Ask not what you can do to your body but what your body can do for you. That's the theme of today's blog but before we go there, I feel the need, despite a touch of embarrassment, to wander off on a tangent. I had a fracas with Twitter last night, and Twitter came out on top. In trying to shorten my Twitter username @JustAsIAm40Days to @JustAsIAm40, I managed to delete both those accounts. I'm now reinstated at @Just_AsIAm40. So why is this relevant to this blog? It's actually highly relevant. Why was I messing around on Twitter at 10 o'clock at night in the first place? Well, precisely because I'm a perfectionist and nothing is ever good enough. Not content with having managed to overcome my technophobia to set up a blog, Twitter account and Facebook page on Wednesday in time for the first day of Lent, I felt the need to 'perfect' the whole package. But in striving for what I'd deemed to be 'perfection', I tied myself in knots and deprived myself of sleep. And now I'm going to have to live with the imperfection of that pesky underscore in my Twitter name! Yes, this really is how my mind works. Now perfectionism can get us a long way in our lives and careers and I'd say it's taken me pretty far, but at what cost? So I'm doing my utmost to accept my underscore in the same way I'm trying to accept other things I've disliked about myself in the past. After all, I entitled this blog 'Abstaining for 40 days from negative thinking about body, appearance and achievements' for a reason. That 'nothing is ever good enough' voice is very damaging.
It's become clear, however, that this self-acceptance business is going to require a herculean effort. It's not just about positive thinking, I need a total renewing of my mind, a rewiring of my brain. I know prayer and meditation help but stilling my mind is a bit like trying to stop the washing machine from shaking when it's on the spin cycle. So I'd welcome any more suggestions on overcoming negative and obsessive thought patterns.
Of course, the critical voice in my head thinks one of those suggestions should be 'Get a life!' but my more accepting self feels that might be a little harsh. I did ask myself this morning - when I saw the news about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan - whether all this talk of healthy body thoughts and positive self image wasn't a little trivial and somewhat indulgent. But the eating disorder statistics quoted in yesterday's blog say otherwise. I've wondered before whether I needed some sort of personal tragedy to jolt me out of negative body obsession but then I lost my Dad to cancer 4 years ago and that didn't stop the cycle. I've also seen enough misery, devastation and destruction in my journalism career - from the Asian tsunami to the Haitian earthquake - to develop a better sense of perspective. But that perspective never lasted. I guess the truth is we all have our personal battles, irrespective of what's going on out there in the world, and they're all valid. They're part of us and tragedy won't necessarily change that. What might, however, is a daily effort to challenge the negative thoughts, to practice gratitude and self acceptance and to turn away from behaviours that have done us harm in the past. So in my case, I've learned - once again and the hard way - that once I've made a decision I deserve to embrace it fully, that once I've set out on a path, I deserve to keep my eyes firmly focused on what's ahead and not look left or right or back the way I came.
So I can proudly announce that today I successfully challenged my negative body image issues and bought a figure-flattering, feminine dress for my 40th birthday party on Saturday night. Quite an achievement. My dear friend Anne will be proud of me.
One final thought for today: I learned something else from last night's Twitter debacle to prove that no experience goes to waste. I learned what I'll call from now on the three Bs: blogging, boundaries and balance. I deserve to set some time boundaries around my work, be that blogging or other work, and around when I log on to Twitter and Facebook. This endeavour could easily take up the space that's being freed up in my mind by renouncing negative body thoughts and that would be counterproductive. While I'm passionate about writing this blog, balance and self-care have to come first.