I participated in a group exercise class today for the first time in 5 years.
As I stood in the room crowded with women of all ages and sizes, I had a body shame attack that I haven’t had in quite some time.
It was triggered by the mirrored wall that made it impossible to not catch a glimpse of myself among all the other women.
When my eyes narrowed in on myself these are the first things I noticed:
My hair that was in desperate need of a good cut.
I was one of the tallest people in the room – leading me to feel an insecurity that I haven’t felt since grade school.
My shirt was bunching around my hips and lower stomach. “Why did I think it was a good idea to wear this shirt?” I thought.
I still have a lot of progress to make with my hips and thighs.
I guess I haven’t seen myself in a full length mirror among other people in a long time! (Maybe this is the reason I avoid group classes…)
I really thought I had moved past this type of comparing and judgement with my body, but there I was, in the middle of a self-criticizing, body shaming session with myself.
It was like there was a tug of war in my mind between my inner-mean girl and the self-compassionate part of me.
The inner-mean girl wanted to keep looking in the mirror to point out one more thing that was wrong with me, and my self-compassionate side just kept reminding me of how amazing it was that my body was actually able to move easily through the moves!
As much as I tried to focus on the exercises, I kept thinking about how I needed to get new workout clothes that were more flattering, and how I desperately needed to make that haircut, and my thighs…sigh.
I had to keep self-coaching myself to try to stay on the side of self-compassion.
I made it through the workout, but spent so much of my mental energy going back and forth between criticizing myself and supporting myself. I think I was more mentally exhausted then physically exhausted!
My intent here is to not scare you away from group exercise classes or big mirrors. But I want you to be able to recognize what triggers your body-shaming attack.
Instead of avoiding your trigger, use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, specifically what is going on in your mind when you are triggered.
This is where the real work is.
When I did a little self-coaching about my thoughts towards my body during the class what I ended up uncovering is this:
I was thinking that “I was not pretty/attractive/thin compared to others in this class”. And you know what? In my eyes, that was the truth at that moment and it didn’t make me feel insecure or shameful, it actually made me laugh!
I didn’t set out to compete in a beauty pageant that morning, so why would I treat myself like I was in one?
Who cares if you are rocking your best look or not during an exercise class? I guess I did! And I would be the first to tell you it’s ridiculous to get “dressed up” for the gym – but there I was putting those expectations on myself.
I am looking forward to attending my next group class with a new workout outfit, perfected hair, full-on make-up, and Spanx of course for my thighs. After all, I have to be prepared if Donald Trump shows up and decides to pick the next Miss America right there at the YMCA.
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