I love Janine's yoga classes, and I felt so honored when she asked me to be a guest blogger. She requested something from the heart, so here I sit on my porch in the warmth of the sun's rays, sipping coffee and looking for some inspiration. I'm noticing the vibrant colors of the flowers and how the sun hits the lines and shapes of my favorite things all around me. I love to surround myself with things that are beautiful, because it makes me happy. As I sit admiring the beauty of nature, my mind slips back to earlier in the week when I did a natural skin care workshop for a group of moms.
I have to admit, that as I looked around the room that day, I felt a little intimidated. I was surrounded by a group of naturally beautiful women and not one of them was wearing make-up.
"I have these freckles. Is there anything I can do about them?"
"I have these sunspots. Is there anything that can fade them?"
"I tend to break-out here and I haven't found anything to help."
"I get dark circles under my eyes."
"I have these dark patches that appeared when I was pregnant and they still haven't gone away."
So, as I sit here on the porch, I begin to wonder, why is it that we can often see the beauty in other people and things around us, but when we look at ourselves, we tend to focus in on a part of us that we see as a flaw? With perfect timing, I notice the birthmark on my leg. As a child, I was very self conscious of it. I dreaded when other kids saw it and asked questions about it. I can remember my mother calling it my "beauty mark." She said that it made me unique, and so that is what I told others, but really I didn't think it was beautiful, and I wished I didn't have it.
Fast forward to a few years ago, I was at my annual physical and my doctor asked about my beauty mark. She said that I could have it removed, as a cancer preventive measure, if I wanted. I gladly accepted the referral to the dermatologist thinking, yes, my wish finally came true! Then a very strange thing happened as I dialed the dermatologist. I suddenly experienced a sense of loss. I sat contemplating whether or not I should remove my "beauty mark." Suddenly, I couldn't bear the thought of not having it. I decided that since it didn’t have any of the warning signs, I didn’t need to take any action at that moment.
Today I still have my beauty mark, and I have to say that I look at it differently than I used to. I no longer see it as a flaw, and I no longer try to conceal it or get rid of it. I've actually grown quite fond of it. Of course there are times when we should make note of our appearance, use it as a barometer of our wellbeing and do things to keep ourselves healthy. But, how do we get to a place of seeing our own beauty rather than being self conscious about things that we see as flaws? Here are a few exercises to try.
Step 1. Find a picture of yourself that you really love. Hang it in a place that you see every day and spend a few minutes each day looking at yourself. As you look at the picture, take a deep breath in and tell yourself how beautiful you are. Do this for at least one week.
Step 2. Spend a few minutes observing yourself in the mirror each day. You might be automatically drawn to a flaw. Tell the flaw that you will come back to it in a little while. Before giving any attention to the flaw, find at least 3 things that you love about the way you look. Is it the color of your eyes, the tone of your skin, the shape of your lips or the dimple in your chin?
Once you find 3 things that you love, take a deep breath in and out and say, “I love my ______, ______ and ______.” Say it aloud, so that you hear it in your own voice. Notice how it feels to hear these things. Now, you can give attention to the flaw. Ask it what its purpose is. Is it there as a sign that you haven't been eating healthy or getting enough sleep? Does it serve as a reminder of an event that happened in your life? Embrace all the unhappy feelings about the flaw and then tell it that you love it, because it is a part of you. Do this for at least 2-3 weeks or until you begin to look at yourself differently.
Step 3. Beauty shines from the inside out. Spend some time thinking about the qualities that make you a beautiful person. Is it your kind heart, your passion for life, your sharing nature, your love and devotion to your family…? Document these things in a journal or on index cards and look at them every day. If you feel stuck, ask a friend or family member for some ideas.
These activities might seem a little silly or uncomfortable at first, but sometimes yoga poses feel awkward in the beginning and through practice, they strengthen, deepen, and expand our awareness. As you engage in these practices, you will have a deeper understanding of yourself and begin to see yourself through a different lens.