Good evening, Loves! I am so pleased to be writing to you yet again this week. I just finished reading Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist, and I'm just bursting to share some of her gems of enlightenment. I was originally drawn to this book after watching one of my favorite shows, Super Soul Sunday. Oprah had Shauna on her show to discuss this book and reveal what caused this spiritual breakthrough in her life. After listening to her explanation, I immediately felt connected to her because she was putting into words the feelings that I couldn't articulate. Here's what she said on this episode:
"I think I thought that work, and hustling, and being known as responsible would prove my worth. I think I was looking for a deep sense of value. Do I matter? Am I enough? Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I working hard enough? And I was using work and busyness to kind of earn those things."
When I heard this, I said out loud, "YYYEESSSSSS!!!!! THAT'S IT!!!" and I pointed to the television in agreement, as I sat on my sofa folding a load of laundry. This is EXACTLY what I was feeling all of these years. Why I worked so hard. Why I emphasized and highlighted so much of my identity in my work. It made me feel valued. I felt that if my company/employer or my academic life reflected by capability, intelligence and responsibility -- that this somehow proved my worth and allowed me to feel as if I had earned my place on this planet. Just like Shauna, I had to reconcile this in my Christian walk. I knew, theologically, that I was worthy because I am a child of God. I understood the concept, but I didn't feel it in my bones. I thought I had to toil, sweat, run the race, and have the battle scars necessary to earn my worth and place in this existence.
Shauna realized that what needed to happen was a shift in lifestyle. Less work. More You. It's the same realization I came to last year, and it's why I started the journey I am on now. I learned to love myself, and in doing so, I was able to wholeheartedly receive my inherent worthiness as a precious and wonderfully made, Child of God. Shauna details the things she did to rebuild her life. So many sweet and tender changes, that now allow her to live a slower, peaceful and still life with her family and friends. While there are SO many things we can highlight from this book concerning the self-love practice, today I wanted to focus on her chapter titled, "Happy Medium".
In this chapter she invites us to be hospitable to ourselves. Just as when we invite people over to our home, we are hospitable (i.e. we invite them in, offer them a comfortable seat, eat yummy food, toast to good times, etc). She offered herself hospitality in the form of rebellion, as she discusses her body. We live in a world that that wants us to be "skinny and tired; to shrink and to hustle", as Shauna puts it. God bless those of us who are naturally skinny thanks to genetics, and an even bigger kudos to those of us who practice a disciplined lifestyle of gym visits and meal plans. As Shauna says, "You do you, skinny people." What she's asking us to do is show some grace to ourselves, be hospitable to the reality of who and what we truly are. We do not have to starve ourselves, sacrifice sleep, or forego fun times with friends and family in the pursuit of being the skinny and tired women that society wants us to be. Let's offer our bodies grace and nourishment, not exhaustion and starvation. Rest. Fun. Love. These are the things that our bodies need. We are worthy just as we are, not when we've lost those 10-20 lbs that we can't seem to shake.
One of my favorite quotes from this chapter reads:
"I will practice hospitality--the offering of grace and nourishment--to myself. Instead of being starved and small, I will be medium. And I will be happy."
In order to access this rebellion in ourselves, I feel it is important to eliminate a few options. Sometimes, when we have too many options, the stress over making a decision can be overwhelming. What kind of workout should I do....weights, cardio, yoga, Pilates? What meal plan should I implement...high protein, low carb, no sugars, no red meat, no dairy? How should I track my progress...weekly weigh-ins, weekly measurement taking, fit bit data collection? TOO MANY CHOICES!! How about let's reduce some of that and start by focusing on what we are NOT. For me, here's what I'm NOT:
-I am not going to be a size 2 (genetics)
-I am not going to lose my Latina curves in the name of being skinny
-I am not seeking to look like I did before I had kids
-I am not interested in being a fitness model
-No matter what I weigh, I will not wear a bikini
-I will not compare my body to anyone else's
-I will not put my body down, nor will I tear down anyone else's with nagging comments about weight, food intake or other self-deprecating narratives
There! That's what I am NOT going to do. Here's what I AM going to do:
-I will continue to love and appreciate my body
-I will continue to workout, but do so because it feels good (not because I'm trying to earn worthiness)
-I will feed my body consciously, but enjoy the foods I like in moderation
-I will dress my body in clothes that make me feel good, and not in something uncomfortable in an effort to impress others
-I AM going to uplift the women around me for their individual strength and beauty, not their size
I must admit...this is FREEING!!! It is OK to speak out loud, what you WILL and WILL NOT do. What you ARE and what you ARE NOT. Atleast, at my age and in the phase of life that I am in, this step is important and valid to the season I'm living.
If you're a young person, you may not appreciate this. But you will someday. Maybe take a look at your older sister, your mother, your coworkers...they maybe can relate. So the next time they are around you, and you're eating yet another hamburger or bag of chips, in your size 2 jeans, and they just happen to make a comment like, "Man, when I was young I used to be able to eat like that too! Now, I can't even look at carbs cause I'd gain 5 lbs!" If this should happen, this is your opportunity to say something grace-filled and loving like, "Well, I think you're beautiful just the way you are. I wouldn't change you one bit. Your body has done so much for you and your family. It deserves to be thanked. Give yourself a break. You're doing the best you can and I admire you for it." THAT, young ladies, is what YOU will want to hear someday. So just as a garden of beautiful flowers is planted - plant this seed of grace in yourself and others.
For all you hard working women out there...may this be a message of freedom. An invitation to a extend grace and nourishment to your bodies. Stop comparing yourselves. Stop denying your beauty and strength. Start acknowledging what you ARE. You are doing the best you can, and I admire you for it.