Thursday, June 23, 2011

You're Okay. No REALLY. You Are!

~Youth has no age.~ Pablo Picasso

I hear a lot in my line of work. And something I hear way too much of is self-loathing. "What have I done to myself now?" "Getting old is terrible." "I am so fat. I apologize for my condition." "Please don't look at my awful varicose veins.""I'm sorry I haven't shaved my legs. I just haven't had time. I feel so bad." And the list goes on.

When you come in for a massage, you are not going on a date. You don't need to look perfect. Clean is always appreciated of course! But beyond that I really don't care. It doesn't have much of anything to do with anything. By bringing up these things you are just announcing to me that you are not comfortable in your own skin. I wish I could help my clients deal with their negative self-perceptions. But honestly it's not in my scope of practice to do that. I'm a massage therapist, not a psychotherapist! But it still kills me to see the degree of self hatred some people have.

I have one client who I have seen periodically over the years who is a woman probably about ten years older than me. When she first came in she could barely walk. After being in an accident, she had to have spinal surgery. It left her in a lot of pain. What with being unable to withstand much physical activity she gained a LOT of weight. That in turn put a lot of stress on her knees which made activity even harder. This is a common scenario that brings clients into us. A cycle of pain that seems impossible to stop. Naturally this takes an emotional toll on the person. The biggest thing about this client that stands out to me is the way she drones on and on during a session about getting "old". She says to me "never get old Brenda", "it's a terrible thing to get old", "they should warn people about getting old". It's a never ending loop of negativity about aging. I have the feeling with this client, that even if she wasn't in this cycle of pain she would still be negative. I think this because in the last year there has been considerable improvement in her condition. Weight is coming off, she is getting around a lot more and I can tell from our sessions that she is able to handle so much more bodywork. But nothing has changed at all in the attitude! She harps on herself incessantly.

~Soul is form and doth that body make.~ Ernest Holmes

There is another client I recently saw for the first time. She is my age or maybe slightly younger. She is my size overall, weight distributed differently but overall close (so we're talking considerably overweight....yeah I can say that about myself and not be negative!). She spent the entire session chastising herself for being so fat. She told me how she used to be fit and play tennis and that there used to be muscle under the fat. Now apparently the fat has just gobbled up those muscles (it's a wonder she can stand up on her own two feet....okay, that's me being sarcastic). As I would move on to a new area of her body she would mention the fatness of that specific area. "Oh my fat wings, maybe you can rub all that fat away", "oh my cottage cheese thighs", "have you ever seen such a fat ass?", etc.

Wow. What does one even say in response to all that? I'm sure as hell not going to join in. I might like to say something like "well if you hate your body so much why don't you do something about it?". But that would likely get me fired. And even trying to word it more "nicely" still crosses the line of what my job is. Maybe she assumed because I am fat too that she would have a kindred soul to share her angst with. Not happening here! I got over that years ago. My body may not be in ideal shape but it's still my body and it is the vessel that carries the heart of me. I will not treat it with hatred.

~Begin to see yourself as a soul with a body rather than a body with a soul. Look at those indicators of aging as merit badges and try to look past them into the part of yourself that has never aged and never will. ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

What I have noticed is that this form of self-abuse comes almost entirely from women. In this day and age of anti-bullying campaigns, I think we could use a little more focus on not bullying ourselves. But the message out there has not changed. Women are for looking at. They must stay young looking and thin. Anything else is just not acceptable. And women soak up that message and take it to heart from a very early age; even before they are women, still just girls. It's craziness. And we allow it.

I have other kinds of clients of course. They are a joy to see. They come in all shapes and sizes and ages. They are a joy because they love themselves. They might occasionally make little jokes about their age or their shape. But you can tell those jokes come from a place of self-acceptance and love. There is a twinkle in their eyes when they say it. More like they are letting you in on a private joke that only the lucky imperfect ones would get anyway. Oh those poor flawless beings! They have no idea of the character that imperfection builds! Giggles.......     We are happy to just be normal and unique and at peace.


  1. You can use one of my favorite responses to people who complain about being old. Tell them it sure beats the alternative.

  2. I am going to state the obvious...people share things with you hoping that you will reassure them that they are not . The world is full of people that need constant reassurance...I have learned that there are a lot of people out there that do not have anyone to listen to, as their massage therapist, are their captive audience and they are wanting to get their reassurance from you that you are ok. Not your you say you are their massage therapist NOT psychotherapist. I agree, women are the worst! why is that?