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Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

We live in a world of mirrors. We live in a world of selfies. We live in a world of social media. We live in a world that encourages us to evaluate and monitor how our bodies show up in the world.

Monitoring, evaluating, critiquing, and controlling our bodies is just part of being a woman…isn’t it?

While this is definitely a common experience, this doesn’t have to be your reality. Just like dieting and scales only serve to derail you from your purpose and power, so too, body checking, only serves to cause pain.

Body checking can take many forms. It may be trying on specific clothes to ensure they still “fit.” It may be using your hands to physically measure and squeeze parts of your body like your thighs, waist, and arms. It may be taking selfies with your phone to check your profile. It may be compulsively checking your body in the mirror from a variety of angles, in a variety of different clothes, and across a variety of times during the day.

Body checking increases suffering. Let me tell you why.

  1. While body checking serves the function of control and reassurance that our bodies aren’t changing, our bodies can literally look and feel different day to day. This can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, our body may be retaining more water. Our body may be bloated and uncomfortable. We may be at a different point in our menstrual cycle. We may be sleep deprived. These are all physiological reasons why our body might literally show up in a slightly different shape or size on a different day that has nothing to do with any feared “true” change.
  2. We also may experience our bodies as different from the day before, depending on our clothes. We may have just washed our clothes and so our clothes are a little tighter. We may be wearing something inherently tighter opposed the comfy clothes we wore yesterday. By that contrast alone, we may feel our body is changing, even if that change is an illusion.
  3. Mirrors don’t reflect reality accurately. We all know this intuitively. Sometimes we feel we look better in one mirror vs another. Maybe you have a favorite mirror and maybe you have a mirror you avoid for this very reason. Maybe you know that the mirrors in the Athleta dressing room make you feel and look more flattering than the mirrors in Nordstrom. I don’t make mirrors, and even though theoretically they should all reflect back the same reality, they don’t. Just like scales, each one is off in its own unique way.
  4. Our moods and cognitive states impact how we perceive our bodies. So while our bodies are likely, literally, the same size and shape they were yesterday, depending on how we are thinking and feeling about ourselves and our bodies, this can change what we see in the mirror. It’s fascinating how distorted our perceptions of our bodies can be depending on our internal states. Have you ever noticed that you thought you looked horrible in a photo taken on the night you felt badly about yourself and your body, and then months later, you looked at that same photo and realized you didn’t look as bad as you thought?
  5. Finally, the most important problem with body checking is that it reinforces the illusion that our bodies are the problem. By focusing on our bodies, we continue to believe in the importance of how our bodies look and that how our bodies look are the most important aspects of who we are. This causes the most suffering of all.

Your size and shape are the least interesting things about you. Your size and shape do not embody your power, your voice, nor your purpose. Moving away from body checking frees you up to spend your energy and time pursuing what really matters in your life. Even if you don’t feel confident in your skin, you can commit to spending less energy on checking your body. You can commit to turn your attention to your truths and your values. This is where you can take your power back from the mirror!

The Messy Middle

The Messy Middle

As an adult, I find myself dismantling unhelpful, internalized attitudes and beliefs that I picked up from my youth. One that I’ve been confronting recently is this belief that “If you aren’t moving forward, you are moving backward.”

Have you heard that one too?

This belief makes me think about moving sidewalks in airports. My kids and I always love to get on the sidewalks that are moving in the opposite direction so we have to work extra hard to move forward toward our destinations. We giggle as we run full speed but hardly move at all. And then, when we stop, the sidewalk pulls us back, defeating all of our progress. This is a good time.

But it’s not fun and playful if we are all on invisible moving sidewalks that quickly eliminate our progress if we dare to stop moving. Operating from the belief that I’m on an invisible moving sidewalk that requires my chronic movement and dedication to not backslide, is exhausting at best, and fear and shame inducing at worst.

What’s funny about this belief system is it doesn’t follow physics. Well, I don’t know much about physics at all actually…but I feel pretty confident in asserting that if I’m not moving forward, I’m actually staying still.

And is there value in staying still?

That is the lesson I am learning in my life right now. In recent years, I have felt like life is asking me to slow down in important ways. I have been asked to confront and settle into spaces of “not knowing.” While this makes me feel messy, confused and vulnerable, I am learning to trust the process. It feels painfully slow and I’m not sure how or when it will conclude, or what that will even look like. Is this my midlife crisis?

I love how Brené Brown describes this messy place like being on Space Mountain. You are on the roller coaster, it’s too late to get off, and you are in the dark and can’t anticipate the twists and turns you are facing, nor do you know how and when it will end. But it does. It will.

Brené Brown discusses how you cannot skip this messy middle place. She even asserts that this messy middle place is “where the magic happens.”

I’m not feeling all sorts of “magical” but I am learning valuable lessons inherent in this space. I was listening to a guided meditation recently where the guru asked me to start breathing in ways I’d never considered breathing before. I’m used to breathing into my chest, or even down towards my stomach, but this guru asked me to breathe into my back and sides. He asked me to attend to the feeling of expansion from my ribs laterally, instead of feeling my breath move up and down.

That’s what this feels like. A new way of breathing that feels sideways. A way that is teaching me about how I can expand in ways I hadn’t anticipated. It is teaching me to settle and not be reactive. I am learning to be more deliberate and slow as I sort through all the messy pieces I am confronting. 

I am learning to be more present. I am learning to be “ok with not always being ok.” I am learning that I don’t have to be “productive” to be whole and worthy. I am learning to be compassionate with myself. Staying still, right now, is where I am learning to truly listen. So yeah, that all feels cool. I haven’t come out the other side, but I am so glad to learn that choosing to slow down and stop for a period is not the same as moving backwards. Just the opposite.

 

Boundaries and Bunnies

Boundaries and Bunnies

It began because of the pandemic. Or is that just my excuse? Anyway, somehow, my kids convinced me that getting two bunnies as Pandemic Emotional Support animals was a good idea. The breeder didn’t know the sex of said bunnies, but somehow I felt confident about rolling the dice and believed strongly that we chose two female bunnies. (more…)

Emotional Needs and Microspikes

Emotional Needs and Microspikes

“Deep breath and don’t look down,” I counseled myself with frozen fingers cemented to the bolted chains, as my shoes slipped beneath me on the icy cliff face. I wished for the hundredth time that day that I had brought my microspikes. It also wasn’t the first time during my December summit up Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, that I wondered if this was a good idea. (more…)