How To Deal With Body Consciousness
12.7.12

I am a mess.

My bedroom, my closet, my desk – it’s all a mess. The bed gets left unmade for days, and the “system” I devised so long ago is abandoned for convenience’s sake. Color coordinated closet? Shoes organized by the season? It’s all quite lovely when it happens, but soon enough the whites are intermingled with the burgundies and there’s a left espadrille lurking under the coat rack. The clutter is truly astonishing.

It’s not that I don’t take pride in my space, my things. Quite the contrary, actually. My little confession of the day is that I enjoy the mess. It surrounds me and protects me; it’s my comfort and safety net. But then sometimes the storm hits and the mess turns to catastrophe. What once felt safe is now my own personal war zone. That’s when I go into attack mode and clean. I color code, I scrub, I Swiffer and spray, aggressive and extreme. And then just like that, my space becomes…sterile. Immaculate. Foreign.

Think of your house at its most comforting. A half-made bed, a stack of books on the nightstand. A blanket sprawled haphazardly on the couch and a puppy’s squeak toy on the staircase. It’s not what we see in the pages of lookbooks or home decor window displays; it’s not photo-ready or even remotely close to what a white-picket-fence life is “supposed” to look like. But it’s ours. So our house becomes our sanctuary, and we create a space we want to live inside. A space that makes us feel good. Feel loved. Feel home.

Here’s my question: why don’t we do the same with our bodies?

We decorate our walls armed with tape measurers and levels. An inch here, a tilt there, a calculated twist of the lamp so the light hits just so. We feng-shui our lives away and ready our space as if prepping a magazine feature. Squeezing into our jeans, tightly coiling our hair, scolding ourselves when the latest hemlines just don’t look right on our frame. We focus so much on how our body fits into things, instead of how we fit into it.

It’s no secret, Chalkboard family, that I’ve battled self-image issues my whole life. My proprioception is highly acute, so muchso I feel everything both external and internal all at once. The hypersensation is both fascinating and demonic. It’s the quality that makes me feel my body in space and just want it to fit. The quality that makes me squeeze into the room and manipulate my form and paint my walls the perfect color to catch the light just so.

Yet all the while, I gleefully internalize the world and its emotions. I swirl the feelings around in my head and heart, shake them up and turn the saturated mess into words and action. That kind of focused awareness from the inside, that thing I so love and cherish – that is really the thing that makes me feel whole.

When we solely focus on the external body, we start ignoring the internal workings, the framework. We’ve all been there. Let’s just say we toil and sweat, portioning out every bite, and finally reach our ideal aesthetic. Why aren’t we satisfied? Why doesn’t it ever last?

Strip it all down, and we feel safest when we are in a constant state of self-expression; when we are engulfed in the Feeling of it all. This safe self-expression is not safe from anything, or safe to do anything: it’s just safe. Period. It’s a warmth and a glow and a fluttering of the heart. It’s a smile and a phone call, a cool energy and a warm breeze. It’s a look and a knowing and a cradle of nurturing connection. All this safety, it comes from the inside.

Let’s not pretend and say it’s always easy to find our safe happy fit. Because it’s not. We might feel our bodies and not like the catastrophe we feel surrounding us. And you know what? That. Is. Okay. It’s just a sign that we need to up the ante on our internal sensations. Make those the priority. Feel Or Bust. When change comes from the internal feeling instead of the external gratification, that is when we reap the true benefits of what our bodies are capable of.

Mull it over. When do you feel the most at home? The most loved? When do you feel safe? Sometimes – most times – it’s not when everything is pristine, sparkling, in its exact place. So go ahead. Make your happy mess. To embrace that is to embrace yourself. Feel good from the inside out, not from the outside in. That lived-in feeling, that slight disarray, that’s where you find home.

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  1. Once again, Katie a beautiful, heartfelt piece! Thank you for the reminder that it is more important to shine from within than it is to polish our protective armor of attempted “perfection.” I enjoy the vulnerability and truth in all your pieces. Shine on!

    • Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Danielle. And LOVE your words…shining within instead of polishing the external armour. Amazing and inspiring.

      Katie | 02.08.2013 | Reply
  2. This piece is something I’d like to make a priority in my life. I identify completely with this concept but was never able to put it into words. Even at my most tight, toned and tanned- nothing changed. I still felt the chaos and stress that was my external and internal home. Recently I went the other way, I’m heavier than I have ever been. Guess what? The chaos and stress are still warm and cozy in my heart. The issue is not my external body, it’s my internal body. My internal body is craving the attention and focus that I pour in excess into my external body. Thank you for helping me see that. Thank you.

    Kayleen | 12.07.2012 | Reply
    • I have spent most of my lifetime being focused on my exterior self and what I present to the world. Emptiness, loneliness, depression and a feeling of complete disconnection have been the fruits of my labor. It has taken me a long time to comprehend that all of these painful feelings I have lived with are a result of listening to and honoring my inner self. I am now focused on honoring my inner self. It involves shedding 30 years of very ingrained thought, behaviors and unconscious beliefs. It’s a process to say the least. I have faith that my whole world will open up in time, though, and I will finally start truly living and enjoying life. I will find that I do fit and I will find my unique contribution to this world.

      Rebecca Gallivan | 12.09.2012 | Reply
      • I am missing a “not” in my comment posted above. “It has taken me a long time to comprehend that all of these painful feelings I have lived with are a result of NOT listening to and honoring my inner self.” I felt it important to clarify this as my being completely disconnected from my inner self is the reason for all of the negative feelings I have lived with for so many years.

        Rebecca Gallivan | 12.09.2012 | Reply
    • Oh gosh – Kayleen – I’ve been there (obviously…hence the ammo for this article :)). Ironically, when I felt like I looked the way I always wanted to look, I was at my unhappiest. No amount of external vision can satisfy that internal craving for happiness and fulfillment. I hope you start to find your internal focus – I and the rest of the TCM community are here for you if you need us. xoxo

      Katie | 02.08.2013 | Reply
  3. I look at my little 11 month old girl and when she gives me a true happy content smile, I know it’s not because she fits into her little 9 month old jeggings. It’s because she is truly happy, content, loved. I admire that and aim for that pureness.

    • Thank you for your comment, Deb – it brought a smile to my face. I hope your daughter never loses that love for herself and for life, exactly as she is now, exactly as it is now.

      Katie | 02.08.2013 | Reply

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