I’ll be honest. One of the recurring challenges in my life has been appreciating my own worth, power, and beauty. I know that logically that it is rooted in my ability (or inability) to love myself completely and unapologetically. If I really sat down with this discomfort and asked myself, “Do you really love yourself?” On a deep emotionally level, I’d like to believe that the answer would be a F*CK YES, but in the back of my head, there are still feelings of resistance and guilt for loving myself.
This resistance became very real when I decided to post a photo of my belly to join the #loveyourbellymovement which was started by a few fantastic women in my yoga community in response to Lady Gaga’s body-shaming critics.
I thought, “Oh hell no! Why are they being so mean about Lady Gaga’s physical appearance?” This woman gave it her all and there are people criticizing this. So, when I saw the pictures on Instagram promoting “comfort, ease, and love” for our bodies, I was inspired to be in support of this movement.
For a good minute before posting my photo, my inner critic was screaming, “Oh no, Nicole! Goodness, what are you thinking?!? Don’t do that. Nobody wants to see your belly.” That resistance was pretty strong and persuasive, but I decided to kick my inner critic in the face and post it anyway because I want to work on being comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t realize how much courage it takes to post a belly pic.
Why is loving myself so hard? If I was honest, I’d recognize the compilation of embarrassing and painful moments where I was sensitive about my body image. I do recall an ex-boyfriend saying that I should be aware that he doesn’t date overweight women. In the past, I’ve also had family members or complete strangers tell me I should watch my weight. Even though I am currently at a healthy weight and follow a pretty healthy lifestyle, I still pay for a Weight Watchers membership (almost like just in case an emergency happens). It’s this reminder of this time in my life where I struggled with being overweight.
Even if the context was complimentary and supportive, I really don’t like the attention on my physical appearance. I remember being in a challenging handstand class and my yoga instructor was pushing his hands on my stomach and telling me my abdominal muscles were strong enough to start doing handstands away from a wall. Even though he was positive and kind to me, I was still mortified that some teacher was grabbing my belly in front of other people. Recently, I was having a glass of wine with a handsome fellow, and he told me that people in the restaurant were staring at me because of my confident and attractive presence. I looked at him in disbelief thinking, “I’m pretty sure people are staring at my date and not at me. Is this really happening? Do people really talk like this?” I almost wanted to deflect the compliment instead of just accepting his graciousness.
For the longest time, I have never really taken the time to appreciate what my body has done for me. This body has done some pretty amazing sh*t! Have you ever really taken the time to notice all the things our bodies can do? We’ve swam through dirty lakes in triathlons, mountain biked in The Galapagos, ran tons of long distance races, and snorkeled in Boracay. We do yoga together and go for runs up hilly trails. I’ve hiked in the Grand Canyon and trekked on volcanos with this body. I can’t forget the surfing lessons and the stand up paddle boarding along with the long walks and conversations on cobblestone streets with a good friend. We drop it low in zumba classes and dance to ridiculous songs from Selena to hip hop at the club. Every accomplishment, every physical challenge, and every illness, this body went through all of it. It’s time for a new shift in the way I view myself. It’s time for more love, respect and appreciation. It’s time to own up to having a strong and beautiful body.
A good friend of mine told me recently, “We can’t control the love we get from others, but we can ALWAYS control the amount of love we give ourselves. Let’s love ourselves so much it begins to overflow onto others. Let’s make ourselves the priority instead of giving it all away to others first.” I need more of that in my life right now. I am 100% responsible for the relationship I have with my body, and it’s time for me to start appreciating it more.