“All beings are Shiva, in relative degrees of self-concealment or self-revelation.” – Christopher Wallis from Tantra Illuminated
A few months ago, I did my usual early morning shuffle into the bathroom. I bent down to pull the bathroom scale out of it’s hiding place only to find it wasn’t there. I panicked. My husband must have moved it, but where? I could have asked him, but that would require admitting that I had needed to see that damn number. Nah, let’s tear the apartment apart instead. Quietly, while he slept, I rummaged through closets, cabinets, and a few remaining moving boxes. No scale. God, did he throw it away? My heart rate elevated. I deliberated asking him again, but I feared my level of anxiety around this topic would blow my cover. To ask about the location of the scale would mean that I am NOT as accepting of my body as I would like other people to think I am. No, I am not healed.
I sat in the bathroom floor peering into the cavernous bathroom cabinets, searching for signs of the silver scale. I thought, “How would it feel to not know that number?” It felt relieving. The number was such a trap. If it was too high, I felt horrible about myself. If it was lower than I hoped, I was briefly happy then indulged myself in food and drink…only to weigh more and feel worse. The scale wasn’t the problem, but it was a big piece in the cycle that was all leading to feeling bad about myself. What if I just stopped asking the scale if I was okay, and decided to just be okay? I’d like to say that this decision thrust me into self-acceptance, but it actually shoved me into awareness. My morning scale ritual had been a temporary fix for a ton of underlying beliefs, and like flimsy duct tape used to fix a leaky pipe, when the temporary fix was removed it created a host of other problems.
The topic of my body was an emotional minefield for me because of all that had stayed buried. Many people can relate to issues around food, body image, and weight, but we don’t really talk about it. We skirt around it by talking about diets, but not the underlying truth: I still don’t like my body. And the deeper truth: I don’t trust my body. I don’t trust that I have the ability to listen to it or the ability to act on its messages. I don’t think I’ve ever looked another woman in the eye and had the “I don’t trust myself or my body” conversation. Ever. We aren’t supposed to talk about that. We are just supposed to fix our body, eat the right things, and move the right way. We are supposed to buy into the lie that everything is rooted in how we look, and when we fix that, all of this other shit is going to fall into place.
I still didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about this, but I was desperately searching for any answers or relief. I saw that Dana Falsetti was holding a workshop a few hours away, and I was sure she could answer my questions. Did she really like herself? How does she exist without digging through cabinets looking for scales or hiding or constantly scrutinizing her body? When Dana began her class, she immediately started telling her story: her struggle with body image, food, weight, and self-worth. And I noticed my chest was constricting. I felt uncomfortable hearing such a personal story. Yet, part of me wondered…”Well, why is that?” What is it about this story, this history that feels so wrong? And in an instant the stiffening of my body went slack, and I felt my own sadness begin to build. Her story was hard to hear because it was mine. Her history didn’t feel wrong. Her sharing of it did. My insides were screaming, “Don’t talk about not liking your body!” I was in awe of her ability to stand up in front of a room and vulnerably state that even though she felt better, that no day was perfect. Some days even yoga teachers don’t like themselves.
While I felt relieved somewhat, her talk left me feeling untidy. I wanted her story and mine to end wrapped up in a nice package: We hated ourselves, we did yoga, and now everything is great for eternity. But maybe a more accurate description of yoga practice is: practice yoga, uncover your hidden neuroses, and constantly decide whether you want to expose it to light or just bury it back down. Rinse and repeat pretty much forever.
When the missing bathroom scale incident happened, I wasn’t shocked to learn I had shame about my body. I was surprised to see how ashamed I was of my body shame. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to convince everyone including myself that I was an overweight lady in love with her body. I was trying to fake it until I became it, but that never happened. I had just buried all those judgments and rituals deep within. When people would talk about their body shame I would get angry. (You’re beautiful! Don’t talk about yourself that way!) At the time I thought I was gently nudging them into loving themselves, but now I see that I was more afraid someone else’s emotional vulnerability would reveal me. It’s as if their pain could somehow reach inside and unearth all of mine.
And it did.