Love Your Body

EricaLove it or hate it, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day again ladies – a time of year when everybody wants to talk about love. Loving our husbands, kids, friends…but what about ourselves? And more specifically, our bodies? It seems as though a lot of marketing nowadays is geared towards how to improve our bodies. While the idea of self-improvement is not inherently a bad one, the underlying message it can send is that we aren’t good enough because we’re not perfect.

I think a lot of women tend to focus on what their body is and what it isn’t. That’s how I used to think anyway, especially a few lifetimes ago back when I was a personal trainer at a gym filled with a bunch of testosterone-driven meatheads. See if any of this sounds familiar – my body IS/ISN’T able to fit into those jeans today. My body IS/ISN’T as pretty as that girl at the gym. My body IS this, it ISN’T that – put in your own words, I’m sure you have some.

One of the first things I noticed when I started rock climbing was the wide variety of shapes and sizes of climbers. It was a refreshing change to the image-obsessed fitness arena I was accustomed to! No one cared what anyone else looked like – everyone was there to push their body to new limits and explore new ways in which they could get to their own personal high point. After I’d been climbing for a while, I noticed that thinking began rubbing off on me too. I would come home from a day at the crag completely spent, and feel good about what I had accomplished. I became more in tune with my body’s inner voice. I realized that if I would just listen to my body it would tell me what it needs – when it needed to eat or drink, when it was in a frame of mind to push, and (the hardest voice of all to hear), when it needed to back off and rest and rebuild.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d wager that most people in today’s society spend a good deal of time thinking about their body – whether it be healthy thinking or destructive thinking. I’ve learned to adopt the attitude that my body is the “earth-suit” my soul has been given to get me through this life. I can either focus on what it looks like – which is going to change with age no matter what I do, or I can focus on all the cool and crazy things I’m able to do from inside of it.

Not all of God’s creations are blessed with such an amazing Earth-suit as we humans – although I will admit that I am a bit envious of the capabilities of a few animal earth-suits (the ability to fly, the ability to hold one’s breath for 20 minutes, along with the capabilities to spin webs, to name a few). Most of my favorite memories come from times where me and my Earth-suit have done some really cool things – backcountry kayaking in the Everglades, summitting Estrellita in El Potrero Chico, Mexico, bungee jumping in Queenstown, NZ, and about a billion other things I don’t have time to even get started on.

EricaThe really neat thing that comes to my mind when I think about all of the things our bodies are capable of, is the mind-blowing fact that we are created in God’s image. Not exactly of course – clearly I am NOT God, and obviously everyone is created different, but its my personal belief that all those quirky things that make us unique are actually just little tidbits that reflect God himself. The cool part is that when we look around we get to see all those little tidbits enacted by others – the set drummer that can play a different time signature with each limb, the diver that can do 10 crazy contortions in 100 feet of air and still enter the water with only a ripple, the skier who can strap two long flat panels to her feet and whiz down a snow-covered mountain side, and of course, the climber that is hanging out quite comfortably upside down with a fist jammed in a crack, fiddling around to find the right piece of gear.

In my opinion, this “Earth-suit uniqueness” is actually one of the most interesting parts about climbing. But unfortunately I hear a lot of climbers getting caught up in IS/ISN’T mode with regards to athletic performance – too short, too fat, too weak, etc. In truth, each climber’s earth-suit is equipped with natural strengths and weaknesses – and our job is to figure out how to tap into our personal strengths while minimizing our weaknesses. Once you can appreciate the differences, its really neat to watch 10 climbers do the crux of a route completely differently. As a smaller woman, I will use really high feet and match hands on the smallest of holds to move through sequences that a taller climber like my husband can just reach past. However, as a bigger guy, he relies on great footwork and technique to pull him through steep, overhanging terrain that lighter climbers can just muscle their way through.

The bottom line? We are all blessed to have bodies that are capable of far more than we often give credit for – yet so often we put it down and complain about what it can’t do, or more commonly, what it IS and ISN’T? Whether you’re a climber, hiker, grandmother, computer guru, architect, or film stunt man, your body is unique and is intended to reflect the Creator. So treat it as such! Think twice before allowing yourself to wallow in a sea of negativity or do anything to mistreat it. I hope everyone has a fantastic Valentine’s Day.  Shower love on all those you love, but don’t forget to share some of that love with yourself!

Now its time for some Earth-suit Love!  What’s the best part about the Earth-suit YOU’VE been given?

Photo Credit: Manuela Eilert

ERICA LINEBERRY is a rock climbing mama from Charlotte, North Carolina who wants to write, inspire, and play outside. A free-spirited lover of adventure for as long as she can remember. Erica first tied into a rope back in 2006 and has been chasing natural highs on a mountaintop ever since... more »

Comments

  1. Melanie Webb says:

    What a cool expression, “Earth-suit.” The best part about my Earth-suit is realizing that it is this gift of a body that allows me to explore and connect with Mother Earth and all the other amazing beings in their colorful array of Earth-suits. Thank you for sharing the love!

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  2. V. Briggs says:

    I believe our paths may have crossed at Providence in Raleigh. I found your article through J. Tousey’s Facebook post. The best part about my Eart-suit is it can move! I have gone from couch potato to moving much faster. I will participate in my first 5K in March — one week before my 56th b-day.

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  3. YES YES YES!!!! I love this article; mostly the fact that she gives credit to our Creator! It is refreshing to finally find someone in this yoga-zen-channel-your-inner-strength fitness industry who actually professes God and gives Hiim credit. And not a “I’m happy in my bulging fat skin” sort of credit, but a genuine, healthy view of our “Earth-suit.” Great article. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Allie Finch says:

    This is beautiful; I especially love the imagery & sensation that comes to mind as you describe various Earth-suits. The way I view & treat my body completely changed when I began climbing as well. I’m no longer worry about looking a certain way. Instead I focus on strength, how my body performs, challenging it, & am amazed by the incredible things I am able to do when I love it & listen to it. It has made me view — & give credit to — others differently as well & move away from the “competitive” stress we as woman have a tendency to favor.
    Thank you for sharing your perspective. :)
    If you are ever in Arizona, hit me up; I’d love to climb with you,

    Allie

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  5. Melanie – I’m afraid I can’t take credit for the expression, a friend of mine in college always used it and I guess it stuck with me!

    V. Briggs – Congrats on setting a fitness goal and sticking with it!

    Renee – So glad you enjoyed the article. To be honest I had fears in the back of my mind that this article might be too “religious” for some, so thanks so much for the positive feedback!

    Allie – I think you’re right that we as women are often the worst offenders at “competitive stress”. I think focusing on our strengths, both inner and outer, is a helpful way to move away from that unhealthy mindset. Oh, and if I find myself in Arizone, I will definitely look you up! :)

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  6. Dawn says:

    Erica, what a lovely article! So glad to see you talking your walk – and vice versa! Keep up the outstanding work!

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  7. I really appreciate this article. And agree on every point. As a short and stocky girl I’ve always struggled with “looking” a certain way. And when I first started climbing and doing yoga, I felt insecure being around all those long, lanky, lean women. I thought I’d have to look like that to succeed in the sport. Not that I ever plan on being “awesome” at either climbing at yoga, but I have found that my short stocky body has some benefits and I through finding my own personal technique for my body size and shape, I too can gracefully climb those 5.10s. I guess what I am trying to say is I totally agree with what you said about climbing making you more into tune to your OWN body and what works for it. Oh, and I love what you said about our bodies reflecting the creator in little and big ways. I was just explaining that to my daughter the other day:)

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  8. Lorelei says:

    What a positive and inspiring message! Thank you. My earth-suit has swam many miles in its younger days, run two marathons and many other smaller races, carried me to many events, classes meetings — and down the aisle. And most miraculously, my earth-suit gave birth to three amazing boys, nursed them, bounced them on it’s knee, and chased them — and it still works even though it is getting a little creaky!

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  9. Theresa says:

    Your article brought a tear to my eye. I’ve been really struggling lately with the IS/ISN’T issue, and your words were just the perspective I needed.
    My Earth-suit is long and mostly lean. The best part about that is that my “gorilla arms” allow me to give great hugs!

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  10. Dawn – Thanks ;)

    Alyssa – Good on you for learning to listen to what YOUR body needs rather than playing the comparison game.

    Lorelei – Yes, it sucks when our Earth-suits get creaky (says the climber icing her ankle tonight after a funky lead fall earlier today…)

    Theresa – So glad you enjoyed the article! Being a good hugger is a nice skill set to have :)

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  11. Miri says:

    I can relate – I’m not a climber but a yogini and I had the same transformation when I started practicing yoga. Appreciating my body for what I could do in my yoga practice versus what it was or wasn’t. I love the “earth-suit” term too – no matter who came up with it! In terms of what I love about it – my height and my eye color.

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  12. Love your article, Erica. I’m just back from a women’s weeklong surf/yoga camp, and don’t recall hearing criticism from anyone about their bodies. It was a rare, but wonderful experience. Here’s hoping we see more of that.

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  13. Pati says:

    This ideas of acceptance and non-attachment are prevalent themes in Yoga practice. I found Yoga a welcome relief from the other fitness classes I instruct because of this….

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  14. Jourdan says:

    I love this! I bookmarked the first time I read it and come back to it every time I need a boost in how I think about my body. I’m a little girl(well I’m 22 so still a girl lol), and by little I mean 5′ 0″ tall and just over 90 pounds, and I love it! I’ve grown to own my little-ness, I was a hide n’ seek champ as a kid and into my teen years(since I could still fit in the dryer hehe) and now I try to appreciate all the things my awesome little body can do that bigger ones can’t always, like flying submissions in jiu-jitsu, climbing with a bit more creativity than the bigger climbers, and of course almost never hitting my head hahaha. But sometimes(more often than I’d like) I totally fall into the is/isn’t trap, compare myself to other taller, bigger women who have a much easier time finding clothes that fit them than I do, or get frustrated when people poke fun at my size or things I can’t or won’t or really prefer not to do(like drink, for both personal and size reasons). But then I read great posts like this, and think of this one often, and it helps me to stop and take a step back to remind myself that’s it’s not a big deal, I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone. I take great care of my Earth-suit, I nurture it with healthy food, exercise, and go on the outdoor adventures I love so much as often as I can in it. I know the amazing things it can do, like surf Costa Rican waves, climb a 5.9+ crack in Wyoming that gave all the super strong boys trouble, and express my love for everyone I care about through hugs, and other smaller things like petting a cat and filling his bowls up while his owner was in the hospital. I may be very different from most girls, I may not wear make up except on special occasions, I may not like to drink and party(I prefer to go to the climbing gym, go on an adventure, or just stay in and cook something yummy), and some people may think I’m crazy for exercising and yoga-ing as much as I do, or paying attention to what I put into my body the way I do, or loving to play outside as much as I do. Some people may think I do it to look good or be in shape, and sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that’s why I do it to, until I get to the bottom of a route, or a trailhead, or a dive site; and then I remember, I do it for me and my Earth-suit, so we can go on amazing adventures together. This post was an amazing reminder for me of why I choose to respect and take care of my amazing Earth-suit for those few times I fall into comparing trap. Thank you so much for sharing it, instead of just keeping it as a bookmark in my internet folder, it’s now getting printed out and put in a spot I look at everyday so I can never forget to share some of the love I share with those I care about with myself.

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  15. Wow Jourdan thanks for sharing your heart. So glad that you could relate to the article, and delighted that you’ve bookmarked it and printed it out!

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  16. Regi says:

    Hi Erica, I am months late in seeing this article – but with 3 of my children being girls – loving who God created them to be is a high priority to pass on. Thanks for your honesty and letting your faith shine – it is always so refreshing to read someone else write about the glory of our “Earth-suits” not being our own – but God’s.

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  17. Hi Regi!
    Thanks so much for the comment – better late than never! I like the way you put that – “loving who God created them to be”. That’s a rarity in today’s society, especially for girls I think. Thanks for sharing. :)

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