6 Simple Ways To Convince Yourself That Skinniness Is Not Next To Godliness

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In case the analogy was lost on you, the title of this post is a play on the well-known phrase “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” – a sentiment I can certainly agree with.  But I think it would be fair to say that in our day and age, skinniness has become far more important to us than cleanliness.  It’s incredibly unfortunate.  And not because I believe in perfect order, function, and wine glasses that sparkle like diamonds.  In fact, I may or may not actually have a problem keeping my own things picked up and neat…  But I like to interpret “cleanliness” in a different way; in the way that many diet food brands [unfortunately] do.

Let’s think about the cleanliness of our bodies.  The cleanliness of what we put into our bodies, how we take care of our bodies, how we value our bodies.

Eating a balanced diet, eating whole foods, exercising, moderating our sugar, alcohol, and coffee intake – these are all things that I would consider “next to Godliness”.

And skinniness is not one of of them.

But that’s tough because the message all around us through [Victoria Secret] ads, [fashion] magazines, and TV is that being skinny is so important.  Like, really important.  Like if I have to see one more article about how to “bust belly fat”, I think I will puke! (no, there’s no pun intended.  That topic is far too serious).

So how do we do that?  How do we change our perspective?

1) Start With You

Starting with ourselves is certainly a great place to kick-off.  Spend some time every morning looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself that you’re pretty okay just the way you are.  Start to embrace those parts of you that you once saw as flaws.  Perhaps you can view them as battle scars, or quirks, or just unique differentiators that make you you.  The more you practice looking at yourself in a positive light, the more your brain will learn that being skinny really isn’t all that important; and carries no weight next to being uniquely you.

2) Learn From Others

Though it’s rare, I have certainly met other women who are incredibly good at accepting and embracing their bodies as they are.  Initially, mimicking them is about the best I can do.  And that’s okay.  Try spending a little time thinking about the things they appear to value more than their weight – perhaps their career, their family, their hobbies…what are those things for you?  Try looking in the mirror only once before you leave in the morning (as I imagine confident women do).  Try thinking about the world around you and your plans for the day.  Mimic those women you find who have managed to get to a place where their body is simply a part of the whole person they are.

3) Learn From Your View of Others

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who was an incredibly active runner and rock climber sprained her knee during a workout.  She had been in amazing shape before the fall, but found herself unable to do any kind of workout for almost 2 months.  I didn’t have a chance to see her until about a month after her fall, and naturally, she had gained 10 or 15 pounds.  (Before I go into what I learned, I just have to point out how ridiculous it is that we so easily notice each other gaining and losing weight.  When losing weight is a significant accomplishment, I definitely think its something to celebrate, but the fact that we can tell when a friend or family member gains 5 or 10 pounds just shows how overly-obsessed we are with this normal human trait).

Anyways, when I saw my friend, the usual knee-jerk reactions popped into my head:

“Gosh, she’s gained some weight.  I hope she’s ok.  I hope she isn’t upset about that.”  But then I looked at her – actually looked at her as a whole person – and I couldn’t believe how amazing she looked!  I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say that when I wasn’t comparing her to her former self or against the ideals I’ve been taught, I actually saw a whole person who had a really neat personality and a matching body to go with it.  Since that moment, I have found myself less and less concerned with the “last 5 pounds” I want to lose or the funny bump on my belly I’ve always had.  It’s part of who I am.

4) Focus On What’s Real

Let’s face it: beauty isn’t a real thing.  It’s all a perception based on our culture and, to some extent, our genetics.  That’s not to say it isn’t important, or that seeking beauty is immoral, it just means that there is no consistent standard for beauty.  Anywhere.  It all changes once you cross country, state, and even sometimes city lines.  Even individuals have completely different views of the definition of beauty.  So this idea that being skinny is somehow ideal is completely fake.  There are no real, basic, life-affirming benefits to being skinny.

There are, however, umpteen-million benefits to being healthy and in good physical shape.  Especially with my daughter growing up, this is what I try to focus on now.  And having someone else to be responsible for makes it so much easier –

To stop thinking about being skinny and start thinking about being fit

To start thinking about all the cool things a fit body can do rather than all the admiring eyes a skinny body will attract

To focus on the range of activities our bodies are capable of, some of which seem impossible (breakdancing, anyone?)

To enjoy the thrill of the endorphins that shoot through our bodies when we work hard

To realize that I just enjoy feeling so light on my feet after I’ve lost 10 pounds

To appreciate having muscles to flex at any time – it’s actually quite fun, try it!

To love not having constant cravings for sugar, chocolate, or fat, particularly in moments of sadness

Our bodies are so cool, and I’m sure we haven’t even tapped the surface of what they’re capable of!  Stay aligned with these real, every day, immediate benefits of having a body that is healthy and the rest of your attitude will naturally fall into place.

5) Find Hobbies, Set Goals, and Pay Attention To Them

I’m sure everyone has hobbies, goals, and dreams, but perhaps we can utilize them more than we realize.  The next time you find yourself deliberating over the fact that you don’t fit in a size 6 anymore, redirect your thought process: what fun things did you do that day?  What are you going to do over the next week to strengthen your mind, your will, your confidence?  What books have you read that you’ve enjoyed?

Find something else to think about.  Eventually your brain will realize that thinking about your weight just isn’t all that important anymore and you’ll find yourself revitalized and living more fully in the life that you’ve built for yourself.

6) Don’t Participate In Weight-Mocking

I’m not talking about making fun of others for their weight (although please don’t do that either!!).  I’m talking about mocking yourself for your weight.  I catch myself doing this ALL. THE. TIME.

“Jane, you look so great today, I love that outfit!”

“Oh thanks, it’s a bigger size than I really want it to be, but that’s what the store had and apparently this baby weight is still hanging on!”

“Jane, you look like you’ve been working out”

“Ha! I wish.  I haven’t worked out in months – maybe all those donuts are finally going to my muscles!”

It’s ok to do this every now and then – often we need a little humor to help us realize that what we’re worried about is really quite silly.  But watch it; avoid it.  Your weight doesn’t matter, ladies.  How you feel DOES.  A simple “thank you” is fine, or even an answer that details how hard you’ve been working to eat well and exercise.  But don’t fall into the trap of making jokes about your weight loss or lack thereof – you demean yourself in doing that and that’s not good for your personal mental wellbeing.  And if you’re in great shape, please, please, don’t give in to the temptation to downplay your progress to avoid making someone else feel bad.  Your progression doesn’t = regression for someone else.  And you might do well to be wary of any person who thinks that.  Your being in great shape doesn’t take away from anyone else being in great shape, nor does it imply that you are in better shape than they are.  It just is what it is, and you should be proud of it.  So own it – and let everyone else own the response they choose to have to your confidence and integrity.

I think that pretty much covers it.  Do you have anything to add?  Are there any additional tactics, viewpoints, or paradigm shifts that have helped you to forget skinniness and embrace health?

We’ve got quite a battle to fight on this one still and the more we talk about it, the more we will bring other women into a more ideal state of self-acceptance and self-love.

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We All Need People Who Frustrate the Hell Out of Us

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I had the opportunity to spend some time with a family friend I haven’t seen in a while recently.  He and I have had a rather interesting relationship – well rocky relationship – over the past 10 years or so.  Once upon a time I think we felt the joy of innocence and agreement on most subjects, but over time things changed and we’ve often found ourselves at odds with each other.  Words have been exchanged behind backs, frustrations have been expressed to friends (an action I always condone, even when I’m the one on the dispensing end of the frustration!), and uncomfortable conversation have often been the best case scenario.

I think I’m proud to say that we both are pretty accommodating, understanding people.  Despite our differences, I think we both value harmony and closeness.  In a way, I think this has made things hard because we’re both trying to hold to our true selves while simultaneously fighting that part of us that wants to build walls between those we don’t understand.  So all in all, I think we’ve dealt with it as well as can be expected.

But the time we were able to spend together recently with other friends was, I believe, a bit eye-opening for me.  It seemed that for just a little while, we were able to put our individual opinions aside, find some common ground and some subjects we are both passionate about, and engage in an enjoyable and relationship-building conversation.  And something very interesting happened; something I’ve seen happen with me and others around me when we’re faced with someone we love who’s opinions drive us mad: we softened a bit.  I found myself taking a sort of “let bygones be bygones” attitude and making jokes about some of the things I’m perhaps overzealous about, and he even made a few comments in support of my efforts to improve the world (even if he perhaps doesn’t see the value).  And it made me realize something that is SO very important for every person everywhere.

Always always always maintain relationships with those who oppose your views.

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Now I’m going to totally butcher this story, but I heard once about a person – a US President, I believe (I want to say Abraham Lincoln?) – who purposely appointed members of his presidency who opposed his personal views.  He did this as a matter of integrity to be sure that his decisions and ideas would be challenged and that he would always be required to give deep consideration to the opposing viewpoint.

We SO need this today.

I worry sometimes about the way we need to gather together at our conferences, our churches, and our political parties to cling tightly to the people who agree with us and support us – almost like a strange parody of our ancient ancestors gathering in groups to survive by battling other groups for resources.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot of value in finding like-minded people for giving us confidence, warmth, and a sense that we are not alone.  Particularly for minorities, these connections can be life-saving.  But like anything, moderation is always best, and I think it’s far too easy to reduce our group of influence to those who share the same x, y, and z opinion, political party, religion, or lifestyle.  And with the socially expanded world we live in today, it can be quite easy to get comfortable and set up camp for the rest of our lives.

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But nothing helps us grow more in maturity, spirituality, and intellect than embracing people who walk on the other side of the tracks.  We need people who make us uncomfortable, who make us question ourselves every now and then, who make us think “Why on God’s green earth would any human being ever believe that?!?!”.  It not only forces us to analyze our own thought patterns and methods of decision-making, it also helps us build empathy and understanding.  And the ability to NOT TAKE OURSELVES TO SERIOUSLY!!!

So I’m grateful for my friend.  For the things we share in common as equally as the things we don’t.  We may never walk similar paths ever again, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our paths parallel and maybe take a jab at each other’s crazy beliefs every now and then.

Besides, it makes for incredibly entertaining and intellectually stimulating conversation (and heaven knows we need that in the era of Reality TV!!).

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And if any of you know who I’m talking about that Abraham Lincoln story (if it’s even him), will you please give me the reference because it’s DRIVING ME MAD.

The Best Advice I Can Give to Parents

I’m not really qualified to give parenting advice.  Like, at all (at least the last time I checked…I don’t believe an Advertising degree counts…).  Which is why this post is called “The Best Advice I Can Give to Parents” rather than “The Best Advice to Give Parents”.  I realize, of course, that you didn’t ask, but much as it might disappoint you, I think this blog might actually benefit me more than it benefits you.  So perhaps this is more like “The Advice I Wish I Could Go Back in Time and Tell Myself or at Least Remember on a Semi-Regular Basis” (if you’re a grammar nazi, I don’t want to hear a word about my use of caps and/or italics in article titles).

So, here goes nothing.  The most I know about parenting (ha!):

Do things that make you happy.

That’s pretty much the foundation of everything, I’ve found.  I’ve heard a lot of versions of this before, like “don’t forget to do things you enjoy every now and then!” or “don’t forget to take care of yourself!”.  And these are great, too, but not quite as far-reaching as I think they should be.

Your happiness shouldn’t be an afterthought

I don’t think making your own self happy should be a secondary concern as a parent.  I think it should be right up there with providing for your children.  You have a responsibility to yourself and to your children to take care of yourself and show them how to live good lives.

Children learn by example

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I’ve seen far too many mothers (and on occasion fathers as well) give up everything they are, everything they want, everything they need for their children.  While it seems incredibly unselfish and wonderful to be so self-sacrificing, it actually does more harm than good, in my opinion (holy moly, did I just spell out “IMO”? How old am I??).  Because children learn by example.  So when you sacrifice your whole self for them, they learn to sacrifice their whole selves for everybody else.  And, in essence, they don’t chase after or accomplish what they want in life, rather they accomplish what other people want them to accomplish.    Bit of a Catch 22, isn’t it?

My theory

As usual, I have a theory as to why we are so keen to lose ourselves to our children (although I also like this theory).  Specifically in the case of women, I think this has proven to be a result of our culture’s pressure on women to be self-sacrificing, nurturing, and accommodating in all instances especially with children.  This supposedly comes “naturally” to us (easily debunked by talking to, well, almost any woman or man I know), or so we are taught.  This certainly is a major contributor to this problem.  Additionally, there is much talk around the world about how much more frequently we’re seeing cases of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.  My personal theory is that this is a result of our survivalist wiring.  We are wired to survive (or, you might say, chemically balanced to survive) – or at least many of us are.  To struggle.  To be in a fairly constant state of effort, fear, and concern.  In the 21st century things are *pretty* easy for many of us here in this first world country.  It almost seems to me like our brains are looking for something to struggle over.  We’re looking for a reason to survive.  And since we don’t need to survive anymore, our brains just don’t know what the hell to do!

Ironically, those of us who struggle with these things would probably fair quite well in a zombie apocalypse…

So when we have children it’s almost like our minds jump on the opportunity to have something work hard for, to sacrifice for.  Only we don’t have the emotional maturity for it because we haven’t had a lot of practice, so we end up WAY overdoing it and making ourselves miserable in the process.  Life is full of Catch 22’s isn’t it?

So what do we do with that?  We have to adjust.  We have to start teaching our brains to live in the 21st century.  I imagine it will eventually get easier for our offspring (assuming there’s no apocalypse, zombie takeover, or reckoning, in which case I’ll be the chick in the torn tank top with a machete and a crossbow), but we have to start that process.  So…

Start doing things that make you happy

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Don’t just give yourself permission every once in a while to be happy; start doing things that make you happy today.  Of course, of course, having children requires sacrifice.  You really can’t help that – in fact, in my life I’ve discovered that from a few months into pregnancy through the first year or so after birth, you’re pretty much in a constant state of “blaaaaaaaaaaag” (at least I am. I understand there are those of you that love this stage.  I’ve never met one of you…)  But as they grow older you have a responsibility to them.  A responsibility to show them how to navigate life as an independent, confident human being.  That could mean a lot of things: maybe they still choose to dedicate their lives to a nonprofit, a religion, or to stay home with their children, but it will come from a place of surety and confidence.  It will be 100% their choice, and they will do it because it makes them happy, not despite what makes them happy.

Plus, you’re just as important as your kids

You deserve to prioritize yourself.  I hope I’ve driven that point home enough on this blog.  If you’re one of those people stuck in a position of constant self-sacrifice and you feel you’d like higher self-esteem or confidence in your knowledge and love of yourself, try sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen – I mean iPad or smartphone!!! – and list out the things that make you happy.  If you’re at home with your kids would you rather be working? If you’re working would you rather be at home with your kids?  What hobbies do you enjoy?  What new things would you like to try?  Do you need a larger support system of friends?  Do you need more time to yourself?  Then select the ones you can start changing now.  Obviously you can’t change all of them right away, some maybe not for a while, but do what you can with what you have.  Work to make yourself happier.  And if you find yourself reluctant to implement an activity that you know would make you happy because you feel you must sacrifice it for your children…think again.

Think about how great it would be for them to see you doing something that makes you happy.  To see you being a human being.

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Demolish the Box

I hate boxes.

Actually, that’s not true.  At all, really.  I LOVE boxes.  I get lost wandering around Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and World Market just looking at all the various boxes and containers I could buy to store my….well, I don’t really have much to store actually, I just like boxes!  I get lost in the maze of unique and decorative boxes that magnetically pull me through the maze of thrift stores and antique shops.  I can spend hours buried in jewelry, paint, and fabric decorating the living shiznit out of a tiny little chest, taking it from bleak to chic.

The thing is, as much as I love boxes, boxes are for things.

Not people.

And so, I hate boxes.  I hate the walls of expectations, assumptions, and guidelines that permeate the psyches of my fellow humans.  I hate that it’s so natural to want to categorically organize the world in such a way that every person and every situation fits nicely into the designated column on the Excel spreadsheet of life.  Everyone wants so badly to understand.  To convince.  To control.  And building a box to safely guard the lives and choices of those around us is a great way to achieve that.

Except that it ends up feeling a little bit like this

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I refuse.  I refuse to conform to the box.  I refuse to accept the ruthless and often even benevolent borders built around me by the well-meaning members of the human race.  I reject assumptions about me based on my gender, my religion, my lifestyle, my personality, my friends, my hair color.  I’m tired of seeing very good, very brave, very determined people thrown into the “Shy and Reserved” box built by our society while their leadership gifts waste away into the unknown, unrecognized.  I’m tired of seeing insensitive people rewarded in the workplace because the most valued box says “you have to step on others to make your way to the top”.  I’m tired of the sales world in which I worked for quite a long time, that says you have to engender certain personality characteristics to be successful, when, in fact, the greatest success comes from building from the unique abilities of each individual employee.  I’m tired of the societal, religious, political, familial, and educational borders built around us that no one had the right to build in the first place.

I’m tired of the boxes.

And so, Real Girls, FORGET THE BOX.  When someone tries to build one around you, walk slowly away, or throw it off a cliff, or take to it with a chainsaw, or put the box on their head, don your boxing gloves and show them both how you feel about it.*

Poke holes in the box.  Climb passionately out from the box.  Demolish the box.  And see where your heart soars when the walls others have built for you no longer have any power.  Then teach others to rid themselves of their boxes and destroy those boxes too until we have a virtual landfill of unsubstantiated expectations, rules, and restrictions we’ve executed from our lives.  So we can then look up at that pile of weak, unstable walls and say “I was never meant to be so constrained.  I was always meant to be free.”

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And walk away.

Boxes are for things.  Boxes are for objects.  Not for Real Girls.  Not for you.

Come on out and join the real world full of real people.

 

 

And then build one of these:

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Seriously.

 

*These suggestions are meant to be metaphorical, not literal.  Please don’t attempt them in a literal sense.

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Find That Bliss

I’m learning to play the guitar.  Yep.  I’ve been a musician and singer/songwriter my ENTIRE life, and yet I have never once taken a guitar lesson!  So a few months ago, I bit the bullet, called up a guitar teacher and got started.

Girl Guitar

Imagine this picture with a much more awkward looking girl and a terrified look on her face, and that’s me and my guitar.  It hasn’t been easy.  Learning something completely new as an adult is difficult, ESPECIALLY when you’re used being good at the skills you’ve already mastered!!  I’ve had doubts about my path here, but the other night something amazing happened that threw all my doubts away.  I was in my lesson, practicing my chords to my first song by Taylor Swift, “Teardrops on My Guitar”.  My teacher suggested we try playing along with the song.  HA!  I could barely get past two chords without making a mistake!  But, I’m a glutton for a challenge.

The music began, and I nervously got started in on the verse.  Then something amazing happened.  The music took over.  The guitar and I became one, and I felt the music surge through me.  I don’t even recall thinking about the fingering for most of the song (until I realized I wasn’t thinking about it. Then, of course, I started obsessing about it).  Don’t get me wrong, I SUCKED.  I’m pretty sure I resembled a 7-year-old picking up a violin for the first time.  But man, it felt AWESOME.  The music flowed through me and I moved with it, strumming that guitar with purpose and intensity.  I was meant to be a guitar player.  I was meant to be a singer-songwriter.

My sense is that moments like this are rare.  I can recall a few more throughout my life during various activities, usually artistic ones.  But I figured the time had passed for me to find something I can be passionate about.

But girls, let me tell you, seek that bliss.   Enjoy it, then keep your eyes open for another moment of bliss.  Few of us have only one bliss, so there will be many opportunities in your life to experience something completely unprecedented.  There’s no need to put pressure on yourself – I’ve spent a good part of my life feeling like I should know what I should do with the rest of it (Pffffft!!!  I still don’t know, and I have so many ideas it makes my husband’s head spin), and though I feel closer, I’ve determined I may never know.  But what I do know is that I’ve had some incredible life experiences playing the guitar, singing, writing music, inspiring young adults, creating art, and embracing my loved ones.  And that makes my life joyful.

How do you find the next blissful moment?  Try something new.  Do some hard work.  Follow your heart.  Help a friend.  Forgive an enemy.  Do something that scares you.  Make some mistakes.  Keep your eyes open.  Live your life alive.  Find yourself.

They will come.  Just continue in the way that brings you joy and opportunities will present themselves.  You’ll know when you’re in a blissful moment because energy will flow through you like purified water.  And you will never forget it.

Be You.  Be Real.  Find that bliss in between the stretches of normal lifedom.

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What is a Real Girl

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Be real.  Be you.  And don’t let anyone convince you that you are better off being anyone else.

You are beautiful, original, unique.  You are amazing in so many ways.  Being a real girl is simple: just be yourself.  Dig deep, search through your life and environment to find those things that make you uniquely you; then love them, develop them, and embrace them every day.  Encourage others to do the same.  No matter what social construct, race, religion, or society you belong to, there is no set prescription for who you are supposed to be.  There are certain societal spaces where specific behaviors are encouraged or expected – in the workplace, at church, in formal environments – and you will likely benefit from respecting those conventions (though not always) while letting your personality and true self shine.  Never fear being exactly and authentically who you want to be.

This blog is for the Real Girls of the world: the unique, unafraid, and powerfully different.  By the way, this is ALL of you.  Here is a place to learn how to discover all the beautiful qualities, opinions, pieces, and parts that make up who you are.  Who you are and who you want to become is ultimately your sacred and beautiful choice.  Life will give bits and pieces, hints and discoveries to show you who you have the potential to become.  Keep them safe, keep them special, and close to your heart for no one but God Himself (if you choose to believe in him or her) will understand your value as you can.

People may try to say you are not who you are; build your personal proof and your personal confidence so their opinions no longer matter.  Never be afraid of what you feel, be it good or bad, right or wrong, for every feeling is a part of who you are and deserves your attention and love.  There is good in every shortcoming or mistake; find it.  There is hope in every loss; seek it.  There are pieces of you everywhere you look: find them.

And remind yourself of these personal discoveries when the inevitable rough road of life causes you to forget who you are and the potential overflowing inside of you.

Your parents love you; they want what is best for you.  Their advice is often sound, if not well-reasoned, they simply want you to avoid the mistakes they made or have seen others make.  They do this out of LOVE.  You have the right and responsibility to make and learn from your own mistakes, and pave your own path just as they did.

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