It wasn't the first time a woman judged me by my appearance.
I was signing up for a yoga class at a popular studio in Hermosa Beach, California. I asked the gal at the front desk about a more advanced class. She looked me up and down, "That's too advanced for you," she said.
I'm sure she was just doing her job and didn't want anyone injured in her studio. Still, if she had asked a few questions before judging me on my physical appearance, she would have discovered that I've been practicing yoga for at least twenty years. In fact for a while, I embraced a yogi's lifestyle, becoming vegetarian and even having tantric sex with my boyfriend! She also would've learned that I spin, run and do all sorts of exercises - from boxing to Pilates.
A woman I knew casually in my writing class once said, "You'd be so beautiful if only you'd lose ten pounds." I was so flustered; all I could do was blurt out the truth. "I just had a miscarriage" I said, and ran to the bathroom in tears.
Later that month a girlfriend told me that I used my weight as armor; that it was my protection. "You're afraid of intimacy," she said.
Intimacy isn't my issue. It's my body. It started in childhood. My best friend in sixth grade told me I had elephant legs and in high school my mom offered me a dollar for every pound I could lose. I assumed I was fat. Yet when I look at pictures of my young self I see that I wasn't fat. I just grew up when everyone was admiring Twiggy and Cher, including me.
For months - no, years after that woman told me I should lose weight, I'd pick out my outfit days before writing class, terrified that someone else might tell me I was fat. It took me a while to let that comment go.
I can't control what other people say to me; I can only work on transforming my reactions. The process of self-acceptance is an inside job.
I'm 51 and I'm changing. We all know the jokes about hot flashes, but there's a lot more: my skin isn't as tight and my stomach, which always had a little 'poof' as I like to call it, is a bit thicker. I've always been a healthy eater and love exercise, but my body doesn't seem to want to be as small as she once was.
Still, my intention is to accept myself, no matter what!
Radical kindness and self-love is not an overnight event; it's a process, a process I'm still working on. Some days on this journey are easier than others. Here's what I've been doing that seems to be working so far.
- I tell my truth. If someone says something hurtful, I might let her know. I take a breath and ground myself before I respond. One of my favorite responses is to simply ask: "Are you trying to hurt my feelings?"
- Know and accept thyself. I'm sensitive. I can't tell you the number of times people have told me to get thicker skin. I don't want thicker skin, this is the skin I'm in and if I weren't as sensitive as I am, I wouldn't be a writer. As I accept my sensitive nature, I become more compassionate and that's a bonus.
- I've started a body gratitude list. I've written gratitude lists before, but never for my body. It's transformative. Some mornings I'll write mini-gratitude poems. I'll write about my lean, strong, shapely legs gliding me through life or about my soft belly, home of my intuition, which guides me toward my dreams.
- I Write. I can't even count the ways writing has saved my life. What might start as a complaint transforms into something meaningful. I submit my poems to journals, post to my website and publish articles. When I receive an email thanking me for what I've written, it makes it all worth it.
- So much of life is projection. What exists within ourselves, we see in others. My friend told me that I'm afraid of intimacy because she has issues with intimacy. She struggles in her relationships with men and women. Nowadays, if a message doesn't resonate, I let it go, it's not mine.
Each day I love myself a little bit more. I become less judgmental. I project this love into the world and in return I receive more kindness than ever before.
Hal David and Burt Bachrach had it right: "What the world needs now is love sweet love." It might seem hokey, but the best thing we can do for each other as women is to love ourselves and send love sweet love to each other.