I spent the better part of my 20s not owning a full-length mirror. That’s not to say that I’ve always loved my body or that I’ve avoided what it really looks like. I just approach mirrors with the same attitude I have about the fact I don’t own a microwave – it never occurred to me to be a necessity. Just like I can cook food (better) without a microwave, I can also know my body without a mirror.
As a teenager, I was very body-conscious. Conscious, that is, that mine never showed up in the magazine quizzes: I wasn’t “curvy.” I wasn’t “athletic.” I wasn’t “average.” I was also conscious of what the girls (and boys) my age told me about my body. Suffice to say, I was tall and thin with long limbs, a flat chest and wide hips.
Now, all of the adults reading this know how the story ends – things change.
Several years and one pregnancy later, things continue to change, but my body and I have been on some amazing adventures. We’ve slung saddles, shoveled snow, pushed through obstacles to become a better runner, climbed 14ers and rafted Class 5 rapids… I grew an actual human being inside this body. I’ve also over-eaten, slacked off, fallen in and out of love with pizza and let dust collect on my stationary bike.
When I worked out with a trainer, I had weigh-ins and body fat measurements, so that he could gauge my “progress.” Even then, I took greater pride in being able to do sit-ups, feel more balanced on a BOSU ball and lift increasing weight. I’ve already shared that I use my clothes as a measuring stick for my fitness level but honestly, no matter how my clothes fit, I feel my best when I’m consistently active – when I have measurable results that I can feel, not just read. And while I now do own a full-length mirror and a scale, they’re still not a focus.
I don’t want to get hung up on the numbers, but I do realize I should know them. I also realize that knowing my “stats” creates a trust situation between my mind and body, which has made me much more mature in my approach to self-image. My body is sharing its status with my mind – and it’s up to my mind to do the right thing: to challenge, encourage and empower my body. It’s a symbiotic relationship that I have to value above all others, because my mind and body are stuck with each other for the long haul. They have a profound responsibility to each other.
The mirror that motivates me the most is my three-year-old daughter. She is, after all, amazing at reflecting my self back to me. And knowing I’m being observed – even when she’s “ignoring” me – makes me ever more conscious of how my mind and body interact. I can’t say awful things about my body, because it would destroy me to hear her say that of herself. I can take care of myself, admit when I’ve reached a goal and celebrate with her. I can also deal with falling down, hard work and persistence. In a recent conversation, I concluded “… and that’s why we need to eat healthy foods and exercise our minds and bodies.” She then added, “And, love each other a LOT.” Those words pretty much check any self-degrading temptation I’ve felt. Ever. Her statement has become a mantra for my mind-body symbiosis. I don’t know where in life I forgot this lesson, but I’m grateful to have it reflected back to me now.