You Can’t Be An Inspiration If You’re Just A Copy.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I spent 30 years feeling like I was never going to find it. Success was something other people found. The pretty people.

3rdHere’s the thing. There are people who can try something random, do really well at it, and suddenly make a career. I spent my whole life watching it. In school, there were other kids who excelled. They were just good at Math, or History, or English (or whatever.) I was not. That’s not to say I was horrible stupid, or a bad student. But, I didn’t graduate a valedictorian either. There were kids who just excelled at PE. They could just run quick, or catch a ball, or whatever. They just had a body that was naturally made for that. My body has never found success at the physical things.

Even as an adult. You see people who just excel at whatever. It seems effortless. Co-workers who seem flawless, who knock every project out of the park. Moms who seem perfect. We are all surrounded by examples of adults who climb mountains, cook amazing meals, and having amazing career trajectories that seem to zoom towards the Moon itself. (You know, adultier adults.) Of course, social media’s ability to show only the highlight reels of our lives help create the illusion.

I used to envy these people. As a kid I would cry in my bed because every skill that came across my path I seemed to be (at best) mediocre. Until I was almost 30 I felt ugly, dumb, and worthless. I told myself not every one can excel. That’s just not how the world works.

Here’s the thing. My problem was I chasing after what everyone else was good at. I was judging myself poorly because I did not have the same skill sets as other people. And, it’s true. I’m not a great housekeeper. Math is my achilles heel. I’m not incredibly outgoing, or athletic.

14067483_1071660089596598_6985437552672611737_nWhat turned my life around was learning to accept myself, not for what cookie cutter society was pushing at the time, but for what I am naturally great at. I do not fear a stage, something few others can say. I always ran away from being in the center of attention, for fear of being an “attention whore.” I have intellectually dirty sense of humor. These traits, when accepted and utilized, have led me to opportunities and success 16 year old me would have never believed. (Though, it’s not like I’m anything that special. Yet.) Once I stopped chastising myself for wanting to be behind a microphone, I realized I was meant to be there. Laughter is the best medicine, and I am on my way to being a healer.

Recently I had a woman tell me that I pick up everything I do so quickly, and with such ease. I looked over my shoulder, because I assumed they were talking to someone else. The world has come full circle, and now I seem to be what I used dream of.

You know what I’ve learned? It’s not as easy as it looks. What looks like talent on stage is reflective of actual work. The hours I spend every day writing. The time I have spent watching, and re-watching every performance I’ve ever had, picking it apart and looking for ways to get better. Giving up what little spare time I have (I’m still a mom and wife first) to read comedy writing books and organize shows.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say about success, is that comparison is the root of all heartache. I wish someone would have helped me understand that a few decades ago. Maybe I would have stopped fighting my actual gifts and abilities, in favor of trying to be a cookie cutter version of what everyone else seemed to be. Besides, what may seem like effortless talent maybe be the product of arduous labor. When used correctly, you can easily confuse work ethic with natural talent. I also still have a long ways to go. Talent may open a door, but hard work is what gets you in the next room.

DSC_6398verticalInstead of trying to be the next Kardashian, Jobs, Whoopi, or Prom Queen remember: They don’t have YOUR unique combination of skills and abilities. Trying to be like other people only ignores what YOU are good at. You can’t be an inspiration if you’re just a copy.

In the words of my favorite fictitious teacher: Take chances, get messy, make mistakes! Explore everything in the world, not just what’s cool. Find out what you’re good it. We all have a natural talent for something. When utilized correctly, that natural talent shines. And, working hard at what you’re meant to can sometimes feel like hardly working.

What are you good at?

 

The Intersection of “Health” Management and Body Positivity

IMG_5639624664301It seems like most of us are on two separate paths, or streets if you will.

Health Management Freeway: Diets, workouts, the general rat race of “weight loss.” It’s packed, crowded, and you get some rush hour traffic in January. Everyone has been on this freeway in one way or another their whole lives. Some people are on it for their entire lives.

Body Positive Way: This street is certainly not as crowded. It’s definitely the path less traveled. Body positivity is all about loving yourself for who you are, believing that all bodies are good bodies, and not stressing diet and exercise.

You would think these are two roads that are headed in opposite directions.

Yet, I think everyone who even considers becoming body positive eventually comes to the intersection of health management and body positivity. Just because I love and accept my body for what it is doesn’t mean that I ignore the fact that it is still an organic machine. It needs specific foods to function. It needs activity to keep it strong. I have many different health problems that run in my family, that necessitate me keeping track of my food choices. But, I also have a disordered relationship with my body image, that necessitates me detaching my self worth from my outward appearance. (Though, let’s be honest. Everyone should be doing this anyway.)

So, what do you do when you build a house at the corner of the Health Management Freeway and Body Positive Way? How can anyone both focus and strive for any sort of health goal (weight or otherwise) without falling into the unhealthy traps of disordered eating and self-hate?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I have all the answers. I’ve heard a couple different programs and books being suggested through the small sect of the BoPo community that I am connected with. (Health at Every Size, Mindful Eating, Intuitive Eating.) I’ll be honest, I haven’t really looked into any of them. I tend to be one of those “I need to do it on my own” types. It must be an ego thing.

20150614_114923What I can tell you, having set up shop on this confusing corner myself, and I’m constantly monitoring my motivations. I’m grateful I’ve had over a year to practice listening to what my inner voice says, and learning to change it to a more positive mindset.

So, when I think about the health goals I have, I refuse to think about my outward appearance. Should it come up in my brain, I let it go and replace it with a more constructive thought.

For example, I want to incorporate some sort of home work out into my routine this winter. I want to do this because I have a goal of visiting every waterfall in my state, and I’m starting to run out of the easy ones. Soon, I’m going to have to do more difficult hikes, and in a year or two I will have to start doing backpacking trips. So, I need to build of my stamina and my core strength. Do I care if it changes how my body looks? Absolutely not. Do I care if I end up losing weight? No.

I want to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet. I want to do this because I know too much processed food is bad for me. I’m starting to think that, as I get older, my body is not a huge fan of cheese. Also, diabetes and heart disease run in my family. And, now that I’m… older… I am starting to realize I really should pay attention to these things. Am I focused on how a change in my diet will change my weight? Nope. Do I care? Absolutely not.

Dance SelfieHere’s my theory. My focus should be on what makes me feel fulfilled and content. My mind, and my body, feel better when I treat them both with respect. Every body is different. It’s about listening to what MY body wants. What MY body craves. I can tell you, it doesn’t crave crossfit. It does, however, absolutely love a good hike. Heck, even a good 2-3 mile hike in the wilderness does wonders for my mood. My body does not crave brussel sprouts. Nope. But, it is enjoying Spaghetti Squash, Cauliflower popcorn, and the occasional Zucchini noddle. It also enjoys a snickers bar and the seldom made homemade cupcakes. My goal is to do things that make my body happy. Dancing makes my body happy. Long showers makes it happy. Cuddling with my family, and reading under blankets, and watching star trek while knitting, also make it happy.

Will my body composition change as I get more in tune with what MY body needs? Perhaps. But that is up to my “physical transportation vessel”. Whether it changes or not doesn’t modify who I am as a person. Whether I lose weight, or gain weight, has little to no barring on my goals and life. So, I refuse to pay attention to it. I’m not sure the last time I stepped on a scale at home, but it’s been over six months. I certainly don’t plan to break that anytime soon.

So, that’s how I plan to be happy at the intersection of health management and body positivity. I don’t have to join the rush hour traffic of self hatred. Honestly, I think true body positivity leads to health more quickly and efficiently than the freeway does anyway. It’s all about loving and accepting yourself. Our goals should always be to learn to listen to what our bodies want, not what other people think our bodies need. There is no healthier lifestyle than that.

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Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Love

wp-1448999133321.jpgI used to spend the month of December in self-reflection hell. It meant I only had a month to get everything on my resolutions list done (remember that thing from January you’ve forgotten about?) It also meant having a month to think about everything I wanted to change about myself.

This year is different. I don’t need self-hate to motivate me into the new year. I don’t have to fight my body composition to win my self worth.

I know that putting pressure on myself doesn’t help me deal with my nervous habits.

I know that I will never fit the narrow definition of perfect. No one does.

Though, I’m disappointed I put off trying Stand Up Comedy. By the time I got the courage to try it, there was no longer open mic comedy nights. Either I’m going to have to travel to a bigger city (which I suppose is an option) or release this goal into the nether. It was one of the many lessons I learned this year: Some challenges in life you are never ready for. You have face them now, or never get the chance.

IMG951083I don’t need a new year to create new goals for myself. I have spent 12 months working on the goals that matter. I continue to work on my journey towards becoming fully body positive. I saw some new waterfalls. We did a couple parks for our park tour. I’ve even learned how to cook some great, healthy food. (This time last year, I was still slightly afraid of raw meat and my slow cooker.) 2016 will be another year full of loving myself as I am, and embracing all the wonderful thing I can, and already, do.

I can love and support without reservation, because I am worthy. I can befriend without fear, because I am a good person. Radical Self Love isn’t just about being able to love how you look in the mirror. It’s about letting go of any negative thoughts about yourself. It’s about believe you are a decent person worthy of the space (no matter how much) you take in this world.

If I could give my friends any gift this holiday, it would be radical self love. They deserve to see themselves how I see them: Beautiful, amazing human beings who light up this world. I wish they knew the differences they make in peoples lives, and how perfect they really are.

wp-1448999148219.jpgUnfortunately, radical self love isn’t purchased in a store, put in box, and wrapped up with a gorgeous bow. Radical self love is a gift you truly give yourself everyday, all day. When you look in the mirror, when you chase your passion, and when you give unyielding love to those around you.

Give your self the gift of freedom. Pamper yourself with the gift of radical self love this season. You are wanted. You are loved. You are worthy.

What The Fat Stigma Study Left Out

girl-517555_1920I’m sure most of you saw the New York Times blog about the Fat Stigma Study. I am absolutely thrilled that researchers are starting to look into the way society actually contributes to disordered relationships with food. We have a huge section of society that believes in the idea of “shaming people thin.” When, really, what they are doing is encouraging more unhealthy habits. When I am shamed, I generally have a greater desire to eat my feelings because I am experiencing an increase in negative emotions (and cortisol according to the study.) In the past, I’ll admit the shame has temporarily motivated me to do start some sort of exercise routine or diet. But, rarely were any of them healthy. Never did any of the stick.

Here’s is what I thought this study, and article, was missing: We can’t control what other people say or do. But, the biggest battle we can actually wage is the shame and guilt we bring on ourselves.

I’m no biochemist, but I’m pretty sure I experience the same sort of cortisol increase when I’m body shaming myself in the mirror. I know I get the same, if not stronger, triggered feeling after bullying myself about my body and my weight. Really, the journey to body positivity for me has very little to do with changing how the world around me reacts to my body shape. (I’m very grateful there are so many amazing warriors fighting the fight, though.) My challenge is changing how I see myself. My goal has been about erasing the negative self-talk tape in my head. Becoming body positive is learning to love myself, unconditionally, however I’m presenting to the world in that moment.

I can’t spend my energy focusing on what other people are saying. I have no doubt I would burn out overnight if I fought, and argued, and screamed every time someone said something that was decidedly anti-body positive.

But, this is what I can do. I can only say (and think) nice things about myself when I’m looking in the mirror. More importantly, I can spend some time naked in front of the mirror reminding myself there are very GOOD things about my body. I can embrace the many body positive bloggers, posters, instagramers, tumblrs, ect. I can ensure that my life is filled with an amazing amount of body positive examples. I can surround myself with friends and influences that are aware of how they speak of their bodies, as well as the body of others.

20150816_163745I don’t discount the study about Fat Stigma. I experience everyday how society is swimming in messages about what a woman’s body (and men’s) should and should not be. Every day I am reminded that a large sect of society believes I should be activity trying to lose weight. The thing is, I know that I’m not able to change society. I will never get the Don Drapers of the world to stop using women’s insecurities to sell EVERY PRODUCT EVER. I know what I can do, and that’s be the change I want to see in the world. I can speak kindly of myself. I can speak kindly to others. I can continue to work on erasing my own negative self-talk tape, and replace it with confidence-boosting speeches. I can surround myself with body positive influences, both in my media and in my friend circles.

I can accept and love myself, as I am, today. I can chase my dreams and goals from a place of self-love. I can exercise accurate self-care as a way of combating those nasty elevations in cortisol.

I am so glad to see a study come out that shows shaming, blaming, and stigmatizing Fat people has a negative impact. What I need to remember, and what I hope others on this journey remember, is we are sometimes are our worst bullies. The voice in our head, which is admittedly fueled by society’s bullshit, can also contribute to this negative impact.

Change your inner voice. Change your world.

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How Becoming Body Positive Makes Halloween Enjoyable

I am the alien seated in the center.

I am the alien seated in the center.

I have struggled writing this post. Every draft sounds like my Halloweens as a kid were horrible. My family spent the time creating and staffing a Haunted House every year. This helped raise money so we could put on events for low income families in our community. Honestly, almost every holiday was spent doing volunteer service. So, I don’t want to say that my Halloweens as a kid were without fun.

I, however, felt like the person with the biggest costume, even among the adults. When my mother would have to sew my costume, the entire process felt like a reminder that I was fat.

I never had the cute costume on Halloween. Sure, the sizes of costumes are started to get more inclusive. But, can you imagine what it was like as a fat kid in the 90’s trying to buy a costume off the rack?

Here’s the thing about Halloween. It’s the one holiday a year where everything is focused on outward appearance. Who we are, what we are judged on, even our acceptance at a party, is based on how well we arranged our appearance. For a kid, pre-teen, teen, and even adult with body image issues this was a nightmare. It’s a day that I know for sure people are looking at my body.

As an adult, I generally skipped this holiday. Even when my son was born, we would dress him up and take pictures, but I would jokingly say that I was dressed as a Mom and laugh off my lack of effort. But, really? I’d rather take the heat for wearing clothes I’m comfortable being fat in, than deal with the embarrassment of a costume.

20151101_155233This year, however, I think my body positive journey kicked in. I began to realize it really wasn’t about how I looked in the costume. The fun of pretending to be something else isn’t about looking exactly like it, but to make it your own. I’ll admit, I didn’t really go all out. My costume is really a PJ shirt from Wal*Mart. (Did you know they sell pajamas with capes? Hells to the ya.) My husband’s costume was a shirt from the T-shirt section. My son is really the only one with an actual costume.

This year, I was able to go about my business without the negative self-talk. I wasn’t worried about what I looked like in my costume. I didn’t even particularly care if other people like my costume or not. I’ve learned that, even on Halloween, what other people think of me is none of my business.

And, really? No one really cares. That’s the crazy thing about this journey. I’ve been controlled by my negative self-talk my whole life thinking it was the inward voice of the world’s view. It never occurred to me that people would not really care whether a fat girl dressed up for Halloween. Let me tell you: My friends, my dance family, the people who really matter, were just as loving and accepting of me in a costume as they are when I’m in my horrible fitting jeans.

I found the joy in the holiday. I found it while taking pictures with my little family, and getting into the spirit. I found the joy in my friends, and the fun times we had together. And, if I’m to be honest here, I found joy in wearing a cape.

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