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?

 

A Wayword BoPo Sheep

20150822_111131I am struggling with my body positivity. I’m not sure what else there is to say. The soaring confidence I used to have in the body positivity movement doesn’t seem to be coursing through my veins like before.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the movement. In fact, I still believe it has done tremendous things for my life. I would have never embraced my ability to dance without it. I never would have explored the forest, waterfalls, and hiking in general with out it. I certainly would not have found the confidence to get on stage and try stand up comedy with out Body Positivity.

Yet, if I were to give a “State of My Union” address, I would have to say the state of my self-confidence is at a low. It’s not an all-time low. I still know I am in a better place mentally than I was when I started this journey two years ago. But, it is low.

The only thing I can pinpoint this dip in self-confidence is starting comedy. Specifically, watching myself on video constantly. I tape every set I do. I want to see how my material does. I want to see what nervous ticks I have on stage so I can work on them. The problem with cameras, especially when you have to prop them with beer bottles on a table, is the angles suck. I see myself, admittedly, at some of the worst angles in some the harshest, unflattering light. As I find less about my performance to beat myself up over, I find myself focusing on what I look like on stage.

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what your size is. It is important to think about your image when you are building a career like comedy. It’s important to think about what people see on stage. I have no guitar to hide behind. I have no distractions on stage. It is just me, microphone in hand, wanting to gain the trust of an audience enough that they are willing to find humor where they might not otherwise. What I wear, what I look like is important.

It’s important for anyone, in any field. There is room for personal flair, and for all body types. In whatever any of us do, it’s important to project confidence and look like you have your shit together.
12705568_10207076201757668_390478687671836899_nBut, I’m struggling with the duality of it. Does this mean that I need to worry about my VBO in jeans? The rolls that I have? I’ll be honest. It drives me absolutely nuts. If there is anything about what I see on camera, it’s my midsection that fucks with my mind more than anything else. Where is the line between ensuring I look put together and trustworthy, and yet embracing my body for what it currently is with love and respect?

I don’t know the answer. I am far from someone who can give advice at this point. Perhaps I need some.

It’s not fair to blame it all on comedy, either. That ordeal with Craiglist hit me harder than I ever wanted to admit to anyone. I still struggle with stepping in front of anyone without thinking about it. The struggle with online hate is real. Maybe I should have waited longer before entering a new career, a new community, a new spotlight before working through that. There are other factors, other influences, that don’t have the same BoPo philosophy. It’s also not fair to blame anyone by myself. I have lost my way.

I am a wayward sheep. The farther I wander from my herd, the farther I get from the habits that helped me love my body, and the closer I get to the habits that didn’t. I drink less water. I drink more soda. I put garbage in my body. I will say, this moment has helped me remember something vital about this movement. When you love something, you treat it with care. Body positivity helped me love my body, and want to take care of it. The farther I get from that, the more I don’t care.

I think it’s the feeling of failure that burdens me the most. How could I be such a proponent of a moment for two years, and the moment I really become tested lose my way?

And, I hate to talk about it. I don’t want to be one of those women that seeks input from others to feel better about themselves. I don’t want to be a woe-is-me about this. But, I wonder if it’s important for others to see the struggle. It’s not always easy, all the time. Every journey has up and downs.

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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National Leggings Are Pants Day

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I grew up with parents who had a pretty stern sense of decency. We had rules for what we could and could not wear.

Going to school? Your skirt better hit your knee.

Going to a formal function? Your going to wear a formal dress.

Going out in public? There better not be holes in your jeans.

Going for a job interview? You better not be wearing jeans.

That’s not to say we were puritan, or religous. My parents just wanted to instill in us a sense of how to show respect to the people around you by adjusting your clothes to the function. (Though, plenty of young gentlemen learned their lesson about wearing baggy jeans a little too low in my house.)

So, I get the idea of what should or should not be worn “in public.” I also relate to those who feel like there are concrete rules that people should be obeying. (I always subconsciouly twitch when I see someone going for a job interview in ratty jeans as an old band tee shirt.)

But, here’s the catch.

My grandmother also taught me that my rights only go beyond my nose. She taught me it’s not my job to judge people, or to enforce my rules of life on them.

So, it’s not my place to care what you wear in public. And, really, the majority of rules that revolve around the use of leggings are rooted in the idea that women always have to look attractive. It’s all about hiding our butts, or our camel toes, or our fat rolls. Let’s be honest. That’s bullshit.

It’s not your place to tell me what I can or cannot wear. If you don’t like how I look, then don’t look at me. It’s simple as that.

It’s okay to have your individual set of boundaries and rules for what should be worn in public. What’s not okay is forcing your rules onto others. Keep your judgement out of my closet.

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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Swimming In The Fumes of Societal Shame

I was in the dentist chair the other day, swimming in the warm waters of Nitrious. If you follow this blog, you know dental visits are far from my favorite thing. The assistant warned me there was going to be a loud noise, and the grinding from a machine on the other side of the room started. Blame it on the “juice,” but I began to do a little dance to what I heard as music.

article-2534615-1A72C31100000578-260_640x668My dentist began to chuckle. It reminded her of a machine a friend had in their barn as a kid. It was one of those vintage belt machines that would vibrate the pounds away. (Now that I’m off the nitrious, I’m wondering why my dance reminded her of that. I’ll try not to think about it too much.)

This began a conversation about weight loss. The dentist’s father apparently used to buy her mom every quick fix weight loss gadget on TV. Both the dentist and assistant began to chuckle.

I, however, was horrified. How is it that I still end up in the middle of a conversation about weight loss? Even in the middle of getting a filling?

This, my friends, is an example why it is so hard to start the journey of body positivity. It’s not just about battling the advertisements and the media. We have to wade through the comments and stories from our friends, family, acquaintances, and even dentists. Everything reminds us that losing weight is perceived as the primary focus for most people. It is truly a constant, the reminder that our society is singularly focused on the outward appearance being the only true indicator of health.

As hard as all this makes it to start the journey, it also makes it hard to stay on the path. We are surrounded by people and messages that tell us that if we change how we look our lives will be transformed. We will be loved. We will be successful. We will be perfect.

weight-loss-850601_1920Of course, anyone who takes an objective look at life will know this is total bullshit. I’m happy to lend my voice, no matter how small, to the movement fighting these unhealthy messages. This is a great time in our society, when so many advocates are standing up against marketing strategies companies use to line their pockets with our dissatisfaction.

No matter whether you are strapped to a dental chair, or stuck at a table in the middle of a conversation about weight loss, remember you still have a choice. We may have to be around society’s messages, but we don’t have to believe them. We don’t have to take them to heart. We certainly don’t have to live them.

Rock on, brothers and sisters. You are perfect the way you are. You are successful at whatever you believe in. You are loved.

Someday I Won’t Be The Fattest Girl In The Room….

Well, I should say that someday I won’t notice whether I am or not. That’s my goal. Someday I will no longer notice or care how my body compares to other people in the world.

20151110_192013I went to a party last night, and I felt incredibly out of place. To clarify, no one at this party made me feel uncomfortable. I honestly think that I am the only person who noticed. And, this is what the body positive journey is about.

At least for me.

Someday I will not compare my body to other people. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I look like. My beauty is unique, and it is beyond comparison.

We are all special, and shine in our own way. Even though you can catalog stars into separate groups, every star twinkles with it’s own unique pattern. Every star is on it’s own path, it’s own journey. I don’t look at a star and say it is beautiful because it looks like the one next to it. I say it is beautiful because it shines in a different way that catches my eye.

People are no different.

Orion-ConstellationI wonder if the star Betelgeuse looks down on itself because it doesn’t look like the other stars in the constellation Orion. It’s bigger. It’s brighter. It’s ruby color makes it stand out again the rest of it’s companions. Betelgeuse is truly a unique star in the entire sky.

Betelguese is not lesser because it is different. Betelguese does not lack worth because it does not conform. Betelguese is beautiful because it is unique and it stands out. Our eyes are drawn to it because it is bright, and bold. But, I still wonder, if stars were able to compare themselves, if Betelguese would let comparision be the thief of it’s joy.

We are all prone to bad body days. No matter how amazing any body positive warrior is, we all have triggers.

The trick is going to the party anyway. Smiling anyway. Finding joy in the situation, even when comparison is attempting to steal it. Someday I won’t have to try these things. I will be able to embrace my “Betelguese shine.” Until then, there is no harm in faking it until I make it.

Shine on, friends. Shine on!