Peeling back the layers of an onion. It’s a metaphor for life and growth that might not be perfect but never gets old.
The most poignant part of the metaphor for me is that peeling onions can sting and make you cry. Well, if that’s not a truth about growth and life, I don’t know what is! With every layer we peel back, we can potentially face great pain and lots of tears. But it’s worth it, because onions, like life, are so tasty when they’re peeled and used in a way that is totally different from how they started. Instead of being a thick, protected orb with all sorts of potential (imagine our adult defenses), when the onion has been peeled and chopped, allowing us to cry while we peel and chop it, we make something pretty delicious and wonderful with it.
With life, it seems, it’s only in the unpeeling (discovering), chopping (analyzing), and making us cry (healing) that we learn, grow, and become our true selves.
Is it uncomfortable? Hell yes, just like peeling and chopping an onion.
Is it worth the discomfort?
Looking perfect or feeling good. That struggle has been on my mind a lot lately as I welcome a host of new internal and external conditions that have a direct impact on my identity as a "health and fitness professional":
The items in the above list have undermined the major belief that drove me to exercise obsessively for the first 10 years of my professional fitness career: my body was really messed up from scoliosis and other health issues, and I had to work really hard to make it appear "perfect" or I wouldn't be respected, successful, or loved. I think perhaps a majority of women are led to believe something very similar, and that is what countless "love your body" campaigns and groups are designed to help defuse.
But as anyone who has made a major shift in her life knows, old beliefs and thought patterns die hard. Really hard. It takes more than a simple ad campaign or a support group to change our core beliefs. Especially when every bit of advertising and social conditioning in our society says, "Women are their bodies, nothing more, and we demand that those bodies appear PERFECT!" And as a professional in the fitness and wellness industry (and, sadly, also in "Westernized" yoga)? Forget about it: We are ALL supposed to be perfect icons of bodily perfection: no body fat, no cellulite, no structural malformations, no outward appearance of aging, perfect curves in exactly the right places, and energy so abundant we work out hours a day without a care in the world. Hmph. I don't think anyone can adhere to those expectations without being sick and obsessed.
So here I reveal the strategies that work to ensure that I don't fall into the "trying to appear perfect" trap again. If you recognize yourself struggling with anything I've mentioned so far, maybe one or more of these can help you, too.
When faced with the choice to "look perfect" or "feel good," I'm opting for feeling good from here on out. What about you?
** I had so many wonderful, heartfelt comments to this post on its original Wordpress page. It's too bad I could not preserve them when I moved the site. Perhaps new readers would like to add some helpful comments of their own?
Sara Hauber, MA
Coach, listener, observer, writer, and erstwhile teacher; constantly curious
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