In the (Start-Up) Business of Loving Myself

self-love

Self-Love is a buzzword I hear often. Even social media hashtags proliferate the concept. Yep.¬†#SelfLoveSunday. It’s a thing. ¬†So are those barefaced¬†“I woke up like this” selfies. Of course¬†you did. After 10 minutes of choosing a¬†filter.

But regardless, the implication¬†is clear. We should accept,¬†embrace, even flaunt our own uniqueness. And the haters can just shove their criticism. Well…umm…brownie points for that empowering mantra, but one issue still remains.

Social media is not an accurate depiction of reality. Which makes me wonder: How many of these self-love posts crowding my Instagram feed represent women who really do love themselves?  

Do they feel as confident, poised and vivacious as their expressions would suggest? Or is there a secret shame cowering behind that camera lens?  A brokenness hidden beneath a brazen facade?

I’d guess the latter.

Not because I’m a cynic, but because we live amidst¬†a¬†contradictory culture that heaps¬†emphasis on airbrushed physical¬†standards,¬†while encouraging women¬†to appreciate their idiosyncrasies.

These two¬†messages¬†can’t coexist. When¬†society¬†demands perfection, where does that leave the imperfect?¬†Scrutinizing every inch of their bodies, chasing¬†self-love but coming up short.

I’m no stranger to this cycle.

In fact, the¬†first conscious realization of my own “subpar” physique came at 8 years old. This perception (however irrational) spiraled into a decade long¬†struggle with distorted body image, restrictive¬†behaviors and obsessive hyper-criticism. A.K.A. the antithesis of self-love.

No hashtag is gonna convince me to change that perspective though. No social media campaign will reverse these beliefs entrenched in my psyche. No superficial impetus can undo the damage within. Healing comes from a much higher pursuit.

When you recognize that vulnerability isn’t weakness.

That admission of flaws¬†isn’t acceptance of defeat.

That relying just on yourself isn’t a buffer¬†from pain.¬†

That drawing strength from others isn’t disempowerment. ¬†

So, why is¬†self-love an elusive concept? Because we’re conditioned to skepticize and¬†overanalyze these simple truths instead of affirming them at face-value. But when we move past the barricades, we experience more¬†than self-love.

We discover identity.

body-positive-quotations

 

 

 

On Turning Your Body Image from Naughty to Nice

The holidays are a challenging time of year for me.

I won’t even bother pretending otherwise.

So, with Christmas just 2 days around the corner, that telltale anxiety has begun creeping up on me.

In T-48 hours, the festivities will commence. I’ll be plied with cut-out cookies, green bean casserole (whose appearance at the buffet table always makes me wonder: why is this even a thing???), and every sugary beverage imaginable. I’ll spend Christmas dinner inwardly squirming because there’s no socially acceptable reason to escape “family time” for a stress-relieving workout.

And — most cringe-worthy of all — I’ll nod and *fake* smile as the table conversation invariably shifts to,¬†“I reeeeeeally shouldn’t eat this, but…”

Don’t give me wrong though, I still love the holidays.

No, seriously. I do.

I’m a sucker for seasonal traditions. I can flawlessly quote¬†Elf, and I know the lyrics to every musical sequence in¬†White Christmas¬†(that’s right…not just the title song!). I’m always convinced reindeer can fly upon watching the “Santa Tracker” with my younger cousins. In fact, I’m even listening to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” while typing this post.

Yep. There’s no denying it. Christmas is magical.

Too bad the magic often takes a backseat to my “holiday weight”-centric neurosis.

Negative body image seems grossly intensified during this time of year, and I sure wish Santa would fill my stocking with manuals on getting through the season, unscathed by those pesky insecurities. All gift-wrapped and foolproof because I am¬†on the Nice List, don’tcha know.

Right. If only.

Instead, I’m left to my own devices when faced with excessive eating, thoughtless comments, and degrading voices inside my head. And — if you’re anything like me — you’ve likely experienced the exact same struggle.

But, since we’ve established the Big Guy won’t be bringing any “Body Image Survival Guides” on his sleigh anytime soon, I’ll leave you with this:

3 strategies, which have empowered me to sidestep feelings of inadequacy, so I can actually enjoy the festivities. Maybe you’ll find them helpful, as well. Just sayin’…

  1. If you want a cookie, have a cookie!¬†Depriving yourself ¬†is counterproductive and will frequently lead to a binge. Instead of suppressing a sweet tooth or restricting your regular intake to compensate for said sweet tooth, only to lose control and devour the whole damn cookie jar when nobody’s looking, allow yourself some wiggle room. Don’t overindulge, but listen to those internal hunger cues. If your body is craving chocolate chip goodness, for instance, feed the urge. ¬†Eat 1 cookie. Taste it. Savor it. Then, walk away from the remaining dozen. Sweet tooth satisfied. Anxiety alleviated.
  2. Enough already with “good” vs. “bad” foods!¬†There are no bad foods (unless they’re loaded with artificial preservatives…then, they can’t really be considered food). Only bad eating habits. Example: I might avoid green bean casserole, but my sister loves that shit. Therefore, green bean casserole is neither “good” nor “bad.” Regardless of our individual taste buds, it’s still just food. How food is consumed, though, can be detrimental. Whether you’re obsessively counting calories or mindlessly munching until nausea ensues, you fall into the disordered eating category. ¬†So, eliminate those labels. If you like something, just eat it.
  3. You can be social while staying in shape!¬†Rather than sneaking away from the crowd to sweat off Christmas dinner, turn exercise into a family bonding activity. Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood together, while enjoying holiday lights. Organize a backyard touch football scrimmage. Even play Wii Sports with your cousins (that’s what I do!). By all means, get moving! Just don’t let fitness take precedence over relationships. Strike a healthy balance. Instead of turning your desire for physical exertion into a covert mission, invite others to join in the action.

Oh, and (because…randomness) here’s a picture of some cookies.

Christmas cookies¬†Yes, I baked them. I also —¬†gasp! — ate them.

Guiltlessly.

If I can, anyone can.

You’re welcome (and Merry Christmas!).

Why We Shouldn’t Need to Mind the Gap

I’ll admit…

I became preoccupied with obtaining a “thigh gap” before I even knew it had a name. Let alone a hashtag.

All I knew was if my feet were together but my thighs were NOT apart, then that equaled failure. If they so much as grazed against each other during an evening jog, I’d inwardly curse the loose folds of cellulite that had taken up residence there. Granted, this egregious cellulite only existed inside my head, but still…

Why. The. Hell. Must. Those. Stupid. Thighs. Touch?!

Arrrrrgh!

What is this madness?!

Madness indeed. Not only was I fixated on a meaningless centimeter of space between my inner thighs, but now¬†millions¬†of other young women are too. You can’t scroll through an Instagram feed or peruse Tumblr posts without being inundated by this troubling trend. #MindTheGap has recently become just as much an institution as social media itself. Proponents of the elusive “gap” use these sites as sounding boards to either tout their progress or bemoan their inadequacy. Nope. There’s no mistaking it: thigh gap fixation has given us tunnel vision toward our own physical appearances.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply be considered fit and trim overall. Now every last INCH of our bodies demands perfection.

But, let’s be honest, are thigh gaps even all that noticeable? If you didn’t spend a solid 10 minutes positioning your legs at just the right angle to snap a boastful – and perhaps teeny tiny bit…filtered – selfie, would your friends have any idea that you claim membership in the Thigh Gap Club? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Which raises even more questions: Why is this our new benchmark for beauty? Why is a sliver of breathing room separating 1 skin layer from another suddenly the latest status symbol? Why do we measure personal success in such superficial, fleeting terms?

No, really. WHY?!

Do yourself a favor next time you cringe at your own reflection. Rather than gauging the dead air between your legs, consider instead how those same legs move you through each miraculous day of your beautiful life.

Not that’s worth minding.