Let me start by saying that at Age 45 and with many years of therapy under by belt, I am pretty comfortable with who I am and what I do. I am content knowing that I am an excellent massage therapist and energy worker. I am content that I can lead a good yoga class and support my students. It honors, but does not surprise, me when people say my dance classes mean so much to them. I believe people who tell me that my retreats profoundly impact them. I am ok with my “skills” in the world. I generally don’t hide much of myself, except my legs.
As someone who values and practices compassion, after I gained 50 pounds 10 years ago, I believed I was exercising compassion to others by covering up my legs, because, let’s face it, No-One Wants to See THAT! Or do they?
This is the question I had never really asked myself before that magical moment: 11:30am on April 5th, 2014 at The Body Love Conference in Tucson, AZ. I was sitting in a lecture by one of my sheros, Sonya Renee Taylor. She runs a Facebook site called The Body is Not An Apology. I have been following her for about 18 months. I love the boldness and bravery of her shares and how she encourages people to post photos they would prefer to delete. She calls it “Bad Picture Monday.” I so admire people for posting those moments that do not reflect their “best look” to start unwinding the shame that comes from being “ordinary” and “normal.” I have admired them, but had not yet felt the strength to post one myself.
I listened with all of my being as she told the story of when and how she decided to take on the pain and shame she felt because of the bald spots on her head. She was ready to stop wearing a wig and totally shave her head. She gathered friends together for a ritual to bless her, her head, and her bald spots. They promised to support her through the 30-day process she called a RUCHUS: Radically Unapologetic Healing Challenge 4 Us! It was an experiment in exposing the scariest fear about herself to the world— through photos, blogs, vlogs.
Then she shaved her head! Afterwards, her friends blessed her bald head. In some ways that was the easy part. Next, she had to begin showing the world.
At that point in the story, she said something that struck me so strongly. She said, when she woke the next day and took her dog for a walk that she expected people to scream in terror and run the other way upon seeing her bald head! She was so surprised when people walked by and did not even give her a second look. Nothing. The world had not come to an end; she was not shunned; she did not frighten the children. Nothing changed except that she began to accept herself on a new level.
That is when it dawned on me—I have been afraid that if I showed my legs, people would run screaming the other way, would be so disgusted they would vomit. In my mind, I was doing them a favor. I was protecting them! But, maybe they didn’t want or need my protection? Maybe I was really denying them something of value, a mirror, a reflection.
I believe that my mission in my work is to hold a mirror to show people their greatness. I approach my teaching, my healing sessions, my life with a “you know best” approach, gently or not so gently, guiding people to feel good in their skins, to relish themselves. Yet, here I was hiding my own skin. The gaping blind spot—I was denying them myself as a mirror! Many women have not seen themselves reflected in the media, on the streets, on social media as powerful and proud and beautiful. I had never seen women’s bare, cellulite-covered legs, so mine seemed like the odd ones, the ONLY ones.
Where are the legs that look like mine?
They must be out there, hiding themselves behind long pants, long skirts, thick leggings. Hiding, hiding, hiding. It began to dawn on me that I was doing the same. I was denying other women a potential mirror, denying them a reflection of themselves. I was making it seem normal to hide, appropriate to cover up, because NO One Wants to See THAT! But I realized, I DO! I want to be seen, I want to see myself in others, I want to reflect and be reflected.
So my RUHCUS began.
I walked out of the workshop fired-up. I went to lunch with two friends. We sat on the grass of the U of A mall to eat lunch on that warm day. As we talked, I, seemingly-casual (but heart racing all the while) pulled up my pant legs to expose not only my calves, but all the way to the tops of my thighs! They continued talking, and to my surprise, continued EATING. Neither of them looked at me, or became too ill to finish their lunch. Nothing happened. People walked by, they did not grab their children and usher them away from the “disgusting site.” I got no stares, no tisk, tisk of disapproval. Nothing happened. I breathed. I told them of my experience. They smiled and cheered me on. No problems finishing their food!
But, I thought, of course, we are at The Body Love Conference. This is different. This is the most accepting crowd in the world. How will it be in the REAL world? I was not totally ready for that, but at least I would try it here. I spent the rest of the conference with my legs exposed! Really exposed! My RUCHUS had begun.