As a former violinist, I hated the way my arms jiggled when I played a fast piece on my violin. While I was performing, I was convinced everyone was staring at my arms, which I thought were bigger than the rest of my body and made me look disproportional. After a car accident stopped me from practicing violin professionally for good, my arms felt worthless to me.
When the pains from developing carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis took a toll on my body, I couldn’t even hold a fork and knife. I felt weak and pathetic, and it took me a while to get to where I am today—actually having accepted my body—arms and all.
Most of us hate some part of our bodies. After all, we are conditioned to think we are not beautiful. Society says we don’t measure up to celebrities with perfect skin and bone structure. We are not tall enough, skinny enough, beautiful enough to feel deserving of ourselves—often especially people of color. Why else do we keep buying hair removal tools, eyelid tape, or face-slimming devices?
But we can change that. Here's how I did.
Over the course of a few months, as I developed a consistent yoga practice, my arms started to change. I felt stronger. I was stronger. I could do a push-up without collapsing for the first time in my life. I also started lifting weights to build muscle. I loved that I could pick up heavy boxes without panting or open tomato jars without feeling like my fingers were going to break. When I felt strong, I really began to feel in my body.
I also stopped engaging in body shaming. When my friends complained over brunch about how much they hated a part of themselves, I stopped agreeing with them and adding fuel to the fire. I forced myself to say positive things in the mirror. I banned all negativity from my brain and my mouth.
When you stop body-shaming yourself and others, you will feel your worth. You will come to know it. You will eventually grow to love that part of your body that you absolutely detested before.
I researched myriad diets and incorporated more healthy foods like fruits and vegetables into my meals. I wanted to feel better internally—and I knew my eating habits could help. I told myself over and over that my self-improvement was in the service of a healthier, happier me rather than a skinnier, prettier one.
When I shifted my thinking toward improving my health rather than trying to look a certain way, I was truly happier.
I wrote a list of reasons I used to hate my arms and then described how I feel about them now. When you start thinking of your body as a functional mechanism, your negativity will dissipate.
When I became a yoga teacher, I studied human anatomy in depth, and I had an epiphany. The body is a convoluted system with one function: to help you live your life.
You don’t have to become an anatomy geek to appreciate your body. Just accept that the body you were born with will reward you when you treat it right. The part or parts that you dislike are probably things another person wishes they had. Reflect on the things you can control and accept the things you can't. Stop trying to conform to someone else’s standards of beauty. You don't belong in someone else's body. If you can find the beauty in yourself, others will find it, too.