two door Honda

Accept Yourself

The car I drive in Mexico, is not built for Mexico. I manage ok, but there are certain things I can not do. I can not take the short-cut dirt roads because they may not be smooth enough for my little two-door Honda. I need to take topes – oversized speedbumps – at an angle or I hear the scrape across my undercarriage. Down most roads I look like I am playing the old video game “Frogger” as I move right and left to avoid potholes. I can drive down here, but I just do it very differently than the people flying past me in their 4×4 SUVs which are meant for off-road driving.

two door HondaOur bodies are like our cars. They are our means of moving in the world, yet we need to also accept that not all bodies are built the same. Like our cars, we need to accept what our body can do, we need to adapt in situations that are not ideal for our bodies, and we need to uncover and accept the superpower our unique body was built for.

Accept Yourself

This past year I have written a lot about my battle with yoga. I tried to be something I wasn’t. I pushed my body to do things my body was not made for. I put myself down because I thought I should be able to do what the instructor 30-years my junior could do. This unacceptance of my body began as I grew up in the 1970’s when tall thin models like Twiggy were the ideal – and very different from my Rubenesque shape. I often felt “wrong” and “bad” because I did not fit someone else’s definition of ideal or beautiful.

My body is not imperfect. It is like saying my little Honda is a horrible car. It is not!  It is the most awesome car in the world, in my mind. I accept and love my car very much, even though it is not ideal for the driving conditions in my area. I need to accept and love my body, even though it is not meant for high impact yoga and I can not slam dunk a basketball. My body is mine and is perfect for me.

I love this article about the “imperfect” yoga teacher and how she accepts her body and what it can do. My guess is that she empowers her students of varying shapes and sizes maximize what their body can do and love the shape they are in.

Accept your body as it is. Don’t try to be someone else’s ideal. If you decide to improve your body, make sure it is based on your goals and capabilities, and that you are not making changes to try to match someone else’s definition of “perfect.”

Adapt

Due to the road situation where I live, I have to adapt how I drive my car. I can not take the dirt road shortcut, and I have to slow down for potholes and topes. Same goes for our bodies. There may be things we want to do, but we can not do them in the classical or regular way.

I ran across this video the other day about a man with no hands who does card tricks. He loved magic and wanted to do magic, but all the magic books explained the tricks using hands, i.e., sleight of hand. Instead of giving up his passion, he created his own tricks based on what his body could do. And he managed to fool two of the most well-known magicians with his skill.

What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? How do you think your body is holding you back from accomplishing your dreams? How can you adapt and adjust how you go about things so you can do what you want?

Find Your Superpower

Although my little Honda can not maneuver some of the rough roads surrounding where I live, it does have superpowers. It has quick acceleration which is needed for merging into fast traffic or avoiding the unexpected action of a fellow driver. Plus, it has amazing gas mileage those SUVs can only dream of matching.

Many years ago I wrote an article about Lynne Cox. On paper, her body is less than ideal and is, in fact, considered obese. But Lynne has a superpower. Her body is uniquely built for swimming, and swimming in extremely cold water-temperatures. She can do what others can not do, no matter how hard they try, because she is built for it.

I may not have a supercool superpower like Lynne, but I know my lack of height has gifted me with not constantly hitting my head on things and I never complain about airplane seats being too close together; leg room is not a concern. Think about what makes your body unique. How has it gifted you with talents that others find difficult?

Instead of being angry that you were born with an imperfect body. Spend some time loving and accepting the body that helps you move throughout your life. Learn to adapt how you approach things so your body can do for you what you want it to. And uncover and embrace your superpower.

yoga studio

Step into the Front of Life

In yoga, I usually grab the back corner. I don’t want anyone to see me doing yoga. I am recently back to the practice, round and not stick-figure-toned, and usually older than most of the other practitioners. Most of the time, I am surrounded by fit, thin 20-somethings and feel like the ugly duckling so I retreat to the back. However, from the back corner, what I see is not just the instructor but all the participants. As my focus is on them, I find I often compare myself to them. I am not judging them as much as I am judging myself, my ability, and my worth by their ability and appearance.

yoga studioOn Friday I arrived and no one else was there. I took a place upfront because I knew the instructor would make me move anyway. Well by the time the class started, there were three rows of people. I took a deep breath and prepared for being on display. What was interesting was being in front made me less conscious of others, less self-conscious, and less judging. Because I didn’t see anyone else, I could release the comparison and solely focus on myself.

What I realized was hiding in the back didn’t protect me. It actually made me more self-conscious because I saw the others in front of me. Being in the back put more focus on others and allowed me the opportunity to compare myself to them. Being in the back did not hide and protect me, but actually hurt me because I choose to compare.

By making myself first, in the front of the room, I could not see the others. The others didn’t matter when I couldn’t see and focus on them. By putting myself first, I removed “the other” and allowed me to focus on myself. That day in class was one of my best practices I experienced because it was just about me. No comparisons. No self-consciousness. Just doing my best and accepting myself as I am. Because I was not focusing on others, I was able to go within (the whole point to yoga). I was able to focus on my moves, my practice. I found strength I didn’t have when I was self-conscious. Without the yoke of comparison, I was free to explore each pose. I found this practice to be one of the best I ever had.

As you go about your day, how much time is spent comparing yourself to others? How much of your focus is on what others are doing and saying versus what you believe and think? How are you stifling yourself because you don’t think you are as [insert adjective here] as others?

This week be aware of the comparisons and judgements you are making. What do they mean about your self-opinion? How are they keeping you from moving forward? Are they creating resentment and sadness? Then try to shed the comparisons and notice how you can free yourself. When we put ourselves first, we unrestrict our purpose and heart and we are more powerful. Stop hiding behind others, and step into the front of life.

Jackie Kennedy

Shaping Our Lives

What if you were told growing up, “You never have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, because we are the Joneses”? or, “Style is not a function of how rich you are, or even who you are. Style is a habit of mind that puts quality over quantity, noble struggle before mere achievement, honor before opulence. It’s what you are. It’s your essential self”? How would you grow up perceiving the world? What would be your expectations for yourself and others?

Jackie Kennedy
Image: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jackie-kennedy-175.php

According to the book, Jackie, Janet & Lee by J. Randy Taraborrelli, these were the words spoken to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by her father. It is easy to see how these words shaped who Jackie was and what she expected from life.

What were you told growing up? What did the adults around you believe? What experiences did you have which shaped your expectations?

Sometimes we are told things which are meant to protect and support us, but which actually hold us back. Sometimes those around us are unstable and cruel. Whatever the circumstance, we often find ourselves decades later continuing to create our life based on some random comment. What was spoken by another has now become a fact of life that we believe completely.

I have set a goal for my yoga class to be able to do a headstand by my 50th birthday. I started with small poses to build up my neck muscles. I have built up to picking my feet off the floor and resting my knees on my elbows. I was in that pose feeling good about myself and my growing strength when my instructor told me to lift my legs. My heartrate increased. My breathing became shallow and fast. I was terrified. My legs froze and felt five times heavier than they are. However, it was not my body that could not do the pose, but my mind.

Instead of having confidence, my mind went to the belief that I have never been athletic, I am old and overweight.  These thoughts are what weighed me down. These beliefs are what kept me from a headstand, not any physical ability. Along with continuing my practice, I am now also working diligently to remove the beliefs which are holding me back.

What beliefs are currently holding you back? What have people told you that you made your own? What incident from years ago are you holding on to and making it a current reality? What stories are you telling yourself to keep yourself small?

We all have beliefs which are not serving us. But we can choose what we continue to believe. Instead of defeating yourself by buying into a negative belief when it appears, tell yourself that even though you believe it now, it is safe to let it go. No matter what we are told – or what we tell ourselves, we can choose to believe it or not. If our current beliefs are not serving us, we can choose ones that move us forward and bring us joy.

Stay tuned for headstand pictures. I will get there. 😉

walking in anothers shoes

Walking in Another’s Shoes

I watched a terrific TED talk the other day by an individual who has a unique view on gender issues and authenticity. Paula Williams started life as a man and is now a woman. Due to her experiences, Paula has a very unique view of both genders and has experienced firsthand that they are equal, but there is not equity for both. She shares funny and sad examples of bias and favoritism. She said she lived life from both sides and the “differences are massive.”

I’ll let Paula’s message focus on the gender issue. What I want to focus on is our assumptions and unconscious bias, and the power we give away to others.

Releasing Assumptions

walking in anothers shoesPaula has a unique opportunity to really learn what it really means to be and experience life as a woman, and a man.  For most of us, we only know what we know as our gender. We can have an idea of the injustices and differences but can’t know firsthand how both genders experience life. This is true for almost everyone we meet. We all have unique journeys. We are born into different bodies and different environments. We learn and experience different things growing up. It becomes all too easy to dislike or attack another because of one aspect we see. Yet, we don’t know the full picture. Unless you can truly walk in another’s shoes, you will never know what they experience, think, and believe. We can assume, but our assumptions are clouded by our own experiences and beliefs.

Next time you have a disagreement or negative reaction to another, stop. Step back. Try to look at the big picture of who this individual is, where they came from, and if other issues they may be experiencing may be coloring their actions. So much of the online and offline rage and arguments we see are based on assumptions and “the other.” When we can release our own bias, it allows us the space to see the full picture of the other person – and start an intelligent dialogue.

Empowerment

For those of you who are struggling with self-esteem and your voice, Paula has some great words of encouragement. I have experienced people throughout my life, and even recently, who sought to put me down and belittle me in one form or another. If we hear – and take in – this negativity for too long, we can start to believe it and take it on as our own. No matter what others say about you, remember that you are intelligent and worthy. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to what you know. Don’t question yourself just because others do. The key to strength and power is to believe it inherently. When we look to others for approval and confirmation, we have already given away our power. Reclaim your strength by owning it.

As you go about this week, notice the assumptions you have about others. How much do you really know about them? Can you identify and, hopefully, release your bias? Who are people who make you doubt yourself? Why are you triggered by them? What do you need to own about yourself? This week, follow Paula’s lead and honor the journey and the differences of others, and yourself.

Marlboro Man

New Masculinity

While waiting for the next viewing at the Los Cabos International Film Festival, I overheard a couple talking. He said, “I’m sorry if I am not a real man. I don’t like sports. I respect women. And I don’t want to fight to prove myself.” I wanted to give him a hug. He is a real man. At least the type of real man I want to be around. Unfortunately, there was sadness in his words. Even though I would say he is more man than most, I could tell he felt like a failure, like the odd ball, as if he was not as worthy because he did not fit the stereotype of masculinity.

All of the recent sexual misconduct accusations are bringing to light what is expected in order to be a real man. A real man is supposed to objectify women. He is supposed to forcefully take what he wants. He is supposed to domineer and oppress. Throughout boardrooms and backrooms, men brag of their conquests to prove their virility through the abusing and minimizing women. In order for them to feel worthy, they need control and suppress women.

Marlboro ManThe stereotype we have created for men is not only the need to be misogynistic, but that they also need to be amazingly strong, resilient, and without feeling. Our films, media and society still promote and honor the tough silent man, that man without emotions and whose sole purpose and worth is to protect and provide. It is a lot to ask of someone; to be the savior who has to brush off any compassion and support. How many times are boys told “real men don’t cry” or to “toughen up”? When I look at the men involved in mass shootings, it is usually a man who has a history of violence against women. We did not teach him how to use words, so he uses guns. Talking about his emotions is weak, so he kills to stop the pain. This is not an excuse but an explanation. We as a society boxed men into a role and way of being that does not serve them or others.

In light of the accusations and mass shootings*, it is becoming more and more apparent that previous expectations of what a man is are changing. But to what? I read a terrific article by a gender specialist who explores the power struggle between men and women and how female empowerment is often seen as a loss for men. But it doesn’t have to be. The empowerment of women is also the freeing of men. Allowing them to define who they are and how they act; to release them from feeling the need to objectify and rule women to be strong; and to allow them to have feelings, express emotions, and be heard, not ostracized.

I’d like to applaud the man in the theatre the other night. He is a real man, and the man I hope many men will allow themselves to become. To help the men in your life redefine and embrace a new role for men, check out the Good Men Project.

*Note: Many factors are involved in the recent shootings. What I express here is only one to be addressed.

manliest Brony in the world

A Shifting Society

Last week I wrote about how the children’s series, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, has very powerful messages for our lives and our community. I am not the only one who sees this. A legion of fans agree. What is interesting is these fans, these “Bronies,” are made up of mostly heterosexual adult males.

The documentary, A Brony Tale, explores this unexpected demographic. What the filmmakers found was a community of men who are breaking gender definitions. Much has been in the news recently about transgender and physiologically changing gender. What is different here is that these men are men. They want their X and Y chromosomes, are heterosexual, and embrace their bodies as they are. What these men are not embracing is society’s expectations for how men are supposed to act. According to the film, “Bronies have changed the definition of masculinity,” and I agree.

I love how burly men, military men, and men of every color and size stand proud in their truth. They are willing to break through gender-based expectations and embrace who they truly are. As the self-proclaimed “Manliest Brony in the World” said, “We are supposed to chug beer, ride motorcycles, be degrading to women, and like explosions.” Instead he watches a show created for little girls. “I like what I like. I don’t need society to tell me what I like.”

manliest Brony in the world

As these men accept, embrace, and proclaim themselves a Brony, something interesting happens, they find new sides to their personality. They release their creativity producing art and music relating to the show. And they also learn to express their feelings and emotions. In the documentary, we get to meet Bryan, an Iraqi war veteran who struggled with depression after serving. For him the show became a cathartic release to help him move forward with life. The Bronies have also created an accepting, caring community which we will explore next week.

In the film, a sociology student and Brony talks about the “Pink and Blue Syndrome.” The concept is that when we are born, the hospital gives us either a pink cap or a blue cap and from that point forward culturally-based gender expectations are imposed. Through the show and the Brony community, prescriptive gender roles are being broken allowing men to express more traditionally feminine traits, and providing space for women to take historically male roles. The sociological Brony wrote a wonderful post about how the series made him “an open-minded, loving, tolerant, and caring person” and how a show for little girls allowed him to free “myself from the chains of hatred and discrimination and have taken a step towards a life of looking upon others with love, compassion, and understanding.”

For the last few years, sources I read have been forecasting how we are moving into a new age. A time when we are moving to a more feminine-based society. This does not mean a woman-led versus a man-lead world. The concept is more about how feminine behaviors and viewpoints of compassion, nurturing, gentleness, and connection will become more dominant instead of the traditional masculine focus on competition, power, ego, greed, and violence. As the ponies teach, it is possible to have a world based in kindness, joy, generosity, honesty, and loyalty. We can find harmony if we are willing to embrace who we are, admit our faults and grow from them, accept and forgive others, and lead from compassion and understanding.

As century-old governments and traditional establishments try to hold on using force and attack, realize this is a last ditch effort to maintain the old norm. This too will pass. We are at the tipping point of a new positive, kind, accepting time, and the Bronies are showing us it is possible.