Let Yourself Be Seen

By Kate Kole

On Wednesday, I wrote about the conversation surrounding Lady Gaga’s body after her Super Bowl performance. That same day, 2 girlfriends of mine began the #loveyourbellymovement. They shared pictures showcasing their bellies as a way to embrace who they are, to be proud of what they’re working with, to support other women, and to promote self-love.

I was so inspired. I grabbed my camera, flipped it, reversed it, and snapped a picture to share on social media.

And then, I got scared. I stared at the photo and started down the well-worn path of scrutiny, shame, and negative self-talk. I thought, Maybe I’m not there yet. Maybe I’m ready to preach about the importance of loving yourself more than I’m ready to really practice it.

I became worried that if I shared my picture, the women who take my classes and train with me wouldn’t want to anymore. That they’d see my belly, with its lines and curves, and I’d no longer inspire or motivate them in the same way. I felt like in admitting that my body wasn’t “perfect”, I was also admitting that I wasn’t a perfect, or even legitimate, fitness instructor and yoga teacher.

But here’s the thing: my purpose and intention in teaching has never been to build the perfect body. My goal has always been to create confidence and strength. What drives me isn’t externally based, it’s the passion to help people see how capable and worthy they are, and to unveil all the greatness that already exists within them. To instill self-love and gratitude for their beautiful bodies, not someday once all their goals and milestones are met, but right now. To encourage others, as Lady Gaga advocates, to be themselves, relentlessly.

So, with that in mind, still feeling both incredibly inspired and also, shaking-in-my-yoga-pants scared, I posted the picture. After years of covering my belly, and avoiding swimsuits, and cringing at tops that tightly hugged my stomach, I aired her out in all her unfiltered glory. Because if I really believe that everyone else deserves to feel true self-love and discover how beautiful they are, then I must believe that I deserve that, too.

View this post on Instagram

A couple days ago, I wrote an article about the body shaming @ladygaga received after her Super Bowl performance. I admitted in it that each time I see a celebrity like Lady Gaga criticized for failing to meet the image of what it means to be the ideal woman, I start to feel an extra dose of self-judgement creep in. I wonder, if she’s not enough then what am I? I’d be lying if I said that I don’t stare and sometimes scrutinize my belly that’s never housed a 6-pack. That I don’t wince a bit as my shirt inches up to reveal that my midsection isn’t perfect as I'm teaching yoga. That I’m yet to ever meet the standard that I’ve been hoping to achieve for the better part of the last 15 years. The same day I wrote my article @hailley.rose and @ginamarie_vincent started the amazing, empowering, and inspiring #loveyourbellymovement and you know what? I'm with them. I'm done thinking my belly isn't beautiful because it isn't always flat, tan, and toned. I'm done feeling ashamed and embarrassed when my shirt sneaks up to expose what I've always felt the need to hide because it isn't perfect. I'm done thinking that somehow not having a 6-pack means not being enough. My belly is strong. It's what supported me through 2 hours of shoveling yesterday and it carries me through hours of teaching each week. It's my source of inspiration as listening to my gut drives me to act on where my soul and intuition are leading me. It is my joy and the place that houses my deepest laughter and connection to others. And beyond all else, it is mine. Perfectly imperfect and uniquely distinct. So, I’ll take this body of mine that may forever be seen and judged by others as flawed, believing instead that it is its own brand of beautiful. Beautiful that isn’t meant to be compared or scrutinized, but celebrated and embraced. P.S. If you're still reading, I was scared to post this. But I did it anyway. Because my belly told me so. #iamwoman #thepowerofshe #bellyisthenewbooty #perfectlyimperfect #ordinarycourage #showmeyourbelly #welovebellies #thepowerofwe #nofilter

A post shared by Kate Kole (@katekole) on

Afterwards, I stepped away from my phone, took a few deep breaths, and tried to make sense of the slightly terrified exhilaration I was experiencing.

It wasn’t until later on, when I saw the response of my family and friends and read through their encouraging, loving words (and emojis) that I finally understood how significant my share had been. Not for them, but for me. It felt like I had come out of a place of hiding and could be seen for who I was. That I could reveal the depths of my journey that I’ve never disclosed. That I could, in the most simple and complex ways at once, just be me. And that in doing so, I could be supported.

At one point, I actually heard myself whisper aloud, “Community. This is what it feels like.”

I almost missed that moment – and the amazing gifts of acceptance and connection that accompanied it – due to my fear. I nearly held myself back from that in the same way I’ve held myself back from reaching out to a new friend, or publishing a meaningful piece, or pursuing a job opportunity. And I’m glad I didn’t. Because on the other side of fear of how things would go, what others would think, the desire to do things perfectly, and to be perfect, I got to be something even better: my – relentless – self. And damn, it felt good.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

{featured image via Instagram}

3 thoughts on “Let Yourself Be Seen

  1. Margarita says:

    Never make a decision based on fear. Lead with the Light of Courage and Compassion.

    Thank you. Your post proves the Truth of this message I frequently share with my clients. 😉 xoxoM


  2. Catherine says:

    I’m so glad you took that step despite your fear! I’ll tell you – I noticed Gaga’s belly but it encouraged me. I was excited that – as incredible as she looked – she had that teeny tiny “imperfection” (quotes intended) like me – like 99% of us. After having my son, my belly isn’t as flat as it used to be, but I love it because it’s a reminder of what my body did for 9 months + 15 more of nursing.
    Thanks for sharing and spreading encouragement!


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