At our monthly women’s circle this past Sunday, we explored the topic of body positivity. Not an easy topic, but those in attendance all contributed heartily to the discussion, and it was beautiful to hear all these women talk about how they deal with the issues of female body image.
Whether a woman, man, or nonbinary, you have been subjected to body norms set by our fickle society.
While women have traditionally been more of a target, men suffer too, and it isn’t far to acknowledge their struggle.
For example, here is a chart of the male standard of beauty:
While there are differences, it isn’t as drastic as women. One man can conform to each of these standards without surgery or too much effort.
Well, maybe not in the 80s. I’m seeing flashes of Arnold Schwarzenegger—who still fits that mold as he approaches his 76 birthday.
However, woman’s standards that been much more drastic than men’s. Take a look at the chart below.
Unfair, right? Well, enough of this. Let go of the shame. Stop thinking about the parts of your body you want to change.
Why? Because…who cares? Who are you trying to impress? How does it serve you?
Instead, let’s embarrass body positivity. Because we only get one body and one life to live in, stop wasting time on self-judgment, and bring on self-love.
How? Here are a few tools:
Tape love notes to your mirror.
Scrub Social Media Feed — Add Positive Minded People & Groups
Let go of the people that don’t support you and bring in supportive people.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Your body is unique; embrace your uniqueness!
Focus on what you like about yourself.
Accepting that body image distress as normal (You aren’t alone!)
You aren’t alone! I was shocked to learn that I fit into the average American woman. I am 5’5 and 140 pounds. While I know I’m in relatively good shape, I still see flaws in the mirror, more so as I age.
I often reflect on how harsh I was on myself in my 20s. I see pictures and can’t match my hate for my body with the beautiful young woman I was. Hell, typing out beautiful just now felt wrong. I wanted to hit the backspace, but I didn’t. Why? Because I am embracing self-love.
This body gave me 2 beautiful children and has been my constant companion for 44 years. So I am choosing to celebrate it. And you should too!
I’m leaving you with a bit of homework. Take out a piece of paper or open up the notes feature on your phone and answer these questions:
Why am I grateful for my body?
What makes you valuable? (Because you are more than the way you look!)
Hold onto this paper or save the note and come back to it whenever you are being particularly hard on yourself because your body is strong, resilient, and beautiful. The only one you’ll get, so start treating it like your dearest friend—because, at the end of the day, that is what it is.
As our kiddos finish their last days at school before the freedom of summer, our minds start to gravitate to the stressful task of occupying their time without a screen in front of them.
Here are a few fun things to consider:
Nature Scavenger Hunts
Create a list of age-appropriate items for your children to find on a walk. It can be in your neighborhood…
Find a house with green shutters.
Find a fluffy white dog.
Or in a local park ( My favorite is Tyler Park—they have some beautiful, mostly empty trails leading to a covered bridge, dam, and amazing views)…
Find a small animal: bunny, snake, toad, etc.
Find a leaf with four points.
Getting out in nature can be relaxing and invigorating for you both. Don’t let the hot weather keep you inside. Remember to bring plenty of water and choose shady paths on hot days, or get up early and enjoy the cooler mornings.
Story Writing Contest
Want to keep their minds active and explore their creative sides? Have themed story-writing contests! Stories can be a paragraph for the smaller kiddos and a page for the older ones. Make the prize something fun, a special treat, to motivate them.
For example, the theme could be scary stories. Have everyone read them around a fire while roasting marshmallows. Fire not an option? —get flashlights and sit in a dark living room to set the mood.
The winner gets to choose the film for the next movie night. Or, even better, have an outdoor movie night with a sheet and a projector (Amazon has some reasonable options.)
Rock Painting is a calming yet creative activity. As an added bonus, you can leave them in a place to motivate others and make your fun activity a source of random kindness.
While on your nature hike, collect rocks or have the kids search for them in your backyard. You can also buy them at arts and crafts stores. They even sell kits!
I buy Sharpie paint markers. They work great and allow you to add more detail. Don’t forget the finishing spray if you leave it out in the elements.
Impromptu Dance Party
It is important to be silly and have fun with our kids. We spend so much time shaping them to be mature adults, but you also need to show them that being an adult isn’t all serious. Sometimes we need to show ourselves this as well.
Choose a fun theme appropriate for the age of your child…
Under the Sea
Create a fun soundtrack and invite the kids to dress up. Then, dance like no one is watching and have fun! Feel the stress melt away and the silliness bubble up.
I know this isn’t an Olympics year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the spirit of the Olympics into your home for the day or maybe even two weeks.
We did it last year and had such a blast. Have everyone choose a country to represent.
Fun educational activity—help them learn facts about their country to share with the family during the opening ceremony.
Yes, have an opening ceremony! Make a torch out of tissue and construction paper, a sign with the Olympics rings, and metals (see the picture below). Pull out the glitter, glue, and creativity, and have fun with it. Afterward, play that iconic music and get those steps in processing through the yard, house, or both passing the torch.
Next, figure out events. Here are some ideas:
“Ice” Dancing – obviously, there’s no ice…but pretend there is! Encourage your kids to choose a song and choreograph their dance. Wearing socks gives the same effect as skates on the kitchen or a hardwood floor.
Curling – They sell sets online, but you can create your own with tape, a broom, a stick, and a hockey puck.
Speed Skating – set up a course inside the house, make it windy and fun, then put on your socks and slide through the course like ice skates. Make sure to time it! The fastest skater wins.
Diving/ swimming – (for those with a pool), video it for instant replay for the judges!
Shooting – Use Nerf guns and set up targets.
Basketball – Who said PIG couldn’t be an Olympic game?
Truly, the options are endless. Feel free to create your own events. They don’t have to be Olympic-related. You can play frisbee, have an egg toss, play corn hole, or whatever fun family activities you like.
Now get out there and have fun with your kids. You will look back on the memories you made fondly!
Beauty and passion are not love. Love is a choice. We can only love people if we unconditionally accept them, warts and all.
This can be a hard statement to swallow. I know, I have struggled with it since puberty.
Take a moment and evaluate why you love your significant other. Or what you want in a significant other if you are still searching for “the one.”
Go past the physical…go deeper.
Seriously, beauty changes. For example, when I was in high school, Kate Moss was the ideal of feminine beauty. Today, it’s Chloe Kardashian. These two women couldn’t be more different! Why should I hold myself or my partner up to these standards?
Ask yourself, what are the qualities you value in a partner?
Wait, don’t make it about fulfilling your needs. You are the only person that can complete you! (Ignore all those unrealistic Hollywood standards! You are smarter than that!)
In the past, I often jokingly said, “I would never divorce my husband because I trained him, so why would I let another woman benefit from my hard work?”
This thinking is insulting to my husband and myself. He isn’t a dog. I don’t need to improve him. I need to unconditionally accept him for who he is…no limitations, no standards—just acceptance.
Sounds easy, right? It’s not. But I put the effort in every single day.
William Shakespeare helped me with this. My favorite love poem is Sonnet 130. I’ll share it with you now. I added the emphasis.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Ok, once you get past the ol’ timey language and listen to what he is saying, the message is beautiful.
He loves her because she isn’t perfect. He loves her because of her flaws. He knows she’ll age, as beauty always does, and he doesn’t care…why?
Because love is unconditional. It always has been that way; we just forget in this modern world.
So finally, make that list of what you value in your partner and love unconditionally.
I was having a conversation with my 11-year-old the other day about a movie we had just seen, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
No spoilers, I promise!
To stage the scene, there is a bad guy that is trying to create the “perfect species.” There is a lot of cruelty and murder along the way. That’s where I’ll leave the movie analogy.
My son said, “Why was that guy so obsessed with perfection? What is perfect anyway?”
I got really excited and put on my teacher’s hat, and said, “Wow! That is a great question.”
And here is, in a nutshell, what I told him…
What may be perfect to you won’t be perfect to me or anyone else.
For example, you love the color purple. So you may see a shirt that is the perfect shade of purple and think, “This is the perfect shirt!”
However, Daddy doesn’t like the color purple, so he won’t think that shirt is perfect. The blue one will seem perfect to him, and yellow for me, and so on.
Rather than striving for perfection, you should strive to be “good enough.” Put in your best effort, and that, for you, is perfection.
He smiled and ran off to play, but I kept thinking about this idea of perfection. I remember all the times in my past, I thought, I’ll never be good enough. Or why bother? It’ll never be perfect.
Somewhere along the way, whether in childhood, our tumultuous teens year, or adulthood, we are bought into the idea that we aren’t good enough, so we decide to try and become perfect, which is an endless, tireless pursuit.
Because, again, your ideal of perfection is different than the person you are trying to impress. Think back to your teenage years. How many times did you change your look to attract someone you liked? Then when they didn’t think you were ‘perfect,’ it was devasting. Why? Because a boy or a girl didn’t find us attractive enough? Smart enough? Athletic enough?
“We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience.” – Louise L. Hay.
It’s never too late to change this perception because…guess what?
YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.
Repeat it to yourself a few times right now.
Now, take some time to reflect and consider how this limiting belief, ‘I’m not good enough,’ affects your life. Get out a notebook and answer honestly.
In what ways do you recognize this belief in your own life?
How has your life been affected as a result of carrying this negative limiting belief? What results have you got?
As we begin to think differently and take ownership of new ideas, we can change the way we think, change the way we interpret the past, and change and modify our expectations of the future.
If we’re bold enough to accept the fact that who we are as individuals is ‘good enough’ – not perfect – but ‘good enough’, then this sets us free for the rest of our lives.
We no longer have to strive for perfection and can simply commit to a journey of self-improvement, where we work on being a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday.
Every time you start to think, “I’m not perfect or good enough,” stop yourself in your tracks and say proudly, “I am enough.”
Time machines are a fascinating idea, and it is amazing to think that it could someday happen.
But did you know that we travel through space and time on a pretty regular basis?
You are traveling through time when you are sitting in the classroom trying to listen to the professor but are worried about your next week’s exam. When you are doing laundry but are thinking about how your boss let you down last year by not giving you that promotion, you are also traveling through time.
These seem like valid concerns and worries, but they are also barriers to many things.
In the first example, it may be a barrier to hear information that may be on your test. In the second example, you may miss that wonderful scent that comes from freshly laundered clothes. The more time thinking about what could be or what has already happened is putting yourself in a time machine and traveling to someplace that is not allowing you to be fully present and involved in what is currently happening around you.
In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a concept called Radical Acceptance encourages you to accept what you cannot change. It seems like it should be easy, everyone says well, it is what it is, but it is far from easy. We all have regrets about the past, and we all have worries about the future, but we cannot let these things interfere with our appreciation of what is happening today, in this moment.
When we focus on dreams of what could have been or what might happen, we fight against reality. We are creating suffering for ourselves for something that cannot happen. We cannot change things that have already occurred, although many people wish they could do so. We cannot know what will happen in the future, and we must wait to actually experience it. We need to attend to what is happening right now.
Many of you are sitting in a chair or on a sofa, but have you ever really taken a moment to close your eyes and feel the chair? Is it soft, is it hard, is it warm, is it comfortable, is it rough or smooth? What is the temperature in the room? What are the sounds you are hearing? Take a moment to really listen and feel. Be fully present in the moment, let yourself get wrapped in what is happening, and you may find being present can actually feel quite good.
Has anyone ever said to you, “You’re worrying too much.” or “You think too much.” Maybe you even said it to yourself. I definitely have. Your next thought might’ve been, “Ok, so what am I supposed to think about?”
That question is an important moment. This marks the moment you decide you are open to change and ready to empower yourself with healthy, supportive thoughts. This is the power of affirmations.
Now that you’ve decided to improve your thoughts let’s take a moment to understand how thoughts affect us. It’s most helpful to me to think of thoughts in two categories: Fearful thoughts and Loving thoughts.
When we think fearful thoughts, we feel scared, anxious, and worried. Thinking these thoughts on repeat can lead to us feeling defeated, hopeless, and depressed. On the flip side, when we think loving thoughts, we feel peaceful, calm, grateful, and hopeful. Repeat these types over and over and we feel inspired, motivated, joyful, and generally supported by life.
So what do we do when we are plagued by fearful thoughts such as:
I really messed up this time. Now everything’s just getting worse.
Why ask for what I really want? I’ll just get ignored or rejected again anyway.
They’re not really interested in me. They feel sorry for me.
I’m too emotional. Why am I such a basket case?
Here comes the anxiety again. Oh god, why can’t I just be normal?
This is where the power of affirmations comes in. An affirmation in the dictionary definition that we’re using here is “emotional support or encouragement.” An affirmation is a happy, forward-moving thought when we can’t think of one on our own. Practicing affirmations is a way to start you off thinking love-based thoughts. And it is a practice. Eventually, though, you will get to a certain point where you’ll be able to tap into that loving space and think positive thoughts on your own.
In the beginning, though, we need a little help. If you’re like me, when I started this journey, I could be encouraging to others but not to myself. I wondered, “What does a positive thought sound like? What are the words?” It was like asking myself to come up with lyrics to an instrumental song right there on the spot.
Just like learning the lyrics to your new favorite song, it has to be practiced over and over. At first, you need the lyric sheet, but then you get the chorus, and you’re off and singing the easiest part first. Later, you start to fill in the harder parts to remember like the verses. Eventually, you know every word to the song by heart and probably can sing the lead guitar riffs too. (You know who you are!)
My advice… Practice, practice, practice. Then, rinse and repeat! Find the words that give you a LEVEL-UP in consciousness and then practice every single day so that you can imprint your mind with a new thought.
Here are some encouraging affirmations:
I know I can do better, and next time I will! I learned so much from this experience.
I have the courage to ask for what I want. I can only control myself. If they ignore me, I have the strength to ask more firmly. If my request is denied, I will re-evaluate at that time.
I will take people at their word. If they show an interest in me, I know I have the choice to take the risk or not. I will follow my intuition, not the fears in my mind.
I notice when I am feeling emotional on a consistent basis, and I take care of myself by investigating how I can feel better.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to a fearful thought. I take the time to identify my thought and address my fears.
I take participants in my workshops and lessons by choosing and/or writing their own custom affirmations so that the fears they are experiencing are addressed. An important part of my work is making sure I do not minimize anyone’s challenges or bypass inner work that may be required. For example, if someone is feeling low self-esteem, telling them to repeat, “I am confident and self-secure in all situations.” can be a start. However, the opposite of the affirmation, “I have no confidence, and I’m not secure ever.” may not be the thought they’re having. They could have a fear of authority figures, body dysmorphia, or other complex emotions that need to be addressed as well.
My favorite way to use an affirmation:
Find the words that are soothing to you
Sit in that place of being soothed for a moment. Really feel the essence of the words. Imagine them pouring over you like a healing elixir soaking all through you to soothe and calm you.
Above all, use your intuition to guide you in choosing your affirmations and how you’d like to practice using them. Your intuition is how you feel… and it’s a powerful decision-maker for you!