Be Happy As You Are

bodydysmorphia

As a teenager I encountered a comic of a skinny girl looking in the mirror and seeing her reflexion looking rather walrus-like.  I could relate. I wasn’t skinny, but people’s feedback let me know I had some element of lacking self-perception. It was the best description of body dysmorphia I’ve encountered and something I have long struggled with.  Not to say I’m a twig like the woman we all kind of loathe on “This Is Us” who goes to Kate and Toby’s support group for people struggling with being overweight.

I do have a hard time seeing reality though.

An example: this weekend I was (needlessly) eyeing with dissatisfaction my slightly wrinkly belly, softened with stretch marks from my earth shatteringly wonderful new gift: the chance to be a mother.  I was harping on myself and hoping for change and feeling a bit on the -as I judged myself- “bigger than I am happy with” side.

Then I tried on a pair of capris I haven’t worn in nearly 2 years.  Pants that rarely fit around my derier before I had a baby and here they were saggy and oversized around my back side and legs.  They are size 0.

Now they aren’t loose around my waist, and it may be a larger than average size 0, but I fit into a tiny pair of pants and somehow still struggled to feel thin.

More importantly, I struggled to feel happy with myself.  

Houston, we have a problem.

So now the work…the ongoing process I have been working on for over 20 years.  It is not to self-condemn for being shallow and out of touch with reality (clearly there is some of that going on).  The work is to keep learning to love who I am.  I am healthy, strong, kind, a caring friend, mother to a wonderful little girl, married to my best friend (who happens to be one AWESOME guy), a lifelong learner, and I happen to have a soft tummy.  So what? It’s still strong and healthy. I have plenty of other features I love- inside and out.

Comparison can be a hard enemy to fight.  It can also be a helpful tool. The fact that clothes which were once too tight are now too loose gives me a point of reference and shows me what I don’t recognize without the comparison.  It reminds me my body is in about the best shape it ever has been, so my work of consistent exercise and ever-improving eating habits are paying off (don’t worry, I eat three full meals, plus little snacks on a daily basis).

I may never look in the mirror and see my physique as most people do, but there is so much more to each human than what meets the eye.

I don’t need to be perfect to be happy.

I can love myself and others…as the exquisitely beautiful, imperfect beings we all are.

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Breaking  Cycles

man-walking-circlesby-HikingArtist

Do you ever feel like you are walking in circles: coming back to the same scenarios, same challenges, over and over again?  I spent so many years really struggling with this.  I found myself frequently wondering why I continued to battle with self-acceptance, my weight, binge eating, and not pursuing much of what I really wanted to do with my life.

Is there something you want to change in your life and it feels like time?

I cycled for years, wondering what lessons were to be gained and why I couldn’t figure out what seemed to have such a simple solution.  Slowly, I began to build new pathways, take little steps to gradually change -one thing at a time.  I stopped losing my temper on people and started breathing slowly and holding my tongue, allowing my thoughts of frustration to come out from time to time in more tactful and calm/productive ways.  After being called out about how defensive I am (that was a painful, and important pill to swallow from one boss), I started to reflect in the moments when I wanted to jump up defensively, and began to notice how and when my ego threatened to prevent a learning opportunity.  I started to prepare healthy and small snacks when I knew I was coming up on a stressful season in which I knew I was prone to binge on unhealthy foods.  And when the moments arose that I felt the anxiety bringing on urges to return to old habits I wanted to break, I literally just sat for a minute or a few, took slow, deep breaths, at times closed my eyes, and refused to let myself run away- I told myself: “You can do this, keep going.”  

running away is in your head

What makes you want to run away?

I took more and smaller steps to accomplish daunting tasks.  I focused on congratulating myself A LOT for working through those hard moments.  I still do at times.  I found new rewards to feed my brain, my soul, and I focused on the joy of learning a new coping mechanism, becoming ever more of the person I wanted to be.  My focus shifted more from the momentary cravings to who and what I want to be is.

What is the life you WANT to live?  How does it look, feel, handle real challenges?

I recently spent time with a friend going through a hard time.  We talked about how we handle pain, family cycles or patterns and her worry about the long term effects of turning to what I would describe as escapism.  Today I was reminded of our conversation as I listened to Rachel Brathen, a.k.a. Yoga Girl’s latest podcast The Guilt of a New Mom  in which she opened up about a struggle and experiences of turning to escapism (food, shopping, alcohol, even yoga) in moments of extreme stress.  What made the podcast so valuable to me was her follow up realization that only when we allow ourselves to actually experience rather than run from our pain can we heal (it’s a beautiful confession and lesson I recommend listening to if you are a parent or have a tendency toward escapism).  

break the cycle

What can your cycles teach you?

As one who tends to embrace each moment, I often feel like life is so wonderful.  At moments of intense challenge, it can seem almost overwhelming and unending- no matter the length or brevity.    I don’t know that I will ever fully understand all the pain anyone suffers, but I feel the healing and comfort we gain through sharing what we survive, overcome, and our lessons along the way.  So I just want to add my voice to that of Rachel Brathen’s: when you are hurting, especially when you are really hurting, I hope you will allow the moment to pass without running from it.  You don’t need to push it aside or take it on with an agenda.  The pain may or may not ever fully go away, but those seemingly overwhelming moments shorten and their frequency decreases as you stop running and instead listen to the lessons in them.  You begin to free yourself from cycles of pain trying to teach you the same lesson over again.  

How can you  respond to discomfort a little differently today?

 

 

New Resolutions or New Approach?

It’s a New Year, so…..out with the old, in with the new you!  Right?  Let’s be honest, are you just setting new goals because you feel like you’re supposed?  Do you even feel an urge to say goodbye to anything from 2016….or maybe a lot of things?

Confession: I love fresh starts.  That new energy when I feel motivated, energized, excited for change- that thrills me.  Consistency and routine are much harder.  Maybe one or two people reading this can relate (it’s okay to admit if this is you).  Let’s get real, a lot of us struggle with persistently working towards goals and building a routine that sticks.  We jpsearsclaim to do this to become more of the person we want to be, hence the countless jokes  and unused, but newly acquired gym memberships (you may want to check out JP Sears’  latest youtube episode on this trend if you haven’t watched it yet.

This year you are invited to join me in trying something a little different.  If you are tired of January/February guilt, and by March completely forgetting your unaccomplished goals, here is a little exercise to reflect and set some intentions.

First, consider: did you notice something in your life in 2016 (and maybe 2015, ‘14, etc.) that you hung on to but really isn’t serving you anymore?  Is there a habit, tv show, snack, maybe even a relationship that is draining and not really benefiting you?  I’m not talking about something you aren’t ready to let go of.  I’m referring to something you are ready to tell: “thanks for the memories and it’s time for me to move on.

What isn’t serving you anymore- or maybe never was- that you’re ready to say “ADIOS!” to?

Next, is there something or someone who came into your life in the past year that you are -excited about? -want to invest more in? -can really help you grow?

How can you spend more time kindling that new, excited energy?

tonyrobbinsTony Robbins says that “goals are like magnets.  They’ll attract that which makes them come true.”  I think that for big dreams you really desire, this is true.  Sure, plenty of resolutions get easily dropped.  When you start really forming a plan, make some investment and talk about (the research actually says regularly report on) your goal, my experience and that of many people is that dreams come to fruition- and the supporters we need arrive to help us on the way.

Right around thanksgiving a friend handed me a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  An interesting concept is raised in this allegory about pursuing one’s deepest desire.  Coelho writes that when we try something new, we tend to have beginners’ luck; this pulls us in.  Then, after a little more delving in, we reach the struggle and muck that inevitably is a part of any journey.  stuck-in-muckI can absolutely attest to this being my experience.  After a flow of encouragement and what looked to be an easy transition, I’m currently enjoying the resistance and challenging muck * of setting off on a new career.  Most of these elements are my own mental barriers (fear, procrastination, feeling overwhelmed with all the learning and to-do’s).  Don’t we all do this?  Hence why a little mindfulness and meditation (a.k.a being aware of my thoughts and moving to the next stage of accepting, dismissing or countering them with a new idea) are key.

So what are you ready to ditch?  What are you ready to give more umph to in your life?  Whatever these are, I hope the next time you find yourself reconsidering what doesn’t benefit you , or putting off what you do want, you remind yourself why you wanted the shift in the first place.  If you digress or meander a bit, that’s a part of your path.  It doesn’t need to be a cause of shame.  Like a cloud, see it, and let it go.  Then move forward with your day -whether it’s stormy or sunny today- one thing is sure- that will change.  But ultimately, you get to choose to let clouds move on.cloud-watching-sunbath

Happy Cloud Watching!

*stuck in the muck image from: https://www.weasyl.com/submission/987782/stuck-in-the-muck