The One Body Image Struggle I Never Expected to Have During Pregnancy – and How I’ve Coped With It

The One Body Image Struggle I Never Expected to Have During Pregnancy – and How I’ve Coped With It

Body Image and Pregnancy, Part 2

 

“Oh my gosh, you’re due in March?! But you’re so TINY!”

“You haven’t put on any weight since your last appointment; I really would like you to put on a few more pounds” (~doctor)

“Your breasts are so large!”

“You’ve hidden your pregnancy so well—You can barely tell!” (PS: I’m not ‘trying’ to hide anything)

 

These are all comments I have heard in the past few weeks. How is one supposed to respond? Ummm…thanks? Are any of these familiar to you? Or perhaps the analysis of your belly sounded a bit different than what I am experiencing.

No matter who you are, when you’re pregnant people can’t help but make comments of some form about your body, shape and size and overall how you look. These comments, while well-intentioned, most likely will have an evaluative or comparative piece to them—large, small, healthy, unhealthy, looking great, looking fat. They can leave an impact.

In my previous post about body image and pregnancy, I discussed the various ways our bodies grow and change during this special time in life, much out of our own control, and with the potential to cause discomfort and body image struggles.

Today I want to shine a light on the impact of external sources on how we feel about our bodies

during pregnancy, whether those are comments by others, things you read, the shape of another pregnant woman’s body, or expectations placed upon you.

While I felt I was well-prepared to face my own potential body image struggle during my pregnancy, the one I am actually experiencing is much different than I would have imagined.

When my doctor advised me to put on weight, I had a mixture of reactions. One was shock: “Wow, I’ve never been told that before. I am more accustomed to hearing from the voice in my head that I need to lose weight, not gain it.” A second was “But how can I eat more? I am trying my best to get a good, healthy assortment of foods.”

Yet another was a deep sense of failure. Was I failing my baby by not being able to gain weight like I ‘should’ in pregnancy? Was she healthy and happy in there? There were no indicators that she wasn’t, but I still worried.

This one comment from my doctor sent me on a rollercoaster of anxiety, fear, worry, and ultimately acceptance.

The voice that I ultimately chose to listen to: I’m doing the best I can. Which is amazing.

Then, a few days ago someone told me how shocked they were to learn I was only a little over a month away from my due date. I was just that tiny. I’m not that tiny. I’m an 8.5 month pregnant lady. But again, that comment triggered a deeper fear that there’s something wrong with me. There is something deficient about my body…it is failing somehow.

Body Image During Pregnancy

I work with my clients every day to address these types of fears, helping them to recognize that they are not based in truth, but at the time they can seem incredibly real.

Our thoughts can run rampant if we don’t become mindful of them and the effect they can have on our deeper selves. When you are in a vulnerable time of your life, whether it is during pregnancy, during early stages of a relationship, or after a big move to a new city, words are powerful.   They can have the fortitude to change your whole day. Which words do you want to internalize and truly listen to?

As a pregnancy develops and women’s bodies grow in such amazing and unprecedented ways, the comparison monster can easily rear its ugly head. Pictures posted on social media, seeing a woman walking down the street; we can’t help but compare our bodies to others’ — how ‘should’ we be looking, feeling, changing? Take a moment and think back to the last time you compared yourself in some way to another person. How did it feel?

Whether it’s thinking that your belly is ‘too large’ or ‘too small’, or tasting any other flavor of the not-good-enough-potion, most pregnant women have gone through some version of their own journey with accepting their changing bodies. How we look can seem to be first and foremost in other people’s minds, sometimes even before how you are feeling or how healthy your pregnancy is. It’s tough to not let that seep in.  How do we cope?

Remember, every woman’s body is different. We are built differently, and we will experience changes to our bodies differently. There is no “right way” or “wrong way”. There’s just YOUR way. And you’re doing great.

 

Here are three methods that I have chosen to help me cope. I hope they can also help you or someone you know:

  1. Remember that size does not equal health – of you, or of your baby.
  2. Set strong boundaries with external influences – put down the pregnancy books, sign off social media, and reconnect with yourself in a way that feels refreshing and genuine.
  3. Keep the end goal in sight – your baby. Pregnancy is a unique and magical time of a woman’s life and while it is uncomfortable in many ways, it is all for a very good reason. Try to picture gazing at your little one and in that moment nothing else will matter.

Share your tips! Have you been pregnant or are you pregnant and can relate to this? Share in the comments below ways that helped you cope.  Connecting together and supporting one another can make a huge difference in mental and physical health!


The Sweet Potato Battle: The Vulnerability of Pregnancy, Taking Up Space, and Being a ‘Good Enough’ Parent

Today I am so honored to share with you a guest post by my friend and colleague Ann Stoneson of Labyrinth Healing.  Ann is a therapist in Austin, Texas who helps people pleasers find their voice and empower themselves.  Ann, who is a brilliant writer and also a new mother, graciously offered to write a post for my blog this month exploring her experience with pregnancy, overcoming people-pleasing and showing up for herself.  The experience of pregnancy forces you to take up more space, which for many of us can bring up uncomfortable and conflictual emotions and feelings.  I am personally grateful to Ann for this post as I navigate my own pregnancy and impending motherhood, my own body image and my role as a therapist.

Please enjoy!  And if you find this compelling please leave a comment and share with your peers.

P.S.: Check back in January for my own guest post for Ann’s blog about the challenges and joys of navigating body image during pregnancy.

 

The Sweet Potato Battle: The Vulnerability of Pregnancy, Taking Up Space, and Feeding Your True Hunger

By Ann Stoneson, MS, LPC-S

I’m rather embarrassed.

I sit down to write this post for Kate, knowing her practice centers around helping people building healthy relationships with food, and I draw a blank. Have I done this before?

After taking a quick, sheepish inventory of my blog, the verdict comes in.

I am a therapist and I have blogged weekly for three years trying to help women and people-pleasers yet I have written precisely one post about struggles with food.

One. Just one. (And you can read it here, if you like.)

Wow. Really? That’s one heck of a blind spot.

And, in the few posts I’ve written that mention eating at all, like finding Buddha at the breakfast table and the hour long lunch break, don’t get into the often complicated relationship we have with food.

So this is new territory for me.

I’ll do what I usually do with that stuff, which is to pull a handful experiences forward from my life and talk about them. Here we go.

My confession

Yes. I admit it.

I’m a very good chameleon.

I can blend in pleasingly with almost any crowd or situation. But I’m most at home making myself useful to others—listening, helping out, tidying up.

I’m the person at the party who circulates through the house, gathering up empty cups and bottle caps, presiding over the snack table like I was sworn into office for the job.

Of course, some of that has to do with being an introvert and finding refuge in solitary tasks when I’m in a sea of people at a party. But a lot of it also has to do with wanting, no, needing to be helpful to others.

It has to do with being a people pleaser. A chameleon. You obligingly change your shade, your shape, to suit the wishes and needs of those around you.

Being a people-pleaser

I carried on for years doing this. Dissolving myself into situations like tea into water.

You couldn’t even see me. I hid behind the role of helper. I went straight from college to graduate school to become a helper. And then I became a therapist, which is about as professional a helper as you can get.

Now, I preside over counseling sessions rather than snack tables, but the gig is similar.

What can I get you?

How can I help?

Do you need some more water?

Except I got pregnant.

And suddenly, I was the one who needed water, a pee break every hour, and there were even those last minute cancellations when the morning sickness just wouldn’t go away.

Suddenly, I had needs I couldn’t ignore, and I had to practice what I preach, balancing my needs and the needs of my clients during the tender, swollen, confusing months of pregnancy.

Pregnancy introduced a whole new way of chameleoning—perhaps the first true and honest way of changing my shape to suit someone else. And as with any transformation, it had its beautiful and its awkward moments.

The vulnerability of pregnancy

Being pregnant was one of the biggest practices in authenticity and vulnerability I’ve ever

experienced. Because I couldn’t hide it.

Because I couldn’t suck in my stomach or hold my breath through it.

I had to take up more space—in every sense of the word—and I was doing my best to be at peace with this.

Being a walking billboard for impending motherhood had its challenges. I got a lot of comments and well-wishes and advice from people I didn’t know. I got asked about my weight gain.

Two weeks shy of my due date, while sitting alone and eating a barbeque sandwich on my lunch break, an elderly woman sidled by my table and asked, “Are you sure you’re going to have time to finish that?”

I remember looking blankly at her, not understanding what the hell she was saying and thinking to myself, “I have another hour before my next appointment, what is she talking about?”

Then she gestured to my stomach and asked, “You look like you’re about to pop. When are you due?”

If this had been the first stranger’s inquiry about my belly’s impending deadline, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me. But I was getting inquiries every day, every time I left the house, in my final months of pregnancy. And a part of me was getting tired of all that visibility, particularly as I was feeling anxious about the birthing process and mostly just wanted to be left alone to my thoughts.

My husband joked that I should have thrown my sandwich into the ceiling fan in a panic, dropped to all fours, and then begin moaning as though I was in active labor.

I sort of wish I had, but I wanted to finish the sandwich.

Living life a second time

As a therapist, I’ve talked before with clients who had intrusive parents. Parents who wanted to live vicariously through their kids. Parents who couldn’t step back and give their children some room to breathe, to fumble about, to make mistakes.

This living through your kids phenomenon was often talked about with a tone of condemnation among therapists.

When I consider the notion now, the first thing I think of is how much more compassion and understanding I have for all parents—my own and everyone else’s. Being a parent calls down all sorts of humility on you.

The second thing I think is that raising a child is a chance to live life twice—but hopefully more as an observer and maybe sometimes a co-pilot, nothing more.

The sweet potato battle

A month ago, I sat down with my son to try and feed him his first solid foods. Initially, he didn’t seem too keen on anything I offered.

I remember looking anxiously at the packaging, which told me to use within 24 hours of opening and then discard.

I remember trying to steer sloppy spoonfuls of pureed sweet potato into his mouth when he wasn’t keen on eating.

Fortunately, I caught myself doing this early.

And each time I sit down with him, I try to be mindful and patient when feeding him. I try not to get locked in sweet potato battles. I try to hold things lightly.

As a first-time, sleep-deprived parent, I manage to do this maybe half of the time.

Healing our relationship with food

American culture has a pretty confused, complicated relationship with food, eating, and dieting.

So, with that force as a backdrop, I want to help my son cultivate a thoughtful, loving relationship with food.

I don’t want him to feel like he has to be a member of the “clean plate club” because I’m anxious about wasted food. I want him to learn to listen to his body and its cues.

Sure, there will be times when he doesn’t want what’s on offer, and he eats it anyway, or makes himself a snack when he’s old enough to do so, or maybe goes hungry for a while.

But this will be his choice.

Even now, a baby without words to speak, he has a will and he has preferences. And food is one of his earliest ways to express these.

Our relationship with food is lifelong. Whatever lessons we may have absorbed before this point, there is always opportunity to learn, to grow, to try something new.

Final thoughts

As I work to teach my son to have a healthy, loving relationship with food, I see opportunities to heal my own relationship with it, too.

It’s hit or miss some days, sure.

I’m sure we’ll get into power struggles at times, my own anxieties rising like a tide as I try to get him to do it my way.

I try to cast forgiveness and patience forward to where my future self is waiting, mired in frustration and tears.

As I’ve said before to my clients who struggle in their relationship with food, it is the one “substance” you can’t cut out of your life and live.

A recovering alcoholic can quit the bar scene, hard though it may be. But a person struggling to make peace with her food has to grapple with that relationship every day.

I hope a peaceful relationship with food is a gift I can offer my son.

As a therapist, I’m keenly aware of the cost of parental failings.

I try not to let this awareness fuel my anxiety.

I try to embrace the concept of the good enough mother that Winnicott, a famous analyst, often spoke of.

So, whether you’re a parent or not,

whether you have a peaceful or precarious relationship with food,

whatever the shape of your sweet potato battles,

know that you’re not alone with it.

 

Stonebraker headshotAbout the Author: Ann Stoneson is a counselor in Austin, Texas who helps folks quit people-pleasing.  She writes weekly for her own practice blog at Labyrinth Healing, as well as at her latest project, counselinginterns.com, a resource site for counseling students and interns.


How to Not Go Crazy When Your Co-Workers Bring in Holiday Treats AGAIN!

Welcome to the third and final installment of my recent blog series, Busting Holiday Stress For Busy People.  Last week we talked about a radical idea — not finishing your to-do list before Thanksgiving…how could that help with managing holiday overwhelm? Read more to find out! The first post in the series offered ideas for getting out of that rut you’re in and re-vitalizing your career in 2016 — something we could all benefit from!

Today I touch on a topic that my clients commonly discuss as one of the biggest anxiety producers during the holiday season — when co-workers bring in baked goods and treats to the office on a regular basis.  Are you wondering how to have a healthy balance with this without being triggered into “rules” and “all/nothing thinking”?  Read on to find out more…(and share if it’s helpful!)

How to Not Go Crazy When Your Co-Workers Bring in Holiday Treats AGAIN!

5 Ways to Navigate Eating During the Holidays Without Feeling Out of Control

 

  1. Forget your New Year’s resolution. The #1 New Year’s
    resolution is to lose weight. This triggers big helpings of self-sabotage with food from Halloween to New Year’s Day. Going into the holidays with a plan to lose weight in the New Year raises the risk of “the last supper” mentality around eating until then. All or nothing thinking might cause you to binge eat on coffee cake that your co-worker made at home instead of have just a bit because you “won’t be able to have it after January 1”. Try to come up with New Year’s resolutions that are not about weight but are about health of your mind as well as of your body.
  2. Take a bite of that decadent chocolate cake in the break room. Ask yourself: do you like it? How does your body respond to it? When we allow ourselves some of everything that we enjoy, then we don’t feel deprived. Allowing yourself to try whatever you want to will prevent getting stuck in the all/nothing cycle (that diets feed off of) and increase your chances of truly enjoying what you’re eating, listening to your body and finding more balance.
  3. Make sure you eat breakfast. Coming to work hungry sets you up to eat mindlessly and more than your body really needs. When you have a fulfilling breakfast, your brain gets enough healthy fats to focus on what it needs to, allowing you to try what you want in the break room without feeling desperate for nourishment and perhaps overeating on empty calories. This is also true for the end-of-the year potluck. Don’t go in starving and have a game plan.
  4. Bake your own treat to bring into the office. Create something at home that you would like to share with your co-workers that is delicious and satisfying. When you are a part of the process of creating and serving food, you can establish a new relationship with it – based on love, not fear.
  5. Set boundaries. If you truly desire to stay out of the break-room because you worry about overeating on food you don’t actually want to eat, then be clear about your intentions with your co-workers (and yourself). You don’t have to explain why or go into elaborate detail. Bring your own lunch and stay clear of temptations. If others have a problem with it, stand firm with your boundaries. It’s more likely their problem than yours at that point.

Bonus Tip!

6.  Monitor Your Burn-Out.  Do you typically get burned out and exhausted by the end of the week (or end of the month, or right before a holiday)?  Is this a pattern?  Define what triggers your feelings of burn out and when they most commonly occur.  Those are the periods where you are more susceptible to mindless activities — such as eating all of the brownies on a Friday when you’re not even hungry.  Try to plan in advance how you will manage burn-out effectively so that you don’t find yourself in a weekly mindless eating routine that can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness.  This might mean going for a walk on Fridays during lunchtime or having a check-in buddy that you spend time with each Thursday afternoon.

 

Want to download your own free copy of this list to share around? Find it here under Free TipSheets!

What would you add? How do YOU find balance around food during the holiday season?


Don’t Finish Your To-Do List Before You Leave for Thanksgiving

Don’t Finish Your To-Do List Before You Leave for Thanksgiving

6 Tips to Take Care of Yourself to Prevent Undue Stress Over the Holidays

You have arrived at part 2 to my three part blog series: Busting Holiday Stress for Busy People.  Last week we talked about how to revitalize your career mojo for 2016 (and how to take precious gems from 2015 with you!).

Today we begin talking about stress around work and Thanksgiving, (something we can all relate to) and how to manage IT so it doesn’t steamroll YOU.  Stay tuned next Tuesday for the final installment which will hone in on coping with stress around all of the food at work, at home, at parties — and how to not self-sabotage so you can enjoy every bite!

 

Thanksgiving is right around the corner — a holiday that can often trigger feelings of overwhelm and anxiety about food, family and body image.  Instead of stressing out about everything you need to do before making your famous cranberry sauce, how about reconsidering your expectations instead?  The effect it can have on your overall health can be astounding. Try this:

1.) Tell that Critic in your head to take a hike. Most of us put undue pressure on ourselves to be excellent at everything. All this does is add stress and increase the expectations from ourselves and others. Try to find one area at work and one area at home where you can declare that “you don’t need to be perfect and ‘good enough’ really is good enough”.


Danube66 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

2.) Disable your phone. Or at least your work email. Make a pact to turn it off on Wednesday and not check it again until Sunday night or Monday morning.

3.) Review your to-do list – do you really need to do all of that? Chances are, most people are out of the office this week anyway. Prioritize, and find three things you can leave until after the break.

4.) Don’t skip meals. Feel compelled to go on a diet to ‘prepare’ for the big day of eating? Starving yourself days or hours before will only put you at more risk for overeating and feeling guilty later. (Not to mention the toll that will take on your body and your mind).   If you notice you feel out of control with food restriction or overeating, consult a qualified professional counselor. There are resources and techniques that can help you feel much happier and at ease with food and body image.

5.) Invest in fancy bubble bath salts or grab your best friend for a coffee date (no work chatter allowed!) How you spend your time and money reflects in what you value and sends a message to others. How are you going to be able to deal with your mother if you haven’t taken care of your own needs first?

6.) Reflect on last year. Was all of the stress of “trying to get it all done” the week before Thanksgiving really worth it? How can you help yourself out this year: What can you say ‘no’? Where can you say “I need help”?

Want to download your own free copy of this list to share around? Find it here under free downloads.

What else would you share with others about how to bust stress before Thanksgiving so that you can have the best possible chance of enjoying the holiday in your own way?  Share below!


6 Tips to Get You Out of Your Rut and Energize Your Career MoJo for 2016

Welcome to my three part Busting Holiday Stress for Busy People blog series!  Today brings part one of a topic that I find is super important to focus on as the holiday season approaches: setting boundaries, taking care of yourself, and remembering what the holidays mean to you without losing your mind.  Sound like a tall order? Ha! Maybe.  But I’m here to help you get through it. . . while not feeling like you are completely out of control.

Today’s blog post topic is how to revitalize your career for the new year.  Next week I’ll help you prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving break from work — how are you going to get it all done before leaving for the holiday break??  And finally, I’ll guide you in how to cope with all of the snacks and sweets that your coworkers bring in to the office during this time.  No, you don’t have to avoid the staff kitchen for the next two months!

Read on for Post #1 and keep your eyes open next Tuesday for the next installment. . .

 

6 Tips to Get You Out of Your Rut and Energize Your Career MoJo for 2016

 

1.) Forget everything about the “how” you do things (marketing, to-do’s, goals, etc),


Lotus Carroll / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

and reconnect with the WHY you do what you do.

Reflect back on that moment where you knew which career was for you. How does that speak to you now?

 

2.) Look at the relationships in your life: with food, with sleep, with your partner, with your family, with work, with YOURSELF. Make a list of how you would like to find more balance and meaning in these areas – where you are feeling fulfilled and where you feel something is missing.

 

3.) Shred your to-do list into a thousand tiny pieces. Practice mindfulness by doing a body scan and reconnect with the place in your body that holds the WHY to your career – the meaning of it all. Start a new to-do list from that place.

 

4.) Ask your best friend/mentor/partner to tell you the 5 things they see as your strengths in your career and the 5 places where you could grow. Use these as templates for goal-setting in 2016.

 

5.) Envision your self and your business at the END of 2016. How do you want to feel/think about those things?   What would you like to be able to say about yourself in 2016? Journal about this for 15 minutes.

 

6.) Make a list of 100 Pieces of Gratitude. Write the numbers 1-100 on a piece of paper. Begin writing a list of things you have been grateful for in 2015. They don’t have to be complete sentences and it’s okay if there is some repetition (this actually is part of the process). When you are done, read the list. Gratitude is a gift that begs to be shared and can help us reconnect with our values, or passion, and (re)ignite our fire.

 

Want to download your own free copy of this list to share around?  Find it here.

What else would you add to this list to rejuvenate your career mojo? Leave a comment below!


Quit ‘Should-ing’ On Yourself!: The Top Three Dangers of Feeding that Nasty Inner Critic

Quit ‘Should’ing’ On Yourself!: The Top Three Dangers of Feeding that Nasty Inner Critic

And how to bust your mind’s self-destructive cycle and truly listen to yourself.

 

I have a confession to make.  I was pretty darn resistant to writing this blog post today.


lism. / Foter / CC BY-NC 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not because I don’t want to connect with you and share some of my experiences and thoughts.  That is exactly what I do it for!  I’ve been blogging for over five years and it’s a significant cornerstone of my practice of self-care and connection with those whom I serve.

Mostly today I found myself playing Candy Crush Saga and scrolling through the internet (instead of writing) because my mind was Should-ing on me.  It told me in not-so-nice terms: ‘you really should blog today.  Why haven’t you blogged yet?  You won’t feel like you’ve done anything productive today unless you complete a [high quality and catchy] blog post.  You will feel like a FAILURE.’  {dun-dun-dun- the F word!!!}

Can you relate?  Even writing this now, it sounds ridiculous.  Of course I’m not a failure (and neither are you!), and WHO gets to determine that anyway, the crabby voice in my head that sounds like it’s sleep-deprived or my own true, authentic self?

Truth is, our minds are sneaky, brilliant, terrifying, invigorating, and powerful mechanisms that play a significant role in the decisions we make each day.

I’d like to share a working definition of “Should-ing”: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act.  People who break the rules anger you, and you feel guilty when you violate the rules.

Our minds can deeply affect the feelings and emotions we have daily also, if we let them.  If I had chosen to listen to the Should-ing Voice (aka: the Critic, or Judge), chances are I would feel pretty low and disappointed with myself (DESPITE all of the other amazing things I could have focused on about myself today) until I fulfilled demands.

Here’s how that conversation might have gone:

Critic: You really had better blog today.  I don’t care if you have no idea what to write about.  It’s time to blog and if you don’t do it, you will feel like a failure at the end of the day. You will BE a failure.  {evil eye stare and sinister laugh} {oh no, now it’s telling me about not just what to feel, but what I am.}

Me: Really? Gosh, you are right.  I really should blog today.  If I don’t, I’m not meeting your expectations and then for SURE I will fail and who knows what is next? Eminent doom! {feeling anxious patterning in my chest}.

I then would have written a blog post, which I am sure would have been fine, but wouldn’t have come from my true genuine desire to write to you all, it would have come from fear.

FEAR of not being enough.  FEAR of failing at expectations (mostly from my own mind).  Then, the Critic would have won and would have come back later with even more stamina in his stride….instead of being put in his rightful place.

Here’s what I did instead:

Critic: Hey. YOU. You’d better blog today. Or ELSE.  F-A-I-L-U-R-E. ~!!!!!

Me:  Hey, Critic.  Nice to see you again.  I know that you’re there, and probably always will be.  Instead of fighting you off today, I’m going to try to take a step back and decide if I really want to listen to you today.  Or if I’d rather listen to someone else.

Critic: Wha?? Good luck with that.  I know everything and it’s only a matter of time before you come crawling back.

Me: We’ll see about that.  {deep breath}

Honest confession:  Part of the reason I am writing this blog post today is to connect with my inner wisdom and tell that Critic to GO AWAY.  It’s healing for me.  Writing about my own human-ness is therapeutic for me, and I hope it helps you too.

Another part of why I’m writing is that I genuinely LOVE writing and get very angry when the silly critic living in my mind tries to take that pleasure away from me.  Because the truth is that the harshest critics in the outside world probably can’t hold a light to the mean things my own inner world can say to me sometimes.  And that just isn’t right!


AlicePopkorn / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I have a feeling some of you out there may relate to my experience today.

Here are Three Dangers of Feeding that Nasty Inner Critic — and how to reclaim your own sweet powerful voice:

1.) Listening to Mr. Meany (or Ms.) and internalizing what they are saying devalues and negates our own true, natural feelings.  Yes, it is ingrained in us to have negative self-talk and to listen to it sometimes.  But can’t it become natural to listen to the positive voices too?  At what university did Mr. Critic earn his doctorate degree?

Try This: Try to name the cycle that happens for you and notice its costly effects.  Accepting the Critic’s voice as truth will overshadow the calm and steady assurance from your Inner Wisdom that “you’re doing just fine”.  By bringing awareness to the cycle that occurs, you’re more apt to distance yourself from it and define a new way of relating to your thoughts.

2.) Getting Stuck in a negative feedback loop in your mind takes you away from your body’s innate signals and needs.  This can be costly in self-care and can distance you from feeding the true hunger inside.

Try this: After practicing #1 and getting good at naming your negative cycle, notice how it feels in your body when you allow the Critic to be King.  For me, I get an intense flutter of nervous energy in my chest that makes it difficult to breathe.

Then, try to separate your mind from your body and ask your body “What do you need right now? What are you trying to tell me?” It may take practice, but it is possible to reconnect in a nourishing and affirming way with your body that helps regulate your relationship with your mind as well.

3.) Affirming the Critic distances you from relationships that are healthy, nourishing, and meaningful for you.  If you believe the Critic, and you are just as terrible as he/she says, you are more likely to push people away, or notice people distancing themselves from you.  Would you want to be friends with the Critic? No, he’s smelly and snarky.  So, if you become fused with the Critic’s voice and believe it as your own, it’s going to be more difficult to sustain positive relationships.  And then he will have won :(

Try This:  Be vulnerable.  Talk to your partner, therapist, friend, or mother, about what it’s like to Should on yourself so much, and the pain that causes.  Shed that layer of Expectation to be Perfect, and let your soft side show.  Chances are, that’s where connection and healing happens.

Let me know how this goes.  We’re all a work in progress.  But I’m sure glad I wrote this to you today.

xo ~Kate 


trishhartmann / Foter / CC BY

 


When You Wake Up and Your Whole World Comes Crashing Down, Try This:

FullSizeRenderWhen I woke up this morning, my entire business had disappeared.  Literally.  My website had vanished, and my business email account had been wiped clean.

It started as a moment of disbelief — I had just finished revamping my site and had thousands of important documents, emails, and connections all hosted through that central technological system.  Then it came to a place of bargaining — okay, what I do is not based on my website, am the core foundation of my business and the avenue through which people find healing and recovery.  However, my website is the primary method that people searching for recovery find me and begin their healing process.  Can I get it back if I promise to not obsess over it so much?

Deep breath.

Maybe the universe was sending me a message?  As the morning wore on and the sense of panic began to rise up inside of me, other events occurred that were out of my control, were difficult for me to grasp, and left me feeling helpless and disoriented.

Sitting at my computer looking at the blank screen, I had a thought: “What am I needing to listen to right now that I am not hearing?”.

I am currently quite intrigued by the concept of ‘non-attachment’.  This is for several reasons, one being out of curiosity because a great deal of the way I work with clients in counseling is through the lens of attachment and safety in our relationships.  So why would we study non-attachment?  Does that mean isolating and disengaging from connection?

A recent blog post on interconnectivity vs. codependence asks the question:

‘How do we balance the innate need for autonomy with the desire for connection and intimacy? We not only enjoy feeling wanted and appreciated but need to have a purpose.’

I discovered that non-attachment doesn’t mean disengaging from ourselves or others.  It means finding the balance in our relationships so that we are able to maintain a safe and secure connection to our own innate sense of self while also being connected to others in a meaningful and sustaining way.

This struck me this morning as I considered my attachments to relationships in my life and the way those relationships make me feel: my relationship with my husband, my family, my body, my work, and to myself.

I realized that this situation that I had no control over — the crash of the server that hosts all of my accounts — offered an opportunity to look at how I attach myself to these things that are important to me, but that I may place too much merit on sometimes.

One thought kept swirling around: am I codependent with my work?

As someone who has so much personal passion and experience that led me into the line of work that I currently practice, of course I am attached to it!  And I feel that can be a huge asset.  However, as in all things, it can be sometimes challenging to find a healthy and sane balance between myself and my work.  I have to remember that I am not my work.  But it is a part of me and I care about it deeply.

Work (like food, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc) can be another distraction from the wound that I most desperately need to address: the relationship I have with myself.

Amidst the tremors and hyperventilating that occurred every time I looked at my computer, I forced myself to shut it down and to take a step outside.  Here is the mantra I repeated to myself and what I did:

take a moment to look around you

surround yourself with the beauty of the earth

breathe it in

the flowers the animals the blades of grass the bright blue sky

notice the energy that fills you with panic, dread, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, worry, anger

notice the thoughts that fill your mind. .  . the negativity, the self-judgment and judgment of others

be kind to it

imagine that energy flowing out through your hands and your feet

be mindful as it leaves your body

breathe, let the negativity, the judgment, the suffering leave you

accept what you cannot change, allow what you can

imagine an orb of white brilliant light engulfing your heart

touch it, feel it, let the warmth of this light fill you

this is your center, your soul

let the light fill your whole body, breathe into it

allow your awareness to fill with the sights, sounds, sensory gifts that surround you

give thanks

imagine an openness to all that can be, allow the struggle to melt away

and experience calm.

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I spent an hour in City Park, my oasis.  After doing this meditation, I felt a renewed sense of connectivity to myself, and a peaceful acceptance of the way things are.  I also knew that it would all be okay.

I am hopeful that this meditation and my vulnerability can be of some support to you.  We all have days, weeks, months where we don’t feel ourselves, or notice something tugging us to look deeper.  Look at your attachments.  How safe and healthy do they feel to you?  Where can you practice non-attachment?

P.S.: the server was fixed! That is how you are able to read this :)  woo hoo!


She’s Better Than Me and I’m Going to Fail: 3 Signs You are Stuck in the Comparison Trap – And How to Get Out of It.

8548913815_be28caa637Ohhhh boy. Have you been there? I know I have. Many times. And it doesn’t feel great. I’m talking about The Comparison Trap. Where you compare yourself to someone else and ALWAYS fall short.

Where did that come from and how did it EVER feel like a good idea?

The truth is, it just never ends well. For me, I notice that I get stuck in a cycle of insecurity and low self-esteem that compels me to compare myself to someone else (whether I really know them or not!). . . which just feeds that self-criticism monster even more.

When I was younger and did not have as much self-awareness as I do now, the Comparison Trap contributed to the development of my eating disorder, a self-destructive way of trying to soothe those feelings of not-good-enough that quickly turned into an out-of-control monster that ruined my relationships, my health, and my life.

In the age of social media, comparison runs rampant and unfortunately fuels so much of our society. “Who Wore It Better?”, “Look Who Lost 10 Pounds and Look Who Just Can’t Stop Eating!”, and endless edited and photo-shopped photos on Facebook of lives that yours simply can’t ever seem to measure up to. You could NEVER be that: happy; rich; successful; thin; perfect; etc…..etc….etc.

I know this because I have been there. And many, many of my clients struggle with the Comparison Trap and yearn to get out of it, get back in their own lives, and feel empowered, confident and strong. The good news: This Is Possible!

Here are Three Signs you may be caught up in the Comparison Trap – and how to free yourself from its grip.

 

#1You notice that how you feel about yourself is determined by factors that are not in your control. I like to look at this in terms of intrinsic vs external validation. Basically, this asks: where do you get your power from?

Do you place a lot of value in what other people think, say, feel, and how they react towards you? More value than you place internally, asking what do I think? Does that feel true to me? Do I agree or disagree? How could I respond in a way that would feel most authentic to me? When we give so much of our internal worth to the outside world, we are risking feeling out of control, inferior, and set up to unrealistic expectations.

Try this: go through your day and notice feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Ask yourself: where is the power right now? Is it coming from within me or am I giving it away? How can I take my power back in this moment? (I always turn to my breath.)

 

#2You get that icky, hollow, dark feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Here’s a scenario, maybe you can relate: you go to a networking meeting. You have been to this meeting 5703816801_698cedfdddbefore, and know a few of the folks who come regularly, but don’t feel like you know them super well. Not well enough to truly let yourself be you. As each person gets up to introduce themselves and performs their elevator speech, you notice yourself getting increasingly anxious and nervous. Yes, this is natural to happen in this circumstance. However, you notice that with each person who speaks, a voice in your head says: ‘you could never say it that eloquently’, ‘you aren’t as successful as they are’, ‘why didn’t you try that years ago? Now you couldn’t’ be as good at it as they are!’ and my personal favorite: ‘YOU’RE GOING TO FAIL!!’.  

These thoughts contribute to that feeling in your stomach that feels empty and unsettling. Why? Because those thoughts are draining your unique, awesome, special essence that dwells within you.

Have you felt that way?

Try this: When I notice that empty feeling, I try to bring awareness to what is going on. Why am I feeling this way? What triggered me and where have I felt that before? I try to be gentle with myself, remind myself of why I am there and why I do what I do, and speak from the heart. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes acknowledging that makes it a bit easier. Each person has their own unique gift, story, and purpose in this world. You don’t have to be them. You have to be YOU.

 

#3You notice yourself Facebook-stalking people that you can compare yourself to. This is one that we all have done, but not many of us admit it. Have you ever noticed yourself looking at people’s Facebook pages – people you know moderately well – and seeing where you can measure yourself up against them? Come on, you know you have. I have! How does this feel? NOT GREAT.

For me, I notice that when I am struggling with some aspect of myself, or something that happened that day or in my life that I feel I don’t have control over, I compare my life to someone else’s. This is in an effort to try to soothe myself that “I am okay”….however, it’s not through the most therapeutic or effective means. It can do more harm than good. PLUS, social media is in essence deceptive and not based in reality, so comparing yourself to the perception of another person’s life based on social media is just pushing you further and further away from what you are really looking for: self-acceptance.

Try this: If you notice yourself going to social media or any other outlet to compare yourself or your life to someone else’s, ask yourself: What is going on? What do I need right now? Is this method the most appropriate place for me to find this? Instead of going toward something that will make you feel worse (comparison on social media), try to go toward an avenue that will make you feel better and more connected to yourself: doing an activity that inherently soothes you and reconnects you to yourself. For me, this is being in my garden.

What is it for you?

 

#4 – BONUS. This one is one of the most dangerous: when you notice yourself changing inherent, intrinsic, and authentic parts of yourself because “I’m not good enough” as something/one else that you compare yourself to. DON’T DO IT! You don’t need to change ANY part of yourself unless you truly want to. Again, that needs to come from within, not from the outside.

Try this: talk with a trusted friend , family member, or professional counselor if you are feeling this way about yourself. Help is out there and it can feel a WHOLE lot better :)

~~~

So, I challenge you to read, internalize, and try these four suggestions. None of us is perfect. You may still find yourself imbibing in the comparison cycle and falling into its deep, dark, enticing trap. That’s okay. Just try to gently notice this, ask how it feels, and try to come up with three things you can do to come back home to yourself.

 

You are awesome. You have a solid, special, very important reason for being here and the world is awaiting your presence. Go be a rockstar. There’s more than enough room for all of us!!

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The Gift of Sadness: How ‘Inside Out’ Shows Us That All Emotions Matter


Kevin Conor Keller / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Inside Out, the new Disney/Pixar movie about a little girl named Riley and some major life changes she goes through, is told through the lens and view of five of her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. It is a delightful feast for the eyes as most of the movie takes place inside of her head and invites us to take a ride on the Train of Thoughts, to play with her imaginary friend BingBong, to build aspects of her personality like Family and Silliness, to delve into her subconscious, and to sing along with the rainbow-haired pony that colors her dreams.

Much has been written by members of the psychology and counseling community (such as myself) about the way that this movie portrays our emotions and the important role that each of them play. It is pretty exciting to find a major Hollywood movie that looks so deeply at the emotional experiences we all feel, normalizes them, and does such a good job at it.

I am not going to give away any major spoilers, as I highly recommend that you go see this movie for yourself, but it is widely known that each of the emotions is given a personality and a role in determining Riley’s state of mental being.

Riley experiences a major life change in the movie, moving to California from Minnesota, and Joy, the brightest and most exuberant emotion, is determined to keep Riley a “brave and happy girl” even though other emotions are along for the ride.

Sadness is a star player in the movie too, and initially gets painted as a lazy and annoying emotion who Joy tries to keep away from Riley’s memories and feelings in order for her to stay a “happy girl” (sometimes we just don’t want to or can’t be happy. . .and that is okay).

Trying to keep Sadness in a corner where she cannot touch anything, as Joy attempts to do in the movie, causes all sorts of problems. As Riley plummets into depression, she risks losing things that are dearest to her, like her morality, family connections, friendships, her love for hockey and her sense of silliness.

Sadness didn’t just stay in the corner where she was shoved. She knew that in order to save Riley from the depths of depression, she needed to help.

Really? Sadness can help to relieve depression? Yes, if sadness is allowed to be felt.

As Anita Sanz, clinical psychologist says:

“Not being able to feel what is normal to feel in a situation is what causes problems for all people, just as it did for Riley.
If you’ve been abused or traumatized, there are all kinds of feelings that you don’t get a chance to feel or “process” because you’re too busy trying to survive. If you’re trying to feel something other than what’s really inside, or trying to be someone you’re not, same problem: There’s incongruence or a mismatch between the inside and the outside.”

Furthermore, the movie helps to identify the feelings of loss that Riley is experiencing by allowing Sadness to ultimately be part of the control panel in her mind.

The loss of childhood, the loss of her home and friends, among other losses, are not fully realized or digested if Sadness is shunned to a corner. Only when Sadness was allowed to touch some of Riley’s memories was Riley able to define the loss she was feeling and begin to form a new identity that could help her move forward and connect to what really matters to her.

Researchers who study emotion concur that all emotions (not just Joy) play their part in allowing us to move through and process our experiences.

Drs. Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman echo:

‘And toward the end of the film, it is Sadness that leads Riley to reunite with her parents, involving forms of touch and emotional sounds called “vocal bursts” — which one of us has studied in the lab — that convey the profound delights of reunion.’

One message I took home from the movie: Embrace sadness. Embrace Anger. Even embrace Disgust.

Because these, along with our other emotions, make up who we are, allow us to construct aspects to our personality and help us to build deep, intimate, meaningful relationships with others.

That, and go back and reconnect with your imaginary friend ☺

What about you? Have you seen Inside Out? What did you think and how do you feel about how it portrays emotions?


When Weeds Suffocate Your Seedlings: The Secret to Harvesting What Really Matters

Everything in life I’ve learned from my garden.


Tjflex2 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Here in Colorado, we have had torrential downpours, golf ball-sized hail, flash floods, and even some snow almost every day since early May. That’s right – in the month of May there were only three days without some kind of moisture from the sky, which is quite abnormal for our typically arid spring climate.

While many of us were lamenting for the sun, turning our faces upwards in hopes of catching a glimpse of a ray, seeds began to wiggle beneath the surface.

But what kind of seeds? And what will they produce?

As an experimental and somewhat overly impassioned gardener, I gazed out with a grain of exasperation at my garden and wondered: What will sprout? Will the seeds and seedlings I planted amidst the rain sprout roots or will they be washed away in a newly imprinted “river”? Will there be “volunteer” seeds that sprout into something I didn’t intend for?

I did not know. But, I had hope. I also had a very clear understanding that Mother Nature is much more powerful and enormous than I or any other gardener is, and we are at the mercy of her force.

So I sat and waited.

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny 85 degree day, I peered over the picket fence guarding my garden (“guarding” feels like a facetious term, as nothing seems to protect my sprouts from the ravenous and assertive squirrels. . . but that is another post for another time).

What did I see?

Lots of green! Yay!

But….which were weeds and which were seedlings I tenderly planted to grow eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, or other goodies??

A few green sprouts were pretty easy to discern which was which. . . and after an hour of pulling the weeds out, I decided I would never win that battle.

There were dozens (and dozens) of other sprouts of which I could not clearly and certainly define their nature. I would just have to wait and see until they grew bigger. (Patience is a virtue, right? Agh!)

As I pried myself away from the soil and sat contemplating this conundrum, I was reminded of another couple of blog posts I wrote last year in a similar fashion as Mother Nature again reminded me of the necessity of letting go (read them here: Mindful Gardening: Six Seeds to Sow to Nourish a Thriving Recovery and Disorderly Mindfulness: When it Hails on Your Freshly Planted Garden).

Gardens are metaphors for life. For recovery. For healing. For ACCEPTANCE.

Weeds will always come back no matter how much time and energy we spend pulling them out. Just like intrusive or negative thoughts, we will never be able to truly eradicate them from our minds, our lives.

We can spend time noticing them, trying to identify them, and bringing mindful awareness to their presence and impact on our emotional well-being.

However, if you will not be able to fully weed them out. . . . are there more fruitful and fertile places to focus your energy and awareness?

Weeds in my garden will grow exponentially bigger and faster than my seedlings, encroaching upon my plants and stealing their nutrients. This parallels the experience of painful events, thoughts, and beliefs about ourselves or others sucking away our positive and nurturing energy and leaving us little room to grow.

Breathe.

Pull out the weeds that you can identify: the thoughts, experiences, or people, who drain your life energy instead of energize it. Do as much of this as you have time and space for.

Overall, acceptance of our entire experience releases us from becoming entangled in our weeds and allowing them to spread over our inner garden.

Weeds are just as natural as the tomato plant I have cautiously and maybe somewhat obsessively tried to protect from the recent downpours.

Can you appreciate your inner weeds?

The secret to harvesting what really matters isn’t about pulling out the weeds from the pepper plant. What really matters is noticing the inner struggle and suffering that we so often find ourselves in. . . and asking: how can I let go? How can I slow down? How can I find acceptance?

So….I am going to let the weeds in my garden grow a little bit longer. Full disclosure here: this will not be a simple or anxiety-free task.

However, if I observe them, try to learn from them and, if possible, understand what they are, I will more accurately and peacefully be able to pull them out when I am ready. That way, I am more apt to pull out their entire roots instead of just their surface leaves.

Or I’ll get some of them, anyway.   I realize that tirelessly trying to weed out ALL of the intrusive buggers is akin to believing that I will be able to save my Cinderella pumpkins from the squirrel family that lives in the neighboring Elm.

 

But hey, choose our battles, right?

 

So what about you?


Cuckooclock / Foter / CC BY

Where are your weeds?

How can you learn from them and find some way of accepting them?

Which will you pull out and which will you let stay?

How would that shift your inner dialogue. … your inner struggle?

Can you re-seed your inner garden?

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