Are you one of the many women that have a love-hate relationship with your body? Join author Edie Weinstein as she shares her article “Perfectly Imperfect.“
Written by Edie Weinstein
Overheard in the bathroom at the gym recently : there was a young woman who was there with a friend and looked in the mirror and said “I look like shit today.” My initial inclination was to mind my own business, since what I had to say might not be well received. She didn’t seem like a happy camper to begin with. Then my maternal instincts kicked in and since I really am old enough to be her mother, I was not about to let the opportunity pass by to have a potentially positive impact.
I couldn’t resist asking her if she would ever talk to anyone else that way and surprised, she said “Of course not.” I gave her the most compassionate look that I could, and asked her to please not speak to herself that way. Her friend said nothing, which was equally surprising to me since my friends would likely challenge that verbalized perception of myself. Maybe she agreed. Maybe she didn’t know what to say.
I should have reminded her where she was which was Planet Fitness-the Judgment Free Zone of all places:)
Like many women, I have had, if not, a love-hate relationship with my body, at least a love-courtship-sometimes-disdain and frustration with this now 54 year old container for my heart, mind and soul. As a child, I was diagnosed with asthma and was pigeon toed and flat-footed. It stirred up in me, an overpowering desire to prove that I wasn’t going to be limited in any way. I became a type-A overachiever in nearly every respect. At 11, I joined a swim team, at the recommendation of our family doc, in order to improve my cardio-vascular functioning. I discovered that I liked the way I felt during and after intense workouts (and it is also when I learned to meditate, since swimming lap after lap can become tedious, so I became mindfully mindless in the watery ashram). It was referred to as ‘competitive swimming’ and not only did I feel in competition with other swimmers (two in particular who had a few inches on me), but with myself, striving to beat my best time and theirs. When I didn’t, I worked out all the more rigorously. I chose butterfly as my favorite stroke, since it is considered by some to be the most challenging and also my toe-ing in made me a natural. All these years later, I still have the shoulders to show for it. I swam on teams until I was 18 and then coached for 3 summers after that. Never was I as tough on the kids on my team as I was on myself.
In the 5th decade of my life, I don’t have the slim and sleek swimmer’s physique I had 30 years ago. I am a muscular/well rounded seasoned woman who has curves where once there were flat planes. I cringe sometimes when gazing at my belly that was almost non-existent back then. Trips to the gym are physical and emotional necessities. I do what I can while I am there to feed my soul with support and give myself a hardy ‘atta girl’ on my way to the car afterward.
Holding myself to higher standards is nothing new to me. The words “You should know better,” echo in my ears frequently. ‘because I’m a therapist, because I’m a mom, because I’m in my 50’s, because, because, because….’ At times I have worked myself into exhaustion attempting to ‘get it right’, meet a deadline, offer the perfect therapeutic intervention, or polish an article (not this one, of course:)
In my therapy practice over the years, I have worked with people whose self deprecation goes to extremes that include addiction, self injury, eating disorders and suicide attempts. Their impossibly high standards for themselves and their lives, sometimes lead them to give up on themselves, their families, friends and life itself. I have heard them mercilessly compare themselves to others in their circles and to celebrities who they imagine live charmed lives, they fall short. I remind them of the number of notables who take the same turns that they do and end up disillusioned as well. Physical beauty, financial wealth, the trappings of success don’t always lead to a happy life. The standards by which we compare ourselves are what are flawed, not the woman or the man we see when we look in the mirror.
I love the concept of Wabi-Sabi which is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection. Cracked pots, asymmetry, meandering lines, wrinkles, laugh lines, curves, freckles are all beautiful.
Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem speaks to this magnificently:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
That my body responds to my thoughts about it. If I am critical of how it looks or feels, it responds in kind. I do my best these days to send it mercy and compassion for aging, for taking more time to bounce back. I also cut myself some slack when I have my ‘middle age or wise woman moments’ and retrieving memory feels like it is short supply.
What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
I appreciate that I have plenty of opportunity for do-overs and that I learn from what didn’t work, so that I can shape what can help me get from where I am to where I want to be and guide others in the process.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
That I have been able to touch people by being transparent with my own cracks and crumbles. When I am real and raw, they feel safer being that way in their lives.
What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
Feeling as if I need to perform, to be center stage, to prove myself over and over, not wanting to rest on my laurels.
How would you complete the phrase “I Love My?
I love my growing ability to accept myself as is.