“Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to find peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there is always something we could be grateful for. “
Barry Neil Kaufman
“I am my own experiment, I am my own work of art.”
If you think of gratitude, what are the first five people, things, or experiences that come to mind? Is your body on this list?
It is common to hear nowadays love yourself, pamper yourself, take care of your body, you only have one life to live. Yet, when a person talks about their self-appreciation, they are usually considered superficial and vain, and the one who criticizes herself insecure and with low self-esteem. You hardly find anyone commenting on his body or someone else’s body without extreme judgments tied to his appearance. Can you recall someone who directs his self-appreciation to the functions performed by the body and not to their look? Do you thank your own body for the services provided that day before bed? Do you embrace yourself as you do with your children, partner, a loved one for the simple fact of existing and be alive?
In my case, that embrace took a long time to arrive …
It has been many years of self-criticism towards my body. Since I was a child, life recurrently reminded me of the overweight I was carrying. Teasing and nicknames at school, comments at home and teachers in classrooms; through television, in magazines, when I bought clothes when I dressed up when I went out with friends when I saw myself in the mirror.
Like many other overweight stories, as I have learned, mine had reasons beyond what I put into my mouth or the amount of exercise I did during the day. I want to share my story because perhaps some of you are in the midst of the suffering that generates not being at peace with your own body. Maybe some of you are in the process of acquiring self-knowledge that, like me not long ago, began to scratch. I promise you there is light. To value and to accept oneself as it is, is a path of perseverance, of a change of focus, of watering self-love as the plants that need it daily. It is a learning path in gratitude to the only one who has always been with you: Your body.
When I was around eight years old, five years of passive psychological abuse began. It implied being ignored and rejected by a loved one with whom I spent every day. While experiencing what it was like to live “The Silent Treatment,” and being invisible, my body began to change. A change for the worse according to the eyes of others and therefore in mine as well. The image of the ideal body was definitely not the one I was looking at. My teeth grew crooked; my hair was curly and uncontrolled, my stomach, legs, and buttocks always more prominent than the girls of my age. I had small breasts and messy eyebrows. In short, a full list of not so positive definitions could continue back then.
Inside me, a rage grew against my body for attracting the attention of nicknames that made me ashamed. For creating the cry that I swallowed not to show weakness. I hated my body because it empowered others to continue with their rejection and attack. I had anger because it wanted to hide and run away. I had resentment towards it because I couldn’t stop eating and rejected it because I was not able to change it.
Hence, like any negative thought makes you toxic, I catch up with victimization, self-punishment, jealousy, comparison, and resentment. The relationship with my body to my adulthood trapped me. It dictated my character and what I allowed myself to do or not. From the creative girl, who I remember was self-confident, who enjoyed dancing and singing, she became a teenager with a breastplate to protect her heart. I locked my emotions and, for many years, treated others with fear and distrust. Going to a pool with friends meant exposing oneself, putting on a bathing suit a punishment. Guilt was present in every bite, the photos a hard self-criticism. There was no diet, no exercise, no size, or weight that would satisfy me.
I left behind my teenage years, and my young adulthood arrived, but the relationship with my body was still at a loss. I had no dress that fit correctly, and nudity was recurrently uncomfortable. I had created a tolerance for self-sabotage and have permitted “disguised friendships” where offenses and pitiful comments were received and swallowed for fear to lose them.
Today, I can recognize that such an intense fear of rejection and the need for acceptance as well brought out the best in me. It built me, and I became resilient. I practiced values that, although it is a shame in their time, neither I nor anyone made me appreciate them, today I applaud them:
* I confronted rejection in a constructively way by building own capacities on self-initiative
* I lead my decision making
* I constructed a future-oriented attitude
* I learned to take responsibility for my mistakes and carry on
* Demonstrated my value through my education
* I learned to show genuine empathy for others
* My silence gave me the gift of active listening, powerful sensibility, and the profound observation
* The love for self-learning and personal growth
* Be interested in my body’s functions, pay attention to what I ate, and show dedication to the exercising I performed.
* Loyally value the trust and love given to me
* Get away from not respectful or abusive relationships. Within me, I knew there was and wanted another form of relationship that exists.
* I realise that I am not alone and that I can consciously seek and create nutrient, quality, supportive, reciprocal relationships. Relations based on equality, respect, and appreciation.
Without me realising it, all of the above leads me to what would be my change of perspective, my motivation, and the reconciliation that awaited me.
I reached my mature stage as a girlfriend, wife, and mother with all that baggage — same, which led me to a venture in personal growth. Not only did my own need to love myself motivated me, but also the desire to live a fuller love life and to project only love and not fears or traumas to my children. This stage was of stretching and loosening where there were good times and others, not so. Where the scale would still be my worst enemy, but I had taken care of freeing myself from toxic relationships. I was beginning to work on my perfectionist thoughts, and I was looking for a real understanding of my body’s functions, the connections between my health, food, and my emotions.
It was not until the arrival of my third child that, despite what could be said, was the period where I’ve seen the worst of my physical appearance, I managed to make peace with it. It took me almost thirty years to recognize my body’s value not because of its appearance, but by its power.
The birth of my son left me with stretch marks and sagging in my belly. It left my breasts without volume due to breastfeeding. Wrinkles in my eyes due to my worries about his allergies. And a tired look for the many sleepless nights due to eczema on his skin. However, his arrival in my life brought me a more significant gift. An impossible change that was possible if it started from love. He taught me the power of healing through food. He brought out the strength of will that I possess and that I never thought I had when I changed my diet 180 degrees from one day to the next to heal him. It showed me at once how unworked emotions made my body sick. He showed me the road to get out of the depression I’ve experienced, resurfacing with deeper self-knowledge.
That self-knowledge has given me the possibility to understand the connection between my emotional experiences and the interpretations, beliefs, stories, and therefore actions that I allowed myself to believe and that governed my way of treating my body, of not valuing myself, of sabotaging me. Same understanding that now makes me want to love and respect myself every day of my life and to heal me too.
And so, the day I began to thank my body arrived.
* When I prayed, I began to thank my feet that allowed me to exercise that day; my arms because they allowed me to hug my children, my lips that give my husband a good morning kiss. I began to thank my ears for allowing me to listen to my parents in a long-distance video call. I thank my breasts for nourishing my son. I thank my palate for giving me the enjoyment of a sumptuous meal. I thank my eyes for being able to read a good book and text messages from my friends. I thank my mind for reflecting and to my heart for beating and giving me another day of life.
* By meditating, I learned to breathe deeply and let go of thoughts that do not help me, and that degrade my way of seeing myself.
* With my Coaching studies, the “foundation of Judgment” and “The Work” were fortunate additions to my learning path. Both techniques show me the way to persist in questioning and letting go of everything that is not real and does not bring me well-being.
* Through visualization, which I learn from mindfulness, I dismiss and send away the negative critics, and my sabotage above tree leaves that a river takes away.
* The written decrees of well-being, prosperity, and peace remind me every day to harmonize my actions, decisions, and language to where I want to go.
All of the above raised me and moved me forward. However, a key element was missing, and with coaching, the moment of more resonance also arrived — the one I needed the most in my acceptance process.
On an intense day of different exercises concerning the connection between our body, language, and emotions, our coach professor asked us to hug. But the hug was not between classmates. The embrace was about embracing oneself. And despite how easy this may sound, it was hard and revolutionary for me. I closed my eyes and hugged myself like never before. Now I write it, and my body vibrates it again, it was an extraordinary moment. It was an honest embrace of sincere gratitude — run down my cheeks, tears, and tears of self-forgiveness. I embraced my 8-year-old girl, the 13-year-old, the 20-year-old, and the 30-year-old. It was a hug of a long-time reunion of a mother to her child, of consolation, of compassion, of welcoming, of sisterhood, of friendship, of healing.
It was an embrace with total acceptance.
To conclude, as you may notice, the mental and emotional change that I just shared with you ignited from a place of love and gratitude. It took me years to get there, and from the bottom of my heart, I hope for those who my story resonates, it doesn’t take that long. It is not a magic potion that you intake, and the usual ineffective thoughts and habits disappear. It is an everyday job. It is a declaration of NO MORE action out of fear and rejection; and a YES for those rising from self-love, gratitude, and appreciation to my own body. Today my efforts go with a new consciousness. I gift positive thoughts and emotions to the body that works and gives me health.
The Vision of this reading:
• If you think it can serve you, start a journal or a mural of gratitude. Leave it in a visible place and write down what you are grateful for. Do this just after you wake up or before bedtime.
• Pray or meditate. It is a quick and easy way to thank your body for the day to begin or the one you are closing up.
• When looking at yourself naked in a mirror, ask your body, what are you grateful for today?
• If you are a father, mother, or responsible for the upbringing of a child, one way to foster the positive relationship of your child to his/her body is by doing and not by saying, commenting or pointing out. Recognise his/her strengths. Fulfill the mural with them. Please encourage them to express their emotions through music, dancing, sports. Be active with them, but above all, have conversations with them and listen with genuine attention.
• Children also learn by imitation. Be aware of your self-criticism and how you express it in front of them. Show them with your example, the responsibility, acceptance, respect, gratitude, and admiration for how marvelous our bodies are.
• Embrace your body. The body exists with or without adjectives. The body is and allows us to be alive! Let us live and let live without judgment.
Thank you for reading,