Motivation

How measuring my shoulder blade became an act of self-love

“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”—Coco Chanel

Do you know what you really look like? Unless you have elasticity that knows no bounds or can turn your head a whopping 360 degrees, I venture to say that you have an incomplete idea of what you look like. Which brings me to the point of this self-love post: is it fair to criticize ourselves when we don’t even know what we really look like?

Take measure of who you are and begin the journey to self-love and self-acceptance. Click for 5 ways to start self-loving yourself today.

It’s swimsuit season, and I don’t know if I’m an apple, a pear, an inverted triangle, or a boring old rectangle. (Sure as heck know I’m definitely no hourglass.) Why is this important, you say, and how is comparing myself to a fruit gonna lead to self-love? Because before we get to truly know, admire, and love ourselves, we must first…

Clear out the clutter in your head

I never really looked at my body. I know I have legs, arms, torso, head and that miraculously (and thankfully) all of it works together to move me around this world. Sure, I take quick glances in the mirror before heading out the door just to make sure that my underwear isn’t showing, but beyond that, I haven’t checked myself out lately.

So it’s no wonder that when I would attempt to pull clothes off the hangers and head over to the changing room, nothing would fit quite right. This in itself didn’t bother me too much, but it left me wondering: Who were retail store clothes made for?

It definitely wasn’t me, because I am not 6 feet tall, lacking breasts, or wear clothes for just standing perfectly still (and why is it that every time I stretched my arms or knelt down, parts of my anatomy would become exposed?).

Years and years of this led to those nasty little thoughts that began to clutter my mind. Thoughts like: I don’t fit in, I’m not the normal body type of the culture around me, and unless I can miraculously grow another foot between now and my 50th birthday, I’m NEVER, EVER going to fit in, EVER!

Nonsense, right? I can’t get around the genetics in my family – I come from short stock. And as I grow older, I’m only shrinking and getting shorter still. Thinking that I won’t fit in because I’m not tall enough is clutter, as bad as those napkins from a restaurant I visited 20 years ago that I think I may go back to one day. They are just taking up space and doing nothing for me – and if I can see that about some silly physical set of napkins, why is it that much harder to see the clutter inside my mind?

Lower the volume of your inner critic

Because that clutter, those illogical thoughts, they have a companion. Hello inner critic.

Let’s take a little side detour to talk about our brains (we are still cleaning out all the clutter up there, so might as well understand the layout, don’t you think?).

One of the oldest parts of our brain is called amygdala. It sits in the part of the brain believed to be first developed in human beings. Which basically means it’s been around for a really long time.

When caveman were around, the amygdala was really helpful. This part of the brain responded to stimuli and prompted a decision to stay and fight the challenge or flee from it (now labeled “fight or flight response”). Animals were bigger back then, food was scarce, shelter was unpredictable. That amygdala sure came in handy.

And while you and I may face situations in our life today where we are truly threatened, this amygdala, this “fear sensor,” is now causing havoc, and feeding into our inner critic. Why?

Because the amygdala can’t distinguish between a real threat and perceived threat. It can cause us to think about primal survival even when the stimuli around is a false alarm!

Real threat: Flood waters rising over my house. Perceived threat/false alarm: clothes don’t fit, I don’t fit, and therefore something is WRONG. Let’s fight this by eating less, working out more, contemplate cosmetic surgery. Let’s flee this by ignoring ourselves, avoiding looking at ourselves in the mirrors, avoiding the hurt of seeing our misfit bodies.

Self-Love Lesson: Self-love begins with

Shift your Self Perception

Fight or flight response and negative thoughts cluttering up my mind aside, I was still within the reality that retail clothes don’t fit me. And I haven’t made up my mind about moving to a nudist colony. Which means that I still need to wear clothes.

Because my grandmother was a seamstress, and made every stitch of clothing my mother ever wore up to her twenties, I had an idea.

Why not sew my own stuff? And why not go all out and create my own patterns? It was my blood, surely.

I began to research for pattern drafting posts online, and one Sunday afternoon, in the grayness of late winter, I took out the measuring tape, a #2 pencil, and a roll of paper. Wearing a thin tank top, I read the instructions and began to measure.

Breast. Waist. Hips. Height between arm pit and top of hip. Width from belly button to side. Shoulder blade.

Measurements were written down and slowly I began to mark up my roll of paper, marking and marking, connecting dots and marks with a French curve.

In seeing the shape of my body literally come to life before me, my self-perception shifted.

I’m a pear (more of a Bosc than a Bartlett).

The beautiful sensation of this new insight cemented me to the ground for minutes. I could tell you that I thought that for over four decades, I felt like a rectangle. I had so hidden myself from my own body that I did not even recognize it, until I saw the measurements drafted out on the pattern paper.

I’m a pear, a Bosc, with a high waist.

How can we be owners of this beautiful physical being, this body that breathes and carries us, and not really know it?

Pia Frutos Walker. Encouraging and empowering women to take their daily life lessons and turn them into purpose-drive life actions. Reconnect, grow, and unleash your best self.

How can we go from store to store, looking for clothes designed to hide us, and walk away thinking that our bodies must be flawed, improper, just because a shirt drapes too long on the shoulders and tucks at your hips and not your waist?

My conversation with clothes and my body image, for decades, had been all wrong. The more and more clothes items that didn’t fit, the more I turned invisible to my own body. I started making the conscious choice to not see it. I wouldn’t really look at, either with my own eyes or in a mirror. I would put on whatever clothes were in the closet and just go, telling myself to be okay with how things looked (whether they did or not). Can you relate?

I never really asked my body to introduce itself to me. Mirrors can twist images around, distort them, yet having a 2-d replica of my upper body was like meeting my body for the first time (minus the cocktails and hor d’oeuvre).

And I have to admit that it was kind of cool. To thine own self be true.

Self-Love lesson: Accept you because one size does not fit all.

Turning the tables on the comparison trap

Today, on average female models weigh around 20% less than the average woman.

Comparing myself to that is always going to break me. I’m never going to measure up. (And since twenty years ago, female models only weighed 8% less than the average woman could lead me to believe that the disparity will continue to increase….so I’ll never, ever, never truly measure up.)

Clutter of negative ideas on not fitting in. Perceiving the threat of not fitting in and listening to my inner critic. Shifting my perception and seeing myself for who I truly am, today.

Acceptance.

I’m never going to be any taller than 5’4” (and heels are just getting more uncomfortable to wear as each year passes). I can’t change my pear shape – my shoulders will be narrower than my hips unless I get under a knife and insert more bone in my body.

In looking at the women around me, I see, with clear eyes, that I am surrounded by apple shaped women who wear spunk better than any cow wrangler, thin rectangle shaped women who emit a coolness and classiness that is all their own.

While a small, small part of me might tinge and wish I could wear what they do, or look like they do, I see that I cannot replicate the beauty that they are.

Acceptance.

Not only of myself and who I am (and what I look like) but of you, and you, and you – yes you, standing like a wallflower in the corner.

It wasn’t until I measured that shoulder width, the tiny length between the inner dip in my neck to the knotty bone that connects my shoulder to my arm, that I realized that I didn’t know who I truly was, that I had been shortchanging myself for decades, had been limiting what I was and who I was.

This wasn’t simply an awakening as to what my body shape was. It was an awakening to who I was – and just how much of myself I had been blind to.

Take stock and measure of who you truly are

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” —Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

How measuring my shoulder blade turned into an act of self-love. 5 Action Steps to start your journey to self-love and self-acceptance.

I found myself nipping and tucking a short sleeve shirt today, a shirt too long for my small shoulder blade. As I nipped and tucked the extra cloth, I realized that I had been nipping and tucking clothes for decades, thinking that there was something wrong with me.

But in reality, I had been nipping and tucking the clothes. I had never been nipping and tucking my body. Because it never had anything wrong with it to begin with.

Cleaning out the clutter and shifting your perception (and knowing your true body measurements – and loving them!) can start to make that inner critic smaller and smaller. These acts can begin to free up space for new thoughts, new ways to recognize your beauty, your place in the world, your gift. These acts can shift your thoughts from self-hatred to self-love, as you begin to REALLY SEE who you beautifully are.

One last thing: As you begin to put new, kind, loving thoughts in your decluttered mind, check out this TED talk about loving the beauty of the misfit.

Drafting a pattern helped me see that I fit just fine where I was and how I was. It started me in practicing self-love.

What are ways you have begun to show your true beautiful you self-love?
Share in the comments below – your story may just inspire someone else to see their true selves.

Photo Source: https://stocksnap.io/

Pia Frutos Walker. Encouraging and empowering women to take their daily life lessons and turn them into purpose-drive life actions. Reconnect, grow, and unleash your best self.

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