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!!


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.


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?

Leave a note below to share!

Dwelling in the Disorder: How Presence Can Be the Best Present During the Holidays

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

Denis Collette…!!! / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

With love,


LenDog64 / Foter / CC BY-ND

What Small Step Do You Need to Take to Alleviate Your Feeling of “Squirrelly”?

I’m happy to share today an inspiring guest blog post by Julie Larkin of Perfectly You Integrative Coaching & Energetic Healing.  I love Julie’s fun and quirky writing style and in this post she invites us to look at the parts of our lives that give us a ‘squirrelly’ feeling (and I am not a fan of squirrels, especially when they eat my garden!) — which she describes as ‘That restless feeling that has you contemplating any number of life adjustment(s) from quitting a job, to moving to another state, to leaving the relationship, to utterly altering your lifestyle, to a trip around the world …’

Julie and I connect on a similar vision: helping people connect to their authentic selves and supporting them to live a life that fulfills those unique values, goals, and joys.  Julie is an Innovative Coach and Energy Practitioner and she loves to help people live more Perfectly-You on this adventure called life!  She integrates forms of energy healing with coaching practice which I think is such a cool way of helping clients access all parts of themselves as a whole being and integrating them into balance.  Check out her website at: www.perfectlyyoucoaching.com.


… the remedy for feeling Squirrelly!

Yep. Squirrelly!
That restless feeling that has you contemplating any number of life adjustment(s) from quitting a job, to moving to another state, to leaving the relationship, to utterly altering your diet, to a trip around the world …

(Okay, okay. That may just be my level of squirrelly.  Ha!   The ‘let’s do this and let’s do this BIG’ variety … Yeee Haaaaw!!)

Regardless, if you find yourself sitting with some pretty significant restlessness; with feelings that you need a change … well, by all means, make a change!

Ahhhhhh, but practice a bit of mindfulness prior to jumping (if you’re the jumping type).

So very often, it’s the small adjustments that make the BIG difference.   It’s why you so often hear that the move to another place, relationship, job, etc.  eventually results in more of the same.  DAMN IT!  (wink)


Wait, that’s such a broad question.  One that might get your anxiety levels up in addition to the squirrelly-ness.  Sorry!


There!  BEGIN.

Make a list of them.  What are the ones you’re already doing?  What are things you’d like to implement more of?  Where can you direct some of your energy in a way that feels fulfilling, nourishing, inspiring?

(Oh, and … this is scientifically proven.  The butterfly affect of chaos theory.  Read on science geeks!:  The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened.A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle.)   Awwwww Yeaaaaaaaah!!!

Five Steps To Becoming More Embodied: How To Be At Home In Your Body

Many of the clients that I work with report feeling “disconnected from”, “at war with”, “disgusted by”, or “dissatisfied with” their bodies.  To me this says that there has been some form of trauma that has caused a rift in the natural mind-body connection.  This could mean an actual traumatic event in one’s life, or, more commonly, it could mean that some form of internal experience (feelings) has felt too painful or too disregulated and we must disconnect from it.  Our bodies can be a battlefield for our emotions.  Castlewood Treatment Center defines one’s body image as:

‘Body image is comprised of how one sees their body, lives in and experiences their body and perceives how others see their body. Negative body image can serve a protective function to distract clients from painful feelings or emotions held in the body.’

To heal from this disconnect between mind, body and soul, we strive to become more “embodied”, to literally attach ourselves to our bodies once more, as we were when we were born.  To find a way to be accepting of our internal and experiences and thus more accepting of ourselves.

What does it mean to “be embodied”?  Being “embodied” signifies:

  • feeling at home in your body
  • feeling connected to your body in a safe manner
  • an increased ability to be in your body in the present moment and to feel all of its sensations (emotional and physical)
  • Safe and healthy expression of needs, desires, fears and wants through the body
  • an increased ability to self-soothe when feeling escalated or agitated
  • an ability to identify inner needs and tend to them appropriately
  • Connection to and acceptance of all parts of your body and of yourself
  • Connection to your sense of self; your soul
  • Ability to recognize and correct cognitive distortions related to your body

Here are a few ideas for beginning to implement these and be on your way to “becoming more embodied” in a safe, accepting, nonjudgmental, and joyous capacity.

1.) Bring your focus to the daily essential tasks that your body performs for you.  Have you ever noticed how many muscles, bones, and ligaments it takes to walk effectively?  It’s not just our legs and feet that need to be involved; our whole body is on the job as we walk down the street and keep us balanced. What about all of the steps it take to take a shower?  Have you ever slowed down and tuned into each step?  Your body does so much for you — much of it out of your consciousness — and you may not realize this.  By bringing attention and focus to the physical tasks it implements for you, you can begin to feel more present, grounded, and appreciative of your whole body and the miracle it is.

2.) Draw a body image timeline. What is the story of your body?  What would it say to you about its life if it could speak?  Begin with a large piece of drawing paper and some art materials.  Draw a line from your earliest memory of your body to the present.  Fill in each of the events that stand out to you (for example: ‘felt self-conscious in my bathing suit at the pool party, age 13’, or ‘gave birth to my first child, age 33’).  Use colors, shapes, words to describe the journey your body has been on until this point.  Add influential people to the timeline. This is not about weight, but about how it has felt to be in your body.  Then, draw a line from the present into the future: how do you want the story of your body to look from here on out?

3.) Pay attention to the messages you send to your body. These may come from both internal and external sources.  What kinds of statements do you send to your body?  That it’s not good enough? That it’s awesome and strong?  That it’s beautiful?  That ‘if only I could lose 5 more lbs, I’d be happy’?  Write these down in a notebook.  Then try to reframe the negative ones to thoughts that feel more accepting, validating, kind, and compassionate — the kinds of messages you would send to someone you love very much.  Offer kindness to what it’s been through — pains, injuries, surgeries, etc — and how resilient it is!

4.) Dance, dance, dance! We all can project feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, or insecurity on our bodies.  Have you ever watched someone dance in a way with complete abandon, fearlessness, and joy?  Try it!  You can begin in your own home.  Turn on a song that you love, one that really gets into your soul, your joints, your body.  And let yourself dance to it with no rules and no self-consciousness.  Fling your arms around; gallop across the floor; jump in the air!  Do whatever your body wants to do — just follow it.  See how it feels!

5.) Spend a day tracking your emotions and your body signals.  We tend to hold our emotions in our bodies, and they can often show up as somatic concerns if we don’t address them.  Have you ever had a stress headache?  Or shoulder tension?  These could be the result of untreated emotional pain you are holding in your body.  When we take care of our bodies appropriately (and this means REST as well as movement!), then we send the message to our emotional selves that we deserve to be appropriately tended to as well.  Spend a day tracking the messages from your body and your emotions.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On one side, track any emotions you feel that day (sad, angry, lonely, surprised, etc).  On the other, track physical sensations you feel (headache, stomach queasy, muscle spasm in leg, tight hamstring, etc).  Just notice where these line up next to each other and if you see any connection.

These are only a few ideas to helping you become more embodied in your body, your soul, and your life.  This Saturday, March 29th, I’ll be facilitating a full-day workshop on this topic, using some of these techniques and so much more!  There are a few spots left, so contact me ASAP at 720-340-1443 to reserve yours!

Leave a comment below with ideas you have tried that have helped you feel more “at home” in your body.  What are the daily practices you use to facilitate this?  There are more great ideas as Embodiment Training as well.

This is the only body you’ll have.  Let’s see how we can celebrate our bodies and pamper them instead of judge and criticize them!


What is ‘Fitspiration?’: This is not fitness. This is an exercise in illness

Today I am pleased to offer a guest post by blogger Lizz Schumer, who has known the dangers and pitfalls of disordered eating and exercise, and now advocates for healthy recovery and body image.

Here, she shares her experience with ‘fitspiration’ and describes her journey to balanced, intuitive exercise that fit her body’s unique needs:

I called it the “tyranny of the numbers.” I couldn’t be content to run x number of miles, burn x number of calories or spend x amount of time. The three x’s had to line up, like pictures on a slot machine, for me to hop off the treadmill satisfied. Bingo.

In this way, my compulsive exercising brain held my body captive, tied to a treadmill until one would let the other stop. If I skipped a day, I hated myself, my body, the weakness that I thought resting implied. I counted calories like I counted steps, minutes: obsessively. This was not fitness. This was an exercise in illness.

A person only need spend five minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or even Twitter, to notice the “Fitspiration” trend that’s taking over social media. Slogans like “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going” and “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch,” slapped across photos of tight bodies in tighter clothes flash across the screen in the name of fitness. But what are they really saying?

After years of fighting it, I’ve learned to listen to my body telling me what it needs. My body isn’t a machine and it isn’t a tool. It’s a part of me, and a part that I love and respect. If it’s fainting or puking, there’s something wrong. That isn’t fitness; that’s illness.

And no matter how slow I go, my body still needs rest days. It needs the couch, sometimes. And yes, it often needs potato chips and chocolate, too. And if I don’t give it some off time, my body will break down. Or my mind will, because neither can exist at maximum capacity for long without falling to pieces, because neither were made that way. That isn’t fitness either. But I can tell you what it is.

It’s a culture trying to sell fitness by encouraging shame in our bodies. Fitspiration encourages pushing a person’s body to the limit and beyond, implying that any less is failure. It’s an all-or-nothing attitude that isn’t just discouraging; it’s dangerous. Women are already taught that we’re not good enough. We’re taught that our bodies are imperfect, our efforts are less valuable, our work is worth less. None of these are true, but all of them sell beauty products, self-help gear and yes, workout clothes. We have to look beyond the fitspiration messages and realize that slogans that subjugate aren’t selling us anything we should be buying. That we’re stronger, smarter, better than that.

True fitness, the kind that leaves a person feeling better and living healthier, has nothing to do with fainting and puking. It doesn’t require, or even usually result in, glistening muscles rippling beneath branded spandex. And most of all, real fitness makes a person feel better, not worse. Because my personal fitness level, no matter where it is, is nothing to be ashamed of.

These days, I don’t treat a treadmill like a slot machine, just like I don’t treat my body as a vessel that needs punishing. I put a book over the numbers, cue up my favorite podcast and exercise until a chapter break, the end of the broadcast or my body tells me to. No matter what the numbers say.

Bio: Lizz Schumer is a writer, reporter and photographer living and working near Buffalo, N.Y. The Lizz_headshot copyeditor of a local newspaper, her work has appeared in a variety of forums. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” is available from Black Rose Writing. She can be found @eschumer, www.lizzschumer.com and www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.


Do you want to read more about ‘fitspiration’, its unhealthy messages, and related topics? You may find out more about why fitspiration really isn’t that inspirational here; or uncover some of the most damaging fitspiration messages here, and read a report about the dangerous effects of fitspiration on mental and physical health as discussed by psychologists here.

With the news of The Biggest Loser contestant who dropped more than 60% of her body weight over the course of the show and fell to an unhealthy weight, The National Eating Disorders Association asks: ‘Who Is the Biggest Loser? All of Us.” A timely topic that we all must confront.

What are your thoughts or reactions?  Please feel free to leave a comment below!

How many of us must wait until something life-transforming happens before we really appreciate our bodies?

images-24 copyWhile immersing myself in texts, articles, conversations and daydreams to begin putting together a body image group coming in January 2014 (updates coming soon!!), I came across a beautiful and brilliant photo book by photographer Rosanne Olson entitled this is who I am.  Within the book’s covers, fifty-four women are photographed nude, each with stories to tell to prove that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes:

“The portraits, taken by award-winning photographer Rosanne Olson with a steady, non-judgmental eye, speak loudly to the American obsession of feminine perfection — slim hims and full breasts, high cheekbones and tiny waists, taut skin and eternal youth — and even more loudly to the way real women, with real bodies and real lives, look.”

I was struck by the pure humanness and depth in the eyes and bodies of all of the women represented in the book — women from all walks of life, ethnicities, ages, and with their own unique stories.

Utilizing this book with clients who are struggling with their own various body image issues has proven to be an eye-opening and introspective journey.  We have found a richness in exploring how what we see on the outside does not necessarily tell us the true or whole story.  When looking at a photo of a twenty-two year old slim, blonde woman, one might be compelled to focus on her body first and assume (by society’s standards) that she is happy, rich, popular, and perfect.  Reading her story, you learn that she has had part of her lung removed as part of complications of cystic fibrosis and that she lives with other complications every day.  Look in her eyes and you sense a wisdom, perhaps one that delves into her soul and makes her look older than she is.  You sense that she knows her story and its twists and turns.

What do learn or assume if we focus on how a body looks as an assessment tool for how happy, peaceful, confident, healthy, wealthy, etc etc etc a person is?  How true of a measuring tool is that? What are the consequences to this approach?

Ms. Olson posed intriguing questions to her subjects in her “goal of complete revelation — not hiding behind clothing but exposing both body and mind.  What would we learn about ourselves? Would we — could we — become more compassionate?  Not only towards ourselves but towards another?”  I invite you to peruse through the other questions she posed and see how you would answer them yourself:

  • What do you love about your body?
  • How long has it taken you to arrive at acceptance/love of your body?
  • What frustrates you or what would you like to change?
  • Has your body let you down (if you feel that it has) or have you let your body down?
  • How have you supported your body?
  • How have your feelings changed towards your body since you were younger?
  • In general, how do you feel women feel about their bodies?
  • How do you feel the media have affected how women feel about their bodies? (read an excerpt and see some of the stunning photos here)

She then asked each participant why they agreed to be photographed.  Some of the women struggle with eating or exercise problems.  Some have suffered from medical issues or illnesses that have affected the way their body functions, feels, and looks.  They all have had experiences in their lives which have forced them to become more aware of their bodies — whether in a joyful or painful way.

What story does your body hold?  If photographed, what messages about your internal state of being would your body send to those looking at the photo?  Is your internal state congruent with the energy you exude out of your body?

I have been journaling about my own journey with my body.  It has been through so much with me, and yet here it still stands, walks, talks, and dances, my ever dedicated soldier.  I am so grateful for my body, though my relationship with it can wind through sticky paths as well as bright ones.  In my own recovery, I have learned that I must take care of my body, and this is not negotiable.  My body is unique just to me, a gift.  I admire the women in these photos who allow themselves to be vulnerable, naked, and yet to connect to each other and to those who read their stories and see their photos in such a powerful way.

images-25 copyWe have so much to learn from the wisdom of our bodies. Why must we wait until something life-changing happens for us to tune into and adore them?

Stay tuned for my Body Image Acceptance Group coming in January 2014!  The group will be limited to few participants, so sign up quickly.  More info coming soon to my Events page.



Facing Your Fears and Soaring: How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Helped Me Confront My Demons and Thrive!

I don’t see myself as a “typical” risk taker — I don’t think I’d ever like to climb on the side of a jutted cliff or swim with sharks (yikes!).  But sometimes something gets into me that pushes me to take a giant step outside of my comfort zone and push myself to my very limits.  I recently engaged in one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across in my career: PUBLIC SPEAKING.

I was very fortunate to be chosen in April to be a presenter for the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Regional Conference held on September 20-21, 2013.  This association brings together professionals who utilize Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Relational Frame Theory with clients in many different capacities to help reduce suffering and facilitate healing.  I put together a presentation entitled: Embracing Our Bodies, Allowing Our Experience: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to Treating Body Image and Disordered Eating Issues.  This topic is near to my heart and I am always excited to explore the ways that ACT is effective in helping clients from this population.

Values directionIn April, this sounded awesome!  As the days, weeks, and months crept by, I found myself engaging in several anxiety-related activities that let me know that I was feeling quite nervous about presenting in front of so many national and international peers who have a vested interest and skills in ACT.  Looking through the ACT lens, I was definitely utilizing experiential avoidance.  I procrastinated by doing ANYTHING but work on my presentation (including cleaning and organizing), I filled up my schedule with other activities so I ‘wouldn’t have time to work on the presentation’, and I began having anxiety dreams, one of which included me standing naked in front of all of the mentors and people who have been meaningful to me on my professional path and not having a word to say.  All of these techniques did not help to reduce my anxiety, but just delayed it and actually helped it grow.

When it finally came time to present at the conference, I felt the anxiety shivering up and down my body.  I knew deep down that I was not nervous about my competency, as I have had training and lots of experience with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, but more about being vulnerable and speaking in front of so many peers that I deeply respect.

Having “survived” this experience, I wanted to share a few things I learned from it, as it has opened up my eyes to the courage, vulnerability, and strength that clients embody every day:

  • By being real and opening up to my audience about how nervous I was, I was able to find more space and acceptance for the feelings of anxiety and still go on with my presentation even though they were there the whole time.  In ACT terms, this would be called “acceptance”.
  • Beginning with a mindfulness exercise helped me reconnect with my breath and check in with my body and notice any tension, sensations, emotions it was holding.  This also aided my audience to reconnect with themselves as well.  In ACT, this would be called “contacting the present moment”.
  • All morning before it was my turn to present, I went to several other workshops that I found very engaging and inspiring.  I wasn’t able to be truly present, however, because I had intrusive thoughts such as “your presentation isn’t as expert as theirs is”, or “your nervousness is going to get in the way of effectively relaying your presentation”, and other annoying, damaging thoughts.  I actively tried to notice those thoughts and pin them as JUST THOUGHTS.  They don’t have to mean anything unless I believe them.  In ACT, distancing from unhelpful thoughts is called “defusion”.
  • I realized that I have had this experience before.  I sometimes get caught up in an anxious mindset that is almost paralyzing.  At the time of this newest challenge, I made a big effort to notice that I was going into that all-too-familiar frame of mind I could call “my anxious self” and then observe it.  I didn’t have to believe that this self was all of who I was or that it really has much relevance.  In ACT, this awareness and attention to my ‘anxious self’ is called “Self-As-Context”.
  • Much energy and effort had been expended to get myself to the conference and prepare my presentation, so was I really going to let the anxiety keep me from doing what I originally intended?  Why was I truly there?  I reminded myself that I was there to help offer tools to others about treating eating disorder populations with ACT, and this was important to me because it helps to advocate and spread the word about how this can help those in recovery.  By defining my “values”, I was able to keep them in my mind and move forward even though I was still anxious.
  • Finally, I did it.  I presented my workshop and got through it, and it went quite well.  I felt great!  By taking an action that is guided by my values, I am engaging in “committed action”.

Little did I know, I was utilizing all of the components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help me get through my nerves and present my workshop on the very same topic!

This experience deepened my awareness of and empathy for the struggles that my clients engage with every day.  Those in recovery from eating disorders, body image struggles, anxiety, or self esteem issues can seem paralyzed by the challenge of recovery — much like I was before my presentation.  But I know from personal experience that it is possible to recover from an eating disorder and to face your fears and prove to yourself how strong you are!  

It still will be quite some time before I submit a proposal to present at a national conference again, though :)