I’m going to ask you a question.
Don’t think about it. Don’t research it. Simply notice the first answer that flashes through your mind.
What animal are you?
Tune into your body, your animal self. Feel into your toes and see if you can sense the beating of your heart.
Now ask your body, your physical self, which animal it’s most like.
No changing the answer! This is your body’s truth.
And this is mine.
Hold on! Before you scamper to the comments to write how I should love my body, before you diagnose me as having a self-esteem issue, let me tell you a story.
I’m lucky to be friends with my acupuncturist. I don’t know which came first, the friendship or the acupuncture, but at this point they’re completely entwined.
So I’m lying on the table, there’s a lavender pillow on my eyes, and the needles are doing their thing. We’re talking quietly and I’m bemoaning my constant need for tune-ups. I mutter my old riff: I wanted to be a sturdy Volvo, but instead I’m a Fiat. Constantly in the shop. Fix it again, Tony!
My friend replies, I’ve been thinking about my body lately. My animal-self. I’ve spent a lot of time working on loving my self, on self-image. But it’s all in my mind, it’s mental exercises. So I’ve been working on feeling my body, my animal self, and asking it what it needs.
We continue talking. Exploring being grateful to our kidneys, our liver. Acknowledging how much energy our bodies use in our work, holding space for people to heal.
And every time she says “my body, my animal self,” I think elephant.
Here’s the thing: it’s hard to hate an elephant.
It’s hard to be angry at an elephant for being, well, an elephant.
My choice of elephant was not my brain insulting my body, it was my body speaking its truth. And in researching it a bit it’s spot-on right down to the powerful sense of small to compensate for poor eyesight and bad peripheral vision (I have a partially paralyzed eye that doesn’t move outward so, like the elephant, I have to turn my whole head to see to the side).
Acknowledging my elephant self is actually comforting; it makes it easier for me to love me. Because an elephant simply is an elephant. It doesn’t need to be anything else.
And I love elephants for what they are. It never occurs to me to think of what they aren’t.
So what are you?
Not what animal do you like or what’s your totem. I want to know, when you reach down into your skin, what animal resonates there.
Share with me. And tell me how it feels to acknowledge your inner elephant… or jaguar… or mouse… or cricket. Tell me how it feels to live in your skin and love it for what it is.
Yup, its that time of year again.
Even the most trim and toned among us are deeply affected by the heat of summer and the lack of clothing that comes along with it.
While some women are standing in front of mirrors bemoaning their butts or their breasts, others are avoiding reflective surfaces like the second coming of the Bubonic Plague.
Summer is the time of year when otherwise sane women become intensely self-critical and obsessed with their weight… and they write to me saying Maia, do you know any herbs that are good for weight loss?
I tell them:
- Chickweed and coconut oil can both cut your appetite, and bitters can help you digest more efficiently.
- Eat real food, and pause to be grateful for it.
- Chew slowly and revel in every bite. Let the flavors swamp your taste buds. You need a quality experience, not a quantity experience.
- If you want to cleanse, do it with compassion and humor, not with aggression and malice. Your body is naturally self-cleaning; give it the opportunity by eating only fruits and vegetables for a day or two. If you want to juice, be sure to do mostly vegetables because the sugars in fruit can mess with your blood sugar balance.
- Drink room temperature water with lemon when you wake up in the morning.
- Move. Yes, walking counts. No, lifting the fork to your lips does not.
- Sleep. You will gain weight if you don’t.
- Enjoy life. Being stressed is fattening.
But there is more to it than all that.
I was on the phone a few weeks back with a would-be client who told me that she has felt fat all of her life. Three years ago, when she was thirty pounds lighter, she wished that she could lose twenty pounds.
Now she wishes to return to the weight she was three years ago; she realizes that she was in pretty good shape back then and if she could get back there, she says, she would begin to feel confident in her body.
She would be able to love herself.
During one of last week’s de-cluttering ventures, I found a photo of myself snapped eight years ago. The photo wasn’t anything special– a quick shot to finish off a roll of film– but when I looked at it I realized something: l was pretty then.
Here’s the thing:
I know for a fact that I didn’t feel pretty. I was too heavy and my hair, which was too frizzy, never grew fast enough. It seemed it was always at an in-between length where it laid against my face emphasizing the abnormally-huge size of my skull.
(I know that you are saying to yourself Maia, that is way over-the-top. Wow are you self-critical! Ummm-hmmmm. I know I am. Now tune into the voices in your head. Do they sound as over-the-top as my voices?)
Looking at one photo led to looking at many photos. And, lo and behold, I could not find photographic evidence of the pudgy, plain, long-faced, frizzy-haired woman that I have believed myself to be for the majority of my life.
Is it possible that during all those years that I was sure I was fat and ugly, I was actually pretty?
If the photos spoke true, it was always there. Sometimes in an everyday, pleasant-to-look-at kind of way. Sometimes stunningly and strikingly beautiful.
Yes, it helps that I have religiously destroyed the worst offenders in the photographic category, but I don’t think that dilutes my point:
If we are only able to see our beauty in the past tense, we are never looking into the mirror and loving ourselves, as we are, in the present tense.
So when you look in the mirror and begin obsessing, and begin thinking I should write to Maia and see if there are herbs for weight loss, pause for a second and find one thing in the mirror that you are grateful for.
Perhaps it is the chin that you share with your favorite grandfather, or your one sided dimple, or the eye color that you got from your mom. Perhaps its the little scar you got sliding into third base playing softball in high-school. Perhaps it is the smile that curves your lips when you think about your partner, or your baby, or your dog.
Now walk away from the mirror holding that one thing in your heart.
Trust me, with your joy shining through, you’ll look good in your swimsuit.
Ever felt self-critical? Share your story below (and if you have the urge to assure me that I am beautiful, how about looking in the mirror instead and telling me about that nose that you inherited from Grandma Phyllis?)!