2016 has come just like that and I couldn’t be more excited and scared and happy to have another year ahead.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I wanted my next post to be about, about how to speak on certain topics that are near and dear to my heart, and about how to remain authentic when writing about my experiences. There is one thing that if you know me is fundamental to my story, to who I am and that would be the seemingly never ending, always changing, sometimes controversial idea of body image.
I have always had a very self deprecating sense of humour. I’m ok with laughing at myself, I like to think I can be pretty honest with myself and with others about my flaw and weakness and truths, and this often comes out in the form of a joke at my own expense. They’re usually the jokes that get the most laughs too, maybe because others can relate, or appreciate the honesty. I’ve never thought much about these jokes because, well, they’ve just always been apart of what makes me me. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves and what this means and the effect this has, and it has become something that I am more and more passionate about as time goes on.
My morning commute is about an hour give or take, sometimes driving and others on public transit. My newest obsession is listening to podcasts during this time… something about trying to get something out of that hour that would otherwise be spent sleeping, which I sometimes still do. Lately I’ve been devoting this “fringe hour” to listening to an inspiring talk of some sort. The podcast I’ve been reaching for most lately is The Lively Show, which aims to “add a little extra intention to your everyday.” Quite truthfully this podcast has done just that and I really recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something to inject a little bit of inspiration and positivity into your life. There are all sorts of episodes on careers, finance, relationships, health… really anything.
The other day in particular I was listening to an episode with Kelly Krause when something she said really struck me. During the talk Kelly discusses her weight loss journey and I initially began listening to the episode (titled “intuitive eating and exercise”) in the hopes that it would reignite my passion for health and fitness and give me a good kickstart heading into a more healthful 2016, helping me to reach my goals and start on those resolutions. However beyond the tips and tricks for losing weight there was only one thing that I walked away from the episode remembering and that was Kelly’s intention to live kindly that jumpstarted her journey.
So simple yet I could not stop thinking about it. When we think of living kindly, we often consider how we treat and speak to others, but never ourselves. And I truly believe that living kindly must encompass both.
I immediately downloaded a word art app and created myself a background with the words. I wanted a daily reminder of this promise to myself and to others.
I have spent so much of my life saying terrible things to myself. Going to bed beating myself up because of what I ate that day vowing to do better tomorrow. Restricting myself from having what I wanted when I wanted. Feeling disappointed in myself or unworthy when I couldn’t get through a run or workout. It had never occurred to me that my relationship with myself and with my body is what was either making or breaking me when it came to achieving my overall health goals.
My body has been through so much…. why had I never considered that it was time to give it a break, to start treating it with kindness.
Complaining about a bulging belly or confessing that “I really just want to lose 20lbs” (why is it always 20 anyways?) is just apart of the daily rhetoric of me and many of the people I know and love. In fact my goddaughter recently asked me 3 things I want for christmas and I jokingly said how I’d like to shed that 20 lbs and was shocked when my 12 year old cousin looked at me and said “preach.” I couldn’t believe I had allowed myself to speak like that in front of two young girls. I thought of the 12 year old me who wanted so desperately to be thin she would write lines of “I will lose weight” in notebooks, and who became so obsessed upon finding her father’s Weight Watchers book she practically memorized the point value for everything. 1 egg=3pts 3 egg whites=1pt.
I forgot how impressionable I was at that age, and how hearing all the women I loved and looked up to in my life continuously talk down to themselves in front of me taught me that it was ok for me to do the same. That in fact if I didn’t join in on those types of conversations who was I kidding?! How could I possibly be happy with myself when I wasn’t the prettiest or the skinniest of the group. And so I did. I made joke after joke. And those jokes would turn into the words that I would say to myself in the mirror when nobody was around to laugh at them. They were the words that made me convince myself I was unloveable or needed to change to be loved. They were the same words that made it seem normal when someone would say unkind words to me because if I was saying them to myself then of course they were warranted from him.
When I was a pre teen my friends and I would go around in a circle and say who we thought was the prettiest. We never focused on who was the funniest, the smartest, the kindest. Over the year the idolization of “pretty” has gotten more severe. On any given day I am exposed to thousands of images of what beautiful really means and of what I should be striving towards. It’s exhausting.
More toxic than the images in the aftermath.I am so tired of sitting with a group of girls and all we talk about is how we would rather be anybody than who we actually are. And truthfully I am the first to start these conversations sometimes, but the fact is that there are much better, much more important things that we could spend our time talking about. And I consider myself lucky to have the types of friends I can have these honest, tough, and uncomfortable conversations with.
In her book Yes Please, Amy Poehler discusses how one woman’s success does not take away from your own. I think this is important to remember when we start to compare ourselves to others, whether it be physical traits or career accomplishments. She speaks about how she wants to be around people who do things, who don’t judge or gossip, but who are supportive and dare to dream and inspire each other by doing. I agree completely. And I know that that starts with me and how I speak about others, and more importantly myself.
So my goal for 2016 is not to lose weight or to exercise more, but it is to live kindly. Towards others, but also towards myself. To treat myself with more kindness and respect than I have in the past. I hope that in that process I will do the things to my body that are kind, and with that will come with eating foods that make me feel good and doing activities that make my body feel strong and whole again. I really do believe all of that will come. For now my only focus is changing how I speak to myself, how I speak about myself in front of others and trying to have more conversations like this one.
I hope that you will join me in talking more openly about body image and self-perception in 2016, and that you too will Live Kindly.