The Web of Inner-connectedness: Posture and Self-image

Our culture teaches us that one thing causes another. There is some simple truth to this, but on a grander scheme, experiences simply affect each other. I bring this up because this is one of those areas I’ve been secretly working on. Self-image manifests in the way we carry ourselves and the message is that a poor self-image causes “bad posture” and such. I have been working on my self-image for the last three+ years, so this is not a wholly reliable experiment, but I’ve also been working on proper posture. Things I’ve picked up in researching physical health, from physical therapy, pointers from others (etc.) have helped me to develop a way of carrying myself with intent. When I’m focused on maintaining proper posture, I feel better about myself.
 
There’s a therapy called pen therapy (at least, that’s what I call it). Place a pen between your teeth and don’t let your lips touch it. Do it for two minute intervals on days when you’re feeling depressed and you might be surprised how this simple thing can help (definitely not a cure, but it does make a noticeable impact for me). Doing this activates the same muscles in your face that you use to smile, but without having to force a smile. A good example of the illusory cause-effect concept.
 
Similarly, intentionally adjusting your posture (this is my own theory) can affect your self image. Here are three things to focus on when adjusting posture:
To adjust for proper posture
  • Shoulders: I learned this technique in physical therapy after shoulder surgery. I ripped a tendon from my shoulder joint and had to have it stapled back. The healing process was slow and in PT I learned that posture was important to shoulder strength. When we hunch, our shoulders form a U-shape across our chest. This stresses some of the small muscles that keep your shoulder blades in place, while weakening the large muscles that keep them strong.
    • Lift your shoulders straight up, then push them straight back, and then drop them. This is an exaggerated adjustment, but holding your shoulders like this as often as you can throughout the day will adjust your posture over time.
  • Core: Vaccuming mixed with Kegels will strengthen all the small muscles in your core. These are muscles often neglected, but vitally important for good health in so many ways. This is what I call “vacuuming your pelvic floor”.
    • Suck your belly button straight back towards your spine, from there, lift it straight up as far as you can. Then, imagine you are in a job interview for your dream job and you suddenly have to use the restroom… for two reasons… hold it in… hold it in strongly… no pooping or peeing your pants in this interview!
  • Hip Flexor: Kegels will help you do this automatically to a degree, but tilt your hips back. Your hip flexor is a tendon that stretches from the tops of your hips to your quads. Weak hip flexors can ruin your entire back. Keep this tendon stretched and healthy!
    • This is difficult to explain in words, but imagine you are dancing to your favorite ’70s disco song and your best move is the pelvic thrust… just freeze at the peak of your thrust. 

If you’re doing this right now, I bet you feel foolish. It’s weird to think that this is actually how we’re supposed to stand. Keep doing it! Try walking. From time to time, I challenge myself by counting my steps while doing all three of these. At first it was 25 steps, then 50 and so on, but I can average 300 steps now quite easily.

Doing these three things have helped me on my journey toward positive self-image. I should note that this is not the only thing I do to that end, but it certainly is an important one, especially since I work out, also something I do that helps my self-image. As my self-image has been improving, my physical health has been improving as well and things I do like focus on posture with intent become exponentially easier. I naturally carry myself straight and confidently. So many other areas of my life have benefited as well (I’ve even grown half an inch!).

It has not been easy though since I’ve hunched in on myself for most of my life. On days when my depression needs to express itself, I find myself hunching in. I try to remember proper posture as often as I can, and (along with pen therapy) this helps me manage symptoms of my depression rater well!

Now, take that pen out of your mouth and have a beautiful day!!