Since my teens, I’ve had this innate habit of first thing in the morning of standing in front of the mirror and lifting up my shirt to take in the front and the side view of my belly. This was always a seemingly subconscious act – it just happened as part of the routine. About six months into my recovery from a hysterectomy, I woke up one morning went to the bathroom and in the state between sleep and awake, methodically lifted my shirt. “Ugh, still not flat.” I heard inside my head. “Whaaaaaa????” I thought. “Was that me?” I blinked my eyes a few times to see my reflection and realized that I had, in fact, heard my voice “speak” those words in disgust. I was dumbfounded. I’ve done SO much self-work to heal the trauma that I’ve been through in dance, pilates, infertility, pregnancy, and endometriosis. How did I miss this?
Looking back, I see that my belly has been a focal point of critique for most occasions of my life. As a dancer, I told myself that a flat belly meant I was a good performer a bulge meant failure. In pilates, I told myself that a flat belly meant I was a good teacher, while a bulge meant imposter. During infertility, I told myself that a flat belly meant failure and a bulge meant possibilities. Then during pregnancy, I was so confused about my changing body that I didn’t know what to think. In the years to follow the birth of my son, a flat belly was a distant memory and whatever *this* was simply felt uncomfortable, painful and foreign. I stopped looking as much because I didn’t want to see and when I did look, I beat myself up for it. Throughout each stage of my belly, I judged myself harshly. That “harmless” morning mirror glance had been serving as a daily trigger to a download about my worth – and not a good one. My judgmental story said that worth was only accessible through bodily perfection. I made a commitment to change this dialogue.
The process of rewriting this story has been both tedious and amusing. I’ve found that cultivating a practice of beginning my day with some kind words (even if I don’t fully believe them) has helped me understand grace. I’ve found that adjusting my movement practice to include sessions of curiosity and play, rather than just rehabilitation and strength has opened the space for me to see myself through many different lenses – and as more than just a belly. I’ve also found that many of the beliefs I’ve been carrying around about my body and movement were actually not originated by me. Many had been penned by other teachers, colleagues, friends and even family members. Recognizing how the weight of other people’s judgement was holding me down has been a pivotal step in reclaiming my worth as a woman, mover and teacher.
The “rewrite” will always be a process, but as with any relationship, the work you put into it yields a deepening of trust and opens up the possibilities for fulfillment. I’m still working on the stories surrounding my belly. I’m just shy of one year out of surgery and still learning about this new body – the dialogue changes daily. But through kindness, curiosity and releasing the judgment of others, I’ve begun to see my scars in a different light – the light of a warrior who reminds herself just how far she’s come each day and is excited for what the future will hold.
This process has led me to a beautiful opportunity to create a retreat with Brent Anderson at his Southwind Retreat Center In North Carolina. This October, were presenting an immersion where you will get to spend four days setting the tone for your future dialogue. You’ll take inventory, move, meditate, and journal to create new avenues for the relationship you have with your body and your movement practice. Surrounded by nature in a non-judgmental environment, we’ll release the weight of these stories to reveal our true intentions.
I’ve included a link below to the webinar that Brent and I gave on these subjects last week. Please listen in to learn more about our thoughts about the subject in addition to the details of our retreat.
If you are stuck in a story that is truly standing in your way, write it down. After you record the details, consider the ways in which your belief is standing in your way. Then as an exercise in opening space, write out the possibilities would exist if the story was no longer present. This exercise is so helpful in taking perspective and sets the stage for more growth to come!