Love 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.
The 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