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.
Our 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.
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.”
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.
Judy MaritatoApril 9, 2019
GREAT reminder Melissa, and as some of us (ahem) are getting older, more adaptation and adjustments are needed. It’s never too late to learn something cool your body can do that you never knew before that it could…maybe a new dance type? A really long hike? Mine is made for stamina, not speed…sturdy and rugged has its advantages! I’ll never be a yoga-babe but I can be strong and healthy in my own way. And agree, being able to stand up full height from an airplane seat and not hit the bulkhead is an amusing benefit!
Melissa HeislerApril 9, 2019
Judy, yes, perhaps this post is partly a reflection of my years on this earth. I am recognizing new and old limitations. And that is ok. And I am also grateful for what my body can do. It is so important to remember that we are not built to be identical. We are built differently for different purposes.
SamanthaApril 9, 2019
Love this post! I have what others think they’d like to have from the outside, a long and lean body, but I’ve struggled with pain and loose ligaments and continually work out to avoid pain and try to gain strength that seems fleeting. From the outside you’d never know. I love this post because it’s a good reframe focusing me on what my body does for me and does really well as we are all given our circumstances but it’s what we do with them that matters. Thank you!
Melissa HeislerApril 9, 2019
Samantha – Thank you for sharing! Yes, it is interesting how we often make judgments about others by how they look. I remember a wonderful friend of mine who looks to many to be overweight but is also one of the best tap-dancers and skiers I have every known!! We never truly know another person’s life, abilities, and struggles. I am sorry for your pain and hope that you can continue to focus on the gifts your body gives to you. <3