Fighting the Mean Bitch: Where I get really honest about body image

It's no secret that as women, we all have a chip on our shoulders about our body image. Some chips are larger than others, and mine have been gargantuan at times. I've worked really, really hard to get to a healthy place with how I feel about my shape and size, and I would say at this point, I'm happy with who I am and how I look 85% of the time. But, that other 15% can be BRUTAL. Most of the time that 15% comes into play when I'm feeling out of balance. When I'm tired, I suffer. As much as I like to go out and socialize as much as possible, if I don't give myself at least one night of me time and lots of rest, I feel out of sorts and less well equipped to fight the anxiety monster. The bottom line: when I'm cranky, I criticize myself. Sometimes it's really hard to maintain the balance, especially when I'm feeling pulled in 100 directions and don't want to let anyone, or myself, down. But taking a step back is crucial. And if I don't, I end up in a bad spiral, with that Mean Bitch in my Brain singing a chorus of "oh my goodness, my stomach looks bloated" or "oh man, I really need to put in a harder work out, I've been too easy on myself" or "my arm looks SO FAT in that picture!" And with that soundtrack playing, it's almost impossible to feel good about yourself.

I've come a LONG, LONG way. I exercise, but in moderation. I don't beat myself up when I miss a day at the gym. I speak kindly to myself, with loving eyes, as much as possible. I don't worry about dieting, but I integrate healthy foods that make me feel nourished without restricting myself entirely. I take time to be active in ways I enjoy, without a rigid "30 minute" limit: citibike, long walks, and soul cycle are three of my favorites. I fight the urge to compare my body to others. And I feel good, most of the time. But, every once in a while, I fall back into the Mean Bitch soundtrack. Last week was one of those once in a whiles.

Luckily, I was able to mostly shake it off, but I did notice something this morning that I think can be a helpful tool for women having an "I feel fat and I don't know how to stop criticizing myself" day, week, month, or even moment.

I'm in the midst of an E-cubed experiment that focuses on changing our tune when we wake up in the morning. If you haven't read E-squared or E-cubed, I highly encourage it! The books are an amazing example of the power we all possess, and our innate capacity for miracles. So today, I was extra mindful of my wake up routine -- and I noticed something KIND OF AWFUL. Each morning before getting in the shower, I do a quick "how do I look" evaluation on my body. I check to see how bloated I feel, how flat my stomach is looking that day, & anything else that I might be concerned about.

What I realized: Basically, I'm starting each day reinforcing my fears and concerns about weight gain. I'm continually emphasizing a limiting belief that skinniness is fleeting and can change at any moment, from one day to the next. And, I can tell you that the days I'm looking at myself with fear in my eyes, I'll find something to feel bad about. Why would I want to set the tone for my entire day this way?

Today, I instead started my day by saying "Thank You." I put on one of my favorite happy jams ("Classic" by The Knocks), I danced in the shower, I sang, I pumped my fists. I celebrated the joy of the day. And, I did my best to not feel the need to look in the mirror and make sure I hadn't gained 5 pounds overnight.

And I can tell you that today I feel like myself. I feel grateful, I feel fit, and I feel comfortable and happy.

And that's about as much as I can hope for.

The bitch has been silenced.


Bliss Inspiration: Like a Girl

If you haven't seen it by now, Always' new campaign #LikeaGirl is a brilliantly moving piece about the power of stereotypes in our society. As someone who works in marketing I'm always a fan of pieces that strike on a really powerful insight, especially one that can spark positive change. And female empowerment/self-esteem issues are definitely right in my wheelhouse of "Things that make me REALLY PASSIONATE." So, yes, this video made me cry. [youtube]


What really resonated with me is the connection it made to some of the work I'm doing in my own life. In one of the first meetings I had with Caroline, my ever-brilliant life cheerleader, we did an exercise where we rated ourselves on certain characteristics, one of which was femininity. When we got there, I was awe struck. I'd never much thought about the subject, but when it came down to it, it was clear that I didn't seem myself as inherently feminine. Why?

Well... a laundry list of reasons. I thought that I didn't match up to what cultural norms have defined as feminine:

1. I am not dainty, small, or graceful

2. I am head strong, could be aggressive and opinionated, and more of a 'leader'

3. I am bold in life and love, I don't play games, I'm not 'coy,' I go after what I want

4. I am not immaculately put together

5. I am not particularly "virtuous" (sorry Mom!)

So basically... I still have an idea in my head that the "ideal" woman is a 1950s Stepford wife, or at least a tiny Southern Belle waiting around for prince charming (seriously, the idea of feminity to me is like a real life Thumbalina).

Which is just. insane. It's 2014. So much has progressed in terms of feminism and women's rights. So why hasn't our idea of "being feminine" changed? Why do we consider powerful women to be women exhibiting masculine qualities?

Always' certainly hit the nail on the head with stereotypes. And I will add two more to the mix: the idea of how women can and cannot behave in the workplace and in love.

These areas are some of the most deeply ingrained in me, and some that I struggle with most deeply, especially the area of love and dating-- which is where I'll choose to focus. Women suffer many, many stereotypes around how they choose to date, how much of their real selves and real agendas they reveal, and how "far" they choose to go with the men in their lives. COUNTLESS books, articles, conversations, TV shows, movies, and more cover this topic. It's everywhere. And it's a ridiculous standard that makes women feel guilty, out of control, and unworthy.

As someone who truly values the importance of love and finding a monogamous partner, it scares the shit out of me that I may forever screw up my chances because I am not "following the rules" as society dictates, because I don't act exactly as women are meant to act in courting situations. I don't pretend to be uninterested. I don't actively suppress my sexual needs based on how many men I'm "allowed" to sleep with per year [seriously, I know a lot of women who do]. Instead, I follow my heart, I stay true to myself, I express feelings genuinely.

And because of that, I often feel incredible guilt and anxiety. Even though I know what I'm doing is right for me, I'm afraid it's wrong by societal standards.

Which is why I am here, writing to you and continuing my practice of love and acceptance. Because it's time to break free of "who we're supposed to be" and accept all of who we are.


Gabourey Sidibe Gets It

Speaking of epic people opening up about self-esteem, I found this article about Gabby Sidibe's Speech at the MS Gala and couldn't avoid sharing it. Three words: Girl. Is. Brave.

and two more: she's hilarious.

I absolutely love how open and honest she was about her past, her upbringing, and her ability to basically say "fuck you all, I'm going to be awesome because I AM awesome, no matter what you say."

Society doesn't define how much we should love ourselves. We do. And the answer to that question is as much as we possibly can... and then some.

Get it girl.