Tag Archives: self-image

The Adventure

I awake several times in pain. I might still be able to fit in a workout tomorrow morning before my flight, I try to convince myself.

The following morning, I can barely put weight on my foot. I had felt the twinges in a couple of fitness classes but had chosen to ignore them. I had pushed myself too hard and hadn’t listened to my body. Maybe I need to become more balanced in my approach, I muse philosophically while simultaneously huffing with resistance.

I might not be able to go to London, I realise as my eyes well up. This is closely followed by another thought: I’ve been feeling great exercising and now it’s being taken away from me. It’s not fair. I want to look and feel good. Oh dear, there’s clearly more I need to learn here.

Of course, exercise is good for me and it’s important to take action and do the things that are beneficial for my physical and mental well-being. I honestly thought I’d been doing great but, now that I can’t exercise, I immediately feel less good about myself. I have formed an attachment to exercising as an external source of happiness and self-worth.

I know I have the potential to feel good no matter what. I just have to figure out how.

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favim.com

The next few days are filled with learning and awareness. A friend comes over and I instruct her as to where to place acupuncture needles.

It’s interesting to have to ask for help, to be on the receiving end of such care, and to experience the magic of acupuncture when I really need it. I’m delighted to discover that I’m able to tell my friend where the energy meridians are merely by feeling where they are in my own body.

Afterwards I notice that, as I hobble around the kitchen, I’m repeating the mantra: I am amazing. I’m not forcing myself to do it. It’s coming naturally. All those affirmations I’ve been saying are clearly paying dividends.

I’ve resigned myself to cancelling my trip to London when I ring my mother who’s a nurse. She speaks to a physiotherapist who assures her that if I collect crutches on my way to the airport, there should be no reason that I can’t fly to England.

I’m going, I resolve. I feel strong and excited.

My friend very kindly offers to drive me. We grab the crutches and an hour later I’m making my way to Departures. I’ve never used crutches before and I’m surprised to learn how energy-consuming they are.

A member of staff approaches me to offer me a wheelchair. I say yes. What a weird experience!

Suddenly, I’m at a different level to everyone else. Most people don’t look at me. Others stare at me with what I presume to be pity in their eyes.

Now that it isn’t happening, I realise that men usually look at me as I walk past. This afternoon, I feel invisible to some and as obvious as a clown in Mecca to others. I certainly don’t feel very sexy.

I haven’t had time to wash my hair. And I’m wearing runners as they’re the only footwear that don’t hurt too much. I’m unable to drag along a suitcase so I’ve packed the bare minimum into a small backpack. Talk about hurling myself out of my comfort zone in so many different ways!

I’m transferred from the wheelchair to a buggy then deposited at my gate. One of my favourite things to do in an airport, or anywhere really, is to go for coffee. But I wouldn’t be able to carry a cup while on crutches.

I hop over to a café anyway and ask the barista if she could bring a latte to my seat for me. She gladly obliges.

Last Christmas, I presented my friend with a wonderful book by Cheryl Richardson called The Art of Extreme Self-Care. Each month, a few of us meet to read a chapter together, set some goals, and find out how we got on with the previous month’s challenge.

A couple of months ago, we did a chapter on taking your hands off the wheel, letting go of control and asking for help. Last month, my friends asked me how I’d done.

I reported being aware of when I’m being controlling. I admitted that I hadn’t actually asked for help but that I hadn’t needed to. Now, I’m eating my words.

When it’s time to board, I’m escorted down to the plane and up to my seat. When we arrive in London, I’m put in a wheelchair and wheeled to the bus terminal.

By the time I meet my friend at Victoria Coach Station, I’m exhausted and emotional. We have a catch-up and a quiet night in.

katimorton.com

katimorton.com

The next morning, I’m ready to manoeuvre the London public transport system on crutches.

Hobbling slowly through a tube station when everyone else is speeding is an interesting experience. I have to be okay with going at a certain pace. I have to take it one slow step at a time.

The kindness I receive from people who hold open doors, carry my crutches as I make my way down the stairs, and give me their seats on the Underground is really heart-warming. I’ve never said “thank you” so much in my entire life.

I spend all day Saturday at a Hay House: I Can Do It! conference. One of the first things the beautiful speaker Robert Holden speaks about is self-image. Perfect!

Robert describes how infants, up until the age of 18 months, don’t recognise themselves in the mirror. They have not yet identified themselves with their bodies. Robert surmises that babies are still identifying with something greater – the very essence of their being.

This is something I need to connect with more – my soul. I am more than just my body.

So when I can’t exercise, when I’m on crutches, in runners, with unwashed hair, I can still love and accept myself and feel the energy of my amazing spirit.

Subsequently, Robert shows us a lovely ad that he was involved in making.

Robert also teaches us that being too independent and trying to force things to happen exactly as we want them to is not allowing life to flow. He says:

“If we stick with independence, often we’re running on adrenaline and not grace.”

I sit back and allow life to flow because, right now, I can do very little else. And it feels good. I experience a sense of peace as I breathe a sigh of relief.

An excellent question Robert poses is the following:

“If I could let life love me even more, what great things could happen?”

Tears spill down my cheeks as I contemplate this.

During the break, remembering my vow to take myself out of my comfort zone, and recalling how I definitely didn’t do so at the last Hay House: I Can Do It! conference I attended, I purchase Robert Holden and Louise Hay’s book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your LifeI then join a queue to have Robert sign my book.

I take this incredible opportunity to tell Robert how much I love him, how wonderful his talk was and how much I enjoy his radio show. I even get my picture taken with him. Go me!

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Pictorial evidence

I meet some lovely people at this inspiring event. One woman insists on buying me a coffee and carrying it back to the conference centre for me. And Hay House author Susan Lander approaches me to give me a free signed copy of her book Conversations with History.

Despite all the learning, awareness and random acts of kindness, I decide that I’ve had enough of the crutches. It takes so much effort and energy to use them. My arms are paining me. And I want to be seen as a “normal” 35-year old woman again.

Thankfully, I’m reminded by inspirational author and speaker Mike Dooley that everything happens for a reason. Mike likens life to a three-hour car ride.

Before this car ride, you decide where you want to go. You type your destination into the GPS system, or Divine Intelligence as he calls it. Then, you have to put your car into gear and drive.

For that three-hour journey, you may not know where you’re going. You may feel lost and the whole experience might feel weird. You may even take a few wrong turns but the GPS always recalibrates. And you don’t know if the GPS has worked until you get there.

Mike then describes a baby learning how to walk. The child takes a couple of steps before it keels over. The parents don’t start shouting at the child, telling him that he deserves it or that he brought it on himself. This child clearly has a desire to walk. And his parents recognise that falling down is part of the child’s journey.

After a great conference, yummy food, lots of adventures outside of my comfort zone, and quality time spent with friends, I leave London with a knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly. I resist nothing. I allow life to flow.

Before I arrive at Stansted airport, my mother texts offering to collect me from the airport. And I take her up on that offer.

I now have a greater understanding of how people must feel when they’re injured or incapacitated. From now on, I’m going to be more mindful of offering help to people when I’m in a position to do so as I can attest to how much it’s appreciated.

Today, my foot is almost all better. I’ve learnt many lessons from this injury. Some of which I didn’t want to have to learn. But learn I must if I want to move forward.

The GPS recalibrates and onwards I stride.

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Flaws

After posting Wednesday’s blog, two people very close to me suggested that I could be more confident. Having made a list of the qualities I’d like in a romantic partner, I’d asked myself if I possessed these desired attributes. And I’d acknowledged that there were a few things I needed to look at.

However, I’d zoned in on the fact that I could be a better communicator. I’d actually thought I was doing quite well in the confidence arena.

But in the last few days, two people have remarked on my confidence. They’ve done it because they want the best for me. They believe that I’ve a lot to offer and a lot to be proud of.

One of these people asked me if there’s a possibility that I’m going for men who are unavailable. I reflected on my most recent crushes. Perhaps she has a point. The men I fancy are usually not right for me, they wouldn’t be good for me, or they have girlfriends.

If I want to be in a relationship, why would I lust after unavailable men? Unconsciously, perhaps I don’t really want to be in a relationship. I decided to tap on the issue.

[For more on tapping (or Emotional Freedom Technique), click here: http://www.thetappingsolution.com]

As I tapped, something interesting revealed itself. I don’t allow myself to get too close to men because there are certain parts of myself that I don’t like. And there’s only so long that I can keep those parts hidden. I’d even done quite a good job of hiding them from myself.

Yes, I have a lot to be confident about. And yes, I’m much more confident than ever before. There are times when I get it, when I genuinely love life, when I have fun and I’m in the flow.

But I’m still placing conditions on my self-love. I have to look a certain way and I have to be doing certain things. I can’t just love me for me.

Usually when I feel unloving towards myself, I retreat. I don’t want to go out or see people. Yesterday, I decided to do things differently.

I opened up to a friend. I confessed that I feel sad that I’m not allowing myself to get close to a man because of these conditions. I told her that I feel upset that I’m not loving myself unconditionally.

She advised me to love myself, including the part that isn’t loving myself. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know if I can.

I want to. I’m sick of this issue raising its ugly head over and over again. But I still don’t know how I can love myself anyway.

I know I’m resisting reality. I am the way I am. I also know that I can’t love somebody unconditionally when I can’t do the same for me. And I know I can’t expect someone to love me unconditionally when I can’t do it for myself.

Maybe bringing this to the surface will help. I did feel better for having shared my deepest darkness with someone who sees and encourages my light.

I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ll be okay. I’ll be more than okay. One day, I’ll break down those barriers and love myself unconditionally. Imagine how life will be then…

But for now, I give up. Not in a feeling-sorry-for-myself, life-isn’t-worth-it kind of way. But in a I-just-don’t-have-the-solution-right-now kind of way.

Today, I walk alone down a beautiful country road. I put my iPod into shuffle and enjoy the music.

The warmth of the sun settles on my skin like the softest blanket. Field chamomile makes me smile. Lush leaves reach out to something that I can’t yet see. And this song starts to play at just the right moment.

Parking It

It’s a sunny day in beautiful Barcelona and I am alone. My friend had an earlier flight to catch but instead of travelling with her to the airport and hanging around there for a few hours, I find my way to a park and sit facing the sun.

I watch the other park dwellers. There are groups of friends chatting, drinking and dancing. Couples sleep side by side, holding hands. A few solitary figures read or play with their phones. Others jog, cycle and saunter by.

I have no book, no notepad, no music. Usually, I have all three. Today, I am forced to sit and do nothing.

Earlier on, I noticed my mood drop. I went into fear around business and money. I spoke harshly to myself for not being successful enough. Where’s your get-up-and-go, I asked myself. You need more drive.

I compared myself to other women, judging myself for not being as slim, toned, pretty or stylish. No wonder those girls are in relationships, I thought. They’re cool and confident. You’re not.

I also criticised myself for not undertaking enough big challenges with regard to the Rejection Therapy I’m currently doing.

Suddenly, sitting here on Spanish soil, I have an awareness. I realise that, despite not actively seeking rejection, I am still being rejected. By myself. And that makes me feel sad.

Asian men with plastic bags walk by, repeating the mantra: “Agua! Cerveza!” I purchase a one euro can of beer and sip it as I sit and watch and think and feel the sunlight on my skin. A welcome feeling of calm settles upon me.

I understand that, when I project into what may or may not happen in the future, I feel overwhelmed. I’ll just take it one step at a time, I decide. I can manage that.

I also have a knowing that comparing myself to others just doesn’t feel good. I am what I am. All I have to do is be present. And enjoy the moment.

And for one whole hour, I do.

Me. In Barcelona.

Me. In Barcelona.

The Makeup of Self-Image

My friend and I are getting ready to go out. I am without a mirror as I sweep a mascara wand through my lashes. My hand slips and I know that I probably have black smudges on my cheek and eyelid.

I get up, about to rush to a mirror so I can correct the damage. My friend stops me and dares me not to change anything. “For how long,” I ask, a note of panic in my voice. “Ten minutes,” she decides.

As I sit there, I am amazed at the feelings and judgements that surface. Words like silly, stupid, ugly, imperfect and weird flash menacingly into my mind. I haven’t even left the house or come into contact with anyone besides this one friend. And it’s only makeup. I’m like my very own classroom bully.

My friend watches me with interest as a range of emotions pass through me.  I look her right in the eye and sigh, “I’m going to need more than ten minutes.”

The Dancer

As part of the Life Coaching course I’m doing, I have to attend a professional Life Coach. In my most recent session, I was telling the coach about how I sometimes think unkind thoughts about myself.

He asked me to describe how I feel when I do this. I told him it was overwhelming. I moved my hands frantically in an attempt to explain. It was difficult to put into words.

He asked me where I feel it and if it has a shape. I told him that it’s in my chest, it has sharp edges and it wants to get out. He asked if it has a voice. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s saying, Let me out!”

I realised in that powerful moment that the feeling I believed to be negative is actually a part of me trying to give myself a message. It is an energy, so big and fizzing that just wants to be expressed. For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to suppress it, to abolish it. It feels so constrictive when all I want is to be free.

I sat there, full of excitement. I wanted to scream and roar and rage and beat my fists against something. I had had enough. I was like a child having been admonished by a strict parent. And this child just wanted to say Fuck off and go outside and play and sprint and front crawl through the ocean.

A recent experience came to mind. A few weekends ago, I took part in a dance workshop. As part of the day, we had to form triads. One of us took on the role of the dancer, one was the witness, while the other was the writer.

I was elected to be the dancer. The music began to play as I self-consciously walked into the centre of the room. I stood and faced my group. Then I started to move slowly. When I closed my eyes, I was able to get into the music. I could hear violins and African beats. I twirled and swayed and stamped my feet. Strong emotions moved through me and, for the first time, I understood what it was to express myself through dance.

Every so often, I’d remember that I was being watched but I was determined not to spoil my experience. I took a deep breath and gave myself the space to own this moment. I deserved it. I haven’t enjoyed something so much for a very long time.

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camihlira.tumblr.com

As I relayed this story to my coach, I likened it to the times when I’ve had a few drinks. When my inhibitions relax, and I feel that lively, fun-loving spark. And right now, I was feeling a similar urgency to let go, to be free, and to embark on a wonderful new adventure.

This “bad” feeling I’ve been trying to get rid of is actually presenting me with an opportunity to transform into who I really am. It is showing me what I’m no longer willing to put up with. The feeling that once seemed anxious and overwhelming is, in fact, a taste of the magnificent burst of energy that I have been reining in with my self-criticism. This energy is full of creativity and strength and passion. And it’s there for me whenever I choose to access it.

As we finished the session, the coach suggested that the next time I think a mean thought about myself, I should tell it to “fuck off” just like the child in the image I had mentioned. I laughed and thanked him for what he had done. He told me that I had done the work, he had just been the witness. I sang the whole way home.

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i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

Blossoming

It occurred to me this morning that so much of what we do is done out of fear rather than joy. We spend a lot of our time protecting, defending, hiding, banishing and preventing.

This is evident in so many of our actions. We try to prevent illness, protect our energy, delay ageing, cover up blemishes, shy away from challenges, defend our egos, and bolt from pain (both physical and emotional).

We stock up on multivitamins, sip on Echinacea, and get jabbed with flu vaccines. We visualise ourselves in protective bubbles, confess our sins, and make appointments with Shamanic healers. We join the gym, dye our hair, pay for our faces to be chemically peeled, and inject ourselves with Botox. We cover ourselves with makeup and fake tan, whiten our teeth, and shimmy into girdles.

We judge and criticise others so we don’t have to look at ourselves. We work longer and harder so we can be defined by our job titles. We yearn for prestige and approval so we can love and accept ourselves. And we’re terrified to slow down, to stop, in case someone takes it all away while we’re sleeping.

Fear prevents us from going on that flight or that date or initiating that career move. We don’t put ourselves out there so we can’t get hurt. We close our hearts because we think we’ll save them from breaking.

But how often do we do things for more positive reasons? For the sheer fun and enjoyment? We’ve forgotten how to live, really live, and experience all the world has to offer, which is a lot!

We could be singing in the rain, zip lining through a cloud forest, or swaying in a hammock on a Caribbean island. We could be melting into a full body massage, swimming with dolphins, or scuba diving with exotic coloured fish. We could be playing with our children, embracing our older and bolder selves, or writing our first fantasy novel.

And above all else, we could be opening our hearts to love, to possibility, to life. Because the heart can never really break, it just opens that bit wider to allow the light shine through.

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Poor-ana

Last night’s premiere of Gráinne Seoige’s Modern Life concentrated on anorexia nervosa, a debilitating and life-threatening illness. The show brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions. Because I’ve seen and experienced how eating disorders can ruin lives. Because the thought of what it’s doing to innocent young girls kills me.

Size zero is on the lips of every celebrity and fashion guru (about the only thing that passes their lips, I hear you say). In last night’s programme, Gráinne holds up a size zero dress and comments accurately, “This looks like something a child, not a woman, would wear.” She also gives the opinion that models resemble something other than human beings and that they definitely don’t look feminine. She adds, “I would never want to look like them.” And why would you, Ms Seoige? You’re beautiful just as you are. However, if she paid too much attention to internet discussion boards, she could easily feel pressurised to slim down (one clown on Boards.ie suggested that the gorgeous presenter needs to lose a few pounds in order to get work).

Women eye up models’ figures and decide that this is the way they should look too. And why shouldn’t they attempt to be like them? After all, the definition of a model is: “A standard or example for imitation or comparison.”* However, we forget that the reason models are skinny is simply because this body shape best allows designers to showcase their collections. But when models turn into role models and make ridiculous statements such as, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (not even a thick line of the white stuff, Ms Moss?), our younger generation of impressionable young females is doomed to a lifetime of diets and exercise regimes, and constantly striving for, but never attaining, that elusive “perfect” look.

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It’s virtually impossible to acquire the perfect body image. Even famous folk can’t do it. Despite paying fitness trainers, nutritionists, and personal chefs to make them look good, and even though they have looming red carpet events in clingy designer dresses to motivate them, they still have fat days. And that is why magazine photographs are airbrushed in order to make celebrities  look better (which usually means skinnier). When did it become such a bloody crime to be human?

However dangerous it is to have a teenage girl flick through a glossy magazine, imagine the horrors she can find on the world-wide web? Have you ever heard of a pro-ana website? It’s a site that promotes eating disorders, giving detailed tips on how to beat hunger pangs, purge quietly and hide weight loss from friends and family. It offers support and encouragement to its participants, even motivating them to compete against each other to see who can starve themselves the longest. The images are shocking, upsetting and seriously disturbing. It truly is a scary place. The thought of young girls stumbling across a site like this is terrifying.

“You become so accustomed to that empty feeling in your stomach. You almost start to enjoy it. Because if you know you’re getting very sharp hunger pains and you know how lethargic you’re becoming and you can feel your body kind of deadening under its own weight, you know you’re being successful.” Leanne Waters

But it’s not all about striving for skinniness. One woman in the US, in her quest to achieve a curvier figure, paid a fake doctor to inject her with cement, mineral oil and flat tire sealant. Needless to say, she ended up in hospital, suffering from embarrassment, an empty bank account and a hell of a lot of pain. The grass is always greener on the other size, eh?

I’ll finish off with an amusing anecdote. It’s a perfect example of this constant striving for anything other than what we are. Last week, I was in the changing rooms of a large department store. As I tried on nine dresses (I only bought one, promise!), I overheard a conversation in the next cubicle. A woman was trying on a dress for her Christmas party.

She moaned to the sales assistant, “I’m beat into this dress!”

The shop woman reassured her, “If I had your figure, I’d wear that dress.”

“Well, I have been running five miles a day.”

“Why don’t you wear magic knickers to hold you in? Not that you need it… It’s just that the dress is so clingy,” she quickly added before changing the subject: “Once, a woman had to be cut out of her dress here!”

I snorted. The customer persisted, unperturbed: “Don’t you think this dress flattens my boobs?”

“I don’t know about that… You could buy a pair of padded panties though,” she suggested.

“I don’t need one of them, I have a bum.”

“So do I but it’s in the wrong place,” the sales assistant sighed.

I would have wet my pants but then I would have had to buy the dress (and I didn’t want it because it made my arms look big).

“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.” Sophia Loren

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/model

Featured Image: http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/010/5/4/Emo_Magazine_Collage_by_Remea.jpg

Images: http://www.healthkicker.com/730791440/pro-ana-borrows-from-healthy-dieting-practices/; http://francesballard.deviantart.com/art/Anti-pro-ana-186511611; http://amazingdata.com/beauty-or-a-beast/; http://the100.ru/en/actors/sofia-loren.html