.
Again, I know I’m not alone in this dynamic. Look at the number of diets being sold to us women, the endless airbrushing in magazines, the rise of women getting plastic surgery.
Somehow we lost track of the Goddess in us, and started rejecting and fighting against our own bodies from a young age.
I could write about this subject for hours, but today I’ll focus on a couple of things I’ve been thinking about lately.
The level to which we’re disconnected to our bodies is the level to which we’re disconnected to ourselves (and others) emotionally. I know it doesn’t seem so, but bear with me.
I’ve been my own experiment and know that when I most hated my body, I was avoiding dealing with emotional pain I was carrying from childhood. Self-hatred was a way to shield myself from facing my pain head on. And I witness this around me, with fellow Goddesses.
There seems to be a self-love crisis plaguing womankind. And what’s worse, we’re passing it on to the next generation, the way the previous one passed it on to us. And as a side effect, we’re unconsciously educating our men to judge our bodies and image just as harshly.
A few years ago, I started examining what lead to an eating disorder at a young age and started looking for a way to have peace (if not love) with this miraculous body I was born with.
How did I become such a harsh judge, how did I think it was ok to punish it so harshly? Since when had food changed from nourishment to something I had to battle with daily? How does this all start for us women?
Yes, we’re heavily conditioned from a young age in many different ways to seek perfection, to see food as the enemy. The list goes on…
But my answers kept taking me back to myself. My own emotional pain and my unconsciousness to it.
External factors will always be there. What’s lacking is a different perspective, a different context from which to see our bodies.
We need to give our kids the tools to help them see themselves and others in a different light, and choose love instead of judgment. Tools to teach them to navigate their emotional compass, so they don’t lose sight of the light we’re all born with. More importantly, the tools to deal with the emotional pain that’s part of life.
We use food, drugs, alcohol, exercise and a multitude of other things outside ourselves to numb our feelings and deal with anything from boredom to despair and everything in between.
How many of us can look in the mirror without getting tearful and truly love the reflection we see? The level to which we feel good or bad when we see ourselves in the mirror reveals the amount of work we need to do to reconnect with ourselves.
And this is work nobody can do for us. We need to do it ourselves.
Here’s how things started shifting for me. I started considering that there could be a more empowering perspective from which to see myself and my body. Surely, there had to be, because the one I lived with, unquestioned, from a young age, was bringing little joy and a lot of suffering, which I was no longer willing to put up with.
Could I come up with something that inspired me and made me feel better and act differently towards myself? After some reflection (and coaching on a self-development course), I wrote down on a piece of paper that I’m a latin goddess and that I’d honour myself as such from that day on.
That was the turning point. When I woke up in the morning and allowed the usual insulting self-rant run over my head, I’d look at that post-it note and pause. When I reached over for food, I’d make sure I was honouring the sacred body of a latin goddess and this started to permeate every aspect of my life. My work, my relationships.
Slowly, the latin goddess in me stopped tolerating certain things, and even certain ways people treated her. And after many years of this exercise, I slowly started to get flooded with gentleness and love towards myself.
Now, this has taken a lot of work. Our inner voice is the cruellest thing we’ll ever have to deal with in life, and there are still moments when it wins. But with enough practice, the latin goddess became the main tenant in my being and she gets most of the airtime now.
Not surprisingly, the more my mind, body and spirit work in harmony, the more I’m flooded with creativity and happiness in very tangible ways. My periods of stuckness have become a lot shorter, and life flows better. And when it doesn’t, here’s where I invariably look: INSIDE. Even if I try to blame others or external circumstances during my existential rants, soon enough I know I need to get to work. On myself.
Why is this so important? The change I want to see in the world starts with me. And if my little goddesses are to experience themselves as such and love the beautiful body they were blessed with, I must be a living demonstration of it.
Here’s to a never-ending journey towards self-love.