Today, I meditated NAKED in my own backyard.
For some of you, you might think, “So what?” but if you know me, truly know me, you will understand that this is a really big deal.
You see, for most of my life, I defined myself as my body. My value was interconnected with what my body looked like, how strong it was, how it was able to perform on the field or court, and how smart I was.
Yet, despite how my body has looked over the years, I have never loved it. When I was sporting an almost 6-pack stomach--I still didn’t love it. When I was 20 pounds heavier after 8 months of backpacking, I still didn’t love it. No matter what my body has looked like, I still couldn’t bring myself to fall in love with it. It’s like the “backwards law” that Mark Mason speaks about in "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck". The more I pursued having a perfect body, the more I felt miserable not having one.
When I was in high school I developed an eating disorder. Unlike many girls where it is as if an outside person takes over, and they don’t necessarily realize what they are doing, I was 100% conscious and in control the whole time. I essentially forced myself into having an eating disorder because I was that focused on what my body SHOULD look like, but didn’t. I reasoned that if I couldn’t be pretty, at least I could be thin. Oh, how screwed up my thinking was.
After having more cavities in one dental appointment than I had in my whole life, and a college road trip where I was sharing hotel rooms with my mom and puking in the toilet while she worried outside the door, I was sent to a psychologist.
Yes, I got over the eating disorder, but NO, I still didn’t love myself or my body. I still berated myself daily when I looked in the mirror. I still found all the faults. I still obsessed about the cellulite on my ass. I still sucked in my stomach, or flexed it in hopes that it would maybe, kind of, look a little different.
Over the years, I eventually convinced myself that I may not be thin, but at least I was strong and fit and that is what mattered.
Then I had my first miscarriage.
Despite my strong, fit, athletic (though not thin body), I was unable to grow a child within me. My body was not strong enough and healthy enough to bring a new life into this world.
I pretended on the outside that it was all okay and told myself, “This is for the best. The baby probably wouldn’t have been healthy. This is nature’s way of correcting itself,” and on and on it went. But inside, I wasn’t convinced.
My body had failed me, and I was my body.
Fortunately for me, this happened right in the midst of a deep awakening within myself. Two days after the doctor went in and scrapped out my uterus and the dead tissue, I was sitting in a large room of 100+ people for a coaching seminar program. Three days after the doctor went in and scrapped out my uterus and the dead tissue, I was standing in front of a large room of 100+ people being coached by the leader.
It was he who let me in on the secret. “I AM NOT MY BODY.”
It was something that I refer back to again and again, as a reminder that I am so much more than my body. So much more than what it looks like, so much more than how strong it is, and so much more than how smart it is.
Yet, it wasn’t as if a light was switched and all of a sudden I loved my body. It is still something that I dance with on a regular basis, but the valleys are not as deep as they once were.
I stlll prefer having sex with the lights off.
I still wear a tankini in the summer to hide my stomach and my stretch marks.
I still gaze at the cellulite on my ass and wish it weren’t there.
But I also celebrate my body too.
I celebrate my body for giving me 2 healthy children, despite being pregnant 4 times.
I celebrate my body and when I go for hikes where I feel like I can touch the sky.
I celebrate my body on my yoga mat each day as I twist, turn, and balance in new ways.
And today, I celebrated my body while I meditated NAKED in my backyard.
How are you celebrating your body?
Emerge Book Circle Creator
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I finished two books today, which is unusual in my divorced mom life. "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown moved and shifted a part of me. I have failed so many times lately in terms of “perfect”.
I also finished Eloisa James' newest book, "Say No to the Duke." Eloise brings Betsy, her heroine, to release her view of perfection in favor of happiness. Fiction met Brené's research and provided me with a strong pointed message. If it takes 10,000 hours to become a master; I am an expert in stopping myself with the negatives in Guidepost #2 – Letting Go of Perfectionism.
Brené's research leads her to state “Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance… ‘What will they think?’”
My perfection phrase almost always includes the word “Should”. Much like both Brené and Betsy, I have a great many should phrases. In fact, for as long as I can really remember “should” has been a part of my vocabulary. “I should do this because otherwise what will they think?” is what I think on a regular basis, and ruins my authenticity.
Some “should” phrases are relevant, such as I “should do the laundry so there are clean clothes to wear.” I have four children thus laundry has become an almost daily event when it is my custody time. I recognize that the clothes need to be washed; the "should" part of the laundry, though, also includes neatly folded clothes and matching socks. With two teenagers and two younger children, I recognize they do not care about the unwrinkled state of their clothing as they cram their clean clothes into their drawers, and three of the four don’t worry about matching socks.
It has taken me years to realize that my rules of clean, non-wrinkled clothes really fall into the need for approval and acceptance from other mothers. I do not enjoy the "tsk" at my perceived lack of competence. It likely is an external belief from generations ago that each of us has carried down based on upper classes having maids to press clothing, and laboring class did not have that luxury. The advantage of permanent-press clothing taken out of the drier while still warm allowing wrinkles to fall out may have altered the conscious perceptions, yet the subconscious awareness remains hidden in the background.
I "should" weed my flower beds isn’t quite as relevant to me. Some are lovely flowers and the bees and hummingbirds seem to like them. Also, I am discovering some of them would actually be good for me to use in salads, since I don’t use weed killer or pesticides in my yard, much to the chagrin of my landscape architect sibling. I also wisely chose to live where there are not strict yard codes because I know my natural look flowerbeds would not be welcome in certain neighborhoods.
In both the above cases, the “should” examples create a feeling of shame because of perceived societal rules. I know I am vulnerable to others’ judgments. Brene's discussion of life-paralysis is a perfect fit for me. She describes it as “all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing.”
If I look back at my life, my life-paralysis perfectionism consistently holds me back. Instead of following the passion and the plan I had for my life back when I was a sophomore at Capital University, I allowed my life-paralysis to stop me both personally and professionally.
For 20-some years, I allowed what everyone else thought I should do, what I should focus on, and what should matter to me to push my life forward. I didn’t steer my own course for fear of being vulnerable, and fear of failing is a big portion. “Perfection is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough.” In anger, back as a 13-year-old, I yelled at my mother that I wasn’t a perfect daughter - and to stop expecting me to be as perfect as her.
In reading Betsy’s romance story, she is attempting to be the perfect model debutante. When Betsy was a 14-year-old, another girl pointed out how her mother was so imperfect that Betsy was going to be the same. Betsy’s response was to become the most model debutante – her self-imposed perfection need. Today my fiction reading met my reality and Brené's research.
The last three years have allowed me to spend time to dig deep into myself and realize that my happiness depends on my definition of needs, wants, and desires, much like Brené’s research gave her and Betsy learns via a very wise aunt. I am getting better with being imperfect and the “should” is slowly disappearing from my vocabulary. It is a habit that I am still correcting, and at the same time model for my children.
I hope that when I fail at making brownies again that become ice cream topping, they smile and have learned that life's imperfection can make life more delicious.
Emerge Book Circle Member
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In our reading of "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway", Susan Jeffers talks about how complaining is one of the many ways that we can tell if we are standing in the role of the victim, and not taking responsibility. She says, "I have been careful not to ask you to believe that you are responsible for all the your experiences in life. Rather, I ask you to believe you are the cause of all your experiences of life, meaning that you are the cause of your reactions to everything that happens to you."
One of the self-work activities that was offered to the Inner Circle Members was to bring awareness to their own complaining, as I find that complaining is often like bad breath--we only notice it in other people. I urged the Inner Circle Members to put a rubber band or elastic of some sort around their wrist and each time they noticed themselves complaining to move it to the other wrist.
It is 10:22am as I write this, and I have already moved my HOT PINK hair tie twice. Actually, I moved it twice before 9:00am, and I realized that both times I was complaining about the same thing, to two different people.
So, what was I complaining about? My children, and the fact that combined they woke up 5 times last night, which means mommy is quite tired this morning.
So, what am I responsible for?
No, I couldn't change the quantity or quality of the sleep that I got last night, but I definitely can change how I related to those facts. I could have continued to moan and groan about my children and my lack of sleeping, so that I would inevitable go through the day exhausted and annoyed, or I could take a totally different approach.
I won't lie to you and say that one of my first thoughts this morning was, "When can I take a nap?" but at the end of the day, no nap was needed because I shifted how I related to my reality. Instead of taking an afternoon nap, I went for an hour and a half walk in the forest with our dog. What a joy for both of us!
What about you? What steps can you take to bring awareness to your complaining, and how you are choosing PAIN over POWER?
Creater of the Emerge Book Circle
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Our garage is linked to the main entry to our house through a small stairway with doors on each side. A few months ago, my daughter, who is 5, decided that she wanted to climb the stairs “in the night,” as she likes to call it. Both doors are closed with no light penetrating in, and she climbs up in the pitch black holding onto the handrail. It has now become a habit, and my 2 year old son has followed suit.
Many children would think this is scary. Many children would be afraid of the dark, and wouldn’t want to do what my daughter is doing.
As I have watched her do this day after day, week after week, I have held my tongue. At the beginning I wanted to ask her if she was scared, but I didn’t. Throughout, I have wanted to praise her courage for not being scared, but I haven’t.
Do you want to know why?
Because our feelings don’t actually become real until we name them. Nothing is scary, until we say it is scary. Nothing is worrisome, until we say we are worried. Nothing is anxiety-inducing, until we say we are anxious. Nothing is stressful, until we say we are stressed.
Which means, that if I were to tell my daughter I was proud of her for doing something scary, she would then be scared.
Yesterday, I was at the park with my children and I heard a dad say to his sons, “Don’t be scared of the big kids!” In that moment, I asked myself, “Were they scared? And if not, are they scared now?”
A couple of hours later, back at home, my daughter and I walked into the hallway together and she turned on the light “because it is scary.”
I turned to her and said, “An hour ago, you walked in the stairs in the dark and it wasn’t scary, but this is scary. What’s the difference?” She couldn’t give me an answer, but I have my own--I gave her the word and the context.
The stairs between the garage and the main house aren’t scary because I never alluded to her that they were. Yet the stairs from the first floor to the second floor are scary, because at some point I told her they were. It’s the same reason she likes the hall light to be on when she sleeps--because I told her about being scared of the dark.
I think that many of her fears have come from me. My words of “be careful”, and references to “being afraid,” and my questioning, “Are you sure? It might be scary.”
One of the first lessons in the book "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers is to look at our vocabulary, and to make shifts in the words we use. She refers to it as pain vocabulary, versus POWER vocabulary.
Here are a few of her suggested replacements:
Change "I can't" to "I won't".
Change "I should" to "I could."
Change "It's a problem" to "It's an opportunity."
Change "If only" to "Next time."
Here are some of my own:
I am not worried, I am planning.
I am not busy, I am energized.
I am not tired, I am contemplative.
I am not stressed, I am enthusiastic.
I am not scared, I am excited.
I invite you to try some of them out and then leave a comment below to let me know how you feel afterwards.
Creator of the Emerge Book Circle
Read. Connect. Emerge.