OK, so this is going to be one of those possibly-way-too-self-revealing blogs but I have to tell the story to make the point. So here goes.
It all starts in a changing room in a bridesmaid dress shop with my mum and my sister. My sister is getting married, you see, so we went to pick an outfit for me to wear.
It was so fun arriving, looking at pictures, trying on tiaras, imagining my sister in her wedding dress.
So fun, that is, until this moment:
While my mum scrabbled through endless dresses on a long rail of hangers and my sister sat on a chair just kind of staring at things with her handbag on her lap as nearly-brides are allowed to do, I got left between dresses. And with surround-full-length mirrors around me, it was pretty confronting to say the least.
Not only was I only in my underwear but I was wearing a pair of too-small, WHITE high heels (with a couple of faux diamonds glued onto the side) that had been lent to me for the purpose of trying on long dresses. You know, to get the idea for how long you want it to be. That kind of thing.
Not that I was thinking about that when I was faced with a full-length view of a body I barely recognised.
Because, you see, something we don't talk about much is that when we have children - or when we just simply reach a certain stage of life and let time go by without caring for ourselves - our bodies change. Slowly, steadily, dramatically.
And in that mirror, in that hot, sweaty changing room, I was faced with just how different my outside was from my inside - how much extra weight I was carrying and how out-of-alignment my body is with my beingness - and it really was deeply confronting.
Now the point I want to make really starts here. You have a good background (including visual right down to the faux diamonds) now so I can begin.
And it's really very simple.
You see, in that moment, I made a decision about my body and my life and my vitality and my relationship with myself. I realised that I find ways to nurture my soul, to release my emotions, to learn about things I love but my area of challenge is my body. That's where I need to work. Everyone has their out-of-balance area. This is mine.
BUT because I keep in constant touch with my soul, I knew in that moment, very clearly, that the foundation for my project needed to be SELF-LOVE rather than SELF-IMPROVEMENT.
Because there is an enormous difference. When we commit to loving ourselves more, to allowing ourselves to make a shift with compassion and space for healing and listening to ourselves. When we invite in help and support on all levels because we recognise we need strengthening, we treat our challenge as part of our spiritual path rather than something to be dealt with 'out of hours'. Rather than seeing it as something to handle quietly on the side while we do the important stuff.
And so that moment was a big moment because I am at a stage in my life where I did not say 'Oh my goodness, LOOK what you've done. How on earth did you let things get to this stage?' Instead, I looked at myself and said to my body 'Wow, this is a big realisation I am having right now. Goodness. I see the extent to which I have ignored you and I'm sorry. Thank you for producing two whole humans. Thank you for enabling me to give myself so fully to them and to my life. I am absolutely going to work out a plan to love, honour and nurture you much better from now on.'
Do you see how different those two responses feel?
I am sharing this story because so many of us have secret pockets - and moments - of shame, of self-attack, or meanness-to-self. And I want us to talk about these things, to embrace ourselves, to learn to be kind to ourselves. I would love my children to know that it is just a very normal thing to treat yourself with kindness and respect. But I can only hope for this if I am willing to treat myself the way I would treat my daughter or my son if they came to me and showed me something that had got out of hand, that they were overwhelmed by, that they felt ashamed of.
If you are making a shift right now, my invitation is to FIRST DEDICATE THE SHIFT TO A DEEPENING OF YOUR SELF-LOVE. Make it about deepening your connection with your soul, with yourself, with Love. Make it about re-parenting yourself by seeing yourself the way Love sees you. Because the alternative, self-improvement, and the self-chastisement that goes with it, just doesn't work. It's not a loop that has ever worked and I doubt it ever will.
PS I just have to write this 'out loud'. I just wrote elf-chastisement by mistake in that last paragraph and, quite honestly, it is really making me laugh. TMI on all fronts I think today but I don't know how else to do it.