(waves crashing) So welcome to this talk on finding love for your body. What a difficult thing for most of us and definitely for me. I've spent most of my life in the practice of finding love for my body. Well, I should say, most of the last decade of my life. The first couple of decades, I spent a whole lot of time in complete body hatred, wishing my body were anything other than what it was.
And I know that I'm not alone in that, and so it's really become a passion of mine to continually help myself by helping others find an appreciation and an acceptance for the body and for the skin that each of us are in. In some ways, it's a privilege to have a problem with body image. When we think about other people in the world, so often, there's not access to food at all, much less access to low calorie food or nonfat food or something that some of us sometimes struggle with. Oftentimes, people struggle with even having access to clean air, to water, to shelter, to places where they're not oppressed. (sighs) So in a lot of ways I think we have to even approach this topic with some context and with some awareness that it's a privilege to struggle with body image, even when that struggle is so severe that it develops into something like an eating disorder. I do work with people on a daily basis that struggle with the range of eating disorders, and so I come to this talk with the experience of my own life, and also with the experience of hundreds of clients that I've had the privilege of listening to over the years, and help them navigate with their own wisdom a way into the home of their body that feels safe and that feels secure.
So I wanna say, firstly, to find your own positive body image, you have to start right where you are. That acceptance isn't somewhere out there. We don't find, nobody finds body acceptance when they lose a particular amount of weight or when they develop a particular striation on some muscle. It's not an "if, then." It's a "here, now." The acceptance begins with the shifting of your attitude, with the changing of perspective about the body that you have in this moment. And when you're available to do that, to recognize like this the body temple that my soul is existing inside of now.
What happens with that shift in awareness and in perspective is then you can begin to behave in a way of loving kindness toward your body. If you're accepting your body, if you're loving your body attitudinally, then your behaviors can follow that. So you might choose foods that are nourishing. You might choose intuitive movement and activity that's nourishing to your well-being, and therefore to your body. So your body is going to shift, perhaps into the direction of health and wellness based on your attitude changing in the direction of acceptance.
So sometimes we just have to flip the order in order to find the acceptance. The acceptance comes first, and then the behavior shifts, and sometimes the body changes in the direction that you were maybe hoping it would go to begin with. But each of us are starting from a different place. So starting where you are, meeting yourself where you are with an attitude of compassion is really pivotal in finding body acceptance. Another piece I think that is magnificently important is letting yourself value who you are internally over what you look like externally.
It sounds really simple. But if you take an inventory of the amount of time and energy you spend on your external appearance, the amount of time and energy you spend criticizing it, buying items to improve it, talking with your friends and loved ones and family, hopefully not your students and clients about it. It's a great amount of time and energy for a lot of us, and we only have a finite amount of time and energy. So the extent to which we put our time and energy toward what we look like externally, and probably therefore what other people look like externally, we're definitely taking that time and energy away from who we are being, from the way that we're showing up for ourselves and other people. And that shift is a major one.
I know for me, I used to wake up every morning and get in front of the mirror and turn sideways and looked to see to what extent was my belly distended. I wanted a flat stomach. Somehow I thought a flat stomach was going to bring all kinds of things, like joy. (chuckles) It wouldn't, and it wasn't going to, and it never occurred. And it didn't matter. I'm able to have total body acceptance without a flat stomach and here's why.
I woke up instead one morning and thought, "What if? "What if my goal for the day "were not to look in the mirror and have a flat stomach? "What if instead, I was in consideration of how other people "would feel about themselves in my presence? "What if what I could offer wasn't thinness "as a gift to the world somehow, right? (chuckles) "What if what I had to offer were something from my heart? "What if I had to offer were kindness?
"What if I could change what was important to me about me "being not what I looked like, "but how other people feel about themselves "when they're with me?" That changed everything, and it's continued to be a practice that I stay with. Daily, when I wake up, I start to think about who am I gonna be interacting with today that I can predict? A lot of times we get the privilege of meeting new people, and how do I wanna show up for those people? How do I want, as much as I can impact it, how do I want those people to feel about themselves around me? And I know that if I'm sitting inside of self hate or self beat or self sabotage, if I'm letting those internal critics tell me that I'm not enough, I'm too fat, too old, I'm too wrinkly, I'm not whatever it is, negativity that can come from me, I know that consciously and unconsciously and non-verbally, the people in my presence are gonna pick up on my negativity.
And even though I don't want this to happen, they would feel that about themselves, too. Because if what matters to me about me is my weight, or my size, or my shape, then what matters about me, what matters about you to me is your weight or your size or your shape. That's the truth, and it's really hard to face. Likely, what might be going on in your mind is, "That's not true about me. "I really don't accept myself, but I accept others." Mmm.
I'm gonna fiercely reflect the truth to you because I love you. That's not true. (chuckles) Other people are feeling into your own self beat, and it is impacting them in a negative way. And the truth is, we all have a responsibility for one another, to each other, to create for each other a community that is supportive of acceptance, that is supportive of individuality, that is supportive of celebrating the uniqueness of each of us. We are all not meant to look the same. And most of us in first world countries, we're privileged to be born in a first world country and we've been inundated by messages from the media that most of the culture has agreed with and has been seduced by, that then we've been inundated and surrounded by family and friends that also agree with this beauty myth, this beauty ideal, that thinner is better, that a particular kind of hair color or eye color or skin color is better, and that those things equal not only pretty or beautiful, but also success and freedom.
None of that's true. And so the extent to which you can let go of those illusions that all of us have been inundated by, so no guilt or shame in having bought into it, but maybe a possibility or an opening to that there's another truth. Just like each of us can celebrate the beauty of different kinds of flowers. This stargazer looks different than this beautiful middle flower, I don't know what it's called. (laughs) Right? We can celebrate that these two things look very different and yet, they're both gorgeous and beautiful.
They both have different scents and colors. So does my body versus a body that's curvier than mine, and versus a body that's thinner than mine. So does my body versus a body that's taller or shorter than mine. We're not all meant to look the same. If we could approach our body the same way we approach, hopefully, other aspects of ourselves, with curiosity.
Like I didn't choose the body that I'm in. This frame, this height, I was born with it. So maybe there's a purposefulness to it. Perhaps we could be curious about why this height, why this shape, why this frame, why this bone structure? Huh?
Maybe we could wonder. Like maybe there's some intention to the way that we're showing up in the world. Perhaps it's necessary for our dharma. Maybe it's not separate from our purpose. Maybe it's part of it.
And the last thing I'll say about you being in the practice of developing a positive body image is this: your body is a temple. This yoga practice, it, when used benevolently, is one that allows you the experience of being inside of your body. And when you're loving toward this body temple, you hold it sacred. And you allow yourself to move it, to move energy through it, to feel into it, to find the sensations within it so that you can be one with it, not in conflict with it. When you're hating on your body, when you're criticizing it and when you're judging it, you're in conflict with it.
Then you're out of integrity. Then you're not in the alignment that I talk about in another talk and through a practice that allows you to be a channel, that allows you to be a vessel, that allows you to be on purpose. And so, recognizing that your body is, in fact, a temple in itself creates a sense of wanting to treat that temple with kindness and with care, to be respectful toward it. Not to be negative toward it, either with your words or with your actions, but to be in kind consideration and in complete acceptance of it. And I am not trying to make that sound easy.
For me, it's been a lifelong process, and one that I'm completely dedicated to, because I know that I'm not alone. If you are a yoga teacher, I implore you to be in the practice of finding acceptance of your own body, because you have the privilege of holding a container for students who will see in themselves the way that you hold and treat and talk about your own body. And when you're in a space of acceptance, you allow them to have the same kind of container in their own experience of their body, impacting them in a positive and in a kind way. So thank you for listening. I hope this has been helpful in your journey toward finding love and finding body acceptance.