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Body Talk: Kirby Stirland, Copywriter

Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series for the month of February, where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in-between. The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of:

Kirby Stirland, Copywriter at Sakara Life

  kirby_bodytalk_sakaralife_3 I’ve always felt uncomfortable in my skin—metaphorically, and as a result, physically, too. In my earliest memory of body awareness, I was six or seven, sitting in the car. I remember looking down at my lap—it was summer and I was wearing shorts—and being horrified and repulsed at the way my thighs spread out beneath me on the seat. Thinking back, that moment seems formative in terms of my relationship with my physical self, and the first of many mean-spirited, self-critical feelings I’d go on to direct toward myself: you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re all wrong.  Whatever the origins, I’ve always felt an impulse to self-destruct, and my body bears the brunt of that. When my mind is in a bad place, my body becomes an easy target. And those feelings have manifested in a lot of different ways. When I was 12 or 13, the tape loop of obsessive thoughts in my head was suddenly accompanied by compulsive behaviors that left physical, visible damage. As a result, my body became a source of shame, and in a way reflective of how I felt inside—shy, uncomfortable, out of place. The fact that I grew up in the dance world surely didn’t make things any easier. In retrospect, it's hard to say whether that experience made me how I am (self-critical, punishing to my body) or whether I was kirby_bodytalk_sakaralife_1drawn to it because of how I am (detail-oriented, obsessive, desirous of approval). But I know that many of my issues with food and my body are a result of the nearly 20 years I spent in those mirrored dance studios, mired in a culture that’s aggressively competitive, critical and obsessed with thinness. When I was around 16, the ballet teacher, who ran the dance company I was in, forced everyone to keep a journal of everything we ate for a week, then read it aloud in front of our peers as she critiqued it. Whatever her true intentions, I realize now that it was at best, misguided, at worst, cruel, and above all, indicative of how that culture breeds an extremely unhealthy relationship with food and body image. As I got older, the impulse to treat my body badly didn’t go away, the manifestations just evolved—into things like substance abuse and unhealthy relationships and generally risky behavior. And it’s taken me a while to get this, but I realize now that all of those things came from the same place. They’re all forms of self-harm, and when I finally came to see them in the context of hating my body instead of respecting and valuing it, a light came on for me. When I look back, with some fresh perspective, on what I used to put my body through, the things I used to do to myself, it makes me really sad. It seems crazy, like burning your own house down. I don’t believe all those urges are firmly in the past—I’ll always be hard on myself because it’s part of who I am, and it’s also what drives me. But as I approach 30—with a tremendous feeling of relief—I’m kinder and gentler to myself. I’m starting to feel more at peace with myself and my body, and I’m not sure which one begets the other or if it even matters. I’ve learned that self-care = survival. So I try to listen to my body and eat the right things in the right amounts most of the time, to feel good and be able to do the things I want to do. And I don’t pollute my body with bad stuff. After years of push/pull—a vicious cycle of running myself ragged and then repenting in some self-punishing way—treating myself better is a byproduct of believing I deserve better. That’s the real shift. kirby_bodytalk_Sakaralife_2 I’m also getting better about not comparing myself to other people all the time. I'm surrounded by women every day—young, thin, beautiful women. But it doesn't unravel me the way it would have years ago. (Case in point: at first, I wrote that sentence as "younger, thinner, more beautiful," then changed it.) I'm able to accept the idea that we don't really exist in relation to one another. And our physicality is just one small aspect of our humanity. It's freeing to cut out some of that noise, simply by admitting that it doesn't matter. I still get down on myself. I still hate my body some days. I still get to the verge of tears in poorly-lit fitting rooms. I still feel uncomfortable in my skin, but overall, I feel safer and more at home in my body now than ever before. My focus is shifting to the ways my body supports me, rather than the ways it has betrayed me. I feel most in touch with that when I’m working out. I do CrossFit, which is intense and hard and sometimes scary but also amazing in the way it pushes you to your physical limits (or where you think your limits are...then blows them up and charges you through them). It makes me feel strong and powerful and capable. When I’m in that (notably mirrorless) gym, I’m not thinking about changing how I look. I’m thinking about building my physical ability to do something I couldn’t do before. It’s about getting stronger, which is, actually, what it’s all about. Kirby_BodyTalk_Words
    6 Discussions on
    “Body Talk: Kirby Stirland, Copywriter”
  • Kirby says:

    thanks, Mama ;)

  • erin says:

    “And our physicality is just one small aspect of our humanity. It’s freeing to cut out some of that noise, simply by admitting that it doesn’t matter.”

    Very well said! Some things like this take awhile to realize, but once you do you begin to quickly understand how little appearance truly matters.

  • Mallory Curlee-Green says:

    So beautiful! More power to you, Kirby – AND so fun to discover you again, here, as a writer for Sakara – I LOVE the stories here! For me, early 30s have definitely been the right space (+ ideal internal energy) to finally settle in and embrace my actual, natural figure. It’s a wonderful, feminine feeling!

  • Danielle C says:

    So beautiful Kirby!

  • Hannah says:

    This is such an incredibly article, Kirby. You are a powerful, inspiring and beautiful woman. <3

  • Babette says:

    Your honesty is very brave! It shows growth and maturity…you should be proud. I know I am!! xo

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