I was at yoga, standing in warrior two: arms stretched out, gaze like a laser beam looking out over my right fingertips, right knee bent at a ninety-degree angle in a deep lunge, left leg straight and sturdy, quads engaged. I felt strong and centered, balanced and powerful. I was strong and centered, balanced and powerful - a warrior (the kind that doesn’t believe in armed revolutions, but who believes that the real revolution was -is always- happening within my mind and heart on my mat).
When cued to straighten my front right leg and turn my torso, I did so with grace and fluidity, arms still outstretched, shoulders tucked down away from my ears. Cued again, I hinged forward with a flat back. My focal point was supposed to be the wall behind me, but only in my dreams can I place the top of my head on the ground between my feet. So naturally, I looked down at my hands, placed parallel to my feet, creating stability for my body.
At that moment, I caught a glimpse of them– my dry, apparently trimmed-with-a-weed-eater, polish-from-last-year (literally) toenails.
I like dark toenail polish, but I am low maintenance, so I let a fair amount of time lapse between toenail paintings. On this day, I realized I had let a whole season pass. There they were in their faded black, chipped, worn-out, trimmed-too-late-at-night-without-enough-light-or-care glory and I was suddenly self-conscious and crazy critical. Attempting to practice the lessons I’d been learning in yoga class, I tried to let this judgment of myself pass like a cloud floating in the sky. But this cloud - it brought a pop-up storm and apparently, it was sticking around.
The shame and judgment that I thrust upon myself wasn’t so much about seeing my toenails myself as it was about someone else seeing my toenails. They would, of course, immediately judge me and those judgements would lead to the recognition that this warrior is a woman who must have many unpolished, chipped parts that she deliberately doesn’t hold in the light.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let something as small and trivial as our toenail polish undo all of the strength-building, self-care, warrior work? Why do we judge only some parts of ourselves acceptable, worthy of witness? Why do we think we can control how we are seen? Why do we care?
Here is the thing: I am a collection of chipped and broken parts; so are you. These parts of us gift us the opportunity to connect with each other, to recognize that we all have pieces of ourselves that we have convinced ourselves are not good enough. The more I trust myself to shine light onto the unpolished parts of myself, the freer I become from the myth of perfection that I have both created and bought into. If I liberate myself, then I liberate you, too, cracks, chips, and all. If you liberate yourself, and allow yourself to be seen, you do the same for me.
Let’s be warriors together: arms stretched out connecting us to one another, gaze fixed on one another’s imperfections with understanding and compassion, strength embodied through accepting our bodies and the spirits that inhabit them. Powerfully connected by who, not what is or isn’t well-polished. Let’ start a revolution!