As a young person I was taught not to trust my body. “The flesh is sinful” was trotted out to explain all sorts of things: selfishness, disobedience, desire, lust, pride, you name it. But the way this was enforced was basically any time you did something that went against the power structure (your parents, your church, etc) you were told that it was coming from “the flesh”. So you started to view your body as the thing that kept getting you into trouble.
If every time you spoke your truth it was interpreted as “talking back” and you were punished for it and told that was “the flesh” speaking, then you quickly learned that speaking your truth was bad and even more than that that “your truth” was something to be fought against because it was actually sin.
So you can imagine how as a people pleasing, don’t rock the boat, Libra I took a lot of these messages to heart and worked to make myself as small as possible, especially around people in power over me.
And I spent hours and hours trying to distance myself from my feelings, my desires, my body. Which meant, after many years of doing that, I had trouble accessing that inner wisdom. More than that, I tried to actively ignore it.
So now flash forward to adult hood. I am working in a job where I can’t fully be myself. I am living at home where I can’t fully be myself. And I am feeling increasingly drawn to wanting to be my full self. I’m dating someone for the first time and it’s making me feel things I’ve never felt before. I’m starting to get a glimmer of a possible future for myself: one where I’m not constantly hiding parts of who I am.
But I don’t know how to even approach that. Everything feels too hard. The stakes feel way too high. I feel like if I choose to be myself then I lose everything that currently makes up my life. So I try to ignore it. I tell myself that the way I am currently living is fine.
But my body disagrees. I am anxious all the time, but I am so disconnected from myself that I can’t even tell that I’m anxious. Here’s what I can tell: Every time I eat I throw up. I don’t have an eating disorder. I’m not trying to make it happen. I just can’t keep food down.
I go to the doctor and they can’t find anything wrong. It keeps happening. Finally I end up in the ER, severely de-hydrated. Two weeks later I am outed and guess what? I stop throwing up.
Flash forward another bunch of years. I’m working at another toxic job. Every morning before I go to work I start coughing and can’t catch my breath. It doesn’t stop until I vomit. This goes on for months, almost every single morning. I go to work with blood shot eyes, feeling off.
I get laid off of that job. I stop throwing up.
It was this last experience that taught me how to listen. I KNEW something was wrong at that job. I had already started looking for new work. But I couldn’t quite take the leap. I still didn’t feel like I could fully trust what my body was telling me. The signals were there. My body was screaming “IT’S TIME TO GO!!!” But I was afraid and so I tried to ignore my body. My body just kept getting louder and louder and louder.
After I got laid off I checked in with myself and I made myself a promise: I was going to start listening earlier. I was going to pay attention. When I first felt the nudge that said “Hey… something is wonky” I was going to listen. I wasn’t going to just shove things down.
Now listen, there are times when my body says “Get out!” And my rational brain says “We need a plan for that.” Then I meet them in the middle. I honor the knowing that says it’s time to go as I create the plan that will allow me to leave safely.
I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I get a twinge that says “This is gonna be a mess” and I take the gig anyway because I need the money or because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or whatever. But what I don’t do is ignore the twinge.
Instead I check in. I assess. I do what I need to do to comfort or calm myself. And then I start making whatever plans I need to make to deal with the situation.
But I trust my body. It has kept me safe. It has kept me alive. It continues to give me wisdom for dealing with all manner of situations. My flesh isn’t weak, it’s incredibly strong and intuitive. We are on the same team and I am continually working to be a better teammate.