Why I choose peace and how you can, too

Peace, by definition, means quiet and tranquility.  It feels like a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea.  It smells like cinnamon and vanilla.  It tastes like the sweetness of life we so rarely find.

I spent too many years at war with myself, mentally, physically, emotionally.  This unrest was what I expected life to be like, especially when it came to my body.  I was so accustomed to the messages like “Sweat is your fat crying” or “Pain is weakness leaving the body” that I felt I had to beat the fat and shame out of myself.  What was interesting was that, even when I thought I had ‘won’ the war because I had lost 70 pounds, it really was just beginning.

My body didn’t look the way it was “supposed to” after losing weight (at least in my mind).  I had clung to pictures of my thinner and younger days, only to realize that my body no longer honored those years.  Instead, it honored the babies I carried, the lessons I learned, and the bridges I had crossed.

This confusion really threw me for a loop.  I didn’t know how to love this “new” body.  I still didn’t want to wear shorts because of cellulite and I refused to wear sleeveless tops because of excess skin on my arms.

Four years later, I’m feeling confident in my skin and actually feel at peace in my body.  The change came in baby steps.

 

First, I stopped looking at images in social media that made me feel insecure about my own body.  I un-followed, un-liked, and unsubscribed from many fitness and wellness pages, accounts, and blogs because most of them showed unrealistic images of what we should all look like when we work hard.

Secondly, I made a concerted effort to listen to the conversation in my head.  What I heard was shocking.  I was a bully to myself!  “You’ll never look good in a bathing suit, so why put one on?”  “All the hard work you put in and THIS is how you look?  Unbelievable.”  I made a deal with myself that each time I said something negative to or about myself, I had to match it with a positive.  At first, I couldn’t find any positives, so I really just blocked out the negative.  But a dam can only hold up for so long.  Once the negative feelings surged, I was forced to really look at my body and find what I loved.  It took time, patience, and courage.

Next, I found gratitude.  The arms I disliked were gifts so I could hug my family.  The legs I wasn’t crazy about allowed me to run around with my boys.  The tummy that was stretched was home to my babies.  And the fact that I’m able-bodied, can move when I choose, and have liberty with my choices fueled my gratitude even more.

Finally, I realized that when I could let the shame go, I could find the peace.  A peaceful state in your body can’t exist when there’s internal unrest.  When I couldn’t find appreciation for my accomplishment, gratitude for my health, and inspiration to keep moving, shame was the only thing present.  Shame doesn’t allow peace.  It lurks in the shadows of our hearts and minds, making us feel cold, sour, alone.  In the steps above, I was able to push shame aside long enough to experience peace…just for a bit.  Oh, it felt so good, like slipping into a warm bath.  It was familiar, comforting, endearing.  Then I dawned on me.  Peace is our natural state.  Interactions along the way taint our experience, jade our perception, poison our self-beliefs.

Once I got a taste of peace, I knew I had to foster it.  I worked on finding it and nurturing it in every way I could.  There was a hunger to return to my natural state…the way I’m meant to live:  in peace.

Here are some ways I fostered peace, and you can, too:

  • walked away from any argument I didn’t truly have a stake in
  • let go of expectations of my body
  • invested time and energy into my mental and emotional wellbeing
  • celebrated every ounce of joy that crossed my path
  • invested time and love into friendships who model peace themselves
  • raised awareness for internal conflict and worked to find peace immediately
  • finally understood that there is nothing to be ashamed of about my body; it is beautiful
  • decided that my opinion about my body is the only one that matters, so it was important to foster a positive relationship and conversation with myself

Is peace easy?  Not always.  There are days where it takes a concerted effort to remind myself to find it.  And there are days when it’s there before I awake.

Is peace worth the effort?  Yes.  It now takes less effort to love myself than it does to hate it.  That, my friends, is a win.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been bombarded with messages from my last post (which was also syndicated on Redbook).  Quiet whispers in the hall at my kids’ school.  Gentle hugs and quick “thank you” from acquaintances.  Strangers stopping me and sharing gratitude.  Others sharing shock and disdain.  It was hard to keep my focus, tough to stay on my game.  What helped me find my peace was the Love Your Body Challenge (1000 women and growing daily).  Knowing the importance of sharing peace with others became my driving force to keep my own.

I choose peace.  How about you?

 

If you feel that you need to find peace with your body, I invite you to check out a local event coming up 4/25/15.  I’m co-hosting the Peaceful Body Project with Kara Silva and Lisa Black, and you can’t miss it.  Do yourself a favor, and see the details here.  Come find peace.

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