"I'm just a girl, standing in front of a mirror, asking me to love myself."
Anyone who shares my tastes in movies will recognize the quote, "I'm also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her." (If anyone doesn't know, it's from Notting Hill...go watch it!) A year ago I may as well have been Julia Roberts playing the role of Anna Scott as this famous line was the headline of my life at the time. Sometime last summer something shifted and I instead began feeling, "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a mirror, asking me to love myself." While self-love is a simple thing to say, it is actually an ever-evolving mission to accomplish.
This afternoon, I received an email with pictures from a yoga photo shoot I participated in yesterday. (All photo credits go to www.prestonsmithphotgraphy.net) When I opened the first picture, my eyes became teary. The emotion I was feeling became stronger as I viewed each photo. I stared at myself in these photos and was amazed at the perspective of the eyes I was viewing them through.
When my yoga practice first began two years ago I was not only ashamed of my body, I hated it. Last summer when I was being drawn towards registering for Yoga Teacher Training, a friend asked me why I was hesitating. I told her, "I feel like I'm not good enough. My poses aren't strong enough because of my injuries. I'll never have the body of those girls in yoga poses on Pinterest...(the list went on an on)" My friend looked at me and said, "That is the stupidest thing to ever come out of your mouth. If you want to do it, you should just do it." Thanks to her, I signed up for a 200 hour LifePower YTT program a few days later.
I remember walking into the studio in October 2018, day 1 of training, completely terrified. There was so much self-doubt and discomfort in my mind, and about 4 hours into the 11 hour day I was sitting on my mat thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?" On that day, they asked us to choose 1 word to set the intention for our yoga teacher training experience. The word I chose was Freedom. This is what I had been yearning for, freedom from the restrictions I had placed on myself so someday I could help others find their own. One of the major areas I found freedom during this training was in that of my body image and self-expression.
Before YTT I would have looked at this photo and seen the areas of loose skin hiding beneath my clothes and been disgusted. Without a doubt, I would not have even let this photo be taken much less share it with people.
Now, I see those same areas and remember the day 3 years ago when I realized, "I have allowed myself to become morbidly obese so no man will ever want me. In protecting myself from men who may or may not hurt me, I am killing myself." The resulting action from that realization was losing 130 pounds.
Today when I looked at this photo I still saw the areas of loose skin, but it reminded me of my will and determination to change my mindset and break the cycle of abusing myself in the name of protecting myself.
Before YTT, in this picture I would have criticized the loose tummy skin again, and the scars on my left arm.
Now, again, I see those same things but from a different perspective. I see the scars and am reminded of how for so many years I struggled in secret with cutting myself. Sometimes to numb the pain I was feeling, and sometimes because I was so numb I needed to feel something.
Once I overcame that addiction I still covered my arm with a jacket or long sleeves because I was so ashamed of the scars. Now I see them as a reminder of the battle with my emotions which was overcome.
I saved my favorite picture for last. When I saw it the word "peace" immediately came to my mind. I wear an AFO brace most of the time due to nerve damage in my left leg which makes walking on uneven ground or stairs challenging. Not even a year ago I was seeking out a surgeon to perform an elective amputation of my left lower leg because I thought, "What good is this leg if I can't run, or hike, or even walk a long distance without pain?" I also have disc issues in my lower back, and a history of other traumatic injuries. Yet, even with these "limitations" outside of the studio, on my yoga mat I have no restrictions. Because on my yoga mat I allow my body to go to its edge, but never past it. While used to I would abuse my body by expecting it to do things it could no longer tolerate, now I have learned to respect it and embrace it. So, here I am, balancing on the same leg I once believed wasn’t even worth being attached to my body anymore. While I may never run or hike again, it's a good leg to stand on.
When I went into YTT, I was not sure what to expect other than learning to teach a class. What I learned is yoga is about honoring and nourishing your body, mind, and soul. Last Sunday during training I had a breakdown which turned into mourning the loss of who I once was. Next Sunday I'll graduate from YTT and begin sharing the healing practice of yoga with others.
I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along this journey of YTT my perspective shifted. The wish I made in front of the mirror for me to love myself came true. The things which nearly held me back from pursuing this journey are the very aspects of myself I have come to love throughout the process.
I share this post and these photos because I know there are others who face similar struggles to what I have expressed here. Please, do not let yourself hold you back! Push yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone, and see how quickly you realize the person you have been desiring to become has been within you all along.
If you're interested in hearing the theme song for this phase of my life, here it is: