Have you ever found yourself looking through a magazine and agonizing over the fact that you will never look like a certain celebrity? What about looking at someone’s Facebook or Instagram feed and wishing you could be more like them—or at least get in to their yoga pose? I know I have.
Comparison almost always leaves you with a feeling of inadequacy. Comparison is what led to my 14-year struggle with body image and disordered eating. On a summer afternoon, at the age of six, while playing Barbies with my sister, I overheard our babysitter tell her friend how perfectly proportioned Barbie’s body was. For the first time in my life, I gave the doll a second look. I went on with my afternoon as innocently as any six-year-old would, not really giving it a second thought. The second thought came the next day, while running through the sprinklers, I felt my thighs touch. I suddenly felt a sense of disgust overtake me. My body was not perfect, I was flawed. Little did I know at the time, this belief I developed about my body, would stick with me for years to come.
Throughout my grammar school years, I loved to look at the magazines in the grocery store check-out aisles as my mom paid for the groceries. I distinctly remember noticing that none of the beautiful celebrities’ thighs even came close to touching. They had tiny waistlines and the most glamorous clothes. I loved studying their bodies, clothes, hair and makeup. I judged my body, wishing it could be something different than what it already was in order to feel loved and accepted by myself.
When I was in high school, a curvaceous new celebrity rolled on to the cover of those magazines that I so religiously studied. Her name was Beyoncé. She had radiant skin and hair and was practically worshipped on magazine covers for her curves. Rather than feel like it was finally okay to have curves, I felt confused. The media message was mixed: it was okay to have curves yet everywhere I looked were only stick-thin celebrities and models.
Then I found yoga. On a hot summer afternoon, I stepped on to the mat in search of authenticity and self-acceptance in my life. The instructor spoke in Sanskrit and my mind and body were challenged. We were told that “the best diet is not for physical gain, but rather a spiritual and emotional one. Be cautious with what you feed your mind and soul.” It’s like she was speaking directly to me. Yoga for me is a chance to get out of my head, ditch comparisons and simply look inside myself. I now practice looking beyond the physical body and in to my beautiful soul on a daily basis. I wasted so many years studying those magazines and undereating while striving to look like the thinnest of celebrities. Through my experiences, I learned that loving myself meant loving every single part of me. If I look in the mirror with judging eyes on a particular body part, they tend to drift from that part, to another and so on until I am left with a feeling of disgust. So instead, I choose to be gentle and look at myself with a loving attitude.
Kelli DeWispelare is the owner of Sweat, Cycle and Soul, an indoor cycling, yoga, pilates, and TRX studio. She was drawn to yoga years ago in search of balance and authenticity.