When we consider challenging relationships, we often think of our relationships with others, like our two-year-old, teenager, mother-in-law or boss.
However, the most challenging relationship we have is right inside our own head, with ourselves. It is challenging to be wholly who we are AND to fully like ourselves.
The way we engage with our appearance and food is particularly difficult for women. Our self-directed conversations about these topics are often scathing barrages because we have failed to meet the “perfect” standard presented by our culture. Each time we judge ourselves because we haven’t eaten the perfect diet to attain the perfect body, we have a chance to learn.
For me personally, these issues still pop up everyday, though I have been “learning” from them for many years. I still find myself looking at my “ugly” stomach when I pass a mirror, to confirm how “awful” it looks. I still experience a reactionary panic when stepping off the scale after a weekend of indulging.
When these thoughts arise, I can either buy into them or I can learn from them. The key to learning, to healing, to becoming more wholly who I am is to: Be light. Be compassionate. Be curious.
Be Light. Taking ourselves too seriously stifles the opportunity to learn. We get too attached to chasing perfection, too attached to avoiding shame to let learning happen. Instead, we need to laugh at the horrid dilemma we are in concerning food and our appearance as women in the United States of America in 2014. We have nearly unfettered access to the most tasty, least nutritious food ever produced in human history AND we’re trying to be a 120 pound, 5’10” blond with big boobs, juicy booty, tiny waist and buff triceps. Ha! It’s laughable! Really!
Be Compassionate. Judging ourselves (bad, wrong, ugly, awful, weak willed, fat pig, etc) closes the book on whatever caused us to choose that label and the chance to learn is gone. When we combine lightness with kindness and non-judging compassion toward ourselves, we truly have an opportunity to watch our relationship with ourselves unfold in novel ways.
Be Curious. When we zone out or check out to avoid the pain of this struggle, or shrug it off with platitudes like “Whatever! It’s all good!” we also lose the chance to learn. Curiosity, which contains the playfulness of our first intention (Be Light) with the kind non-judgement of our second intention (Be Compassionate), allows us simply watch events unfold. It helps us learn what cues and triggers exist, how and why we respond and what allows us to make space between cues and responses so we can choose differently next time.
What would your life be like if you used judgment around food and personal appearance as a chance to grow your relationship with yourself? Can you lightly, without judgment, curiously watch things unfold and learn from them so you can become more wholly who you are AND to fully like yourself.