It was 5:22 PM when I walked into my Wednesday night yoga class. I rolled out my mat, grabbed a block, and removed my shirt to prepare for the heated practice that was about to ensue. I now had seven minutes left to sit and stare at myself in the mirror ahead before my 5:30 class started. Seven. Whole. Minutes.
Seven minutes to get ready? Not enough time. Seven minutes to get to work? Definitely not enough time. Seven minutes to look at yourself, shirtless, in the mirror? Way too f*cking much time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my body. I love sneaking a glimpse of the way my booty pops when I walk past a mirror or even giving it a solid 30 second overview in the mirror before I hop in a shower. But as with anything, if you look too long for imperfections, you will definitely find them.
As I stared into the reflection before me, I used each waning minute to critique the aspects of my figure I wasn’t pleased with: the flesh above my yoga pants that subtly spills over the side, the extra little fat right below my belly button that I’m convinced will always remain (as long as my love for late night cookie dough remains), the lack of a little extra fat on my nearly flat sports bra. For seven whole minutes, I surveyed up and down, cursing myself for not working harder in the gym, not eating cleaner, and not being born with genetics that would give me the body of my supposed dreams.
Then at 5:30, the yoga teacher walked into the room. Finally, I could be distracted by the movement, by my classmates around me, and by the fact that I thought I was working towards the body goals I had previously set for myself. Instead of launching into vinyasas and chair poses that would be sure to shift my gaze away from the haunts of the mirror ahead, our teacher asked us to close our eyes and engage in a different kind of exercise—one of the mind.
She asked us to think of someone we truly love. My mind immediately shifted to my sister and, eyes closed, I began to smile. She asked us to think about the nicest thing we’ve ever told that person. My mind immediately shifted to a line from the graduation card I wrote her: “You are intelligent, curious, kind, determined, and the person everyone wants to be around.”
She then asked us to think about ourselves and my smile began to recede. She asked us to recall the last negative thing we thought about ourselves: Flesh. Extra fat. Flat. And then she paused. She instructed, “Now imagine saying those things to the person you truly love.”
My heart hurt. I would never say or even think those things about my sister, or anyone really. The instructor then begged the question, “Why, if we wouldn’t criticize others so negatively, do we do so to ourselves?"
With one simple question, my entire life changed. Why do I engage in such negative body talk? Why do I critique myself so much? Why don’t I apply the same love and appreciation to myself as I do to others?
I genuinely don’t know the answer. I am not a lesser individual than those I love and express my gratitude towards-- I am not less intelligent or less beautiful; I simply just appreciate myself less. And the less I am grateful for, the more I find fault with. Faults that I would never ascribe to others around me. I have never once looked at another woman and thought flesh over her pants, or extra skin around her belly, or the size of her breasts were anything but beautiful, if I even noticed these things at all!
When I look at my sister’s body, I think it’s beautiful and powerful and perfect, because in my eyes, she is beautiful and powerful and perfect. But so am I. And so are you. We just need to remind ourselves every once in awhile that we are deserving of the love that we show others too.