Editor's note: This article was originally published on Kallie Dalley's blog, Smitten By. It has been republished here with permission.
I think I have been doing you a disservice by promoting "you are not your body" and I am sorry.
It really is a lie.
Your body is a part of you whether you want it to be or not.
I have struggled with my body image since I was in elementary school. I would stand in front of a mirror and pick myself apart, hoping that one day I would look at my reflection and see all the things I wanted it to look like reflected back at me. The reflection in the mirror was never enough and these thoughts didn't change for 20+ long years.
For years I distanced myself from my body that I hated. I couldn't get a new body so I ran as fast as I could away from the one I had. Choosing to focus all my efforts and attentions on my soul, my heart, my thoughts, my actions because those things didn't require my physical body to make them happen. I was continually shouting "I AM NOT MY BODY" to keep me as far away as possible to inhabiting my physical body.
After years of telling myself "I am not my body," "I am NOT my body," "I AM NOT MY BODY," one day I was no longer my body. My body was no longer a part of me and I chose for it to be that way. Here is where things get tricky - I got married and suddenly I was supposed to have this experience with my husband that was ALL ABOUT MY BODY and how my body felt, all while connecting to him on a deeper more intimate level. The problem was my body was present but my soul, my heart, my mind - essentially all things ME - was not.
I was so focused on ignoring my body and focusing on everything else that I was not present during intimacy. I was not connecting to my husband and I was not letting him connect to me. I often would feel angry, used and like an object for my husband's desires. Sometimes I would find myself hysterically crying after with no reason as to why. My husband would look at me with wide, sad eyes because he had no idea why I felt this way or what to do to help me.
For years I have blamed my body image issues, and I know that is still part of it, but I feel like a huge part of it was me not associating or identifying with my body. I felt like a victim instead of a player on the team. Things were happening to my body, the body that was supposed to be connected to my soul, my heart, but there was no connection between them, so there was nowhere for that intimate connection to go. What I had thought would save me from the heartache, my body actually sabotaged my marriage and sex life.
I have spent months in therapy trying to figure out why I would get so upset about sex or anything intimate. Why did I feel like an object when I knew my husband loved me dearly? Why have I spent 10 years of marriage with a wall up, never really letting my husband in because the only way he could reach me was a dead end? I finally got my answer the other day. I had forgotten one of the pieces to my puzzle - MY BODY and the role it played. My therapist has been working on this with me, she had driven this message home but nothing explained it as well as Glennon did from Momastery - sex had become an out of body experience. For some reason when I watched her video everything my therapist had been trying to help me understand was crystal clear and I could now come up with a plan of action.
After we have disconnected our bodies from ourselves, how do we get the connection back?
I am still on this journey and I will share more as I learn more, but here are a few things that have helped so far.
Keeping my mind present. So many times during intimacy my mind would be somewhere else, thinking about anything and everything but what was happening in that moment. It is like how can you enjoy the sunset if you are not looking at it? How can you enjoy intimacy if you are not feeling it? In order to connect with him I have to be present. How do you stay present? My therapist suggested I focus on the warmth of his hand and how it feels against my skin. She suggested doing this outside of intimacy also. When we are on a date and he is holding my hand I focus on how it feels, and why it feels that way to me. If he is rubbing my back I focus on the warmth his hand leaves behind. I try and concentrate on what is happening and how it makes me feel. This has helped me dramatically establish the belief that he is a safe place and he would never hurt me.
My therapist also suggested connecting to your body and the things that it does do for you. Write a list of things your body does for you. Focus on things like the places your legs allow you to go, the people your hands allow you to serve and love. Your eyes that allow you to see the people you love and the sunset.
YOU are made up of your mind, your heart, your soul and YOUR BODY. Your body allows you to experience things that your heart, soul, and mind can't and vice versa. There has to be a balance. We can't forget about one piece and make it work. There are four pieces to the puzzle called YOU and if one is missing then YOU ARE INCOMPLETE.
You are your body. It is not ALL of you but it is a part of you and it is time to start treating it as the part of you it is.