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How do you greet that person in the mirror?

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

I have just completed a wonderful weekend of yoga teacher training. This weekend was all about love, kindness and compassion, for others and the world, but also love and compassion for ourselves.

I love listening to the ‘Hurdle’ podcast by Emily Abbate. At the end of each interview she says to her guest, ‘when I look at you I see… when you look in the mirror who do you see?’ Is the person that we see when we look in the mirror aligned with the person that our partner sees? The person that our parents see? The person that our friends see? Or a stranger sees? I don’t know about you but I think that I probably view myself through much less forgiving eyes than others view me, or than I view others.

Taking the question to a totally superficial level when I have a spot and I look in the mirror it is literally the only thing that I see, I can feel it pulsing beneath the skin as though it has a life all of its own and belongs in some sort of sci-fi movie. Yet, when someone else mentions that they have a spot I usually haven’t noticed it and even when I look for it it’s just a tiny dot in the beautiful big picture of their face. Why do we not treat ourselves with the same compassion that we treat other people?

How can we learn to treat ourselves with more compassion and what does this look like in terms of health and fitness?

Compassion… or love… learning to love me just the way I am. My first challenge for myself, and which I lovingly extend to you is to think of three things that you love about yourself either physical or non-physical. The rule is that there can be no buts… So I can’t say, “I love my eyes BUT only when I’m wearing make up,” or “I love my smile BUT I wish that my teeth were whiter,” or “I love that I’m thoughtful BUT I should really phone my Mum more.” Then say those three things over and over, until you really believe them! Next time you look in the mirror and think, “My tummy’s so wobbly,” or “I’m really failing at work at the moment,” water the flowers and not the weeds, counter that negative thought with one of your three positive truths or go all in and bring the big guns, counter it with all three of them. As time goes on build your armoury… fill it with positives. Every time someone pays you a compliment, own it, keep it ready to blast that negative thought away.

Compassion… or love… and exercise. What does it mean to be compassionate to yourself when it comes to exercise? What does it mean to listen to your body and why does everyone say that? I say it all the time but I haven't ever taken the time to really question what it means. For me it means how do I feel? How do my muscles feel? Are they still tired from yesterday? How did I sleep last night, will a run deplete me or energise me? Where are my energy levels? As a fully fledged female hormones effect my workouts too, in those days before my period (the luteal phase of my cycle) I've learnt that a fast run isn't necessarily right for me, but a gentle run and an awesome resistance training session is exactly where I'm at. Take the time to learn yourself. What’s the right exercise for you? Today? Tomorrow? It won't be the same as yesterday and it might not fit with your plan, but switch things around. If you’re still sore from that intense HiiT session is another HiiT session the right choice? Perhaps a gentle run and a beautiful yogic stretch would be better; or maybe a nice soak in an epsom salt bath is what today requires of you. Pound the pavement tomorrow.

The other way that we can self-love is by making ourselves a priority, not feeling guilty about taking time away from our families, or our jobs, or life to exercise. For me exercise is like food, it gives me the same sustenance. No one would expect you to go without food, give exercise the same importance. Exercise gives me the headspace to be my best me, it gives me the strength to be able to get up and down from the floor to play with the children, to be able to carry the shopping so we can all eat, it helps me to live my best life and know that I’m working now to make sure that I can continue to live that best life so I’ll be able to get on and off the floor with my Grandchildren without them needing to forklift me up... So make it a priority.

Ask yourself, what would I say to my best friend? Or my partner? Or my child? Then treat yourself with the same compassion. For me this is the ultimate challenge. When I had our daughters they became my world and I constantly put my needs below those of everyone else. I wanted to be the best Mum, the best wife, the best friend but I couldn’t be because I wasn’t my best me. It took me a long time and a lot of encouragement from my amazing husband, friends and family to give myself permission to make myself a priority. I learnt to do this through exercise. First, it was giving myself thirty minutes to work out; then, training for a marathon and giving myself permission to go on those three hour training runs at the weekend; then investing some of our money in classes, personal training, lovely leggings... I learnt through exercise that my needs are important too and that it is okay to prioritise them. That my husband and children want to see me be happy, that by following my dreams and satisfying my needs I am being the best role-model to my children that I can be. That I am teaching them that it is not only okay but good to practice self-care. That if we can learn to look after ourselves we are much better equipped to look after others, to help them care for themselves and to accept love and care from others for us. I love to lay my head in my daughter’s lap whilst we watch TV, she instinctively strokes it in the same way I stroke hers. She loves being given the opportunity to care for me just as I love to care for her.

Treat yourself with the same compassion with which you treat others. So much love!

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