As I mentioned in my first blog I want to tell people my own story of coming to “find my grey”. As you will read I had to start this process by identifying what my story was and like many women, my story starts when I was a young girl.
One day while wearing a swim suit I named the “roll” on my belly “the valley.” I was on vacation with my family and a friend my age. We were probably 12 or 13 at the time. It was funny, we all laughed, my whole family including myself. Looking back I know that it was all in good fun, no one, including myself, really acknowledge or was aware that this was my way of noticing the differences in my body versus the bodies of my friends or the bodies of other women that I saw in magazines. It was really my cry for someone to reassure me that my body was perfect the way it was, that my “valley” is what you call curves and because I developed earlier than most girls my age, this was different than the bodies of my friends. But in truth all our bodies were different and we were all looking for the same acknowledgments about our shape and size. I didn’t know then that this very labeling of my body would continue to fester in my mind and develop into a crazy series of fad diets, excessive exercise addiction and negative mental baggage.
Fast forward 20ish years, adults all around me are still doing the same thing. They are looking for acknowledgment that their body is acceptable the way it is or holding on to reasons that it’s not acceptable. Giving titles and terms to their “unsightly” body parts, poking fun at themselves and other people for how their body is different. I was no different and some days I still find myself occupying the space in my head where I tell myself stories about how I “should” look or how much better I could be at this or that if only…. if only my body would DO WHAT I WANT IT TO DO!
Reality check: I don’t get to make those decisions! I don’t get to decide where on my body finds it necessary to store fat or where it finds it necessary to gain muscle. Hello! I would rather lose the fat in my stomach, from my “valley” then my breasts! I would rather gain muscle in my butt than my thighs… I mean really who needs bigger legs, but this year, this is the year that it’s okay to have a big butt. All the while all these thoughts, expectations and self critiques are occupying a very large amount of my emotional and mental energy and in all honesty I have to wonder how the rat race of thoughts is harming me more than the actual shape of my body. The time spent trapped in this crazy cycle or self abuse was a waste of precious time and energy and was blocking me from learning to embrace who I truly am and how amazingly unique my body is. Enter radical acceptance. Something that didn’t happen overnight and some days seems like a radically crazy notion! Most days however I find it to be a sense of relief. Relief from the mental chatter (let’s be honest it was more than “chatter”, mental screaming would probably be more accurate) has created space in my heart and freed up my emotional energy allowing me to occupy a new space that is driven by compassion instead of criticism.
To start this process of moving toward radical acceptance of my body (which by the way translates to radical acceptance of ME, all of me, not just my body), I had to identity what my story was. Why did I hold myself to the standards that I did, why did I develop a nasty aversion to my thighs, why was I not worthy of my own acceptance and love??? All of these things can be identified by looking back at how these thoughts developed and how they grew into this monster that started living in my beautiful head. The most amazing thing began to happen after I put the pieces together and spent a great deal of time grieving over how my story was hurting me. I began to un-identify with the pain from my story and all the negative thoughts associated with it seemed to sting less. Over time it just became my story, not my current situation. I didn’t have to take a leading role in the story any longer. The story was just that, “my story.” It no longer hurt and I no longer had to suffer everyday from being entangled in the emotions that snowballed over time into that venom spitting, red eyed monster clanging around in my precious mental space. I took the monsters power away and gave that power to my heart to start leading me down a new road, where a new story is starting to be written. A story that will hopefully end just as dramatically but for different reasons. I hope the drama will entail a purposeful life full of passion that could be described as radical, stirring the hearts and minds of many and blazing a trail for others to follow. All of this because I finally said “enough” to the way I was treating myself. In all reality I broke up with the part of me that no longer was deserving of my time or energy, “sorry honey, it’s not you, it’s me, I deserve better.”
I rode this high for a while finding myself at the opposite extreme of the ravenous monster, I was on a cloud of pure bliss! Then one day reality smacked me back in the face, my jeans where getting tighter! If I love myself and my body then it shouldn’t matter what size my jeans are, that’s logic talking, but the monster knows no logic. Because everything takes time and finding the right space to occupy takes time, this was no different. Just an example of how I’ve found myself at both extremes before settling into a place of balance that included a serious revamp of my relationship with food, exercise and my body. I had to start with my story and realize that if I was going to make any changes I had to start with the acceptance of myself. I didn’t have to like where I was at but I had to accept it in order to move forward.
During this process I wrote the following poem. The words came from my heart in such a rush one night that I am not sure I can even take credit for them. I actually don’t feel that I need to take credit because I know I was just the vehicle, the words where passing through me, I was writing them on paper but they were just as much what I NEEDED to hear as I am sure they are what many of you need to hear. I think this poem is only a sample of the new story my heart is writing every day as I learn to live in my grey space.
When Did I Become Beautiful?
When did I become Beautiful?
When did my smile begin to greet me with such joy in my eyes?
When did my cheeks start meeting the corners of my eyes with soft kindness and my lips part with compassion?
When did my breasts become supple and the perfect fit for my figure?
When did the roundness in my belly begin to feel sexy?
When did the curves of my hips and buttocks begin to move my body in unison?
When did my skin start to feel smooth and relaxed? My hair framing my face at the right angle?
When did I become beautiful?
I look at a picture taken by my husband and I want to ask him “When did I become beautiful?”
But the words don’t leave my lips because all along he has known I am beautiful.
I didn’t become beautiful over night.
Not when I turned 30 or 31.
I became beautiful when I decided that I am enough, when I accepted my unique body structure and build, when I stopped comparing myself to others.
I became beautiful when I accepted other women as beautiful not as competition.
I became beautiful when I made the definition of beauty fit me, when I stopped trying to fit a mold that was holding me down.
I became beautiful when I started lifting myself up with acceptance, kindness, compassion and love.
I became beautiful when I broke down the walls of confinement and constructed doors of flexibility and compassion that I could walk through into new realms of self love.
When I came to know that I am worthy, just as I am, that is when in my own eyes I became Beautiful .