My eyes. Easy enough. They're my generic answer to any question about favorite, or gratitude inducing, parts. Sometimes if I'm feeling extra plucky I might throw in a line about my uterus for its fairly kickass baby growing abilities.
When the day came to tackle this particular prompt I found my pen hovering uselessly over the page. I knew my answer was a copout. I knew that, despite my work helping other women to love their bodies, gratitude is often the last thing I feel for my own. I also knew that even with a recent burst of positive reinforcement that did help my confidence surge, the voice in the background was still the same.
Patience is not my virtue. It never has been. This is caused entirely by a fear of future discomfort or disappointment. I have been known to irritate partners with my inability to let things cool, because I need to get past the painful part of a fight. Waiting on any sort of answer leaves me unable to eat or sleep. I would rather dive headlong into a new situation than risk sitting in uncertainty; It's better to fall on my face than wade around in the unknown for any amount of time. Because of this lovely trait anything health related - attempting to lose weight, build muscle, or just feel better - is torture. There is no quick fix. There is no way to know without weeks of effort if I will make any progress.
Last night, after watching me exercise and hearing me run up and down the stairs for 20 minutes, my husband caught me standing in front of our mirror poking my belly with irritation and (surprise, surprise) impatience.
He asked, "What in the hell are you doing?" I glared, then sighed.
"I don't know what else I can change. Nothing seems to be helping. Am I not exercising correctly? What could I possibly change in my diet?"
"You just had your third baby, and you weigh less than before you got pregnant. What are you talking about?"
"I don't look any different."
"You lost 5 pounds this month."
"I don't see it."
"The workout you just did was incredible. I can't even do that. You're getting so much stronger."
"I don't see it."
"You can run up and down at least 100 flights of stairs a day without even being sore any more. Your clothes are fitting differently. Look at your endurance!"
"But...I can't see it."
"Honey, please don't take this the wrong way, but I don't know if you ever will. That's my biggest fear."
We then went on to discuss that even at 20 pounds lighter, I was never quite satisfied. Even when I reached my goals for running and lifting, I have never quite felt like it was enough. When I occasionally take photos in the mirror, to attempt to see past the dysmorphia, I will attribute one I like to a good angle, or lighting. I am endlessly unforgiving with myself. He also pointed out (which incited more glaring on my part) that I would never speak to anyone in my tribe the way I speak to myself. Much to my annoyance, he was right. In the face of my own impatience I may be striving for a goal that I will never be able to enjoy. I must set aside my desire to rush things, and accept that there is actually no end in sight. Ever.
The first thing that has to change needs to be what I am aiming for. My goal of liking what I see may never happen. Even if it does, it is temporary. Nothing will ever stay the same forever, and if I base my contentment on a temporary result I will face this frustration again, and eventually forever.
So, where to go from there?
In a previous post I mentioned changing my inner voice before walking into an event or class, and it has worked. Changing the one I deal with day in and day out is going to be harder, but needs to happen. The scale went into the trash, and will not be replaced. My goals now are going to be tangible, measurable, and gentle. If I find myself obsessing about them I am going to go against my very nature and let them go until their grasp on my thoughts has loosened. Inspirational body-lovin' quotes are going on the mirrors. I will begin recognizing and releasing the thoughts that say certain foods require punishment or sacrifice, and instead begin changing those thoughts to ask how they will make me feel. The most important, and almost definitely the most challenging, change will be to recognize the thoughts as they are creeping in and welcoming them with love. Yes, love. I will meditate nightly on what thoughts I may have witnessed, and show myself the same I would treat a friend. I will remember where those thoughts came from, how they were introduced before I was old enough to properly vet them, and show compassion to them - and ultimately myself. I will begin being more cognizant of the comfort I give others, and actually listening to it.
I felt I was in a pretty positive place when this journaling challenge began. I thought I was creating this activity for others. I am amazed to see how my tribe is my mirror, and I must learn to trust that reflection.