Soft is the New Strong
“Do you notice a change in my body?”
It was a trick question.
If he said he didn’t, I would have been offended that he never observed how strong and lean I once was; if he said he did then I would feel ashamed about letting that strength wither away.
Ladies, how many times have we asked our man or a friend this question, knowing full well that they cannot answer in a way that will make us happy?
I found myself asking my boyfriend this question the other night.
It’s been a full month since I was in my rhythm. Eating like normal. Yoga every day. Running a couple days a week.
Over the holidays I was somewhat active and ate intuitively (with a few more sweets than normal), but I came down with a sickness on December 29 that is just now starting to loosen its grip.
That first week of the new year was all about softening for me. I allowed myself to rest. I stopped rushing. I stopped pushing so hard and hustling in my business and in life. I learned so much about creating space, quiet, receiving…
We all value softness when it comes to a cozy blanket or our favorite sweatshirt. Softening even sounds good as a way of life. But it is different when it comes to our bodies, softening is a whole different story.
Over the past few weeks I struggled mentally with not being active. With not being able to even hold a downward dog because of the pressure in my sinuses. With feeling my muscles ache for more movement and then want to quit on even a short walk around the block.
But the biggest mental struggle has been around the softening of my body.
I have always prided myself on being strong.
I feel my best and the most like me when I am active and when I am building muscle and strength in my body.
And I had been super excited at the end of the year about the way that my yoga practice was progressing, how strong I was getting and how many new poses I was able to do.
Over the past few weeks of sickness I have watched firm parts become squishy and felt horrified when my glutes hurt like I had an epic workout after 10 squats and climbing 3 flights of stairs.
At first I was repeating the mantra “It’s only temporary” to make myself feel better, but I realized that using that mantra was only contributing to the problem.
You see, true self-love and self-confidence comes when we accept our bodies fully and unconditionally. My “It’s only temporary” mantra was a flat-out refusal to accept… and to love anyway.
Harboring hatred and shame for my body is self-violent. Not only does it keep me stuck in a mental prison of negativity and not-enoughness, but it also does nothing to contribute to my healing. My body needs love now more than ever as it battles this illness and instead I am choosing to suffer, even asking my boyfriend to validate my suffering with the question with no answer.
It’s a slippery slope. Because when we refuse to accept our bodies for how they are, we can easily fall into the trap of punishing ourselves with food.
I am choosing not to go there. I am choosing to forgive myself for not accepting change. For being hypocritical in preaching self-love and self-acceptance for “other” soft bodies but not my own. For not showing my body the love it deserves as it works hard for me.
For not recognizing that there is beauty in this softness and that there is a lesson in my unwillingness to accept it.
The lesson: I have to release my “identity” in order to be truly free. Change is inevitable and the more I can freestyle and choose love and acceptance over what I *think* defines me (strong, active) in any moment, the happier and healthier I will be. I don’t have to be “strong” in the physical sense to be strong mentally and emotionally. And I am not defined by how my body looks.