Good Posture Starts in the Mind

The Philosopher Princess is on the warpath this morning, friends, so take your precautions, please. There may or may not be some bad words and strange ideas to follow. Gird your loins.

One of my 22 in 22, that is, my New Years Resolutions, is that I want to improve my posture.

I told the story about the ancient woman who taught an adult ballet class, whose posture made me feel like a blathering idiot. I had this experience before I discovered the word Gravitas, but what I admired in her, now that I have that weapon in my vocabulary arsenal, was definitely that.

This all goes back to one principle idea: for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to “grow up.” I had absolutely no idea what that would mean, but it was some kind of lofty notion of learning how to speak more slowly and less loudly, being effortlessly elegant, and being the kind of person people don’t talk over all the time.

Yes, for some reason, I had this idea in my head that to grow up would mean that people would hush when I walked in the room. That I would cause people to become blathering idiots.

So. Totally non-squishy, doable goal, right?

“Yes, Ms. Fields!” (That’s you, agreeing with me wholeheartedly.)

Where it comes from

Good posture is important, and not just because it looks nice. It’s good for our health. If, when we sing, it’s important to stand straight, it’s because good posture actually creates more space in the thoracic cage for our lungs, allowing us to take deeper breaths and provide better air support.

Let’s agree that breathing is important.

“Yes, Ms. Fields!” (That’s you, agreeing with me wholeheartedly again.)

Although babies and young children have impeccable posture, we start to slouch early. My boys, especially my youngest, still have very good posture. But, my youngest hasn’t started regular school yet.

Babies learning to sit up must maintain good posture. Toddlers learning to walk do it without thinking. It’s about balance and motricity.

Then we stop being balanced and mobile, start leaning on things and suddenly we start to slouch. It is the act of sitting at a desk all day, bent over a book or a sheet of paper writing frantically that starts us slouching.

We can’t blame ourselves for this inevitable shift. That’s where it comes from for most of us.

Slouching becomes a way of life.

Know Thyself

Try something. For just ten seconds, put your shoulders back and put your chin up. Pay careful attention to your feelings as you do that.

I’ll tell you what I feel. I feel self-conscious. I am completely alone at 5:00AM, and I feel self-conscious.

I tried that little experiment last night, too, only I did it when I was on stage. I mean, I pushed those shoulders back, put my chin up and I just stood there. I caught a glimpse of myself on a screen in the room, and I looked completely normal. But I felt like I was being a showy little b£#$§.

Do you know what? I know why. Because the messages we girls get about our bodies, from our very very youngest is that we need to hide them.

All of this came to light the other morning when I was chatting with my sister. She was telling me about a show called “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which, although I have not seen, I have been told by someone I love very much that I reminded them of Mrs. Maisel. So my sister’s comments did not fall on deaf ears.

Apparently, before Mrs. Maisel, who is a comedian, steps on stage, she is always told, “Tits up!”

Because, guess what? That’s an awesome way to remind yourself to have good posture.

So, let’s recap here: I want good posture. In addition to learning to slouch at school because learning to read and write means we hunch, we girls also pick up the notion that our bodies are shameful and should be hidden.

Simultaneously, people tell us not to slouch, that good posture is lovely, etc etc. And it only takes something simple, like saying, “Tits up!” to correct it.

So this vicious cycle means that in order to actually have good posture, we have to 1. break through the learned shame about our bodies, and 2. strengthen the muscles that hold our backs straight.

Guess which one is harder to do? I am going to argue that the first one is the far more difficult of the two.

Strengthen your backs

Over the last three years, post-midlife crisis, after climbing out of my post-partum depression fog, and now deeeeeeeep into the joys of peri-menopause, I have had to do some reckoning with my own body.

It’s going to be with me until my dying day, you see. It would be best that it and I get along well. It would be best that I not have a love/hate relationship with it.

I needed my midlife crisis in order to learn to love my body. It would have been so, so, so much easier to love it back when it was perky and adorable and perfect. But I hated it. I hated everything about it. I learned the hard way to love my body for what it is and what it does, not for how it looks.

At some point, right about, oh, I dunno, right now, I realized that while I do love my body now, there is still so much internalized shame in my mind about it.

Eliminating this internalized shame is something that I actually have to do in my body. By giving myself the experience of holding good posture. To feel what it feels like to “not hide my body,” the way I learned as a girl.

Having good posture is not being immodest. I really don’t know if you needed to hear that today, but I am going to say it again:

Having good posture is not being immodest.

Lily Fields, Philosopher Princess

Having good posture does not mean you are inviting people to look at your boobs. Stop thinking that. Having good posture is what will make you like that seventy year-old ballet teacher, whose self-confidence was beautiful. Having good posture will give you the confidence of a 16 month-old who has by-passed the toddling phase and is now learning how to run.

Having good posture starts in our minds, and as long as we are clinging to shame about our bodies, it will be a struggle.

I’m telling you right this very instant:

Tits up, girl.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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