In our present society, it sometimes feels like we’re facing judgments over flaws and our bodies on a day-to-day basis. This is especially true on social media, where people are sharing intimately about themselves more than ever. This opens them up to scrutiny from people online and opens all of us up to a comparison mindset.
When we put ourselves out there, we risk judgment. People feel freer to share negative comments because they can hide behind their phones or computers. I’m not trying to discourage you from putting yourself out there. Rather, I’d like you to embrace what you may think of as your flaws, reframe them as badges of honor, and put yourself out there knowing those flaws are what makes you YOU.
Recently I’ve had my own experience of embracing flaws and practicing body positivity. Earlier this year I fractured my patella (kneecap), had surgery, was hospitalized, and have spent the majority of the last three months recuperating, which means living on or in my bed. I am easing back into sitting and walking, and I take most of my therapy appointments virtually from my bed.
One day when I was in the hospital, several of the nurses were asking me what I do to stay flexible and strong. I had never been asked that before, other than after teaching a yoga class. Before my injury, I was proud to share the good feelings I got from being active through walking, compassionate yoga practices, and Pilates.
I am grateful that I made these movement practices part of my life before the knee injury. I loved them because they are low impact, gentle, and personalized in their approach – providing just what my body needs.
Movement – joyful movement – is a place where my body image feels right. I feel a sense of acceptance and compassion towards my “flaws” (I don’t use that term), my injuries, and my stage in life. Movement helps me embrace all these things.
Being unable to take walks during this time of healing has helped me to appreciate them even more and to appreciate what walking does for my physical, mental and emotional fitness. Any time my back hurts, I take a walk and the discomfort subsides. When I am feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, taking a walk helps to lighten these feelings. It is when I feel at one with my mind, my body, and my spirit.
I learned the healing benefits of walking when my mother turned 40. She and her friends would walk the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ almost daily. She also started to learn yoga and fell so in love with it, she began to teach. Her discovery and love of yoga was a catalyst for her to quit smoking (and eat sunflower seeds 😊).
I feel her spirit sometimes when I walk. When I am on my walks, I notice that I feel happy with my body, even on my worst days. I am proud that I no longer need hot yoga or power yoga to feel at peace with my body. The emotions that yin yoga bring up for me are welcome, as they eventually lead to peace within. The relaxation response of restorative yoga produces a calmer state of mind that continues long after my practice. Nothing else gives me that.
It baffles me that this knee injury, which brought about incredible pain, grieving, and despair, has also reminded me of the beauty and power my body holds. It has helped me to remember how much I appreciate my body and all that I experience in it. My experiences in my body are unique to me, just as yours are to you. Embrace that. Embrace all of its beauty, strength and flexibility.
Body positivity starts in the mind. If you or someone you know is struggling with body positivity, confidence, self-esteem, and the like, please know that you are not alone and there is hope and help. For more information or help with your body esteem, reach out today.