As a coach, I place an emphasis on the beautiful role the body plays in change and personal transformation. We can find many answers by questioning, rationalising, analysing, but by staying in our heads, we ignore the fundamental wisdom and insights that our bodies offer when we invite them into the conversation. These insights relate directly to who we are, what we need, what we're missing and what really matters. (If you don't know what I mean, just get in touch and I'll explain.)
Because of this, I see the body as uniquely precious. It is extraordinary. And I say this with a strong awareness that, in the past, the respect that my own extraordinary body deserved was horribly lacking. I was bulimic for a while, lived on negligible, empty calories and hurt myself as a misguided path through a tangle of emotions… I didn't deserve that. My young, strong, healthy body didn't deserve that.
However, there was a simple/challenging answer. I had to learn how to respect my body, understand it and be comfortable there, whatever shape it was. I had to come home and make it a place I wanted to be and allowed myself to live. We do it with bricks and mortar, so why not our own flesh and blood?
The truth was I didn't feel connected to my body. I didn't really know it, although of course I knew what it weighed and measured. I knew how many calories it had consumed, but that was just a numbers' game.
The Paralympics are about numbers too - who runs or swims the fastest, scores the most or lifts the heaviest, but these athletes, with their endurance, strength, courage and passion, ask us to think about the body in a different way. They don't fit the mould or match the 'acceptable' stereotypes of the 'ideal' human being. They challenge us with how much they've achieved and by the fact that the boundaries and limitations that we see in our own lives and in our own bodies are so clearly of our own making…
In my teenage quest for the 'right' kind of body, I boxed myself in. I lived within boundaries so tight that they regimented my behaviour and limited my sense of my own potential, beauty, 'rightness', ability to succeed and the pleasure my body could give me. It was just a place for criticism, fault-finding and rejection.
'I am what I am' - it can be so bloody hard to say that and really mean it, but when we do, we give ourselves a gift that transcends our physical form. We give ourselves freedom.