Self-confidence is often defined as an ability to trust in your own powers, skills and character strengths. However, the real groundwork for self-confidence is integrity, which encompasses all aspects of self— physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. In fact, it is impossible to be really confident of your performance at work or your spiritual principles while feeling deeply insecure about your physicality and body image.
It is true that your “soma” (the physical body) does not entirely define you, but it is still an important aspect of who you are and should not be neglected or mistreated. The contemporary paradox is that even though the physical body is literally showered with attention, it seems that we totally miss the point.
The Western world does expose the human body everywhere you look but it does not promote somatic confidence — it promotes somatic insecurity. In a culture that is so obsessed with perfect shapes and photo filters, even the most good-looking people often feel embarrassed or deeply unhappy with their physical selves.
Although the efforts of the Body Positive movement have helped enormously to shift towards greater acceptance and compassion for people who are far from being “perfect” — invalids, overweight people, or people with chronic skin diseases — it has not been able to facilitate a paradigm shift so far. Most of us are still in a trap. We are not slim enough, not young enough, not muscular enough… Whatever we may preach to our friends, we still secretly search for new ways to make our teeth whiter and waists smaller. With whatever filter we may present our bodies to the instagram world, the reality remains unshakable — deep inside our hearts we feel weak and insecure.
We rarely think about it, but somatic confidence is actually a very natural state. Children, for example, feel comfortable in their bodies and do not experience shame or embarrassment so typical for adults. It is quite clear that all personal complexes develop with time and are artificial. Unless you learn how to experience pleasure and pride from your own physicality, and accept your body just the way nature created it, you may find yourself permanently stuck in the “I love my body—I hate my body” loops and never feel genuinely comfortable in the container you inhabit.
The good news is that even if you have lost it on the way, somatic confidence can be re-established. You can cultivate it because fortunately the seeds of happiness and power are already inside. By regaining your somatic confidence back, you will liberate yourself from worries about being perfect or reaching the contemporary beauty standards, and transcend your personal misconceptions, insecurities and complexes. You will learn how to feel proud of your physical self, no matter how your body looks or how others evaluate it. You will also be able to shift your focus from what you lack on what you have and can offer. The fruits of the practice is the experience of deeper integrity, intimacy and peace — physical, emotional and spiritual.
The practice of physical Yoga offers a variety of techniques that can help you to reawaken your somatic confidence: asanas, pranayama, dynamic meditations, etc. The most common approach is a consistent practice of challenging poses, such as inversions, arm balances, and backbends. Many people prefer poses that are less challenging, but still can bring an instant sense of power and control — Warrior Poses, Tadasana, Utkata Konasana, etc.
Whatever approach you may choose for your personal practice, it is critical that you respect the four fundamental principles of developing somatic confidence: awareness, compassion, intuition, and joy.
Awareness. To practice with awareness means to practice mindfully, not mechanically. It means to focus on all the body parts and muscles, especially those that are neglected and most probably already semi-atrophied. This attitude will help to restore the overall physical balance often lost due to the mechanically performed exercises or sedentary lifestyle.
Compassion. To practice with compassion means to move gently and never push too hard. You learn to embrace the limitations of the body and prioritize safety over personal ambitions. Walking hand in hand with intuition, compassion inspires to search for moves that feel good, not for the ones that look good. In fact, many Yoga practitioners who forget about the importance of compassion while performing asanas end up taped and even injured. Therefore, using compassion and intuition — tuning into the body and listening to its needs — should be the starting point of every physical practice.
To practice with joy means to get natural pleasure from the movement. Unless your body is enjoying the activity, the activity will never bring you any positive results. For example, a little discomfort while performing some asanas is normal, but pain is not. Unfortunately, we often tend to turn into real masochists while trying to get fit or reach a goal. This attitude will never allow to build a firm somatic confidence — it will only drag us down to despair.
In reality, the practice of developing somatic confidence is parallel to the practice of self-love. By loving and accepting your body fully, you establish a sense of deep connection and intimacy with yourself. You learn to become your own guru, your own best friend, your own psychologist, and your own endless source of inspiration. Once you realize that, your whole spirit expands.
To gain your somatic confidence, you need to get curious and explore what feels good and what does not, so you can formulate your own idea of how you want to move, how you want to be touched, and what your body needs to be healthy and happy. Through the mindful and contemplative exploration of your physicality, you will slowly become more aware and confident in all aspects of life, including food, relationships, work and creativity.
Knowing yourself and your own preferences is the place where your confidence is anchored. Do not search for it anywhere else, but in the safety of your own embrace. Love your body and trust your body as whatever you are looking for is already there.