A Soft Place to Land
Several years ago, I heard a story about the difference between how a man showers versus how a woman showers. It was full of gender stereotypes, but it made me laugh. It included a man walking through the bedroom to the bathroom naked, and if he walked past his wife, he would shake his appendage at her and say, "woo woo." At some point he forgets a washcloth and walks back through the bedroom, shaking and woo-wooing, and even attempts to hang the washcloth from his anatomy.
The story contrasted with the woman wearing a long robe or gown, covering up any exposed areas if she passes by her husband. I believe it had her doing all sorts of cleaning and other tasks before she got in the shower. While I recognize this story is dripping with societal messages, many of which I don't agree with, the takeaway for me was that it was (a) funny and (b) men are comfortable with their bodies. Sure, we could argue that this isn't true for everyone. But I wonder how many read this all those years ago, chuckled at how true it was, and forwarded the email. (It was that long ago, I am almost sure, that I read it in a forwarded email. Do you remember those?)
As I think about this now, I want this to be true for all of us, regardless of gender. What if we did not feel shame about our bodies, especially when we were naked? Walking around and being proud, having fun, and enjoying the freedom of our nakedness. What if we saw our bodies as these amazing vessels, capable of so many things?
There's a quote I have saved from a video training by Brené Brown: "If we all woke up, looked in the mirror and said, 'oh my God—awesome,' entire industries would collapse." There are lies that have been sold to us, and most of them are selling something and profiting from our body embarrassment and shame.
As a woman intimately familiar with these lies and continually trying to unlearn the shame that was conditioned into me, likely most of my life, it is so ingrained in my brain now, that no one has to say anything for me to feel icky feelings towards my body, especially when I start nitpicking my body to pieces. It makes me sad for her, my body. I sometimes place my hand on my heart, or better yet my stomach, and take a breath and apologize. She has gone through a lot over the years, she needs a soft place to land within me. Thanks to the brainwashing from years and years of diet culture, I have to actively work to have a soft place to land for myself. It needs to be a practice that I build into my life and schedule.
Here's the practice I am working into my life, with the goal that this becomes so second nature that it happens multiple times a day. I like personifying my body, giving my body a pronoun, and I choose she/her. If you want bonus points, give your body a name. When my daughter was in college, she briefly named her stomach Karen. When she was home for one of her breaks, she mentioned needing to get Karen something to eat. I was taken aback at first, not knowing who Karen was, but once I did…. I LOVED IT!!!
Back to my practice, I want to pause which works even better with a couple of deep breaths, place my hand on my heart or stomach (or whatever body part needs attention, maybe my hip or knee), and visualize my body as something vulnerable and in need of love and nurturing. I might say hello or ask if she needs something. I might simply say, "I'm sorry" or "I see you now." I don't think this will take more than 2 minutes at a time, and if I could build up to 10 times a day, that's only 20 minutes a day. As I think about this and imagine building it into my life, that 2 minutes seems like such a small amount of time in a day, but at the same time, it seems like everything.