Trying on a bra… or so much more? 

Here’s the backstory….
Six years ago I had a terrible accident. A compound fracture left me with very little cartilage in my ankle. Every step I took even after I had healed from the break felt like someone was hitting my ankle with a hammer.
Prior to the accident I was extremely active doing mountain biking, triathlons, swimming, always lots of walking.
My activity wasn’t completely halted, but I now had a disability and became less active due to the significant pain I lived with.
This past November I had another surgery to fuse my ankle so that pain would be lessened.  I just spent three entire months healing without the ability to walk or drive.
My body has been through a lot.
There are lots of messages I could choose to believe about who I am, my worth, my purpose, my appearance, where I belong and where don’t belong anymore.
As a woman, that often boils down to body image.
There are many minefields for women and their body image that we have to wade into once in a while….
Shopping for jeans?
Shopping for a bathing suit?
Shopping for a bra?
And now today…..
I am going to treat myself to a trip to The Bra Lounge, a classy undergarment store here in Red Deer.
As part of my coaching practice, I’ve learned a lot about a messy emotion that no one likes to talk about….. shame.  Shame is biology; we feel it in our bodies.  Shame is biography; it’s about the stories we tell ourselves.
So, when I walk into The Bra Lounge, I feel myself struggling with what’s coming. I wonder how many women pull into the parking area and decide that they don’t have what it takes that day.  Too small. Too large. Too old. Not the right shape…. so many thoughts that can be crippling.  Internal messages are powerful, aren’t they?
I’m met by friendly staff who welcome me and show me behind the fitting area.  There is a room with hundreds of bras.  There are sizes of bras that remind me that there are other women who struggle with this experience too….large and small.  Then, there’s the question that occurs to me, “Why do I feel shameful for the size that I am?”  What a crippling message.  The thoughts are swirling….
I meet Tara who is going to help me find the right bra.  She explains a few things and then takes a quick measurement.  Nothing shaming from her. No judgement. No scrutiny.
Meanwhile, my head is going off, noticing all the things about myself that I wish I could erase with one of those really good white erasers that don’t leave a trace behind.  You know the kind.  All I see are my “flaws” and I’m filled with the temptation to explain to Tara about how difficult my last six years have been. I resist the temptation… but it’s really hard.
Tara asks great questions. Helpful questions.   I start to ease into the situation as I feel more comfortable.  I try on about ten different sizes and styles. She’s a pro, so she knows what to bring me.  That helps.
During the fitting I ask Tara about her work. She says she likes it because she can really help the customers. She says that there are many times when women, like me, walk in feeling scared, sad, shamed and defeated and that it’s remarkable how different they feel by the time they walk out.
Tara was a master of empathy; she understands how her customers feel.
Shame can’t survive empathy. The two can not co-exist.
While I was having my fitting I heard another customer in a nearby change room . She started out with self-defeating messages but, by the end, felt empowered, pretty and playful.
Cultural messages dictate that women should be skinny, pretty and quiet.  What if we aren’t any of those things? Is our worth diminished?
Which is more crippling, the debilitating accident that I had or the messages I allow in my head?
I’ve learned that I don’t have to believe everything I think. Either do you.
We all have a body and women need bras that fit.
Thanks for the empowering experience at The Bra Lounge.  Gonna rock the skin I’m in.

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