compassion

An open letter to women everywhere

Dear women of the world,

I want you to know that I see you.

You sit across from me in the waiting room, or next to me in a restaurant, and tell me you could never do “that.”

"That" varies.

You say you could never slog your way through a 10k, survive a Tough Mudder obstacle course or do a chin up.

I'm telling you today that you can do those things.

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I'm going to believe it for you until you can believe it for yourself.

Ok?

I want you to know that I see you.  

You hurry past mirrors and avoid your reflection in windows. You scoff at every photo you see of yourself. 

“Ugh,” you say. “I look like that?” 

“Don't you dare take my photo,” you say. 

“Do not post that picture to Facebook,” you say.

“I’ll take the photo,” you say. 

If you do let yourself be photographed, all you can see are the flaws. You pick yourself apart. You stare at your belly, at your chin - you compare yourself to others, or to the 22-year old version of yourself.

You can look at your friends, your children, your co-workers with kind eyes and a compassionate smile. You offer encouraging words to family members and strangers. 

But you struggle to offer these words to yourself.

So I want you to know that I see those beautiful things in you.

I know you don’t see them right now. Because you wear your shame like a cloak, you use that self-deprecating sense of humor to change the subject or bow out of a conversation. You work hard, everyday, to see the good in everyone but yourself. 

Because you can’t stand your own reflection.

But here's the real truth.

You. Are. Beautiful.

You. Are. Strong.

You. Are. Capable. 

I know that you struggle to believe those things. I struggle to believe them about myself sometimes too. 

I'm going to hold these beliefs for you until you can believe them for yourself.

Whether or not we’ve ever met, I'm pledging to you today, this one promise: 

I will hold a space for you.

I am going to believe for you what you cannot, right now, believe for yourself. I am going to see in you, right now, what you cannot see in yourself.

I am going to hold a place, free of judgement, where you can shed your shame, where you can embrace your vulnerability, where you can be you. I’m going to do my best to create and hold that safe space for you, until you can hold that space for yourself.

I’m going to believe that you are, right now in this moment, everything you are supposed to be. 

That you are, right now, in this moment, all that you need to be. 

I’m going to believe that for you, until you can see it and believe it for yourself. 

Start where you are

I love this quote.

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I love this concept. 

Because it embraces you for you. It's not asking you to change. It's not asking you to be someone different than who you are, right now, in this moment.

It offers permission, and it also offers some accountability. Accept who you are, and where you are, but take action.

Start. 

Begin.

Change the story you tell yourself about what needs to happen before you can start something new. Too often we wait. I'll start going to the gym on Monday.

After my birthday.

After that trip. 

You can start right now. But you have to change way you think about getting started.

The quote comes from a book of the same title by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun whose work I've followed for a few years. The book is a guide to compassionate living. 

I'm a procrastinator. I'll do anything to avoid getting started. I don't know why. I just do. 

But I also like this quote because it's gentle. 

The quote "no excuses" absolutely works for some people. Many athletes are motivated by coaches shouting things like no excuses, and no pain, no gain. I still have t-shirts from high school with those quotes. They work. And they are true. You have to be willing to recognize when you're making excuses regarding change. You have to recognize when you're not making exercise and nutrition a priority.

But I don't believe that motivation, accountability, and self-compassion need to be mutually exclusive. 

Regardless of what it is that you're putting off, take a look at what you're waiting for. Sit with the why. Embrace where you are in your life.

Start with where you are.

Start with you who are.