“In a time of torture camps and daily bombings, when civil liberties are disappearing as fast as the ozone layer, when one out of three women in the world will be beaten or raped in her lifetime, why write a play about my stomach? Maybe because my stomach is one thing I feel I have control over, or maybe because I have hoped that my stomach is something I could get control over.
Maybe because I see how my stomach has come to occupy my attention, I see how other women’s stomachs or butts or hair or skin have come to occupy their attention, so that we have very little left … for much else… Maybe I identify with these women because I have bought into the idea that if my stomach were flat, then I would be good, and I would be safe. I would be protected. I would be accepted, admired, important, loved. Maybe because for most of my life I have felt wrong, dirty, guilty, and bad, and my stomach is the carrier, the pouch for all that self-hatred. Maybe because my stomach has become the repository for my sorrow, my childhood scars, my unfulfilled ambition, my unexpressed rage. – Eve Ensler, The Good Body, 2004
I love Eve Ensler’s words of wisdom, the raw power and vulnerability of them. The stomach is an area for many women, many PEOPLE, that holds a “pouch of self-hatred.” When I work with clients around developing a different relationship with their stomach, we often explore the questions of:
What are you hungry for?
(cookies, sweetness, ice cream)
What are you REALLY hungry for?
(to be loved, to feel safe, to be connected and not alone, to feel that I am safe in the world, to know that the world is trustworthy and I can stomach it.)
What can you digest?
(ex: nourishment, the right amount, honesty)
And what CAN’T you digest?
(ex: toxicity, being asked to stuff or stuffing myself with what is “not mine,” secret keeping, dishonesty)
In yoga, the stomach is the third or “solar plexus” chakra. It is the place where self-esteem (or lack of) resides. It is where anxiety rests in “the pit of your stomach.” And it is the place where you experience your “gut instinct.” Getting your gut instinct back, listening to and honoring it is a major part of recovery, from trauma, from disordered eating, from self-hatred. All (non traumatized) children have a natural love, pride, and listening to their stomachs. Have you ever seen a toddler or preschooler show you their belly? They LOVE their belly. It is a source of esteem, not of shame. They know what they want to eat and they know what their boundaries are. They are proud of their developing self. They know their “No’s.” (And from this, they find their yes’s.) Here is my invitation for you: Instead of changing the shape of your stomach, how can you listen to your gut instincts more? What can and can’t you stomach in your life? What are you REALLY hungry for? And what esteem able acts can you take toward honoring the answers that come? (Feel free to comment below. This is week 5 of the 8 week every body love your BODY challenge and 1 commenter will receive a free affirmation.)
Remember that song about your ears hanging low and wobbling too and fro (Can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?) Well, I know many women struggle with their upper arms wobbling. Many years ago, I had a pregnancy related medical condition that required me to be on bed rest for a month. At the end of this time, I had an event I would be attending wearing a sleeveless dress and I wanted to do arm exercises in bed to make my arms less wobbly. The Wise part of me knew that nobody could CARE LESS about the state of my arms and if they loved me, they would love me regardless of the size or wobble level of my arms. A dear friend of mine, also a therapist wounded healer, visited me during that time and helped break my fear open back into the larger space of love. She said, with directness and great love:
“Put DOWN the soup cans. “
Yep, I was using soup can weights to try to combat the powerlessness I was feeling.When she said that, I started laughing and then crying. I knew it wasn’t about my arms. I felt anxious about my growing baby, I felt anxious about being powerless to DO anything but rest, I felt anxious about trusting I was loved as I was and my body was exactly as it need to be in that moment.I had a hard time resting in the knowledge that not doing anything was exactly what I need to be doing. I had a hard time trusting that this tiny baby growing inside was going to be ok. I was scared to make room for the grief of potentially losing this little miracle.
True friends have space for all of your feelings and fears. Bless this friend who held my hand through that difficult time, who let me rest in the awareness that I was loved and that life would continue, not only with wobbly arms, but with the possibility of losing my baby. In the words of Ann Lamott:
“Trappings and charm wear off…Let people see you. They see your upper arms are beautiful, soft and clean and warm and they will see this about their own, some of the time. It’s called having friends, choosing each other, getting found, being fished out of the rubble.”
(This is week 4- arms- in the 8-week Every body love your BODY challenge, so feel free to leave an affirmation for your arms or honoring a friend in the comments below. One random winner will be chosen to receive an affirmation!)
Yep, we’re talking about our chests this week. All that you wish that was different and the reality of your chest being exactly the way it is supposed to be. I can’t tell you how many times I hear large chested women say they wish their chests were smaller and small chested women say they wish their chests were bigger! What would it be like to accept and maybe even bring a tiny bit of love to your body the way it IS?
Being a mom during pregnancy, postpartum and/or breastfeeding brings whole other facets to breasts and chests! I remember during my pregnancy and breastfeeding days being amazed and awed at how my body changed. And then joking at how my chest “deflated” again after no longer breast feeding. Becoming a mom, however, actually made me fiercer about loving my body and its capacities. I remember one time breastfeeding my baby at a restaurant and the waiter looking at me strangely. I looked back at him and clearly stated “He’s already ordered.” I had had enough with the controversy over breast feeding in public. I needed to get that “off of my chest.” Heaven knows breasts have been seen publicly in many other contexts and not always respectfully or being utilized to feed a baby!
Some moms judges their chests because one side is larger/smaller than the other or in breastfeeding, one breast produces more or less milk than the other. Instead of saying “You should be producing more milk!”, what would it be like to thank your breasts for making milk, doing the best they can?
What do you need to get off of your chest? How can you love and or accept your chest? I invite you to comment below.
* For the record: As a Mom and Psychologist, I support moms is ALL of their choices in breastfeeding, not breastfeeding, breast feeding in the way they feel comfortable, partially breastfeeding, etc! There are many personal and medical reasons both to breastfeed and not to breastfeed. And there is no 1 right answer.
It’s week two of the Every body love your BODY project! This week we are focusing on neck and chin. Do you hate your neck and chin? Love them? Don’t think about them much? Here is a happy one with chocolate:
Where did the phrase “Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin” come from? And what about stick your neck out? Years ago, I used to hate my “double chin.” Now I feel neutral. I just don’t think about it much. And my neck? Well, I don’t see it, so I don’t really worry about it, other than scarf or necklace decorating 🙂
Sofia Loren, the famous Italian-French film star, is quoted as saying
You might be thinking, Well THAT’s not a kind thing to say to yourself! But what I hear is a self-depreciating sense of humor. And having a sense of humor about your insecurities, your neuroses, your strengths and weaknesses (if not used as a defense) can be a way to grow and be more at peace with yourself.
If giraffes don’t stick their necks out, they don’t reach the leaves they need to survive. (Except for this one, who apparently also needed to climb a tree).
This week, the invitation is to find something to love, cherish about your neck and chin. In addition, I want to invite you to affirm one way you can “stick your neck out” in your growth. Where can you take a risk? Where can you practice vulnerability in the service of something greater? This blog is my version. What is yours?
In the words of Sid Waddell,
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”