When I was about 11 years old, we had to do a group trust exercise in summer camp. The goal of the exercise was to get all the campers through a “spider-man” like rope web between two trees. We did this by lifting up one camper at a time, until we all got across. When it was my turn to go, I was a little nervous, and I remember my most overwhelming anxiety went something like this: “What if they can’t lift me?” It was at age 11 that I started becoming super aware of my body.
“Are you ready Kell?” one camper asked me. “Yes,” I say as I am holding onto the net with white knuckles. “1, 2, 3 up!” For a moment, I recall feeling weightless and relieved. But that moment however didn’t last long.
Seconds later, I heard a boy say, “Ugh, she is so heavy!” I can’t remember his name, but his face is ingrained in my mind to this day. It only took a second for my heart to fall to the pit of my stomach, and for the heat of embarrassment to rise from my feet to my cheeks.
I was mortified. I still can’t remember if they ended getting me to the other side or if I just quit. What I do remember however is this was the day that taught my 11 year old self to feel like she was too “much.”
Flash forward 17 years later: I am 28 and in my daily yoga class. We just finished our second flow series and I hear our teacher say, “Now everyone find a partner.”
My inner monologue immediately exclaims “F*CK.” Pardon my French, but this is my worst yoga nightmare. Trying to keep my Zen, I quickly ask the woman next to me. I scale her up and down; she’s petite but strong. I think to myself, depending on what we are doing, I should be OK. We then head to the wall. We are instructed to do a handstand prep exercise. I immediately lose my inner cool and hear my inner voice say, Oh God, she’s going to feel my weight.
Right after that thought registered, however, I was struck with a major WTF moment. She’s going to feel my weight? I repeated to myself. SO WHAT?!? Why was I so scared that this friendly yogi stranger was going to feel my weight? Why have I always been scared for anyone to feel my weight? As if once someone feels my weight, they are going to know that I am "too heavy."
It was then I remembered my 11-year-old self, hearing for the first time that she was too heavy. That girl still lives inside me and has been trying to protect me ever since.
However, now is the time to let my young self know that she can let this go. I now celebrate my body, and don't hold it to arbitrary standards that serve only to bring me down. So my 11-year-old self and I had to have a chat. After a big, metaphorical hug, I sat down with the girl who wore her hair in two buns and was in her favorite smiley face imprinted jeans. And here are a few things that I said: