In the early morning hours, before darkness lifts and the pace picks up, I tip toe downstairs, shower, and quietly prepare for the day. I love this time before my husband and children wake and my various responsibilities kick in. I can hear my thoughts, my breath, and the stillness.
I dress and approach the mirror. I stand before it, meet my eyes, and instead of asking who is the fairest of them all, I ask: Who do you want to show up as today?
For years and years, I stood before the mirror frantically checking my body. Do I look anorexic enough? Do I look sick enough from the side, front, and back? Of course, the answer was always no, and in an instant, the calm morning hours turned day into a raging hell. Can you relate?
That single moment in front of the mirror determined my attitude for the entire day. And because of that, recovery felt like a big fat inconvenience. An uphill battle. A never ending source of agony. I was always on the defensive, running against the natural flow of life for the sake of a measly moment in the mirror.
I’m 22 years into my healing path now, and I’ve given myself permission to play offense instead of defense. It’s taken time and many leaps of faith to test what would happen if I asked myself a different question in front of the mirror, one that celebrates instead of berates, empowers instead of belittles, raises up versus ridicules.
The idea of asking myself questions that weren’t traps for misery came from learning about the philosophical concept in yoga called the koshas. The idea is that we are all made of five layers: body, breath, mind (emotions), intellect, and spirit. In my experience, recovery is so heavily focused on food and feeding our bodies (because it has to be!) that we often don’t pause and notice how we are feeding our minds. You and I both know how difficult it is to get a grip on spinning eating disorder beliefs, thoughts, and rules! Gruelingly hard work, yes?
The reality I had to face was that unless I started feeding my mind different questions about myself, I would never have an opportunity to respond differently or feel happier or believe I was more than an eating disorder. My experience of life would forever be dictated by a mirror.
Little by little, I started asking different questions, the most pivotal one being: Who do you want to show up as today? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes my answer to that question is related to body size. The difference now, though, is that I don’t allow that thought to stick. I consciously choose to ask myself the question again until the answer that comes is one that feeds my mind with positivity so that I start my day with an attitude of “Look out world, I am ready for you!”
So, I ask you: Who do you want to show up as today? How can you begin to feed your mind differently so that you have the opportunity to create new thoughts about yourself, your body, and your place in your world, in this world?
If you are unsure, just start with one simple question similar to what I ask myself, and don’t let yourself off the hook until your answer is about who you are at your core. We all deserve to draw out these beautiful parts of ourselves, and it begins with feeding our minds new words and thoughts about our whole sense of self.
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT 500 is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to several eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Connect with Jennifer.