By: Melanie C. Klein
Time to get honest...
How do you see yourself?
How do you feel about yourself?
How do you relate to your body?
How do you talk to and about your body?
It’s easy to forget what an impact the external world (from our family of origin to our peers to the all pervasive media) has on how we see, feel and relate to ourselves… especially our bodies.
From the moment we’re born and take our first breath, we’re being socialized or learning what it means to be a member of the culture we were born into. We begin learning through both subtle and overt cues, messages, observations and images what the values and norms of that culture are in that time and place. We learn what is acceptable, desirable, worthy, valuable… and what isn’t.
Here’s one of the most personally empowering things I learned in my first sociology course, none of this is simply 'how it is.' This is how it has been created.
Our self concept and our view of the world as well as all the taken-for-granted beliefs about "how things are'' and how they should be is a social construct, one created and reinforced daily through our actions and interactions in this “thing” humans have created. That “thing” being society.
And in the same way these values and norms, expectations and assumptions have been created, they can be re-created. That’s what has always excited, inspired and motivated me (and the spark that ignited everything I’ve done personally and professionally ever since).
You don't have to accept everything as an inevitable, impermeable truth or what's right or what will always be. Society and culture are mutable, ephemeral and dynamic.
When you become conscious and aware through mindfulness practices, meditation and yoga, you get to choose what you think, believe, feel and do.
You get to choose to consciously reject the expectations, assumptions, projections and behaviors that are harmful, limiting, constricting and toxic. You get to decide where society ends and you begin in your thinking, your being and actions.
Personal empowerment is about stepping fully into yourself.
Personal empowerment is something that happens from the inside out and is not defined or created from the outside in.
Personal empowerment is represented by inner -strength, bodily autonomy and having ownership over one’s self. Personal empowerment is marked by internal freedom and peace. This is where body acceptance and body peace play a vital role. It’s an oxymoron to be at peace with one’s self while simultaneously being at war with one’s body.
How can you be fully empowered when there is an ongoing battle to control or “fix” the body? Punish the body? Force it to submit to our will? How can you be empowered when there is lingering shame, guilt or blame?
Body politics, body acceptance and body liberation are vital pieces to the liberation and empowerment of the whole self and the collective. For many, like me, it’s often the gateway to social justice and advocacy work.
That’s the magic and the medicine – accessing our truth & our power then sharing it with others.
Let's re-imagine and re-create anew, together.
What do you value? What do you desire? How do you want to feel? How do you want to live?
What do you want to create?
Because when we rise we have the power and opportunity to become agents of change, not just for ourselves... for everyone.
Melanie C. Klein, M.A., is an empowerment coach, thought leader and influencer in the areas of radical self-acceptance, authentic empowerment, and supercharged confidence. She is also a successful writer, speaker, and professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her areas of interest and specialty include media literacy education, body image, and the intersectional analysis of systems of power and privilege. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, 2014) with Anna Guest-Jelley, a contributor in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice (Horton & Harvey, 2012), is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis (Shroff, 2014), a featured writer in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Mindful Living (Llewellyn, 2016), co-editor of Yoga, the Body and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis with Dr. Beth Berila and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016), Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body (Llewellyn, 2018) and the co-editor of the new anthology, Embodied Resilience through Yoga (Llewellyn, 2020). She co-founded the Yoga and Body Image Coalition in 2014 and lives in Santa Monica, CA. melaniecklein.com
Find out more about Melanie and her work as well as the Yoga & Body Image Coalition here:
Instagram: @melmelklein @ybicoalition