Posture Thoughts

One of my 22 goals for 2022 was to improve my posture.

Now, if you are like anyone else I know, just seeing the word “posture” caused you to square your shoulders a little bit.

We all know we should stand up straight. We know this because we have all seen old people, hunched over and silently vowed that we will never end up like that. Or, we have seen a gangly teenager who hasn’t yet figured out how to carry himself and who stoops all the time, and known that this kid’s self-image hasn’t grown at the same rate as his body.

Or…and this is the worst possible scenario, we have caught a glimpse of ourselves, either in a photo or in a mirror, and thought, “Oh no. No. No. No. This will not do.”

The other side is that good posture simply looks good. It looks powerful: a soldier with his lance-straight posture is impressive.

I discovered something about actively engaging in good posture (although I still haven’t gotten this figured out, it is still as uncomfortable as all get out…I want to make sure I’m not misleading you on where I am on this…)

It only takes a few days of actively working on your posture to see a difference. That is, wearing the little posture device for a few hours a day, practicing, while standing around waiting in line at the store or in the schoolyard keeping your shoulders back and your chin up or sitting carefully so as to keep from slouching. The trick is that this must top of mind kind of stuff.

But the difference is not only visible. I have previously written about the myriad confusing thoughts about my own body good posture surfaced, about the societal meaning of modesty… Equally the recurring idea that no one is ever thinking about me as much as I think about me.

I theorized that there is something…some mental pathway that good posture opens up (you do know that this is a Lily Fields Theory and nothing else, right?) allowing self-confidence to flow.

In the two weeks before winter break (argh, vacation. Always crimping my style…) I made sure to take this very very seriously. I wore my holster. I squared those shoulders. I sat up straight. And, related? Unrelated? I found that I was able, in my own heart, set limits I wasn’t able to set before.

The details of this situation matter, perhaps, but I don’t care to go into them. What is important is that I saw people pleasing me, who would sometimes bend herself into a pretzel for people she didn’t even know, have the capacity to respond to a situation that she didn’t like in her own best interest.

In my little country bumpkin mind, there is a one-to-one relationship between the efforts I was making to stand tall and my ability to nip a situation in the bud in an appropriate way.

At the time, I wrote in my diary, “I feel like the straighter my back is, the less s#!+ I am willing to take.”

Now, is there really a relationship?

Well, over the month, that is the two weeks of vacation, during which I let my posture-improving efforts piddle out, and the two weeks since school started up again, during which I haven’t given it much thought, some of the beneficial “not taking any s#!+ ” thing has remained. A willingness to protect my own heart and to walk away from a situation that was not helpful to living my Ideal Life. A willingness to address another situation head-on.

Addressing these two situations, while uncomfortable, were just about as uncomfortable as learning how to stand up straight. There is physical discomfort in good posture. There is soul-discomfort in learning how to be one’s own best advocate. But I really believe the two are related.

And…here is the interesting part about it: knowing that I handled a situation in my best interest, and dealt with it in the most appropriate way I could makes me feel a little, tiny bit proud of myself. I, quite literally, am holding my head a little higher.

In the immediate aftermath of the first situation, I berated myself for being unkind. And, admittedly, I was. I apologized for what I said that was hurtful. But as time did its work, I was able to untangle my complicated feelings about being unkind from knowing that my unkindness was a response to an inattentiveness that I did not care to experience again. While another person might have been hurt by what I said, after my apology was given, I did not have to re-engage.

So I didn’t. And while there is a hole in my heart where that person used to be, it is a hole I am willing to live with in order to protect my heart in the future. Not pretzling myself for someone else’s benefit is new. And it feels amazing.

It’s almost like improving my posture is a kind of soul-therapy. It’s an experiential kind of therapy, one that has to be done in the body first, before it can bear fruit in the heart and mind.

If just a few weeks of concerted effort in this area can produce this kind of result, I would be eager to try another week of renewed effort…

What is certain is that there is discomfort on the horizon. Because, in order to test the fruit of this experiment, it means that there will have to be something I need to test the newfound power on. As you know, I don’t like to go looking for trouble, but in this kind of thing, looking for trouble isn’t necessary. It will surely find me.

Although I would not recommend anyone go looking for trouble, I would encourage you to at least square those shoulders and put your chin up. Try it.

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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