Being a woman is hard. Being alive is hard. I can’t speak to what it is like to be a man, or what it is like to be dead, but these two things I know to be true. In childhood, things seemed much simpler, but as we grow we are exposed to the realities and intricacies of the world, and what was once simple is quickly convoluted. Yoga practice, not just the Asana side, teaches a different way of viewing the world and a holistic means of taking care of yourself. Ideally, we balance ourselves in mind, body and spirit evenly. While I work at this continually, stretching my body out on my mat, meditating silently alone in my studio, and maintaining mental clarity in difficult situations, I know I will never find a perfect balance on my own.
What I have learned, is the power of sisterhood in this journey. I believe my greatest strength, the center of my journey, has been spiritual enlightenment. I’m not claiming to be some kind of shaman or spiritual guru, but my insights and understanding of wellness and self-care focus on the spiritual and emotional aspects. While my path has been bumpy, it’s been made far easier by the companionship of strong friends. Two women, sisters really, stand as my two other self-care guides. Sami, my bohemian, dog-loving, yogi friend has balanced her journey in the vessel of her own skin, and found an immense amount enlightenment in watching her body grow and shrink, reacting to the way she cares for herself. Cam, my intellectual, realistic, dentist-to-be friend has always allowed her mind to guide her. When pushed, pulled and broken, it was the loss of her mental clarity that seemed to leave her most disheveled.
There is not one right path, it is a trilogy because each pillar is just as important as the others. By forming these friendships, and trusting them, we each benefit from the guidance and daily reminders that come with authentic communication and love. In the coming weeks, we’re going to expand on this conversation and react to one-another’s points of view. The goal is to foster an authentic discussion for all of our readers to comment on and learn from, but it’s also a bit of an unknown journey for us as well. We want to talk about this, because self-care and the methods we use to practice it are so very important for women, and yet they are so easily put aside when life gets busy.
So we’ll start with Cam, our mind, and how her path to self-love and acceptance came to be.
I have always been a strong person, mentally and physically. I love physical activity and challenging my body. I’ve always felt my mental strength was my greatest asset, and I leaned on this throughout my life to survive difficult situations. I was called fat in the 5th grade, and acknowledged it for what it was, just a mean kid in elementary school that I actually felt bad for. I won’t discount, though, how good it felt to turn him down 10 years later when he hit on me.
I see the value in others based on their mental eptitude and resilience, and I choose friends who compliment my own strengths. By doing this, I’ve found a means to establish a mind, body & spirit trilogy of self-worth and self-care.
The first time I noticed my mental strength and resiliency wavering was in college. I began dating someone the spring semester of my freshman year. It was the first serious relationship for both of us, and it quickly became apparent that we had very different styles of living and views about life, personal development in college, and communicating with each other. However, if I’m being authentic, I think I looked past these initial red flags, because I finally had the validation that I was worth someone else’s time – not just for my brain but for my heart and my body.
That’s what I thought, but really each argument and disagreement we had chipped away at my mental strength and stability. He thought my decision to study abroad was selfish. I “should have known” that he wouldn’t want me to go, even though he never brought it up during discussions. When I did go abroad, he broke up with me, claiming it was too hard to be together while I was away. While I was away, heartbroken, I dated someone else. When I came back, we started to reconcile our issues, but for the next 18 months all I heard was how I had betrayed him. I have yet to be forgiven for this “mistake” nearly three years later. The relationship was a toxic cycle of manipulation and co-dependence and left both of us broken, insecure, and unsure that life could be normal without the other. We broke up in the Fall of 2014, but my journey to self-healing wouldn’t begin until January of 2016.
At the end of 2014, I vividly remember sitting with my friend Casey one night, when she asked me if I was happy, if this is where I wanted my life to be. I sat and sobbed in her living room as I prayed that the mental games would be done, that I could move on from this relationship, and become comfortable with myself without the validation of another person. I was in a cycle of negative self-talk that revolved around my personality, intellect, and interest rather than my physical appearance. Most of the work that needed to be done was mental.
That night, Casey and I decided we would commit together to a “word of the year,” an intention to bring us closer to our most authentic selves. The principle was to choose just one word which will add purpose and help guide the year. In 2015, my word was “focus”: focus on graduating, getting a job, and getting into dental school. All of which I was more than capable of achieving. This year, as my healing began, I chose “me.” I decided that I would finally live with the intention of caring for myself and put my mental health first. I am fortunate enough to have a core group of friends who followed me on this journey as we pushed each other to dig deeper and become more authentic.
Throughout the spring, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of people I owe so much to. Three women, Casey and Emily and Lauren, were my emotional and mental rocks. They were my sounding boards, and would patiently listen to me ramble as I made self-discoveries that probably seemed pretty obvious to them. As soon as I decided to shift my intention, I started to become less apologetic for my shortcomings and more confident in the direction I was going.
By June, I had reached a peak in my journey. I was so incredibly happy with where I was, and so sure of my next steps. I read Scary Close by Don Miller, an incredible reflection on manipulation in relationships, that allowed me to put words to my struggle. I spent way too long trying to prove my self-worth to a man who didn’t have any for himself, and it was a lost cause.
Self-worth, self-love, self-care…whatever you want to call it, this journey is one worth taking. In an ideal world, we would each be this perfect balance of mind, body and spiritual self-awareness. Instead, we walk our journeys and look for others who can shed light and provide guidance along the way.