Trying on pants in a store’s dressing room. A close second for most avoided shopping experience for me with swimsuit shopping the clear winner for first place. For someone with long time body image issues, going into a brightly lit dressing room to try on these two items is a kin to a recovering alcoholic going into a bar. I mean – you can recover anywhere, so why put yourself through that??!?
Last weekend a shopping stop to try on some pants brought up some body image shame when none of the pairs that I had selected to bring into the dressing room that I believed to be my size – yeah, not my size apparently. Menopause has not really been my friend on this particular item.
I get it, most would look at me and think “Hey, what’s her deal? She looks good!” What I’ve realized is that this subject is just a really easy go-to for me when I am searching for evidence that I am TOO MUCH or not enough. For decades, heck for nearly a lifetime, I have been fixated on the number on the scale. If it’s what I think it should be – I can accept myself. If it’s too high, well then, the self-talk gets very nasty in my head.
In trying to remember a time when I felt good about my body image, I would have to say it’s easily before age five. Just realizing that kind of sounds heart breaking to me. That a person (me) would spend a life time berating themselves about anything, let alone a number on a metal box. Yes, I have been at “THE number” at times in my life and as you might guess, I still didn’t accept myself. Some other area of my life would flare up and convince me that I was “wrong” in some way.
I was in a dance club last weekend and it was happening! A lot of people, on the dance floor, all having fun, smiling. There was one woman in particular that I found a lesson in on this body image subject. She. Was. Beautiful. The reason I think I saw her beauty is due to her radiating something that telegraphed that she felt good in her skin. She was African-American, not a twig in size, wearing a very form fitting outfit, and she was bald. This description may not sound like beauty when you read it, but believe me, to see her – she was amazingly gorgeous. She OWNED it. Women like this truly inspire me.
Here is what I gave her that I seem to never give myself on this issue: APPRECIATION. We tend to think “as soon as I loose these 10 lbs., then I’ll feel good about my body.” If we are always waiting for some magical moment to finally arrive so we can love and appreciate ourselves (or others), that’s conditional love. Something we wouldn’t tolerate from a partner or a friend. It’s much like saying “I want it, BUT.” I want it, BUT.”
Maybe you do this with waiting for an event to happen. As soon as you make the money, buy the house, go on the trip, get out of the relationship, get in the relationship, happiness, self-love and appreciation are always on the horizon and the horizon keeps moving each time we get closer to it.
So the day after the dressing room melt down, I had bought myself a gift for passing the Martha Beck life coach certification. It is three Blue Morpho butterflies, framed in a case that was built custom for them. So I had selected the butterflies and the size of the hanging. I hung it on the wall in the space I had planned to hang it. As I sat there looking at it from my breakfast at the kitchen island, I started to second guess it out loud to Don. “Maybe I should have done five instead of three?” “Maybe it’s too small for the space?” “Maybe I will need to get something else to go with it to fill the space more?” He looked me in the eye and calmly said “Or you could just enjoy it.” Melt down #2 for the weekend happened right about then. Once again I was second guessing myself. Not enjoying the beautiful little guys who probably gave their lives to hang on my wall! Not APPRECIATING right now.
Now, let me quickly add that I am coming to understand that what appears to be the “problem” is often not really the problem but an opportunity. And very importantly – we can’t solve the “problem” by trying to just silence it, pretend it’s not there, pretend we don’t feel what we feel. The solution lives in the releasing of resistance. In this case, self-compassion, appreciation and love would be the paths of least resistance as Esther Hicks would say.
So if I try to just mentally change my self-talk to “You shouldn’t feel that way Sandy.” I am just creating more resistance and making my feelings “wrong” which keep my unwanted pattern very much alive. Have you ever said to a friend “You shouldn’t feel that way – stop it!” Did it cause them to make a change to stop the behavior or the thoughts? My guess is no. It actually just creates another thing to kick our own butts about. Now we shouldn’t feel what we feel!
I’m going to try a new tactic on my self-butt-kicking talk. When it starts in telling me I’m too much, or not enough in some way I’m going to talk to myself the way I think my Source or God would talk to me… “It’s alright, it’s all right on track, it’s all unfolding perfectly, there there – you’re doing great, things always work out, I’ve got you, I’m right here with you, relax, it’s going to be great up ahead, you’re exactly where you are meant to be at this moment.”
If you want to go even deeper with this finding the opportunity in what appears to be the problem, here is what you would do with the dressing room melt down thoughts… Describe what the extra weight feels like. What are the adjectives you would use to describe how it feels to weigh more than you would like?
Heavy, frustrating, uncomfortable, limiting – those would be my words for how it feels. Now, where else do I feel those feelings in my life? THAT’S where I need to look. What seems to be the problem, is really just an opportunity to learn something important about myself.
Then, what would the feelings be when you lost the weight? Describe that in your own words. For me it feels like: free, light, solid, easy, fun. So how can I practice feeling that way NOW? How can I act as if and rehearse those feelings even before it arrives? How can I launch my resistance to what I don’t want in a direction of what I DO want?
We are all powerful creators. We create with our thoughts and our words. Even if you don’t believe that practicing how you want to feel will bring it about – it’s a whole lot more fun and feels a lot better than focusing on how we are “wrong” in some way for just being who we are.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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