Interacting with Love - mistakes, reflections & learnings
Last week I had an interesting and pretty embarrassing interaction (on my part) with one of my gorgeous souls sisters. In reflecting upon how this situation I realised I handled it quite poorly, but it also taught me some important things.
Here's what happened: my friend and I were having a general conversation over dinner when we found ourselves talking about jeans, weight and our bodies. In discussing how skinny jeans these days don't seem to be made to fit women with remotely curvy thighs, my friend made a comment about how she wished she were fitter, with thinner thighs (so her jeans would fit better). As she said this, the "body image" alarm bells started sounding in my head and I felt myself getting incredibly frustrated and upset. The majority of the charged emotions I felt were due to the fact that we live in a society that makes women (and men) feel they need to look a certain way to be considered beautiful/worthy/successful, which I personally find incredibly sad. This is an issue I am very passionate about, especially since watching the Embrace documentary, and it truly is a message that I believe should be shared. But this is where it all went wrong...
Instead of listening to my friend, allowing her to openly express her dissatisfaction/hopes for a "better" body, and then reassuring her that these feelings are very normal, I jumped straight down her throat. I interrupted her and started on my own monologic body image rant about how messed up society's attitudes are and told her how stupid it was that she felt this way. I (rather aggressively) questioned why she felt she needed to look that way, and how she would feel if she never achieved her desired body. She quickly recoiled, and tried to douse the fire burning in me with the responses she thought I wanted to hear. She mentioned health and wanting to be fitter so that she felt better (FYI: perfectly good reasons to want to change your habits). But I couldn't be stopped, I was a bull with a red flag being waved in front of me.
Eventually, after slamming my opinions/frustrations/passionate thoughts on her, I managed to calm down enough to apologise for the rant and we swiftly moved the conversation on. Inside I felt uncomfortable and icky, which I realised was the result of my own behaviour.
Instead of listening to and reassuring my friend that I understood exactly how she felt (because I definitely do), I aggressively and inconsiderately thrust my frustrations on her. It was a triggering conversation for me (clearly), but instead of lovingly letting her know how such comments made me feel, I attacked her for having such thoughts. Did I really think making someone feel bad about feeling bad about their body was going to make them feel good? God no! In fact, it probably had the opposite effect. Instead of letting her know how incredibly beautiful and perfect she is (inside and out), I questioned her own beliefs about beauty and how we should look.
What's more, in that moment I completely ignored the fact that this stance I have adopted on body image is not dogma. Sure, I have every right to believe that every body should be able to love themselves exactly as they are. But equally, she has every right to disagree with me, to be okay with the way our society values beauty, fitness and a certain body type. There are two sides to every debate and that includes this one. For some people there is no issue in having models and fitness "gurus" plastered all over the place, as they CAN inspire people to make healthier changes in their lives.
In that moment I was not speaking from a self-loving place. I felt threatened and vulnerable because I could relate to those feelings, but I was struggling to suppress them. I was not respecting my opinions by forcing them on her, nor was I respecting her and her vulnerability in opening up about her feelings about her body. After it dawned on me just how ungracefully I handled this whole situation I felt terrible. I sent my friend an apology message, acknowledging that I knew my actions and words had been way out of line.
The moral of this story is this: anger, aggression, or even extreme passion is not an effective way of spreading your message (no matter what that might be). Love is the only way. Speaking, acting and sharing from a place of love is the only way we can have even a small shot a cultivating real change.
Don't make my mistake. Speak, act and live from a place of love. And to my friend, again, I'm sorry.
Love Erica xxx