Body Image

Body image is something that we, as women, seem destined to always struggle with. No matter what is going on in society any given year, comments on a woman’s body are always a thing. To me, the worst part about body image is that over the years what is seen as the ideal body type or size changes. If you look back through history, the women who are celebrated in art never look the same. Right now we are stuck in this space where the ideal body size for a woman is tiny.

Probably like any of you women reading this, I have struggled for as long as I can remember. My parents made fun of my “bubble butt” growing up. My mom told me I was going to be big-boned and always be a bigger girl. I was the heaviest of the three of us girls and looking back now, I wasn’t anywhere close to the heavy that my mom kept commenting on. A lot of our body image issues come from our mother’s from as early as we can start looking to them for guidance. Anytime they talk about feeling fat or needing to lose weight, we absorb that. Anytime they comment on our stature, we absorb it. As kids we aren’t only absorbing what is on TV or in the media, we are listening to the women in our lives. We start to develop a complex around our body image from a very early age and if our parents aren’t aware of it, they might be causing a negative body image.

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I Embrace Me

As I’ve talked about many, many times, I’ve always struggled with being true to who I am. I’ve never truly embraced me for me. Until recently. I am really starting to get the hang of just being me. Me as a happy person, me as a grumpy person, me as a friend and a wife, me.

Understanding and embracing who we are, how we’ve been created, is the launching pad for living a fearlessly genuine life, where we’re no longer pretending or trying to be something other than what we are on the inside.

Jen Hatmaker, Fierce Free Fire

The key to my progress of late starts with understanding who I am. It means peeling back all of the layers that I’ve built up to get to my core to understand who I was created to be. I have not lived a genuine life embracing myself. I have lived a life embracing who I thought other people wanted me to be. I am no longer going to pretend to be anyone for anybody. I am going to show my true me.

Who is the true, genuine me?

I am still discovering this. As I continue to peel back all of the layers I’ve built up, I get to know myself more and more. This process is exhilarating and it is scary. It’s like I’m in a new relationship and the other person is the me that I’ve been hiding all of these years. I am taking chances and living into things that I’ve avoided before. I went camping a couple of weekends ago and woke up in a frustrated mood after sleeping like shit. I was kind to other people, but instead of getting mad as myself for being frustrated, I let it roll. I let myself be in that space and feel those feelings. Soon enough, the frustration just slid away. I also had the first conflict with a friend that I’ve had in a really long time. Fuck that sucked. We had differing opinions and I told her my opinion, not to tell her she was wrong, but to stand up for myself. We agreed to disagree and that it’s okay to have different opinions. It sucked, but it felt better to be true to me than to cave or just go silent until a new topic arose.

I’m also leaning into the things that might make other people annoyed with me. I have some serious (maybe not to the diagnosable point) OCD tendencies. I also have some strong beliefs about what it means for my home to look sloppy. I prefer to have everything in it’s place and if there are piles, I feel like a slob. My husband disagrees and thinks my view is only me thinking about or caring what other people think. Yeah, I can’t deny that is part of it. But, it is a deep-rooted feeling. I’m caring less and less what some people think because I know that what I think matters more.

Then there comes the topic of weight and health. I’m not perfect in my healthy eating. I want to do better, but I know that if I diet or get extremely strict, I will go so far the other way. I no longer want to eat healthy to lose weight. I don’t care. I don’t care that I have a bit of a gut or the my thighs are flabby. I have finally come to the realization that I do not have to fit anybody else’s opinion of health. My health journey is now primarily focused on how I feel and eating or being active to embrace habits that might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

I embrace me. All of me. Even the parts that I historically have not liked.

I embrace me.

It’s Good For Me

One of the things I share the most here is about my struggle to live for myself and put myself first. Each and every time I write about it, I’ve learned something new or I just need to get something off of my chest. Today I was inspired by Trent Shelton. His message in the podcast I listened to stuck with me and I felt I needed to share with you my thoughts on it.

In living life to impress others or get other people to have positive opinions about me, I didn’t do what was good for me. If there was ever a chance to go back and change something in my life, I would go back to being a young girl and I would change my outlook about myself. I would be a confident, bossy girl who could give a shit less if that other kid made fun of me again. I would learn and grow instead of drinking and partying to get people to like me. But I can’t go back. I can’t rewrite my history.

What I can do is rewrite my future. I can put a fork in my road and I can do what is good for me. Making that declaration is the easy thing to do. The difficult part is actually doing it. The ability to put aside the gut emotions that I’m so used to allowing to take control over me and pushing forward knowing that whatever caused that emotion is probably not good for me. It doesn’t matter if someone is criticizing me because of a post on social media or because I am so fucking clumsy or because I know that I want more out of life than just coasting along. It does not matter. I get to determine what is good for me, not anybody else.

Another difficult thing about rewriting my future, or rather taking control of my future, is staying sane. This is a journey with lots of ups and downs, lots of times where I am blind-sided by what I am going through, lots of times that I cannot control the situation or the outcome of the situation. All of this uncertainty can be absolutely paralyzing for me. When it gets to this point, I cave and start to fall back to old habits of people pleasing and changing my chameleon colors to fit in.

What’s helped me stay sane is me doing what’s good for me. Okay, me staying true to who I am whether people like it or people don’t.

Trent Shelton

Staying true to who I am is what I am going to strive for in these situations. When something comes up that challenges me and would normally send me back to people pleasing, I will work to ask myself what the next move is and if it involves staying true to myself or not. If not, I will need to adjust my path, adjust my response, and do what is good for me regardless of whether or not the other person agrees.

This means that there will be certain people I will not ever lower my guard around for any reason. I’ve been teaching myself the boundaries to have with some people, now it is time to up my game and use those boundaries to do what is good for me.

Staying true to who I am requires me to know who I am. That is the next challenge. Do I truly know who I am without any external influences?

I’m Sensitive

For the majority of my life I put on a front and pushed myself to be a badass who isn’t sensitive. I may be a female but I’m not a girl! I had no intention of being viewed as “just a girl” or as a sensitive person. I was taught those were negative and weak.

There is so much negativity in our society around the term sensitive and the phrase “like a girl.” I think one of the most common statements I can think of is “she/he throws like a girl.” I can rattle off a bunch more statements, but I think you already get the point.

I was taught that being sensitive was unacceptable and you better not cry or I’ll give you something to cry about. Sensitivity was a derogatory reference and I wanted no part of it.

So I really tried and pushed to be a badass who could lift this or dig that or take care of this or a woman who was strong and never cried. I never wanted to be viewed as sensitive or weak.

Until I couldn’t hide my sensitive side anymore. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but there was some kind of switch that was flipped and I think it was around the time that I fell in love and all of my barriers were crushed. I had no walls to hide my sensitivity anymore. Over the years, I have become more and more sensitive and more and more introverted. Especially since I quit drinking.

I’ve struggled with being sensitive and overcoming the negative connotation that I grew up with. And then I heard someone refer to themselves as an empath. It intrigued me. And once I started hearing it more, I finally decided to look into it. What exactly is an empath?

I found an article on healthline.com titled 15 Signs You Might Be an Empath by Crystal Raypole which references work by a couple of different people. Just reading through these 15 signs opened my eyes to more of an explanation of who I really am. Yes, I am sensitive, but even more so I am an empath. I feel like I finally have a description to a lot of my feelings. The 15 signs included in the article are:

  • You have a lot of empathy
  • Closeness and intimacy can overwhelm you
  • You have good intuition
  • You take comfort in nature
  • You don’t do well in crowded places
  • You have a hard time of not caring
  • People tend to tell you their problems
  • You have a high sensitivity to sounds, smells, or sensations
  • You need time to recharge
  • You don’t like conflict
  • You often feel like you don’t fit in
  • You tend to isolate
  • You have a hard time setting boundaries
  • You see the world in unique ways
  • You sometimes find it tough to cope with sensory and emotional overload

Almost every single one of those describes me without any further detail. If you do want further details, the link to the article is above.

Personally, I’m going to be reading the book she references next and I think I might share a series here about each sign. I feel like there might be some of you out there who could be inspired to hear that you are not alone in some of the feelings that go into each of these characteristics.

Being sensitive is truly just fine. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I simply have to keep reminding myself of this.

Live in The Moment

I’m sure you’ve had someone tell you this a time or two. Or you’ve been the one telling someone else. Is living in the moment easy for you? It is, then this post may only help you understand those of us who can’t. If living in the moment is a struggle for you, you are not alone my friend. This is one of the most difficult things for me to do in life.

Glennon Doyle summarized it perfectly in this explanation in Untamed:

It’s just that living with anxiety — living alarmed — makes it impossible to enter the moment, to land inside my body and be there. I cannot be in the moment because I am too afraid of what the next moment will bring. I have to be ready.

Living alarmed.

Those two words explain so much about my life without going into great detail. I live alarmed and on edge every single day. I have to be ready. I have to be prepared. I have to know what is coming next so I can be ready for it.

I have to be observant and watchful.

I have to be inconspicuous and calm.

I have to divert the crisis that is about to happen.

I cannot live in the moment and enjoy it because I have to be ready for the next moment that is almost surely going to be some sort of disaster.

Anxiety tells me that something bad is always going to happen next and that I need to be prepared to control it. I need to be prepared to take action. Anxiety leaves me living in constant vigilance of what is coming next.

Not just next in the next second. Next in the next minute. In the next hour. In the next day. In the next month. In the next year. In the next five years. In the next eternity. Whatever is next, I have to be ready.

Spontaneous fun? No, that is not acceptable. I can’t be prepared for it.

Just chilling and hanging out. Mmm maybe but I’m still going to be considering what is coming next once I stop chilling. Also, this must be planned. It cannot be spontaneous.

Why does everything just want to be spontaneous and live in the moment when there is surely something that will go wrong?!

Because they are wired differently.

It doesn’t mean we are bad people because we can’t live as free as they can. I know we have times that life seems easy and spontaneity is possible and living in the moment is possible. We can all get there occasionally. But when we can’t, we are in a constant state of panic.

Some people call us high-strung. They are wrong. We are sensitive people who just want to make sure everyone we love with be alright. And that everything is put away where it goes and done exactly as we think it should be. That’s how we stay safe.

Living in the moment sounds delightful and terrifying at the same time. If you live or are around one of us who carries anxiety with us, give us a little grace as we navigate spontaneity and working to live in the moment. We are working through more than you can see on the outside. We are struggling and happy at the same time, most of the time.

Living in the moment will work for us sometimes and not others. It is nothing against you, it is merely how we are wired. We are working through it. We are struggling. We are overcoming. Take our hand and help us through it without condemnation or some smartass comment. That doesn’t help.

We want to live in the moment, but we also want to hide from the moment so we can prepare for the next one.