Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reflections & Musings: What I do when I don't feel good about myself.


"The Church says: The body is a sin.
Science says: The body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The body says: I am a fiesta."
-Eduardo Galeano


I came across a Huffington Post article a couple of days ago about self-criticism that I really liked for these reasons:

  • Shift from perfectionistic thinking to "possible thinking"
  • "Give your inner critic a name (preferably a silly one)"
  • "Pick up the phone"
  • "Embrace your imperfections"
I learned a long time ago that comparative thinking, like perfectionistic tendencies, never leave me feeling good. Whenever I think about what someone else has/does/is versus what I have/do/am, I always come out short and self-criticism wins the day. With this observation in hand — like so many others I have developed along the way — the hiccup is always what to do next. 

When people say, "Knowing is half the battle," I think that's bullshit. It could be because I usually tend to be very self-aware, but the challenge in my life is to take what I know in my head and in my heart and then apply it in ways that are healthy. A more fitting adage would be, "Doing the knowing is an uphill battle that's worth the fight."

I'm often so focused on what's ahead that I don't turn back very frequently to see how far I've come. And, the distance I've traveled has been leagues from the depths of where I began. How did this happen? With a lot of baby, infant-like steps. So, the idea of "possible thinking," where we learn to take self-critical thoughts and shift them to a neutral place that simply states the facts is definitely a mini-trot that I can handle. A couple of years ago, I worked briefly with a life coach, who taught me an exercise to challenge negative thoughts that's worthy of repeating: 

Ask yourself, "Is this real? Can I taste it? Can I touch it? Can I hold it?" and usually, the answer will be "no." For example, "I am a failure." I can't taste that or touch it or hold it. It's not tangible. But, when I say something like, "I am beautiful." Can I touch that? Yes, I can. I can give myself a hug or look in the mirror and see eyes that smile.

Today, as I began to beat myself up during yoga for the fact that I don't have six-pack abs, I remembered the silly name that I gave my inner critic. I call it, "Stinky Pants." The "you're-not-good-enough" thoughts popped up in poses where I was twisting beyond my normal practice, and I recognized that Stinky Pants was showing its mean-spiritedness, so I immediately scoffed at its presence, then looked away. Stinky Pants did not belong in my head space.

Which is why I'm writing about it here — this is one version of "picking up the phone." It's my way to share what is going on with me on a very real and human level, because this takes the shame out of what I'm feeling. I know I'm not the only one who struggles with feeling good about my physical self each and every moment of the day, so rather than be inauthentic when I show up on the mat to teach, I'm remaining honest. And from that openness, I can move forward with more clarity about what I need, like an extra hug or a little treat for myself. 

Now, instead of focusing on what "isn't right," I'm combating it with all the things that are working. Like I taught in class yesterday, "We're so often focused on what's not working, that we forget the bounty of blessings we have for all the things that are." And, because I've learned that cultivating gratitude is one of the quickest ways towards happiness — truly, it can happen instantaneously — I am now going to express gratitude for how good my body is to me and I believe this will inevitably lead to a better day of loving exactly who I am: 
  • I love that my body can get jiggy with it.
  • I love that my body is flexible.
  • I love that I have strong and sculpted arms that look amazing in sleeveless tops.
  • I love my buxom boobs.
  • I love that my legs are muscular and sexy. 
  • I love that my body can pop up on a surfboard and (most often) catch waves!
  • I love that my heart beats loud and clear.
  • I love that my lungs breathe in the sunny San Diego air around me.
  • I love that my hands can share Reiki love with everyone I touch.
  • I love that I have a button nose.
  • I love that my lips are juicy.
  • I love that the blood courses smoothly throughout my body.
  • I love that my feet will push me up towards that next climbing hold.
  • I love that all of my organs are working in sync with my body systems.
  • I love that my tastebuds delight at good food.
  • I love that every morning I wake up, I poop.
  • I love that my voice can become super sultry.
  • I love that my smile lights up the room and the reflects the joy I feel when I am sharing space with the people who make my heart bright.
  • I love that ears can take in wonderful music, which then inspires the rest of my soul to dance to the rhythm of life.
  • I love that my eyes can see beyond the physical matter at hand to a deeper intuitive and emotional knowing of what's happening in and around me.
  • I love that my brain is smart to help take my passion for writing in so many incredibly exciting directions.
  • I love that my belly is filled with creativity.
  • I love that my throat enables me to laugh so fully.
  • I love that my ribs protect me. 
  • I love that I'm starting to get more and more of a plump derriere. 
  • I love my soft skin.
And, just by doing that, I feel so much better than just five minutes ago. That is the power of positive thinking. That is the gift we all hold within us — the amazing ability to give ourselves exactly what we need to embrace exactly who we are right here and now. 

I love myself more and more each day. And, I wish the same for each and every one of you! 

***

What do you do when you start feeling not-so-hot about yourself or your life? How do you turn the tides and coast along in a different direction? 



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