A few months ago I watched the YouTube video of Stephanie Nielson. I knew about her blog before her accident, but really have kept tabs on her since she came out of her coma and embarked on the difficult path of resuming her life again. I don't know her personally, I will probably never meet her in this life, so it's a funny thing that I worry about her and feel anger when she reports how someone in the grocery store said something cruel to her about her burn scars. I marvel again at how we can connect with people and their hopes and dreams via the internet.
There is a phrase she uses at the beginning of this video, and I have been thinking about it for weeks. She says, "I am Stephanie Nielson, and I am not my body."
What does that mean for me? For each of us? As we get older our bodies wear down, we encounter accidents and diseases and illnesses which change the way we move or live or love. These can be physical or mental illnesses. At 36 years I have my own challenges, and I know there will be more. But I realize that I have been allowing these things to define me, to change the way I view myself and my worth. I will always have to be aware of my body and nutrition in order to stave off the depression and anxiety I have to constantly keep at bay. Like everyone else, I look in the mirror and start noticing changes creeping up; wrinkles, imperfections, changing skin texture, etc. I am embarrassed to tell you that I really started becoming frustrated and discouraged by this. I wish I could tell you that I did not seriously think about botox for a couple weeks, but I did. But I am determined not to make decisions out of fear or some bizarre need to try to look like I did ten years ago. I want to embrace what I have now, I don't want to look back when I'm 46 and say, "why didn't I appreciate what I had ten years ago?"
I am not my body. This has been going over and over again through my head. And I believe this. A body is a gift, a blessing, but it does not define my eternal potential or destiny. Only I have the power to overcome challenges and make the sincere best out of what I have. I think of Dennis Prager's thoughts on happiness as well.
I am determined to remember this phrase, which is not easy in a world that constantly bombards us with images of airbrushed perfection and desperate attempts at eternal youth.
I want my daughters to have this knowledge and confidence as well. This simple phrase has changed the way I look at myself in the mirror. Where before I might have frowned or picked out the things I felt needed changing, now I look in the mirror and see my body as a gift and a responsibility, but not the definition of me. I want to nurture it, provide it with good nutrition and wellness, but I will not treat the way I did before.
The song that plays in the background of the video is "It's all about your heart," by Mindy Gledhill. The last lines of the song say: "I loved you from the start. It's not about your scars. It's all about your heart." We all have scars, physical and mental. They do affect us, but how do they define us? I hope to be as brave as Stephanie in my personal journey.
By the way, if you register at www.mindygledhill.com, you will get a free download of the song.
Visit her blog, and see her story before and after the plane crash, including this post, which--as we say in the south-- "did my heart good."