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?
Everything in life I’ve learned from my garden.
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.
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?
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?
Leave a note below to share!
What if your body is trying to deceive you?
Try to think back to a time in your childhood – maybe you were celebrating a birthday, having a picnic in the park, visiting friends in another state – a time where you remember feeling completely free and safe to enjoy what you were eating.
…This may be tough, but spent a few moments thinking back into your memory.
What was your favorite kind of food? What did you crave eating? Remember, this is before all of the “should’s”, “can’t”, “must”, and other rigid rules around food surfaced. Just a time where true joy was associated with eating.
Now think of today and of the rules that you have created around what you can and cannot eat (or rules that were imposed on you by a diet or influences in your environment). Can’t eat past 7pm. Shouldn’t have carbs or gluten. Must eat under XXX number of calories every day. Should exercise every day for X amount of time….
Why? Who are you listening to?
These rules are most likely not borne of internal signals, but are enforced on you by external sources. In other words, they are rules that are not about listening to your body.
When you think of these two different scenarios, check in with your body. Which one does your body respond more positively to?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an assumption — probably the first one.
I don’t think any body truly wants to be controlled by someone else’s guidelines.
Since we are all unique and have our own genetic make-up, environmental factors, and personalities, it doesn’t make sense that we could all conform to a similar diet mentality.
So why do we diet? Here are some of the common answers:
- to lose weight
- to feel better about ourselves
- to be healthy
- to appear more attractive for a potential mate
- to have some sense of control
I am sure there are many others that you could come up with. Yet research shows that diets don’t work, and that over 90% of people who diet will regain the weight (and then some).
Why? According to Dr. Traci Mann’s article You should never diet again: The science and genetics of weight loss,
“Weight regain after a diet is your body’s evolved response to starvation. When you are dieting, it may feel as though you are about to starve to death, but you know that you can open the fridge at any time and find more to eat, if you really wanted to. Your body doesn’t know this, however, and you have no way to tell it that you just want slimmer hips or a flatter stomach. All your body knows is that not enough calories are coming in, so it kicks into survival mode.” After your diet is over and you begin to eat normally again, your body will naturally put weight back on (and then some) as a way to survive.
Diets are the antithesis of listening to our bodies, and are one of the biggest risk factors to eating disorder development and body image distress.
In my work over the past six years with people who have experienced a disconnected, destructive and unhappy relationship with their bodies, I have heard many fears of letting go of their diet sand listening to their bodies. I get it – I have myself been on the diet rollercoaster, and for me that tipped into the dangerous territory of an eating disorder for ten years.
But I know intuitively, from my own experience and from witnessing others’, that your body is wise and you can trust it.
Here are three common fears about letting go of the diet mentality – and how to overcome them:
- My diet is helping me lose weight to be healthier. This is a very common reason to go on a diet – to be healthier and lose weight. Look out for: no flexibility with the “rules”, cutting out food groups for no health related reason, and feelings of deprivation. Try instead: ask your body what it is really hungry for right now. Broaden your definition of “healthy”.
- My diet helps me have a sense of control around food. My guess is that if you are feeling out of control with food, that going on a diet is not going to solve that problem and may actually result in a more rigid and extreme form of controlling food. Try instead: Ask yourself what else is feeling out of control in your life that you are using food to try to soothe?
- If I am not on a diet I will feel completely out of control with food. Again, a common fear around dieting/not dieting. I believe this is founded from a deep disconnection between mind and body – one in which you do not feel connected to your body and like you can trust it. In truth, going off a diet may result in binge eating – the mind goes from rigidity to chaos pretty quickly in response to a perceived trauma. Try instead: eating all foods in moderation to begin listening to your body and getting out of that all or nothing mindset.
Above all else, honor your body. Listen to it. Ask your child-like self “What sounds good right now?” “Am I truly hungry or am I feeling something else”?
And if you need support in this process of listening, connecting, appreciating, I can help.
Spring has finally sprung here in Denver! After several weeks of frigid temperatures and snow, we are melting and the crocuses are poking their sweet heads out of the dirt.
Along with warmer weather comes increased sunlight and a desire to be outside, and with that can come more focused attention on body image. Your friends may be sporting shorts, planning for spring break, shopping for tank tops, and talking about their bodies as we come out from ‘winter hibernation’.
Does this bring up any insecurity for you?
If you have a friend, daughter, son, mother, or loved one who looks at themselves in the mirror, grimaces, pokes their belly, and then mutters “I feel SO fat!!”, then this post is for you.
Five Things to Say to Your Daughter (or son, or loved one) When She/He Tells You She Feels Fat
1.) Fat is not a feeling. Facebook recently removed the “feeling fat” emoticon from their status bar because fat is NOT a feeling and proposing that it is a feeling further adheres to the thin ideal and shaming anyone who has fat on their body. It also can be triggering to those who have eating disorders or body image struggles. Fat is not a feeling — what are you REALLY feeling?
2.) Talk to her about normal things that bodies do, look like, and feel like. Everyone has a different body and whatever the number on the scale says, our bodies are amazing and deserving of respect. Talk with her about what your body went through as you were growing up, normalize some of the uncomfortable things that can occur (i.e.: puberty), and discuss this in an affirming, accepting and empowering way.
3.) Discuss the ‘thin ideal’ and how thinness is glorified in our culture. Explore the effect that the media and society have had on her and on others and what message that sends. Fat is stigmatized in our culture and many people fear being judged, bullied, rejected, or hurt by not fitting into the thin ideal.
Help her get educated and stand up for herself amidst the immense cultural pressure to look a certain way.
4.) Find out what is going on in her life. Chances are, if she is obsessing about
body image, weight, or food, there are other factors affecting her stress level and wellbeing. How are her relationships? How does she feel about school? Is she pushing herself too hard? Does she compare herself with her best friend? Explore the deeper meaning to “fat” and what it is truly trying to express.
5.) Dance. Invite your daughter or loved one to put on a favorite song and to check your judgments at the door. Dance with her and invite yourselves to feel the miraculous, fun, strong things that your body can do for you, and does for you each day. Carve out time each day to focus on what your body DOES, instead of how it looks.
Warmer weather invites the birth of spring, which in turn offers an opportunity for rebirth, renewal, and release. Ask your loved one and yourself: What would you like to release this spring that is not serving you? How can your body help you do it?
What is really weighing you down?
Do the number of inches around your waist measure the amount that you are worth?
Let me tell you something. You’re never going to lose those last five pounds.
What?? How do YOU know?, you might be thinking. That’s none of your business! And then: Yes, I will, and I can!
You are right; maybe you can and it is not my place to assume what your diet and body can and can’t do.
But I am here to ask: why is that so important???
I have met so many people who are suffering every day because they have not asked
themselves that question.
It’s the end of February. How’s your New Year’s Resolution going? If it involves weight loss it has probably been thrown out the window by now. How are you feeling about that?
How are you feeling about yourself?
I hope the answer is “great!”, but I am bravely going to dare to suggest that if a weight loss goal is connected with how you feel about yourself and your body, then you’re probably struggling with some self-criticism right about now. You are never ‘perfect’ enough…
You may be one of the thousands of men or women who ‘wants to lose those last five pounds’ and then you’ll feel ‘confident’ in your body.
I get it. That elusive yet seemingly doable goal of weight loss as a way to feel better about yourself and your body is so tantalizing.
The ads on television and in the magazines throw out all the stops to convince you that going on a diet and counting your calories is the solution as to why you don’t feel so great about yourself. (And they make it look so damn easy!) They promise you if you lost five pounds (or more) you will find…wealth…popularity…success…happiness.
I’m not sure about you, but I receive dozens of spam email messages each day. Here are a few of the most delicious titles:
‘Ellen DeGeneres’ Ageless Look! She looks 20 again just by taking this pill!”,; and from GetSkinnyNow: ‘READ THIS OR HATE YOURSELF FOREVER!’; and from BetterThanBotox: ‘[Secret Revealed!] Arctic Glacier Eliminates Wrinkles Forever!’. And good old Dr Oz promises me: ‘#1 Brand New Diet Tip of 2015: This Miracle Pill Will Burn Fat Fast!!’
Since when is deprivation, shaming, and rigidity a path to inner peace and self-love?
Yesterday marked the beginning of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015. The last week of February each year is designated nationally as a time to flood social media and our society with lots of information, resources, and hope for eating disorder recovery. The theme this year is: “I had no idea… “that some of the things we do and say each day to ourselves or to others can trigger an eating disorder to develop.
One of those statements is “I had no idea…that my quest for health was making me sick.”
Not all diets trigger eating disorders, but rigid and perpetual dieting increases the risk of developing disordered eating behaviors like binge eating. Did you know that statistics show that people who consistently diet are thirteen times more likely to binge eat?
And did you know that more than 65% of people who have lost weight on a diet will gain it back (and then some) within the next year? If weight loss is connected to your self-worth, how is that ever going to point you in the direction of feeling better about yourself?
So instead of focusing on losing weight or counting calories to cultivate a relationship with yourself that is loving and pleasurable, how about trying these seven ideas instead?
1.) Take yourself out on a date. When you have been dieting and controlling your food and body for so long, you may have lost touch with what your body really needs or wants. Spend an evening listening …and then giving. If it wants a pint of ice cream, yum! If it wants to go salsa dancing, sounds fun! This helps to foster a sense of acceptance and connection, allowing you to build on developing a mutually enjoyable relationship with your body.
2.) Ask yourself what five pounds would really change about your life – and if the dieting is worth it? Is losing weight really the way to get there?
3.) Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat? Those extra five pounds may be comprised of muscle and strength…helping to make your body awesome and capable of doing so many things. Why attach a number to that?
4.) Focus on your strength and capability of your body and not your blemishes. What does your body do for you each day that you are not aware of? For example, did you know how complex our digestive system is and how our body facilitates so many essential daily processes that we are not consciously aware of? Amazing!
5.) Ask your body if it is truly hungry and if so, what would taste good to eat right now. So much of the diet mentality is not listening but formulating what you should eat based on someone else’s guidelines. Somebody who is not in your body and doesn’t know it as well as you do. Your body is wise and when it is well-fed it will shift to a place where it naturally feels healthy. That may be losing weight…it may not.
6.) Let go of that negative, judgmental, critical monster voice in your head. You may never be able to make it go away completely, but you can change your relationship with it and the influence it has over you. Focus on what you love about yourself, your body, and food…not what is ‘wrong’ with those things.
7.) Follow Your Bliss. Life is too short. We don’t get a dress rehearsal for our life— this is it! How do you want to spend your precious time here? How can you invite your body to join the party?
I invite you to attempt to get off the rollercoaster of ‘loving yourself WHEN….I lose five pounds…when I can bench press X amount…when I don’t have wrinkles on my face anymore’….and trying to love and accept yourself as you are today. I have tried it and it is so liberating! See how that feels on your body.
I am honored today to share a guest post to my blog by Annette Sloan, a health coach and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering teens to embrace healthy living through her business, (w)holehearted. She is gifting us today with her story about how yoga helped her offer herself something that is so integral to its essence: compassion. Even when you’re struggling with food or body image issues. Especially then.
~ ~ ~
Have you ever been to a bad yoga class? Maybe it was a class where the teacher wasn’t sure of her instructions and kept fumbling over her words.
Or maybe she talked too much, which made it hard for you to quiet your mind, or she talked too little, which made it hard for you to know what you were supposed to be doing.
I am a yoga instructor, and I have a confession to make: I once taught the worst yoga class ever. Ok, maybe not the worst class ever. I didn’t make fun of anyone or tell them their body was wrong. No one got hurt. But, I did do an absolutely terrible job of leading the class. I forgot my sequence, mixed up left and right multiple times, and fumbled over the instructions on pretty much every pose.
Not even halfway through the class, I could tell that my students were just humoring me. They wanted to roll up their mats and leave, but they were too polite. It was my first class out of yoga teacher training, and I was screwing up it, big time.
Even worse, this wasn’t just a regular class – it was an audition. One of the polite yogis in front of me owned a yoga business, and I was supposed to be proving my chops as an instructor.
When the hour finally ended, my students gratefully rolled up their mats and departed. I was left with Bonnie, the yoga business owner. Telling myself that I could cry in my car in a few minutes, I looked her in the eye and waited to hear my fate.
Bless Bonnie. Instead of diving into the long list of everything I had done wrong, she kindly asked, “How do you think it went?”
I was honest and brutal in my self-appraisal. Bonnie waited patiently for me to finish, then nodded.
Without agreeing or disagreeing with me, she said, “But did you see how they stayed around to talk with you at the end? If they hated you, they would have left immediately. They liked your energy.”
Once again, bless Bonnie. Talk about compassion.
I didn’t get hired for the job that night. But I didn’t get dismissed either. Bonnie recognized that my nerves had played a huge role in my less-than-stellar performance. She gave me a list of areas to work on, and suggested that I do another audition in a few weeks. Later, she hired me.
The moral of the story is that on the night of my worst yoga class ever, Bonnie embodied an essential component of yoga: compassion.
In my opinion, when a yogi steps onto his or her mat, everything that takes place is in service to a higher goal: to connect mind and body to the present moment – and to be compassionate with whatever comes up.
Downward-facing dog too rough on your shoulders today? Try table instead. Table isn’t feeling good? Child’s pose is always available. The underlying message is: wherever you are, right now, is valid. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Honor your journey.
I started practicing yoga in high school, and continued through college and my twenties. During this time, I was struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food. (Learn more about my story here, or here for a more detailed version). Thankfully, I’m now on the other side of the struggle. And I can honestly say that my practice of yoga was essential to my healing.
Yoga connected my mind and body in the present moment. It regularly reminded me to practice self-compassion and to honor my journey. My subconscious received the message that I wherever I was, it was ok for me to be there. I was worthy, just as I was.
Eventually, my journey led me to yoga-teacher training, where I found the courage to share the story of my struggle with food.
It was terrifying to make myself so vulnerable – but in airing my shame, I found healing. I summoned up the courage to share my story with others, and eventually, with everyone I knew. Today, I have my own business, (w)holehearted, which specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls.
I have yoga to thank for it all – and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Annette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Her work as a coach and speaker empowers teens to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Soon, Annette will also debut a program called Empowered Moms, Empowered Daughters, which will help moms to heal their relationships with food, body, and self so that they can be positive role models for their daughters. In addition, Annette co-leads a workshop called “Yoga, Food, and Love: A Compassionate Journey to Healing your Relationship with Food.” Learn more at www.healthyteengirls.com and www.fb.com/healthyteengirls.
This time of year, I love reading all of the articles and blogs written to help us try to remember what is truly important to us during the busy, bustling holiday season. What are some of your favorites? Share in the comments box at the end of this post!
As the holidays are upon us and we find ourselves getting caught up in the swirl of family gatherings, work potlucks, traffic, holiday music, gift buying, and so much more, I often find my anxiety ramping up too. There seems to be so much “to do”, “to see”, “to prepare”, “to buy”, “to organize”….etc, etc. If you notice, all of those “to’s” are followed by verbs.
We are always moving, always feeling like we “should” be completing or focusing on the next thing that comes during the holiday season. In years past, the calendar has arrived at January 1st and I
can’t fathom for the life of me how in the world we got there. Where did the time go? I was not being mindful; I was letting the busyness of the season keep me disconnected from what really matters to me.
This year I am committed to adopting a different approach. 2014 was a year of ups and downs for me. Professionally, I have seen my business thrive and achieve milestones such as publishing an e-book and doing more public speaking and supervision than in any previous year — activities that I love, that challenge me and that are fulfilling to me as well as to others.
Personally, I have had some great things happen, and I also have experienced more loss in this one year than I have in my entire life. Going through the stages of grief and sadness has catapulted me to a place of self-awareness and depth that I had not experienced before. I have overcome extremely challenging and life-changing experiences before, such as the recovery process of my eating disorder. However, finding yourself at a place where you have absolutely no control over the experience was something I had never grappled with before. Through the depths of my sadness, I have also been able to open myself up to the depths of gratitude that fills up my life as well.
I often use the metaphor of “the well” with my clients — if you can feel that deep sadness, you have the capacity in your well of emotional experience to feel the same depth of joy. So hold on, persevere, and don’t give up hope.
Reflecting back on 2014, I am struck by three concepts that have highlighted my year: resiliency, authenticity, vulnerability.
What is funny to me is that as I notice these concepts as cornerstones of my year, I also recognize that these are traits that many of my clients have embodied this year as well. It is never lost on me how we all are connected and our processes can be parallel in ways that we may not know or recognize.
What are three concepts that highlight your 2014?
So, as I offer myself grace, as I offer my clients hope, as I offer my colleagues, friends and family love and warmth this holiday season, I pledge to adopt the stance of dwelling. I dwell in the depth of gratitude I have for those who have let me walk with them on their journeys to healing. I dwell in gratitude for those who have opened their arms when I needed someone to hold me. I dwell in the light and possibility of continued healing and growth for us all in a vibrant 2015.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very peaceful holiday season and a 2015 bursting with new possibilities.
I’m so excited today to share a post I wrote for the blog of The Center for Authentic Intimacy. What an honor! Read on…
Please Don’t Turn On The Lights: How Body Image Affects Intimacy
Have you ever looked in the mirror and had negative thoughts or emotions jump out at you about the image reflected back? What about standing in front of the mirror naked? Now try to imagine how it feels to let your partner see you naked. If you ask me, I’d say vulnerable!!! Yikes!
We all have a body, so we all have a body image. Our relationship with our bodies can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional intimacy with our loved ones and with ourselves. Body image is described as a culmination of a person’s internal and external experiences, personality, perception of the world and impact of cultural influences. I also think of it as a person’s perception of their body’s attractiveness and acceptability by others, and it is often influenced by expectations set in the media, in our culture, and by those close to us. Sometimes, our body image is passed down to us as a reflection of our parents’ own relationships with their bodies.
Our culture’s obsession with the “thin ideal” as the standard for beauty can have a detrimental effect on women (and men) whose bodies do not look the way that society says is “beautiful” – ie: thin, yet curvy in the right places, tall, toned, active, strong yet not too strong, etc etc etc. For men the standards are equally as confusing and contradictory.
And when we feel as if we are unattractive based on society’s standards, we can internalize that feeling and become at war with our own selves.
Chasing, yet not meeting this elusive thin-ideal standard can foster feelings of inadequacy in women and men and can support a belief that there is something undesirable about our bodies and thus ourselves. Intimacy, whether physical and/or emotional, is the deep connection and closeness felt between romantic partners that is intended to be a method of communicating love, affection, and acceptance. If we struggle with communicating love and acceptance to ourselves, with our negative body image creating a barrier between us and the world, we can cut ourselves off from this deep, nourishing intimacy with others and create a divide in our relationship.
When we don’t feel emotionally safe and accepting with our own bodies, we may create a self-protecting defensive shield around ourselves which can lead to a disconnection with ourselves and with our partners. As someone who works extensively with people who struggle with body image and disordered eating issues, I can attest to the deep disconnect and loneliness that these struggles can bring to physical and emotional intimacy. What I also know is that healing body image wounds is very possible and it is one of the leading factors to re-establishing a sensual, intimate relationship with your partner(s) and with yourself.
If you struggle with body image issues and you feel that they are affecting your intimacy in your relationship,
Be honest. Open up to your partner(s). Share as much about what you are feeling as you feel comfortable. Sure, this is vulnerable as heck. It also opens the dialogue for understanding and connection and can foster communication between you about how you can feel more comfortable in your body.
Be kind. First to yourself. I know this is hard. I believe that we cannot truly offer to others what we are not able to give to ourselves. Instead of judging yourself for having these struggles, try to be compassionate and gentle.
Be curious. What is really going on for you in your body image struggle? As author Geneen Roth (author of Women, Food and God and When Food is Love) states: “”Every time you sneak food, you give yourself the message that you cannot be seen … [and it] translates into sneaking your desires, sneaking your hungers, and sneaking your heart, because you feel you don’t deserve love.” Try to take a gentle look at what might be feeding your body image struggle including experiences from your past where you have felt judged about your body for some reason.
Try to reconnect to what intimacy feels like to you. When have you felt close with someone? What did that feel like in your body – sensations, emotions, physical touch? How did your body react to that feeling of closeness? What is one small step you could take today to re-initiate that feeling of closeness with your partner or yourself?
Have you had body image struggles which have impacted your intimacy and closeness with loved ones? Leave a comment below about your experience and how you healed that connection with your partner or yourself.
Read more about the amazing work happening at The Center For Authentic Intimacy at their site: www.authenticintimacycenter.com. Thanks for the opportunity to guest post, and it was an honor to feature owner Lily Zehner’s guest post on my blog last week!
Today I am honored to feature a guest post by friend and amazing colleague Lily Zehner of The Center for Authentic Intimacy. Lily is an inspiration to me in so many ways, and most recently I read this authentic, raw post she created for her blog. Her candor about her recovery from her eating disorder brought tears to my eyes as well as a wry smile as I could relate to so much of what she shared.
I asked if I could share her post on my site because I know my readers will connect to her inner beauty and resiliency. Lily wrote about her involvement in the #RecoveryIs campaign through Project Heal, which is an AMAZING organization that helps to provide funding for patients who cannot afford the cost of eating disorder treatment.
Her #RecoveryIs statement is: Recovery is authenticity in its rawest form!
What’s your statement?
Read on for Lily’s heartfelt words and I share how they impacted me at the end of her post.
Let’s unite together in authenticity to heal and eradicate eating disorders once and for all.
~ ~ ~
Last week I learned about a campaign by Project Heal bringing about awareness of the treatment of eating disorders through photos of recovery from those who have survived and the people who supported them using “#RecoveryIs”. It has been something I have continued to think about and question of myself in the days following.
I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was 14 and at nearly 30, this has made up more than half of my life. I have been in true recovery, as defined by me, nearly 4 years. And every day I am grateful for this while fighting with every ounce of my being to continue. I think I can speak for those who have been along for the journey, they are just as relieved and grateful.
My starvation nearly took my life several times. Let that marinate for a moment. I nearly starved myself to death more than once. My childhood of pure chaos and trauma was the perfect recipe for me to find a way to disappear, literally.
I wanted to share what recovery is for me. Below is a stream of consciousness. It’s not perfect and that’s entirely the point.
Recovery is both beautiful and brutal—like Glennon Doyle Melton says, “its brutiful”.
Recovery is shattering the rigidity and allowing for flexibility.
Recovery is being all heart, no longer struggling to beat as I once did at 23 beats per minute.
Recovery is feeling rather than numbing.
Recovery is owning my sexuality, unapologetically.
Recovery is allowing others in, finally.
Recovery is knowing that asking for help is nothing short of heroic.
Recovery is acceptance.
Recovery is asking for what I need while offering what I can give.
Recovery is clawing my way out of a very deep, dark hole with no energy hoping I’ll eventually make it to the top; to the light.
Recovery is no longer trying to shove and starve myself into my once ideal ‘size 2’ box.
Recovery is community rather than isolation.
Recovery is being human every second of every day.
Recovery is no longer obsessively working out for hours on end.
Recovery is working out for sanity, peace, and health.
Recovery is not only surviving or living, it is thriving.
Recovery is allowing the wounds to heal.
Recovery is finding the grey in my once black and white, all or nothing, world.
Recovery is fucking hard.
Recovery is owning my story.
Recovery is knowing where I end and where others begin.
Recovery is knowing that the only way to is through.
Recovery takes every ounce of me some days and comes easy others.
Recovery is consoling my younger self rather than leaving her alone at the bottom of the stairs.
Recovery is showing up every damn day.
Recovery is no longer memorizing the calories of every single thing to enter my mouth.
Recovery is the feeling of standing on my two feet, arms wide open, looking up into the sky saying, “ahhhh”.
Recovery is touch.
Recovery is the integration of my whole body.
Recovery is no longer being consumed with shame.
Recovery is always listening to my intuition.
Recovery is no longer requiring my legs to be removed from my body before my burial upon my death. [Yes, this was a true request during my sickest times in preparation for my passing. The justification? There was no way I was going to spend another moment with them that I didn’t have to; they had caused me enough torment].
Recovery is learning to sit still, really still; this once was impossible.
Recovery is giving myself permission.
Recovery is forgiveness.
Recovery is heartbreaking.
Recovery is knowing my body isn’t what needs to change, but rather, society and its expectations.
Recovery is no longer being limited by the identity of my eating disorder; it is redefining myself.
Recovery was creating the family I always needed and desired.
Recovery is being strict with my boundaries knowing this is the single most important part of my recovery.
Recovery is marrying a partner who validates daily that I am worthy of love.
Recovery is still choosing to be sensitive in this harsh world.
Recovery is being honest; real honest with myself and others.
Recovery is no longer silencing my voice; YOU will hear me LOUD & CLEAR.
Recovery is realizing I never had control in the first place.
Recovery is relief.
Recovery is knowing I still have a long way to go while recognizing I have come a long way.
When I made the intentional choice to recover, I made the choice to be me, ALL of me. I would no longer allow myself to hide in shame or pretend. I wouldn’t be anything other than Lily.
For me, recovery is authenticity in its rawest form!
Until next time,
Ps– the last line is what my sign says in the photo. If you feel compelled to add your “Recovery Is” photo please do. Write what your “recovery is” on a piece of white paper, take a photo with it, and share it on social media using #RecoveryIs and #ProjectHeal. Visit www.theprojectheal.org or their FB page for more information.
Lily A. Zehner is a couples therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. She promotes and helps cultivate healthy sexuality, whatever that may look like for you. She is currently finishing up her EdD program at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her practice, The Center for Authentic Intimacy, is located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
Here’s my (Kate’s) own #RecoveryIs statement:
Join us!!! Share your #RecoveryIs statement in the comments below!