It sucks to admit, and it frankly frustrates the hell out of me, but I'm obsessed with bodies. Mine included. I was gleefully in denial of this fact until my most recent yoga teacher training class. Now it’s so in my face that I can barely see around it.
Whether I'm in yoga, at work, out in the world, perusing Facebook and flipping through magazines, there are a multitude of beautiful and wildly different bodies on display. And what do I do? Obsess, obsess, obsess; compare, compare, compare. Not in every case, but far too often.
I notice my mind feeling totally overwhelmed by a compulsive desire to obsess over how much skinnier or flexible or seemingly perfect a person is than me. I sometimes even find myself tucking mental notes on how impeccable an outfit is on a girl with the most perfect body, so I can later obsess over it and compare myself to it, and inevitably judge myself and feel inferior. I remember getting jealous when I would be out with my ex and we’d see a girl so gorgeous and trim and “perfect” that I’d get grumpy, even though I was the one noticing her, not him! Seriously. It’s disgusting.
We've all experienced this feeling to an extent. Days where we feel bloated and fat and we let it totally bum us out and ruin our attitude; allowing ourselves to see attractive people and compare ourselves to them, or seeing people we deem less attractive than us and feeling superior; staring at [airbrushed] magazine images and pining over figures that seem unattainable; even feeling inferior to that one girlfriend who eats whatever she wants and somehow maintains the slimmest, cutest figure.
How beneficial could this possibly be? Obsessing over the perfections and imperfections of bodies, placing so much importance on my own body? We're changing, and we're different. That's our nature. So what possible good could come from judging oneself based on another? Expecting perfection from something as transient as a human body? Feeding the obsession with physicality and expecting it to not result in suffering?
My teacher pointed out today that we tend to make comparisons and feel one of two ways: inferior or superior. She gently suggested that, we observe these comparisons and look for inspiration and education within them. Wow, right? Do you feel the energetic shift in that new, improved reaction? It’s a choice. It’s a choice to notice a negative pattern of obsessing over one’s own body, over other people’s bodies, over perfections and imperfections. It’s a choice to change these patterns, these habits, these conditions of the mind.
So what to do the next time one of those, “Ugh I feel fat,” days occurs? Or the next time a polished, gorgeous, trim woman makes her way past and you’re left feeling lousy and frumpy in comparison?
Search for the inspiration and the education. What can be inspiring and educating about noticing how the mind has the power to make or break an entire day? What inspiration can be sought from a person whose style, body, asana practice, intelligence, career or home you admire — or even, dare I say, envy?
The obsessions won’t stop without sincere effort and practice. The importance placed on insignificant objects won’t wane without dedication.
So let's seek education and inspiration. Let's actively seek encouragement, from within as well as from the world that surrounds us.