Ok, here I go again: rebranding my website. As I refresh my make up supply, plan my wardrobe, and organize a professional photo session, I worry about belly bulges, lumbar alignment, and looking like a total cheese ball. Damn, these teenage insecurities never go away.
Guess I’m still scarred from when the boys called me “fat, ugly bitch” in junior high. How can such dorky, unoriginality inflict so much violence? The camera pokes at those old aches. Uploading a picture feels like stepping onto an online stage to announce, “Here I am: A dartboard for any and all projections!”
The fear of rotten tomatoes handicapped me for years. By college, the soccer field felt like an exposed grassland of judgment so I stayed on the sidelines in dark, baggy clothing. I exercised alone by running through the sleepy Philadelphia suburbs. When afternoon classes ended I craved the sweat and satisfaction of pushing my stamina for an hour. Still chubby, I won’t step into the ring by calling myself an athlete.
I tripped over my self-loathing when I hid my shape. I didn’t date until my late twenties and let discomfort in my skin hold me back from what I wanted to wear, the intimacy I craved, and my innate extroversion.
Starting yoga I began to thaw. Three years later, I endured Ana Forrrest’s training as a rite of passage into teaching. She demanded we shed the drab, loose clothing and wear bright fabrics to reveal our poses. She pushed me to command the class despite armpit bulges brimming out of my tank top.
Decidedly imperfect, I’ve stood in front of classes for ten years. Feeling quite exposed up there, I empathize with the yoga newbies. When first witnessed by a teacher we feel naked. It’s so normal to think, “Yikes, stop looking at me! Stop peeking into my soul!”
In a class or in front of a camera, it’s scary to reveal ourselves. Armored and rushing around under the guise of “busy,” we convince everyone we have it all together. As a teacher, self composure is a job requirement but perpetually keeping up appearances breaks me down.
The fitness industry preys on our urge for constant performance. Win the race, achieve the bikini body, bulk up your muscles. As we sculpt a facade, we straightjacket ourselves. Shame thwarts us as much as a torn ACL. Instead of addressing old wounds or resetting repetitive strains, exercise can calcify our emotional and physical compensations. Self loathing is as real as a herniated disk but possibly harder to treat.
Each repetition can imprison or liberate, depending on our willingness to drop the defenses. Extracting fear from the psoas, anxiety from the belly, and panic from our shoulders, we reclaim our metabolic resources.
The safe confines of a class accelerates our progress. During my kettlebell certifications, the community propelled me through the most intense training of my career. The instructors critiqued and tested our micromovements. Not to embarrass us but to make us stronger. Even the highest ranking teachers admitted that they needed feedback on their form. Without vulnerability, we can’t receive the support and leadership required to improve. As I teacher, I’m awed to witness students fumbling toward self improvement. That’s kale salad for my spirit.
Out of the teaching spotlight, I wrestle with my stickest poses and purposely fall apart to put myself back together. Untreated scar tissue can obstruct my actions or be massaged into greater resilience. Handstand variations and squats clarify and recharge me to face the crossfire of judgments, both kudos and criticism.
My 13 year-old self still gets stuck, lost, and terrified of being left out. (The diet industry could make millions off her.) Keeping her around reminds me of our universal vulnerability and need for a posse. So for photo day I’m gathering my team. My glam girlfriend is steering me through Sephora and doing my hair and makeup. Incidentally, both my photographer and a web designer are both gay so expect my “Queer Eye” website makeover around the New Year. Feels good that I’m no longer running alone or hiding out. I want to look good and look like me, glorious flaws and all.