For so long I’ve hated these arms.
I’ve cropped them out in photos so nobody could see how big they looked. Or rather, how big they looked to me. In my mind though, I knew they were largely muscle. But there’s no way you could know that. After all, you would see what you were always going to see, and that would be that, right?
Our stories, we’re still so wrapped up in and connected to for as long as we can remember but don’t realize. Our associations with thin being beautiful, our beliefs about what constitutes a pretty face. We make great strides and are happy to see more plus-size models in the media these days. But that’s just it. It’s still separate. We still see larger and smaller, not people. Not souls. Not hardships, or stories, or pasts, or hearts.
You could take one glance at my arms in a photo and say “she’s fat” or “she’s stronger than me” or “she’s thinner than me” or “she doesn’t look like she works out as much as she says she does”. You, the one who has grown up with the same pain as me, the same body image issues, immediately connect your story to mine. The cruel words you have spoken to yourself. The cruel words others have spoken to you.
So why would I want you to see me? Why be vulnerable and sit back while the judgments pass? I’ve been so open about my mind, but I’d rather just show you a portion of my body.
But then I found yoga. On my mat I made movements, both big and small, that allowed me to really focus in on how each movement affected my body. How good or not good each one felt. How strong each pose made me feel. How flexible, how tight, how loose, how heavy, and how balanced. By paying close attention to the way my body movements affected me physically, it began to translate into a practice within my mind. I began to notice how words and thoughts were affecting me as they came up. I began to be mindful of when words I said to myself were no longer serving me. I became more present and less stuck in the future or past. I began to find acceptance with what is, beyond me, within me and a part of me. And little by little I let myself show and stand out more. I found gratitude for my body. Each part of it that allows me to walk, run, jump, climb, catch, throw, lift, and, as of about a month ago, do my first pull-up ever! (Although I must admit that’s thanks more to climbing than yoga ;))
The more I practiced gratitude the more I found joy and love for my body. The more I wanted to be active because it made it me happy and not because I felt like I had to just to maintain a healthy body weight or look good for others.
So now, I am so strong. But I am not strong because this photo makes me appear that way to you. Look closer.
I really always was. I am strong because of everything I have been through. I am strong because I’ve worked through every cruel thing anyone has ever said to me. I am strong because I have moved past negative thoughts I used to say to myself and created new ways of thinking. I am strong to my very core and in every vein that runs through my body. And though my muscles are hardly a testament to that strength, I sure as hell am happy about everything these arms can do now, despite how they may appear.