After tweaking my knee recently while teaching a fitness class, my first thought was—to quote a text I sent to my best friend about two hours after the incident—I am a fucking idiot. The idiocy, as far as I was concerned, was my refusal to stop pushing myself despite the signals my body was giving me over the last few weeks. Signals in the form of pain. Some context—I’ve had five orthopedic surgeries on my right leg since 2005. Most recently in December 2012, I needed a second ankle ligament reconstruction after rupturing the first, plus a knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus and pop a few cysts.
The reason I dropped the F bomb on myself was because I felt so angry and frustrated for not learning the lesson of self care. I was injured and then beating myself up further for not stopping. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to know this is not exactly compassionate, loving-kindness. Even after years of working on my inner monologue and teaching others to do the same, I still found myself failing the “Would you treat a friend that way?” test (note: I treat my friends very well.).
I can’t overstate the importance and high stakes of reigning in self-hate, blame and shame in favor of a gentle attitude towards the self. I share that story because even at 36, I am very much a work in progress. The initial idea for this article was to write about the bulimia I developed a when I was 18 and when I found myself more drawn to write on the subject of injuries and self care, I fast realized they are closely related. I grew up with a “No pain, no gain!” and “Walk it off!” mentality. The perfectionism I internalized became a way to measure myself against goals that were simply unattainable. The eating disorder I developed and then the string of body breakdowns share similar roots and my healing from both is the tree of self love.
One of the branches of this self-love tree—I’m such a nature girl so let's roll with this metaphor has been an ability to look at the messages being beamed out to women from both individuals and institutions so I can discern and ultimately reject them if they deprive me of my humanity. I don’t want to feed any of my self-destructive impulses and have enough trouble undoing my own conditioning! Why would I want to add to the heap? The things I say NO to time and again are the following:
· The glorification of malnourished looking models or actresses to sell a product or story
· Narratives that deny women a real voice and subjugate women to props and accessories
· Excessive sexualization of women or worse, young girls, in advertising and pop culture
· Fad diets or extreme workout regiments that could lead to injury or sickness
· The misunderstanding of eating disorders that relegates them to superficial efforts to be thin
· The persistent characterization or stereotyping of women as crazy or over emotional unless its done in a way that is subversive or enlightening
· The myth that women can only exist as cat-fighting back stabbers instead of soul sisters and friends who can get along, support and love each other’s lives
· Laws that take away women’s rights to privacy and personal freedom
· Denial of government funding for women’s health needs
· The notion that women have to be anything less than fully expressed
It can be challenging to turn these NO’s into YES’s but at this point, since we are in a global fight and every moment spent working on one's own empowerment and the empowerment of other women will help save the world, it’s worth a shot. Towards that end, I’ve come up with an acronym that sums up that also is one of my favorite past times: DANCE! The D is for Discernment, since you can always look at a message and discern if it’s someone’s subjective interpretation of your body and your beauty. From there, you can Disagree. (So, there are two D’s.) The A is for Activism, since taking action to raise awareness on the issues, pressing legislators to vote in ways that support women, boycotting companies that are sexist (Abercrombie, I’m taking to you. Booh!) while supporting those who are shifting consciousness (H&M, I’m talking to you. Brava!!!). The N is for Nurturing yourself, since no matter what the current climate or media circus of the day, self-care is your responsibility. The C is for Community and I’m happy to see the abundance of communities, particularly on line, that are sprouting up and practicing what we know to be true -- there is power in the collective and it certainly takes a village to raise a gender to the level of equality. My own personal community of friends gives me tremendous strength and love, so I have people to turn to at all times. Finally, the E is for Enthusiasm! If you’ve got it, your passion and vision will draw others in and your vision for a better world will be sustained over time. Thank you for reading!
Lindsay B. Davis is a journalist, actress, blogger, playwright, singer/songwriter, director and producer. She is also a lifelong athlete (former collegiate D1A soccer player) and intenSati fitness instructor. Lindsay is passionately committed to the prevention and successful treatment of eating disorders. She holds a BA in English from Cornell University and currently resides in New York City.