I’m not alone in being self-conscious of my appearance. By the age of 16, I was a size 8, or “far too skinny” and “barely eating” as my dad reminded me recently. I always thought I was too fat. Never skinny enough. Never pretty enough. Never tall enough, tanned enough or blonde enough.
I can look back at my pictures now and I see a beautiful, bright young woman. But I couldn’t see it then. I thought if I looked better I might feel more acceptable.
I spent the whole time holding my tummy in. My breath would never enter my gut and puff it up. I was determined my stomach was going to be seen as flat. I felt a sense of achievement whenever someone commented on my losing weight. I was getting closer and closer to being what I saw as an ‘acceptable size’. But I never got there, and I never could. Because I just couldn’t see myself how I really was.
All the while, I failed to recognise that we’re not designed to have a flat stomach; it’s meant to expand with every breath we take. We’re supposed to breathe deeply into that space. Our breath support us with wise decision-making, accessing calm and courage, and showing up as who we are. And I wasn’t breathing well.
I allowed myself to take only shallow breaths into my chest. Now I know that the way I chose to control my breathing only heightened those anxious feelings I lived with. It was one part of a vicious cycle of untrue thoughts, unhealthy coping strategies and distressing physical effects.
Want to know more about this? Read: How to reduce anxiety with balanced breathing