Women and the Body and the Very Hard Battle
Roughly a month ago in an embodiment course my husband and I are teaching, a dear woman shared her experience. She said, “You know that quote that says, “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle?” Well, when you invited me to be present in my body and feel my legs, woosh! I was instantly in a very hard battle. I don’t want to feel my thighs. They’re too fat! All these voices came wooshing in. Some of us, the instant you ask us to feel our bodies, are in a very hard battle.”
A few weeks prior to that class, we were in the Boston airport. I was walking toward the baggage claim to collect our bags for our trip to visit my mother-in-law at Cape Cod. A woman in her early 50s made no attempt to be discreet as she, with squinty, judgmental eyes looked me up and down.
Perhaps Utah women are more subtle in their assessment of other’s bodies and clothing choices – at least they pretend to be polite – but this was such an unabashed display of judgmental mind. My reaction? I actually laughed out loud. “Bwahahaha!” I kept walking, chuckling out loud as I was so struck by the ridiculousness of it. Do you know how much I care about what a stranger’s judgmental mind makes of my body and my clothes? I give exactly zero f*cks.
Though I do have compassion for Miss Squinty Eyed Glare, because I know how deeply infected such a person is with judgmental mind. I know in my bones that if she turns her judgment so obviously toward me, judging mind is seriously vicious with her. I know she’s in a very hard battle. That’s just how it works.
These two stories are connected. Here’s the thing.
Ladies, we need to you to stop this shit. (Men too!)
We need you to heal this split.
Not because I mind if you look me up and down. But because it is SUCH a waste of the life force energy we need you to be turning in life-giving directions. The world needs you – and not the version of you who spends your time and energy examining airbrushed yoga or fashion or health magazines or shiny images of women online and then judging yourself and others on these fake standards. Images created by marketing geniuses who know how to “press our pain points” and who care more about their bottom line than our well-being.
Picture a big, stinky, engine, spewing black clouds of toxic muck in a vast landscape. It’s using all kinds of resources. It’s powering nothing but its own foul existence. That, my friends, is judgmental mind turned toward your body, your self, and toward others.
Picture, now, a nice, tight, quietly whirring engine – maybe solar powered, maybe wind– and it’s powering a water pump to bring life-giving liquid to a dry village. That is human energy uncoupled from judging mind, free to bring benefit to the world.
The stinky engine, wasting energy, polluting the space? It’s not helping. I can smell it when I see you looking me or someone else up and down. I can smell it when you say, “I hate my thighs, neck, belly, (fill in the blank)!” P.U.
The clean engine powering a water pump?
That’s you, utterly done with wasting your energy in judging butt size, age-shaming, musing on whether someone’s clothes are age-appropriate, and having instead turned your life force toward HELPING in this world that so desperately needs it. When you bravely announce, “Even though it’s different than the images foisted on us by industry, I LOVE my body and I love being alive,” it’s like seeing one corner of a toxic waste dump having recovered and turned back into beautiful wetlands.
I get it. It’s super tender, and there’s a lot of suffering there, especially when we’ve been judged and shamed for years. On the judgment treadmill, no matter what your shape, you’ll find fault with it. The thing I hope we can understand is that it is NOT selfish to love your dimpled thighs, your saggy boobs, your stretchmarked-belly – it’s utterly selfish NOT to.
I have some wishes for you.
I wish to invite you first to a radical new world. I want to invite you into a non-objectified relationship with your body. A relationship in which this living, pulsing, shivering, deeply feeling body is treasured as the sensitive instrument through which you get to experience life. What a miracle! In some sense, it is your physical self. And I so wish for you to love it, which is another way to say I want you to love your life. This relationship is possible. And it’s wonderful.
The mind that hates your physical self and judges it so harshly? It’s like cancer. Does the world need more cancer? I think not.
May I recommend a treatment if you are suffering?
One effective treatment might look something like this.
In the midst of your busy day, you catch yourself in judging mind, whether turned toward yourself or another?
Pause. Put a hand on your own heart, saying something like, “Oh, sweetheart, I’m with you. This is hard for you. I hear you. And I’m with you.”
A treatment I absolutely DON’T recommend? Judge yourself for your judging mind. The cancer just spreads.
I have a deep wish for you to feel grateful to be alive.
Grateful that you have eyes to see the sunset even if your bank account is negative. Grateful that you have a mouth to taste a slow soup, even if you can’t zip your jeans. Grateful that you have a heart to be astonished by the sight of an egret, shockingly white, at the side of the road, even if you are busier than you’d like to be. I want you to feel grateful you have legs of any size or shape that can walk in the world, or even sit in a wheelchair if that’s the case; even if some part of you hates your cellulite and expanding pubic hair. I wish for you to love your life WAY more than you bemoan your stretchmarks, your messy house, or the state of your bank account. I wish for you that your gratitude for this one precious life is roughly 84,000 times stronger than any small voice that thinks your thighs should be different.
It might not be easy, but I bet it’s easier than you think.
It’s time we evolve, ladies, and model for future generations a sane and life-giving way of being embodied as women.
How much of your life-energy, time, money, mental power, do you spend (read: waste) in judging your body or trying to fix it?
What life-giving pursuits would you love to pour that energy into instead?
What gorgeous painting might you create, what book might you write, what meals might you share, what causes might you champion, what interesting humans might you befriend, if you weren’t narcissistically turning all that power and energy inward, with the sharp spikes of judgment gleaming brightly? Who might you have helped or inspired instead?
Sobering isn’t it?
Because the answer is A LOT, sister. A lot.
And isn’t it clear? We need you.
Things are too desperate on this planet for you to spend any more time with this bullshit.
We need you to heal it. Not fix it. Heal it. Heal, as in return to wholeness.
When you’re judging yourself or another? What you’re offering the world is sad. Stinky. And it’s an unnecessary waste of your genius.
Personally, I will not judge anyone else’s body as anything other than a gift. When I hear someone else doing that? All it reflects to me is how judgmental their mind is, and when it comes out toward others at a 5-decibel volume, I know inside, it’s running at 25-decibles. That’s just how it works. It’s unpleasant for all involved, so let’s just stop. Can we, please? We can. We must. Courageous compassion is required. Bring it on!
If you hear someone else getting judgy, you might pause and say, “Do you judge your own body or appearance that intensely too? Sweetheart, I think you’re perfectly lovable as you are.” If you catch yourself doing this? Recognize the stink! Try placing a hand on your heart, saying, “Oh, dear one. You’re suffering. I care. I’m with you.”
I implore and invite you to be embodied, not via a mind infected by consumer culture. I want us to live fully, because it’s not forever and why waste one moment of this too-short life hating your vehicle for aliveness?
It’s so not cool. It’s old. It’s outdated. And it’s time we are done.
The next generations need us to dig deep, find our courage, and liberate this bullshit with our courageous warmth.
Judgment is contagious. So is brave befriending. Let’s quit kidding ourselves that talking shit about how you look in a photo is anything other than poison.
You not swimming because you’re judging your body in a bathing suit!? Poison. Not only to you, but to girls and women and boys and men everywhere, now and in the future. The cure? Radical kindness.
It’s a profound waste of a huge national resource – your smarts and your heart and your life force. And make no mistake – we need you! We do not need your stinky engine of judgment. Not one ounce of it. Absolutely no one benefits from that. Your clean engine of life-forward vision, of showing up embodied and whole, as a force for good? That is what we need. And you can do it.
What if instead of trying to annihilate your inner critic, you practice radical gentleness?
Only you can do that inside job. But we can help each other.
The time is now for us to grow up. To heal. To turn from fear and judgment toward courage and kindness. This is not separate from climate change and rape culture and domestic abuse and all the many woes of the world.
Can we get that this is not separate from climate change and rape culture and domestic abuse?
If you are disembodied, residing in your head, making your body (or that of another) an object you lay judgment on? It’s not so different from making another person’s body an object for rape. It’s also not so different from making the planet an object for rape. I know you don’t want to contribute to rape culture, so you know what? You need to love your thighs. Your boobs. Your triceps. Your wrinkles. Your scars.
Consider this: What if Jane Goodall spent her life worrying about her body shape and trying to “fix” it, instead of doing what she does? What if Maya Angelou spent her days judging her unusual body shape instead of inspiring us? What if Clarissa Pinkola Estes spent her time judging other women’s bodies and spent all her energy obsessively dieting rather than writing to save us all? A sad waste. The same is true of you, my friend.
When you not only love your embodied self, but love LIFE through your body, you will naturally make smarter choices for you, for your health, for the planet.
It’s time. Today. Right now.
Time to know that when the judging voice comes up, turned inward or outward, it’s simply a clear invitation to step into your courage and heal this bullshit. Now.
We’re in it together. Let’s not forget that. And as Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” So you’ve got to love. Your own body-mind is the most obvious place to begin.
In one of my all-time favorite Sounds True programs, the late, great, Stephen Levine says, “There will come a time when you’d no sooner leave the house without fully accepting yourself in your heart than you would leave the house without brushing your teeth. And for much the same reason.” Because judgment stinks.
Love. Nothing else makes sense anymore. The time is now. We can do it. We must.