Body Image

Self-Care is Not A Punishment

At many points during  my life, my understanding about caring for myself was skewed.

As in, oh honey, you’ve had such a bad day, that cupcake will totally make you feel better.

And, you’ve worked so hard, skip your workout, you’ve earned the right to have a Netflix marathon. 

Or, don’t go out and spend time with your friends, it all sounds so exhausting, just hop on the couch.

Yep.

And after having lived much of my life under the tyrannical rule of my inner critic, I really believed that this was taking care of myself. Because, I was being nice, right? I was talking to myself gently! I wasn’t pushing too hard.  This was the second layer. 

However, I have never felt better after eating the cupcake or skipping the work out or hiding away when I’ve been upset.

It’s not that any of these things are bad, it’s just that for me, they are not the solution.

And that each and every one of us has an individual body and individual process that we must unearth, so that we can begin to take spectacular care of ourselves.

Layers of self-responsibility

First layer: Unbearably cruelty, motivating out of fear and punishment.

Second layer: Learning how to speak to yourself kindly, but confusion about what it means to take care of yourself.

Third layer: Realizing that self-care is not a punishment, and digging in with both hands – even when it’s not easy or when you don’t necessarily feel like doing it – because you are worth caring for.

Fourth layer: It feels so good, you couldn’t imagine not caring for yourself.

But here is the (very important) thing: taking care of yourself – real care, the kind that heals you – is not a punishment. 

You have not done something wrong.

It is not because you are in such disrepair that you’ve been burdened with the task of learning to care for yourself.

You haven’t been “bad.”

This isn’t your fresh start.

Taking care of yourself is the foundation of healing your relationship with your body. 

Taking care of your body may in fact look like any of the options listed above. It may look like a Netflix marathon or a cupcake, but it is also going to look a lot like getting out in the sunshine, moving your limbs, eating your greens, drinking enough water, and getting adequate sleep.

It will be imperfect, but we cannot allow our fears of imperfection relegate caring for our bodies to the backburner.

Taking care of your body is a process. It requires that you pay close attention to yourself, taking copious notes and experimenting as you go.

Neck and back - Leonardo Da VinciIt requires that we pay attention to how our bodies feel instead of how it is or isn’t pleasing us by it’s appearance. 

Our bodies are beautifully resilient. They move us about in the world, operating as well as they possibly can, even when we don’t give them a second thought. They show up, even when we ignore them. They support us, even when when their support is indicative of an  unrequited love affair.

They work, even when we are too consumed by how they appear to others or the number on a scale or the size on the label to notice. 

If we are set to the task of developing a loving and trusting relationship with ourselves, we must first turn our attention to meeting the daily physical needs of our bodies. We must look past the number on the scale, to see our bodies as they truly are – a collection of skin, bones, and organs. A gorgeous system of moving gears that we can support and nourish with our daily actions.

Too often, we ignore our bodies because we are angry with them. 

We believe that they have betrayed us by growing in size, or being resistent to our constant plans for renovation.

Over time, we separate our heads from the rest of our selves, and, intellectually, we leave our bodies behind.

We ignore the signals that indicate our needs.

We silence the voice of our inner wisdom.

We get angry when our body further betrays us by getting sick or tired, when our bodies won’t DO what we want them to do. 

Within this interwoven web of our daily lives – our bodies play a huge role, but too often they receive the smallest amount of attention.

Taking care of our physical selves is not a punishment, it is the foundation of how we commune with lives. It is how we heal ourselves – how we tend to our weak parts. 

It is how we support ourselves as we move about our day.

It is the love that we show ourselves, even when we feel deeply unlovable.

With time, as we prioritize caring for ourselves, we are able to see that we are worth caring for.

This is the first step in the reunification process – beautifully reconnecting the pieces that have been disjointed.

You may struggle to look at your body in the mirror.

You might be mad at your body when you pull on a pair of jeans in the department store.

You may be thinking angry, violent thoughts about your body.

Wherever you are today, no matter what your relationship with your body has been up until this point – it is time for the white flag of surrender. You can no longer afford to ignore your body because you are upset. This is the moment.

Wherever it is that you are trying to go, you will not get there through punishment or cruelty.

It is only through love – love for yourself and love for your body – that you will find your path.

Today, carve out the space to care for your body.  Spend time thinking about what that might entail, and how you can weave it into your schedule so as to support yourself more tenderly.

Your body is worth your greatest care and attention. 

As it cares for you. Every day.

{image credit}

Damn, You're Hot

This is a guest post written by the lovely Danielle Dowling. Enjoy!

I met a girlfriend for an early morning cup of coffee
+ conversation in West Hollywood recently.
I have a handful of favorite spots that I can count on
to make a sharp, bitter espresso.

I arrived a few minutes early (which rarely happens)
and ordered a pot of coffee while I waited for her to join me.
Minutes later she came scurrying in, wide smile, long brown hair
tied back and clad in athletic wear.

I couldn’t help but notice how strong + fit she looked.
“Hi!” We uniformly exclaimed while exchanging a healthy hug.
“Wow, you look fantastic!” I told her.

“Oh, what?  Please.  No.  Are you kidding?” she says with a dismissive wave.
“I really need to lose a few pounds + I only went to the gym once this week which is why I am forcing myself to go after we meet.”  “Well, I think you look great,” I exclaim, “Whatever you’re doing is working.”

“Ugh, I should be doing more,” she says.

I drop it.  We move on.

It was a shame, I couldn’t help thinking.  She really did look great.
But she doesn’t see it.
Still not good enough.

How often does someone compliment us + we dismiss it.
Run away from it.
Duck + dodge as if it were an arrow headed straight for our head?

How many photos do we avoid because “we just don’t take a good picture”? Someone tells us they’re proud of us + we quickly respond with “Yeah, thanks but I still have to get that promotion/ lose more weight/see what the consumers think/ get better.

Why is it so hard to think well of ourselves?
Perhaps it’s because self-regard is not something we are taught to indulge in.

Who taught you not to show yourself off?
“Don’t make a fuss.”
“Don’t draw attention to yourself,” our parents used to say.
Maybe you even tell your own children this.

Please, accept my compliment.
You have strived for what you have acquired,
where you have been, what you have lived through.
Yet, you wave this off.

Please.
Stop.

“No, I’m still not yet enough,” you whisper to yourself.
Self-induced amnesia run amuck.

Its time to remember.

It’s time to see ourselves with kinder eyes
+ remember that the miles we’ve walked
+ the battles we’ve fought brought us to this point.

Cultivate the desire to see yourself they way we see you.
Your first reaction might be to feel like this is sinful narcissism.

Too often we dash through our days looking after everyone else and falling into bed
without paying a small but significant homage to where we shined that day,
who we shined for.

 

And although we all worry about being too much when I sit with the question
there is only one response::  You’re claiming your space.

In fact, you do look pretty killer in your workout clothes.
Damn, you’re hot.

You spent 3 weeks preparing a recent media presentation/ ebook/ online group program/ art exhibit/ dance performance + regardless of how it turns out you mustered up enough moxie + mojo to get it done + done with passion.
Claim your space.

You don’t look like you did at 22 but you’re a pretty damn sexy 37 year old.
Yup, hot.

You’re scared shitless for an upcoming change
that will send shock waves through the rest of your life
but you move ahead anyway.  Not easy. Well worth it.
Claim your space.

You don’t have all the answers. You often get things wrong.
You still have a lot to learn. But despite that you’re an ‘effing good
mom, entrepreneur, change agent + lover.

Fan your feathers.
Learn to take a compliment.  (+ believe it)

After all, that lipstick really does look fabulous on you.

Black DressDr. Danielle Dowling is a writer, relationship expert + coach.  She’s an intuitive strategist who works with women leaders who are ready to stop comprising on the things that matter most — self-realization, soulful companionship and accessing your innate power. Danielle helps women create lives they love to live in. Find her on Twitter or Facebook and pop by www.Danielle-Dowling.com for regular doses of rapid fire wisdom. 

Love Your Body Day: My Body Is…

Today, my body is…

…Strong. Strong enough to take my dog for a walk, try out a new fitness class, even when I was terrified, to carry my groceries, to pick up children, and to participate in any adventure that comes my way.

…Imperfect. My body is comprised of all of my wobbly bits, bruises, tender joints, blemishes, and frizzy hair.

…Soft. When I wake up in the morning or from a nap, my body is languid and fragile. My feelings close to the surface, like all of my nerve endings are lit up.

…Short. Much shorter than either of my sisters, something that used to make me very self-conscious.

…Young. So young that on occasion I look in the mirror and wonder how anyone could take me seriously, before remembering that others  take me seriously when I do.

…Flexible. Bending easily and fluidly, something for which I particularly grateful.

…Resilient. No matter how poorly I took care of my body in the past, every day it wakes up, stands up, moves about, and serves me to the best of it’s abilities. Without requiring anything in return except for the good faith that I will keep striving to better understand and take care of it in return.

Today, in honor of Love Your Body Day, I am taking a moment to celebrate my body for everything that it has done for me over the last 27 years, and for everything that it will continue to do for me. Today, I am honoring my body by taking good care of it, feeding myself food that nourishes me, and taking the time and space to stretch and move.

Do you love your body today?

This evening join in on a body-loving conversation with this week’s teleclass: The Power of Writing in Cultivating Self-Love, tonight at 6 pm EST. Sign-up here to participate for call details. 

The Body Loving Homework E-Course kicks off 5 days from today.  Join in on the fun to learn about how to love yourself and your body, as you are right this second, even if who you are in this moment is all that you want to be. Course includes weekly group coaching calls, access to a private site for daily writing and inspiration from fellow participants, worksheets, video + audio lessons, and so much more. Check out the course by clicking this link.

Want to participate, but struggling to come up with the cash? Run on over to Grow Soul Beautiful for a chance to win a spot or fill out a scholarship application before tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 11:59 pm EST.

Grounding Yourself in Self-Love

Too often, when we feel as though we are a work in progress, we succumb to the belief that we aren’t worth rejoicing until we _________.  We require ourselves to follow strict plans: monitoring our eating, chaining ourselves to the treadmill every single day, or refusing to acknowledge compliments given to us by strangers because we haven’t reached our steadfast goals.

We make ourselves miserable with all of that trying.

Trying to become something that we aren’t, yet. Trying to become something better than we are today. Trying to leave the life we have behind, and earn ourselves a life worth being proud of.

When you make these kinds of plans, inherently you are telling yourself that who you are, right now, today is: unworthy, unlovable, unacceptable, and ugly.

You are telling yourself that you do not deserve living your life out loud by taking up space in the world, asking for what you want and need, or pursuing the things that you love.

Instead, you are putting yourself through the wringer for what you have not been able to become, yet.

What if who you are today is all that you’re going to get?

What if you lose a ton of weight, find the “perfect” spouse, or get the job of a lifetime – only to find out that you still feel miserable? How could that possibly BE?

We are all works in progress, moving along the trajectory of our lives learning from our mistakes and distilling our preferences as we go. And yet, at every point in that process, we are a person who is: whole, thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful, and worthy of a wonderful life.

You are worthy of a beautiful life. Today. Right now.

Many people believe that loving themselves, as they are, is the anti-thesis of wanting to change something. They’ll say, “How can I love this?” while pinching the skin on their stomach, or become offended when you suggest that they could even be deserving of such kindness and compassion before their transformation is complete.

You are worth loving yourself completely, even when you are in the process of transformation.

When the backbone of transformation is self-love, your experience of the journey is radically different. You get up and do what needs to be done, because you believe in your heart that you deserve to be happier, healthier, and more profoundly satisfied with your life.

You exercise, not because you’re afraid of gaining weight, but because you know in your heart that moving your body stabilizes your moods, gives you energy, and makes you feel like a human being again.

You eat discerningly, not because you are on a restrictive diet plan, but because you love the way you feel when you’ve made food choices that are in line with your needs.

You make time for your partner, not out of the guilt that you feel for never wanting to be intimate in this body, but because you deserve the pleasure and connection of being close to the one you love.

When you act from a place of self-acceptance, there is no struggle, because there is no wrong answer. {tweet this}

You will not get it perfect all the time. None of us will. But, until we stop allowing our fear of imperfection keep up from putting one foot in front of the other to try out new and exciting possibilities – we will always be stuck here, mired down in our own fear of getting it wrong and mistrust in ourselves.

Don’t wait.  The celebration is now – is wherever you are – because you are already a phenomenal, gorgeous, amazing woman.

Want help celebrating?

The Body Loving Homework E-Course kicks off one week from today.  Join in on the fun to learn about how to love yourself, as you are right this second, even if who you are in this moment is all that you want to be. Course includes weekly group coaching calls, access to a private site for daily writing and inspiration from fellow participants, worksheets, video + audio lessons, and so much more. Check out the course by clicking this link or sign-up here to participate in this week’s preview teleclass: The Power of Writing in Cultivating Self-Love, Wednesday evening at 6 pm EST.

The Specific Use of a Body: Weight, Safety + Acceptance

I have always used my body in a very specific way.

I don’t often talk about weight here, because I have very intentionally created a haven for addressing self-love in a weight-less, body-less sort of way, so that it can easily be tried on and amended by those readers who are coming from a variety of backgrounds, lived experiences, and sizes.

I have done this to make you feel comfortable.

However, I have also done this to keep myself comfortable, because it isn’t often that my honesty and vulnerability extends to frank discussions about my relationship with my body – not just my body image, but the visceral size and ability of my body.

I recently became aware that one of my clients initially didn’t want to work with me, because she thought I might judge her desire to lose weight, to transform the body that she had into a new body, a thinner, different body. 

I felt the need to provide some clarity on this issue, to state very clearly: I will never judge your relationship with your body, no matter what it contains.

Then I went to Fitbloggin, where we had this discussion and this discussion, and I felt that heart-in-throat-feeling of needing to share my story. And, because I believe that sharing stories, and reducing the shame that we carry, is integral to repairing our relationship with our bodies, I thought I might share a bit more of mine here.

I  have always used my body in a very specific way.

Imagine, a small girl in a little tent. There is a tiny fire in the tent to keep her warm. There might even be some toys or drawings on the wall. This is her house, the place where she feels cozy and comfortable. The walls of the cave are insulated well, with layers and layers of down comforters. In that tent, she is safe, no one can peek in or discover her there. In that tent, she can be whomever she wants to be, because no one can touch her there.  In that little tent, she is the big fish in the small pond. The master of her domain. In that little tent, she can create gorgeous murals or intricate stories or beautiful dance routines, because she is protected, there.

Imagine, that closet or drawer in your house that you shove all of your odds and ends into, that place that is a refuge for all of the shit that you can’t deal with. That place that you can shove all of your unwanted items into, hiding it conveniently from view. The rest of the house can be clean and orderly, but that one closet is a fantastic mess, threatening to cascade out every time you open the door. Thus, you open the door infrequently and generally pretend the closet doesn’t exist.

That closet is my body.

As is the tent.

I am also the little girl warming herself by the fire, cozy in the safety of her fire, books, and drawings on the wall.

I am comprised of the junk in the closet that threatens to bust out and overflow into the hall.

Over the course of my life, I have permitted my body to be a convenient scape goat. I have allowed it to be the catch-all for my fears around playing big in my daily life.

I have been afraid to be intimidating.  Yet, I have been able to be quite successful, because my body consciously undermines me at every turn. As in, I don’t have to worry about how much money I make or how well I do, because my weight keeps me from being threatening to others.

My status as a bit of a cautionary tale, allows others to feel safe around me.

When I say that I use my body in a specific way, I am describing the way in which, my body, this body has served me.

It has saved me.

It has kept me safe when my safety was not guaranteed by those around me.

But, in my adulthood, I have decided not to use my body in this way anymore. I have decided to go all in in terms of living my life, and I have begun the process of no longer using my body as a tool to put distance between myself and others.

I have started living in my skin instead.

And now, I am comfortable talking with others about their weight loss, because weight gained or lost is of very little importance to me.  What I am concerned with is how those attempts are grounded in paying attention to yourself, to the miniscule changes that occur within your skin, to truly taking care of yourself, to the dreams that you have for yourself, and the how your body and your health can support those dreams.

I want to know about how your body serves you. How your weight serves you.

This is not about judgment or me telling anyone anything about what they should do – this is about each and every one of us learning what it means to truly take care of ourselves like the special, beautiful, and intricately glorious person that we are.

This is about the ways in which the story that you tell yourself, about yourself and what you deserve, serves you.

My relationship with my body has grown over the years, strengthening and deepening in different ways, but I am not a stranger to the struggle. I am not a stranger to waking up and realizing that I still need to make the choice to love myself.  I am not a stranger to opening up my closet and realizing nothing fits. Or eating all the wrong things in a fit of forgetting myself. Or telling my partner I can’t imagine having sex because I feel so uncomfortable in my skin.

I am human, after all.

We are all human. We will not always get it right. We will not alwaysknow what the best thing is to do. But when we share, truly share, from our hearts and in service of getting to know ourselves better -we are all better for it. Our community craves our stories and our honesty, because each and every one of us feels so damn alone with our pain.

This is the place for your pain. You can unburden yourself here. We can hold your stories, because we, too, have stories of our own.

After years of avoidance and disassociation and sticking my head in the stand – I am endeavoring in the intricate art of staying with myself, no matter how ugly it gets. The art ofchoosing love and care instead of running and hiding.

The art of taking responsibility for the one body and the one life that I have been given, because at the end of the day, I all I’ve got is me.

It may be imperfect. It may be irregular. It may be cyclical.It may not make sense to anyone else.

But, it is all mine.

I want to thank Karina Dresses for dressing me up in a gorgeous python print dress for my session at Fitbloggin last weekend. One of the (many) ways that I am learning how to take care of myself is to make the time and space for those things that feel really good to do. Wearing that dress felt amazing, and I want to thank them for that.

I also want to let you know that if this post struck a cord with you, and you are looking for some more resources, the gorgeous women that I partnered up with for my session and I created a free book – Self-Love 101 – and you can download that here, at the bottom of the page.

{Photo credit – Tara Martin}