Post By The September Writer of the Week, Rachel Brathen:
“I get flooded with comments and questions about looking pretty. Yes—about looking pretty.
Some also involve feeling good (in a combination with looking pretty) but so many of them come down to the same thing: changing the way we look.
It’s questions about losing weight. About diets. Beauty products. Exercise routines. Yoga for weight-loss. Yoga for better skin. Yoga for…for what?
On any given day I get 100-250 emails, and the majority of them are questions from people that want advice on how to change something about themselves. I do my best to answer in my own hippie way (“do yoga, eat your veggies, meditate, use coconut oil” etc., etc.) but I think there is a fundamental issue beneath all of this that no one is addressing.
Why is it that we on some level feel that we are not good enough the way we are?
Who taught us that we need to see a certain number on a scale to be happy? When was it decided that we need to look in a special way to feel okay with looking at ourselves in the mirror? Yes—we want to be healthy. Yes—we want to feel good. But this world (especially this strange social media one) is so full of unrealistic expectations that simply no one can live up to.
My least favorite comment I see on my feed is “You are perfect.” No, scratch that. My least favorite comment? “I wish I looked like you.”
You guys may know I have an Instagram feed. I choose what I post here. I could post photos of myself eating cheese while lying in bed last night watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother (yep) or of how oily my skin gets when I’ve had too many beers the night before (yep) or the stretch marks I have on my upper thighs (yep). Or any of the million things that are not, in any way, “perfect” about the way I look. But I choose not to. I choose instead to post photos of me when I’m having a good hair day, or in a yoga pose that looks good in profile, or in a pretty dress on the beach. But I’m thinking now I may have been wrong in portraying just one side of me. I am not perfect. I’m not always in balance. I cry and get sad and emotional all the time (ask my boyfriend!). I have days when I feel ugly, or fat, or insignificant. I have days when I feel…not good enough.
And you know what?
I call bullshit!
We need to stop comparing ourselves with others and start loving ourselves, just the way we are. Love your body. Love your soul. Of course we have a hard time finding an exercise or diet routine to stick to—the whole reason we feel that we need one is because we deep down feel that we are not good enough as we are.
Telling yourself you’re not good enough is not loving yourself. Looking in the mirror and only seeing flaws is not loving yourself. Exercising or dieting simply because you want to change your body is not loving yourself. And I don’t in any way mean that exercising is not good for you—quite the opposite. It’s the way we look at ourselves that we need to turn around. The most difficult thing is not to find an exercise or diet routine to stick, but to deeply accept that we are already okay. You are okay. You are more than okay! You are beautiful, just the way you are.
I say, change it up! Instead of thinking you need to change your body so you can love your body (“after I’ve lost 20 pounds, I’ll be happy with who I am”), do it the other way around. Love your body so you can change it. Love your body. Love your soul.
If we keep exercising with a purpose to change because we are not already perfect, that exercise is always going to be negative and have a negative effect on all aspects of our being—mind, body, soul. You think staring at yourself in the mirror while running on the treadmill with your jaw clenched shut is good for your body? Think again. You think taking away the joy of eating delicious food is good for your body? Think again.
We are energetic beings. What you send out, you get back. If you don’t want your entire life to revolve around the shape of your physical body (which in the big scheme of things is so insignificant!), we need to realize this and make fundamental changes from the inside instead.
Yoga is good. It can also be done wrong, sure—practicing without mindfulness can definitely be compared to running on the treadmill with your jaws clenched. Are you in your body on the mat? Or in your mind? Do you feel the moment? Or are you focused on nailing that next pose, getting to the next step? Our minds can turn anything into ego. Which is why, again, we need to come back to a place of love.
The good thing about yoga is that it is so accepting, so loving, we can all do it no matter our age or body type. We can practice when we’re tired or energized, day or night…as long as the breath is there. Daily yoga helps because the thing that hurts us in the long run is our mind, not our body. We can weigh a million pounds, but that alone is not going to make us unhappy. It’s our mind’s perception of this fact that will make us unhappy. Know what I mean? It’s the thinking that hurts us. “I should” or “they shouldn’t” or “I would be better if…” …this is the reason we feel so inadequate. Yoga helps to calm the mind so we can free ourselves from these destructive thought patterns.
I used to think I wasn’t good enough, thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough… And I was always looking for the next “thing” that would help me achieve these things, because then at last I would be happy. But I finally realized: nothing from the outside will ever fix my inside. Even if I am a supermodel or the smartest person in the world, my mind will keep trying to find the “next” thing to fix. That is why we have to go on the inside to find that balance and happiness, not on the outside. Exercise is good and taking care of our body is good, but we need to do it mindfully. Once we realize that we are already so beautiful, so intelligent, so perfect, the rest will fall into place. We will start making decisions throughout our day that will heal our body. And we will make these decisions automatically, because we found a love for ourselves. So it will be natural to go for the fruit instead of candy, to move, to meditate, to eat strong meals that build us up instead of eating things that break us down. And this is where balance come from.
It took me a long time to find a balance in life, and I am still struggling with days when all I want to do is lie in bed and eat my weight in chocolate. Who doesn’t? And sometimes I do that too, trust me—and it’s okay! As long as those days are not overclouding your life. Find what makes you happy, accept your highs and lows and remember: this too, shall pass.
Stay beautiful, inside and out. Love your body. Love your soul.”