Last week, when I finished teaching a yoga class, I went about the humble task of mopping up all the sweat on the studio floor.
It’s an important job. I’ve had students get really upset when we miss a spot. Knowing that a clean floor can affect the way a student begins their class, I always try to take extra care to get all the little drips…or puddles…or lakes.
On this day, I was alone in the room with one other student rolling up her mat. We’ve chatted a few times, and I’ve had the chance to appreciate her honesty about where she is in her practice. She’s shared with me that she’s trying to lose some weight.
It’s a touchy subject, but as a professional – and one that sees people in their spandex and shorts – I always try to share sincere compliments with my students. I feel it’s very important for them to know that someone – anyone – notices the changes that are happening to their bodies.
Empty compliments are a peeve of mine. Actually, so is the word ‘peeve’, but hey, that’s another story. Anyways, I try to ensure that any compliment I give to a student has my heart in it, and that I’m not just filling space, easing discomfort, or making conversation.
So on this particularly sweaty day, as this student was rolling up her mat, I said to her ‘Betty, your postures are coming along so nicely, and your focus is excellent. You must be very proud of yourself that you’re seeing the results of all your hard work…you look great.’
It wasn’t a big deal. She smiled, we chatted about one of her postures, and I finished cleaning the floor.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I saw her in the change room before class, that I realized the importance of my compliment.
She came up to me. Directly. Unsure of what was up, I made sure I was open to what she had to say, and I hoped like hell that she wasn’t going to tell me I had upset her in any way. You just never know!
In a hushed voice, amid bare bums, sweaty yogis and hairdryers, she said ‘I just wanted to thank you for what you said to me yesterday.’
I was relieved. ‘You’re welcome! It’s so true, you’re doing so well.’
She smiled. ‘Yes, but what I didn’t tell you want that just as you were mopping the floor, I was looking in the mirror…and…’ she teared up a little bit.
‘…Well, I was in the middle of telling myself that I looked so fat.’ She smiled a bit, her eyes still wet, and looked resigned. ‘And then you came in and told me I looked good. Thank you, I needed to hear that.’
The conversation made me cry a little bit. Partly because I know that voice so freakin’ well. You’re fat. You’re disgusting. Look at your thighs in those shorts. You should wear pants.
And partly because I felt so happy that this woman, this beautiful, strong woman, recognized the disparity between my observation and her internal dialogue.
The look in her eyes, I could tell she was now turned on to the damaging voice that derails so many of our goals and dreams, so many of our pure actions. Michelle, my teacher, calls it The Drill Sergeant. I call it The Diet Monster. Whatever you call it, the first step in getting over the constant dialogue is to be aware of it.
Please watch this piece from Dove Beauty, sent to me by my dear bestie.
I was in the middle of telling myself I looked so fat.
What do you tell yourself when you look in the mirror?