Body Baggage: The things that weigh us down
Earlier this week I was finishing up my course work for my Curvy Yoga certification. (I am super excited to say that I will be fully able to create yoga workouts for any body shape here soon!) In one of the last videos, the creator and teacher of the course started talking about the hang-ups people have with their bodies. Not just potential clients/yoga students, but within ourselves even as teachers. She referred to these things as body baggage. I can’t accurately describe how profoundly those two words impacted me.
The truth is, we all have things that we have picked up over the course of our lives. Words from family or friends. Comments, or questions that are always well-meaning, yet those loved ones don’t have any idea how deeply a few simple words can cut. Those wounds sometimes never healing. Just like with any type of physical wound, emotional wounds can get infected and cause deeper issues. Those issues are heavy, adding weight to all that we carry around when it comes to viewing ourselves.
It’s not always words that create that body baggage either. It can be incidents that happen in our lives that add stone by stone, brick by heavy brick onto our already overburdened shoulders.
What is heartbreakingly sad is that so many of us have been carrying around so much baggage over our bodies and our self-worth that we can’t remember if we ever had a moment of peace without struggle.
What IS body Baggage and do I have it?
To put it simply, baggage is a collection of memories that we cling to and carry around with us that develop our sense of self-worth. Body Baggage is the exact same thing with the added bonus that it centers on memories that create a story of how we see our body and view our self-worth around that body.
I’m 40 years old, that’s 40 years of collecting memories, ideas, thoughts, and opinions about my body and how my entire worth as a human being is centered around my size. Sometimes I wonder if my problem with weight is because the metaphorical baggage I’m carrying around has found a way to physically manifest itself as fat on my body. What a scary thought, but I can’t help but feel that it holds some merit.
We begin picking up baggage at an early age.
It’s true that we begin picking up extra baggage at an early age. Going back to some of my earliest memories I can see where I started picking up little pieces of doubt and hatred for myself and my body.
When I was just a baby, my earliest memory of my biological father was of him telling my mom that he didn’t want me, or her. I had no idea of the pain and devastation that kind of announcement would do to a young single mother, I wouldn’t understand that until I learned to fall in love much later in my own life. Yet in my own way, hearing and understanding that I wasn’t wanted was probably the first and most painful piece of baggage I ever picked up.
It was so profound that for the next 40 year’s I clung to every carelessly wielded insult, backhanded compliments, and ignorant stereotype about fat people that I could find. Until I had so much packed into my duffle bag of insecurity that all my energy went into carrying this baggage.
How can such small moments have such deep and long-lasting impacts?
So many times the thing that had such a profound impact on you as a person is such a small minute in our lives that it really shouldn’t have been given the power over us that it took. That doesn’t stop it from doing the damage of course, but when I look back at the impact a few simple words had over my life it makes me feel so many emotions. Foolish, angry, and frustrated for sure.
These moments happen so fast, that the only way you know they had an impact on you is that years later you can remember them and the way they made you feel with crystal clarity. Why? Well because you’re still carrying them around. Somewhere in that mountain of baggage that clings to you, that moment in time has added its weight.
A really profound one for me came from a source we often think of as safe and protective. My Mother. I was in my 30’s when I was stretching my dating wings and had found a few potential prospects that were handsome, stable, and affluent in their prospective places of life. I remember telling my mom that I was going to visit one of them whom I had known for about 6-7 years at the time. She immediately said. “Amber, what is it about you that makes these handsome rich older guys interested in you?” While the question could seem harmless it was her tone of pure bewilderment with the undertone of “it’s a trap” that really cut me. Her response was so off the cuff, and backhanded that I’m sure to this day she didn’t mean to or even know that she inflicted deep damage on my budding self-worth. (a matter of fact when I threw it back in her face later during an argument she had no recollection of even wondering such a thing. Ah mothers lol)
Dumping Baggage only creates more Baggage
The point of that story isn’t that my mom was mean to me. She wasn’t. I know my mother loves me beyond measure of the word, it was just a singular moment in time that my insecurity and her perceived notion of body acceptance met and created another piece of baggage for me to carry around.
The point is even people who love us with all their hearts are human too. They carry their own baggage, and that baggage can get dumped on other people. It creates a cycle that if not recognized will never be broken. We learn to dump our baggage onto others for just a minute of sweet relief from the overwhelming weight of it all. Only to end up creating another bag to pick up. I didn’t realize this until I had a very deep conversation with my mom one day when she admitted she felt guilty that I had so many body image and self-worth issues. You see, I wasn’t alone in carrying the weight of it all, my mom had been carrying her own bags for so long. Neither of us recognized it.
What do we do about it?
Learning how to give up the baggage in a healthy way is the key to unburdening your heart mind and soul. Which, in turn, gives you room to heal and grow and not pass on more baggage to other people.
There isn’t really an easy way to give up baggage. Especially body baggage. It takes quite a bit of self-work. I will tell you what has been working for me, maybe some of these things can start you on your own journey.
My baggage was creating so many problems that I started developing anxiety and isolating myself away from people. Depression over my size and how I thought people looked at me made it hard to be anywhere in public.
The first thing I did was listen to a friend, and find a therapist. I started working with this therapist once a week for over a year. I still speak to her twice a month even though I’m at a solid place in my mental state, I feel it’s a very good and healthy thing to maintain.
Shortly after therapy started to help in some area’s I was able to break down and look at other areas of my life that I felt needed work. For me, that was my faith. My walk with God. Surprisingly enough my mom was the person that reminded me that I had done all this secular work on myself but I hadn’t asked God for help from my struggles.
Asking for help never comes easy
Asking God for help isn’t an “easy out’ button. I felt guilty for having turned my back on my faith for so long, but I also knew I was being called back to His side and this was a gentle reminder that the door was still open.
Here I was, just turned 40, miserable, hurting, and barely able to walk on my own two feet. What else did I have to lose? Matthew 11:28 says “Then Jesus said “come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” I remember reading these words shortly after having this conversation with my mom, and I remember something in my chest easing. I wanted to feel that peace, I needed to be unburdened so I could learn to love myself again. What did I really have to lose? Nothing. So I asked God for help. I continue to ask God for His help every day, and as time passes, my burden has grown lighter. Weary, emotional exhaustion now replaced with mental and emotional strength.
My baggage isn’t all gone, it didn’t disappear overnight, but I ask for help and each day I’m learning about acceptance, forgiveness, and love. When I come across something that I recognize as weighing me down, I’m not afraid of it anymore. I can take it out, unpack it and either find acceptance of it or give it to God and find forgiveness for the wound it inflicted upon me.
Thank you, all of you, who join me on my journey. I hope that you can find, humor, laughter, love, and hope along the way as you come with me on my journey to find true peace and love with myself. Living in a body that society deems unhealthy is hard enough, but my battle isn’t with society, my battle is with myself and the perceptions that I am not good enough because I AM in this body. My journey is to heal the mind heart and spirit and let those lead me to a body that is healthy for me.
For all of you out there struggling with loving yourself, big small, or in between, I promise you are not fighting this battle alone. Please continue to join me as I go forward with more stories, and examples of what I’m doing to find harmony and love for myself. Perhaps in my words, you can find something that leads you on your own journey!
Stay tuned for my new podcast “Body Baggage” coming out soon! This podcast will be all about accepting your body and doing what’s best for you. Unpacking the baggage that surrounds how you feel about yourself and the skin you are in. It’s the next phase in my amberable journey! See ya next week!
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