This sign sits on the wall next to my bathroom mirror. It’s the first thing I see when I get out of the shower in the morning and as I dry off I read those words- You are beautiful.
Sometimes a voice in me says, “Ha! Yeah, right.” Other times it makes me smile. Some days, I make a practice of trying it on. What if that were true? What about that feels true?
When I was 9 years old, I remember my gymnastics coach telling my mother that my legs were chunky and that I needed to lose weight. (I was a competitive gymnast and was as strong + athletic as can be)
I remember a close family member calling me thunder thighs, maybe once, maybe more? And I remember the warm wash of shame that flooded my cheeks and the immediate desire to hide my legs. Like, forever. (Which I mostly did)
I remember when my best friend in high school told me about something revolutionary she discovered – If you eat too much, just throw up! and it’s like it never happened. Then she showed me exactly how to do it in the school bathroom stall. It made me feel relieved, like no matter what, there was an escape hatch. There was no mistake you couldn’t undo.
I used to think that if I was just perfect enough, I could be worthy of love.
My body has changed since the above photo was taken 15 years ago. My washboard tummy has been replaced by something much more smooshy and mama-like. There is an extra layer of flesh that never disappeared after boy #2 and I find myself sucking it in for photos. I even suck it in for myself in the mirror! (How funny to deny my new reality even to myself)
And then there are the disappearing boobs. The ones that were once perky little scoops (a term my friend and I affectionately coined upon discovering we were boob twins) and now are, well, slightly melted scoops.
But here’s the irony.
Those words – you are beautiful- have never felt more true.
How is that even possible? How can I be feeling beautiful for the first time in my life?
At the beginning of last year I had a remarkable angel reading with Laurel Bleadon-Maffei. She shared a lot of wisdom with me, but the thing that stuck was when she said this – If you want something new to come through you, you have to stop looking back at what you’ve done in the past. If you could take the next 6 months as a kind of sabbatical, I would suggest that, although I know that might not feel realistic on this plane. But think of the next 6 months as such – Daydream. Walk in the woods. Sit at the beach. Allow the next thing to find you. What is it that you want to bring to the world? Let your higher self and your knowing speak to you.
For me, this was an entirely new approach to creativity. And it required a kind of trust I wasn’t so sure about. Really? Walk in the woods for the next 6 months? Daydreaming sounded so flaky. The part of me that tends toward Type A felt threatened- everyone is going to get ahead of me! I’m going to fade into obscurity! I’m not going to make any money! I’m going to WASTE. SO. MUCH. TIME.
But here’s what I discovered. Walking in the woods allowed the words to come when I sat at my desk. Going to yoga class made space for great ideas to find me while I relaxed in savasana at the end. Having coffee with friends sparked inspiration + helped me shape my fledgling ideas. Having little adventures made space for delight, rejuvenation + fun stories to share.
There is a way that putting a little yin in my yang helped my creativity find me. I didn’t have to pursue it so much as be awake + alive + ready to receive. It also made space for a deeper knowing to come through. It felt like a distinctly feminine approach to creativity.
Putting a little yin in my yang helped me to integrate my feminine. I learned to embrace my softer side. The part of me that wants to wear pink. The part that is willing to be vulnerable. The part of me that can hold things with so much more compassion.
It’s compassion that has helped me embrace my imperfect, very human self. It’s compassion that has turned me from feeling unlovable (broken, damaged goods) into something beautiful + cracked + holy.
Self-compassion (and the wisdom of age) has allowed me to see my own beauty. Not the perfect, magazine kind of beauty, but the real kind. The kind that stays with you a lifetime. The kind that is your essence. Your magic.
*In honor of Susannah Conway’s birthday a collection of us have come together to talk about aging in empowering and beautiful ways. So honored to be part of it!