I've always been quite modest. I rarely show cleavage, I typically prefer a one piece over two, and I tend to shy away from clothing that's even remotely revealing. It's not that I'm ashamed of my body, or that I’m super uncomfortable in my skin, though I've certainly struggled with self-image and unrelenting self-critique. I think we all deal with that at some point or another.
I attribute my modesty partly to that, and also to the fact that I grew up very conservatively. From birth through high school, I was a practicing Mennonite, and the Amish and Mennonite community I grew up in was full of more of the same. My school had a very strict dress code, and my family members set examples of simplicity and prudence. As an example, I vividly recall my grandmother, on several occasions, reaching across to yank up my already non-cleavage-bearing shirt. This upbringing, for better or worse, has caused me to be hyper-aware of my body and my inherent sexuality, and it's caused me to be, well, modest.
You can imagine, then, my discomfort when it comes to getting completely naked in front of a stranger. Even if that stranger is a licensed massage therapist with years of experience. But every time I make an appointment at a spa, without fail, this surge of uncertainty and panic courses through me. As soon as I’m booked, I begin mentally preparing myself for the process of undressing and allowing another person to see and massage my naked body.
This anxiety has dissipated over time, naturally, but it was recently heightened by a treatment I had last week.
It was a 90-minute body-contouring treatment at Sanctuary on Camelback, a really nice, local Scottsdale spa that plays up the health and wellness factor more than most. Think meditative, full-body experiences. For example, they offer a Watsu aquatic massage that’s supposed to replicate what it feels like to be back in the womb (totally have to try this), reiki (“ancient Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation”), hypnotherapy, and labyrinth-walking meditation.
I've never had a bad experience at Sanctuary, but I was nervous thinking about someone else rubbing down my entire body, head to toe, for this contouring treatment. Going into it, aware that it may inspire a post here at xoVain, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe I'd walk away with remarkable, full-body, Kardashian-like contour. Maybe I'd walk away traumatized, or feeling like it wasn't worth the time or money. Maybe I wouldn't be inspired at all.
But as I was lying there, having this kind, veteran massage therapist work her magic, I realized something. Nearly every time I have a massage or body treatment, even though I'm nervous as heck to bare all and let someone else touch me, I walk away feeling more in tune, more comfortable, and more appreciative of my own body, more appreciative of all the things that are easy to pick apart and sigh over when you're standing in front of the mirror, and more comfortable with anything that could be considered "sexy," even though I've had it ingrained that I should keep my sexiness at bay.
It sounds hokey, I know. But it's my experience, and I find it a particularly profound one given my typical discomfort when it comes to being anything less than modest.
So no, this post isn't about how I walked away having a more contoured bum or stomach or legs or face. This post is about how, when I was lying there wrapped in a sheet after having my body "polished" with a spicy warming mask, I somehow began to admire my own health, my own strength, my own shape. And that, while wrapped and having a warmed poultice gently massaging and contouring my facial muscles, I become more thankful for my ability to breath, to move, and to exist.
The takeaway here isn't that you or I have to spend gobs of money to appreciate ourselves. For me, I've realized I find that place of acceptance when I'm finally able to relax and get past the worries and the doubts and the fear of judgement. When I am grounded and fully aware of all the parts of my body, I walk away loving myself more.
Now that I've made the connection, the goal is to continue grounding and appreciating myself. Maybe that means pushing my body to try new things, or feeling or admiring all its parts, or lying there naked in a sheet after applying my own warming body polish, and meditating on all I should be grateful for.