Confessions of a Belly Dancer
So I started this site recently called RealWomensBodies.com with the goal of helping women learn to love their bodies just as they are. The method for learning this is through seeing images of real women's bodies (meaning all shapes & sizes) and through inspiring articles on the subject. But I have a confession to make.
I don't always practice what I preach.
Sometimes I feel bad about my body. Sometimes I am downright mean and critical of my different body parts. Of course PMS, my old buddy, loves to validate me on those special days, egging me on with a sour mood and a bloated tummy. Ever been there?
I'm a 45 year old single mom who is in average shape. Truth be told I should never complain. I should never feel insecure... but sometimes I do. I've even been lucky enough after 8 years of being widowed to find a very nice and supportive boyfriend who really likes my body. But do I believe him? Hmm. Well sometimes. I mean, I should...
But for some weird reason, sometimes I don't believe him. It's not even that I think he's lying. It's that I can't believe that someone could think my body is that special or good/sexy enough to really get worked up over.
And something tells me I'm not alone in feeling this way.
And it's not like I'm a terribly shy person. I'm confident in myself. I even perform belly-dancing in public. Yes, with my belly showing! And jiggling! (That's half the fun & the beauty and definitely a subject to write about later.) The funny thing is that my belly dancing "sisters" and I have no problem dancing for a crowd with our bellies exposed, and at the same time it's not unusual to hear us talking backstage about how we don't think our bodies are beach-ready or bikini-ready. Crazy huh?
It's like we know with our artistic, open, and compassionate mind that our female bodies are beautiful, strong, life-giving, and pleasing just the way they are regardless of size or shape, but we have a competing mind that is critical, fearful, and conditioned to judge . This mind tells us quite the opposite. It tells us we are too small here, too large there; too soft here, and not soft enough there, and on and on. You know the drill.
So backtrack about 6 months ago, when my idea for this new website, RealWomensBodies.com was born. I accidentally came across a couple of very cool websites that had pictures of real women’s bodies along with their personal stories and how they felt about their bodies. I was blown away.
The stories were so compelling and touching. I couldn't believe how many women with perfectly wonderful bodies felt so bad about themselves. To me all I could see was pure beauty. And I'm talking about real bodies. Boobs of different shapes and degree of sag. The skinny, the medium, the larger, and those with a mix of each size in different parts. Stretch marked bodies and even bodies that look like the media’s “standard” female body. All of them looked equally beautiful. And a big part of that was their stories. You were able to "see" their beautiful souls. You were able to feel their vulnerability. And this awakened compassion in me for them.
And then a surprising thing happened:
It awakened a compassion for myself and for my own body. I realized that I am beautiful just the way I am. I understood why a man could really love my body. It's because I'm Not Just a Body! I have a soul that is delicate and lovable. I am a complex person with good and bad traits, which make me interesting. I'm hopefully a person who is kind which is it's own sort of beauty. And I am a person with vulnerabilities.
When you become so close to another person to share intimate moments and you allow yourself to be vulnerable - as in just naked without judgment or praise, just naked - that's one of the times that compassion, or to use another word, love, is born. Love on the part of your partner.
Compassion for yourself, self-love, can also be born - all by yourself. You simply allow it to happen by giving yourself permission to be kind and love yourself, to be open to your own vulnerabilities and then care for them with love and understanding. You CAN do this.
And this is the very thing I want to share with other women: the gift of self-love.
When we are able to replace self-hate with self-love it is truly a joyful experience.
And so that’s why I have built this "house" called RealWomensBodies.com in the hopes that you will come over for a visit. I hope that you will help me decorate it with your photos and stories. I hope that you will be uplifted by the articles and images and stories. I hope that you will want to share a guest post and bring your friends to our little get-together.
I hope that you will come away like I have, feeling better about your body more often than you used to. We've all had years of detrimental conditioning about how our bodies should look, but I know that over time we can each change our perspective and learn to love ourselves just the way we are today!
So even though I confess to self-criticism, I want to tell you that much of it has been replaced with self-compassion making a real positive difference in my life.
Will you come visit and share your story? I'll be waiting with a warm welcome, a virtual cup of coffee, and a hug!
Thanks and I look forward to "meeting" you.
PS: All images and stories that are submitted are kept strictly anonymous. Commenting is only allowed on blog articles and I look forward to hearing from you all!
This is a cross-post from Only-Mama blog and was written by Kris Stone of RealWomensBodies.com a site dedicated to helping women learn to love themselves just the way they are. Kris also writes a popular blog called LifeLearningToday.com.