When it comes to developing a peaceful relationship with our body, one of the major challenges we face is learning how to deal with the critical voice.
This is the voice that chimes in to discourage us in one way or another and likes to tell us that we’re not good enough; it might focus on our body, the way we are in relationship with others, our work performance, the way we keep our home, or any other aspect of our lives that it can critique.
At The Body Positive, we believe that the critical voice is like a scared child that is trying its best to protect us. It functions from a place of fear, which is usually not very helpful to us. Once we are able to recognize this reality and become aware of its presence, we can cultivate the ability to choose love instead, and to help calm the voice.
At the end of 2017, we sent out a call to our community for stories about being faced with the choice between love and fear. Of the many beautiful and inspiring responses we received, the three we share below stood out. We hope they help you to recognize the surprising ways this choice might appear in your own life and that they inspire you to choose love!
"I don't know how long I have, but I do know that I intend to spend the time I do have being grateful for my many blessings."
Just before Thanksgiving of 2017, I learned that the breast cancer that I was diagnosed with just a year prior has spread to my lungs. I soon learned that it is also in my brain. Metastatic breast cancer—the words I never wanted to hear. And yet, here we go again, planning the treatments that will prolong my life for as long as possible. I guess you could say that I've lost a lot in the past year. I no longer have breasts, and the reconstruction that was to take place in early 2018 is now cancelled (treatment trumps reconstruction). I lost my hair and am going to lose it again. I've lost physical strength and endurance. Sure, I’ve lost some things, but I'd rather look at what I've gained.
The experiences I had in 2017 have taught me to care less about my exterior and to focus more on my interior. It's hard work, but so is living a life of comparison. I have spent most of my life with constant thoughts swirling in my head, telling me that I'm not good enough. Life is too short to get caught up in superficial comparisons with others, which is what I did for too many years to count.
Focusing on those types of thoughts is really very selfish. What could I have accomplished over the years if I would have focused my energy on lifting up other people rather than focusing on my perceived inadequacies? I can't go back and change my past, but I can change my future by changing my thoughts. I choose love over fear. I don't know how long I have, but I do know that I intend to spend the time I do have being grateful for my many blessings.
I'm not quite ready to say that I'm grateful for breast cancer, but it has made me take a closer look at my life and what is most important. Sure, I may look different on the outside than I did a short while ago, but I would like to think that what's inside is also different—stronger, wiser, more grateful, more compassionate. Love vs fear? There's no contest. I’ve wasted too much time living in fear, constantly comparing and wondering what others thought of me. I refuse to live in that kind of fear or in the fear of what may come tomorrow, when I have so much to be thankful for today.
Love wins. Love always wins.
Want to hear more? Check out Juanita's Blog.
"I decided that instead of falling into the trap of worry and fear about our relationship, when she came to mind, I would wish her well, think of her with love, be grateful for her, and let her go."
My dad died about a year ago. My younger sister had been my stalwart support through the five years of his decline, and we were together during the last days of his life. But during the administration of his estate, the closeness was lost, and I felt a tremendous strain in our relationship, to the point where I feared it would be lost forever. We live in different states, and didn’t talk as we had before. She seemed to avoid responding to my calls and notes. When it came to decisions to be made about the estate, we were business-like, but she seemed angry, and mostly quiet. I thought about her daily, with an agonizing pang of regret in my belly.
When we were younger, in our twenties, we had been a bit envious of each other; but when we married and each had children, we became close confidants and supportive friends. We’ve helped each other through dieting and the end of dieting, through parenting, through marriage. Suddenly, I feared, we were back to the distrust of those earlier years. I talked with the people closest to me about what was wrong. They tried to reassure me. I tried to hold back from expressing to my sister the hurt, fear, even anger that I felt about her keeping her distance.
Finally, I realized I had a choice. I couldn't control when she came to mind, but I could control what I did with the thoughts once they were there. I didn’t have to think through all the ways in which my relationship might be doomed. I love my sister and want nothing but peace, health and happiness for her. So I decided that instead of falling into the trap of worry and fear about our relationship, when she came to mind, I would wish her well, think of her with love, be grateful for her, and let her go.
A couple of weeks after beginning to practice this intention, my dad's birthday rolled around. I was thinking of my sister and my brother, and knew they would be thinking of my dad, too, so I sent them an email with my thoughts. My sister responded with a thank you for reaching out, and promised to call to have a long-overdue chat. This eased my mind considerably, and helped me be grateful that I had not expressed to her my fear that our relationship was over. We haven't yet had our chat, but I no longer think of that possibility with a knot in my stomach. My love for her has only grown.
"I got this strength inside me and I decided to use all the love I had for him and pour it right back into myself."
Love; what a beautiful word. It takes us to places, memories, and more. I’m going to talk about the greatest love I found this year and the biggest lesson of 2017 for me. Let’s begin: I live in Peru. I love getting to know people, I love to connect and travel. One day I was on Facebook and I received a friend request from a handsome man. He found me on a Facebook self-development group that I had joined. He said he saw me commenting on the group and he thought to himself that “I seemed cool”. We started talking in 2014, here and there, and over time we became very close. I became his “cyber therapist” as he used to call me. I would advise him about life, love, and more, and he would help me with my English homework. Whether or not he was single, he would always reach out to me and stay in touch to see how I was doing. He wanted to meet me in real life for so long and I always refused, even when I was able to go. It all changed this year during my last winter job exchange to the States.
He drove from New York to Virginia to see me and we went for some drinks and got along so well—it felt as if we had known each other for years. But my intuition told me I needed to be careful. I had to come back to my country at the end of March and long-distance relationships rarely work. But he didn’t want us to be just friends, he wanted to give it a try, so I finally caved in and agreed to it. I thought our story was unique. We created very nice memories while I was in the States, we went on a road trip, etc.
Once I was back in Peru, the whole situation became very stressful, I would always suggest for us to be friends, he always refused, and that confused me. Fast forward to June and in an attempt to make it work, I bought a ticket to the States. He wanted me to visit first and promised he would come to Peru later. I bought a ticket to Texas, the state where he had moved to. Two weeks before my arrival he started to act strange. One week before I got there, he started ignoring my messages. Five days before having to travel, he told me I deserved a better guy. I was in shock...five days before my arrival? He finally confessed he reconnected with someone from the past, basically he jumped into another relationship (he hated being alone).
Suddenly, all my insecurities and fears haunted me. I felt like maybe I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid. I had a ticket to Houston with no place to stay. He encouraged me to miss my flight and stay in Peru because he wasn't going to help me. I cried and felt betrayed and silly. I didn’t know what to do, was I supposed to give up? “Should I just miss the flight?” I thought: “I’ve never been to Houston, I don’t have the money to stay in a fancy hotel”, my heart was shattered.
But the Universe has its ways to manifest new ways of healing. I got this strength inside me and I decided to use all the love I had for him and pour it right back into myself. I was going to take myself there, I was going to go to Houston by myself and explore the area and focus on the opportunity to grow and explore. I gathered enough money to stay at a hostel, in a shared room. My first solo trip to a city I was not really familiar with; what an experience! I used all that love to get rid of the fear that was eating me alive; fear of not being good enough nor lovable. I realized that love is so powerful that it took me places, I created memories over there and I also reconnected with myself. I made new friends, I moved forward, I forgave myself for not having paid attention to the red flags. And ironically, that was probably one of the best trips of my life!
I’m happy to say that I don’t hold grudges; I think everyone we encounter plays the role of a teacher, and once we learn the lessons or pass the “exam”, we can move on with more clarity and self-respect. I am now in a better, happier place because I now know that I deserve to be loved and that love always wins. I found the greatest love. He and I didn’t end up together under a “happily ever after” label, but I found and reconnected with the type of love that I was really needing: the love for my own self, and that beats fear every time.