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

MH900310246

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.

Harnessing Your Power

tree power

Whew, ladies, I feel I have neglected you!  It has been a little while since I’ve laid out some new pearls of wisdom before you (hehehe..heh…..hm…), but not to worry: I’m back!

In fact, I’m back in many ways these days.  Many things have begun for me recently, which I hope they have for you as well.  I’ve started trying things again.  It’s common for me to come up with an idea for something I want to do – a business I want to start, a class  I want to teach, a technique I want to learn – and then vet all the possible pitfalls before even attempting to try.  Now I try things and then just see where they go.  It’s a MUCH better way to function and has so many more rewards!

In addition, I’ve begun my Teen Life Coach training (YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!).  This is the most exciting beginning of all!  I’ve always felt a special connection with teens and young adults, and a strong desire to work with them and walk them through an incredibly confusing, incredibly difficult, and incredibly AWESOME time of their life.  I’m now one step closer to that dream.

I’ve also started selling my artwork on consignment in a couple of stores in Denver (details TBA), and, as is the topic of this post, I’ve started boxing again.

boxing

In fact, tonight was my first night back.  I tried to start last year a few months after my son was born, but I just wasn’t ready yet.  That’s okay, by the way girls, to not be ready yet.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are seasons for everything, and if the motivation and desire isn’t there, just give yourself some love and patience until it returns.  It took about 9 months this time.  9 months that would have been far more miserable if I had beaten myself up everyday over my negligence.  And anyways, in that time I discovered some other types of exercise and activities I really love that I would never have discovered otherwise.

Back to boxing.  When I’m in that “place”, boxing is SO invigorating for me.  So motivating.  So empowering.  I’ve long felt it is one of the best ways to bring a girl into a state of self-love, self-respect, and personal strength.

tree power1

I was thinking about this on the way home and I came up with a new idea: I should teach Boxing Empowerment classes.  I think boxing on it’s own can teach those lessons, but how COOL would it be to combine the physical workout with the vocal life coaching lessons?  To say aloud, and shout to the world words of your own inner strength while exerting your energy towards living them at the same time.

As this idea percolated, I began building a dialogue.  A speech or mission statement, if you will, that embodies the meat of what such a program could accomplish.  I’d like to share that with you today in hopes that it will inspire you as much as it inspired me:

“You’re already good people.  I don’t have to teach you that.  You already know to be kind to others, you already know to consider others’ feelings in your words, you already know to give others respect.  But no one ever taught you how to have unabashed, unapologetic respect for yourself.  The respect to hurt someone else if you have to defend yourself.  The right to be strong, the right to be tough.  The right to own your body and do amazing things with it.  The respect to allow you to be you.  The respect to walk away from people who don’t play fair.

To choose to be powerful instead of being afraid.

There is no apologizing here.  No hiding your strengths or denying your weaknesses.

This is a place to be real.

You are not allowed to play a role, you are not allowed to pretend you are anything other than who you are.

If you throw a good punch, you are going to own it.

If you feel awkward or strange or weak, you’re not going to flinch because that’s life and life isn’t about being perfect.  In fact, life is precisely about not being perfect.

I know that’s not what your teachers say, or your parents say, or the media says, but that’s what we say here.  Boxing is the place to learn to embrace imperfection.  You will not learn to be perfect.  You will not learn to do anything perfectly.  You will learn to love being imperfect.  And in doing that, you will begin to see exactly how amazing you are.

Here: “power” is not a bad word.  “Power” and “woman” are not oxymorons.  You don’t have to be nice.  You don’t have to be sweet.  Here you can be tough.  Here you can be bitchy.  Here you can express yourself, exert yourself, be as pissed off or deliriously happy as you want.

You don’t have to have a certain type of body here.  Because everyone can box.  There are no standards here, no crazy expectations, no ideals.  You’re going to use your body in amazing ways, and you’re going to love your body because of it.

Most importantly, you’re going to let go of the way you used to think.  You’re going to think in a new way, and you’re going to practice that every week.  You’re going to forget everything except for your ability to believe in yourself.

And you’re going to kick some ass.

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

Our Bodies Have Middle Child Syndrome

I’ve been thinking a lot about fitness and weight loss lately.  It *might* be related to the fact that we’re coming up on my son’s first birthday and I have some weight loss goals attached to that… either way, it’s been on my mind.  And more than anything, I’m realizing how completely HORRIBLE our society is at approaching this subject.  I could write a novel (and I actually plan to write an eBook on this topic in the near future #shamelessplug), but I’ll try to sum up the problems.  They have to do with sentences like this:

“Push yourself till you can’t go anymore!”

“Work hard for that bikini body!”

“Schedule your workouts at the same time everyday!”

“Get it done, or give up!”

“Keep going until it hurts!”

Has anyone else notice that when it comes to weight loss, there are a lot of people yelling??  Is there really a good reason for that?  It’s like someone woke up one morning and though ya know, psychology says that yelling at your kids stunts their growth…so it MUST be a good motivator for adults!  Logic, anyone?

What I’d like to focus on for today is this concept of pushing our bodies until it hurts, and how it relates to our cavewoman ancestors (sorry, guys, but the blog IS called Real “Girls”).  See, I think we’ve come to this place as a planet where we are just so completely out of touch with our bodies.  Why else would we yell and scream at them and try our best to hurt them in our effort to reach a goal?  I have a theory, which is based on my intellectually advanced education in human evolution and anthropology (HAHAHA…HA…ha…erm):

Back in “the day”, our bodies spoke to us.  A lot.  They had to.  Everything we did required physical effort.  As a result, our bodies made a lot of demands and we had to meet them for survival and happiness.

As time has gone on, we’ve created more creature comforts (at least us first-world folks), and more methods to ease the demands on our bodies. I think this is a good thing for the most part.  We’ve sort of left behind the era of the “body” and entered the era of the “brain”.  Now our brain makes the demands.  Our brain takes the brunt of the effort and strain in our daily lives.  We struggle more intellectually, mentally, and emotionally than we do physically.  And our bodies have no need to talk to us anymore.  Our bodies are pretty much taken care of at every turn!  There are very few situations where we need to “beef up” for a long buffalo hunt or to run or ride to the next colony 15 miles away.

And since our bodies have stopped talking, we have stopped listening.  Our bodies have essentially become the middle child.

And since I am a middle child, and happen to be married to a middle child, I know WHAT A HORRIBLE IDEA THIS IS.

Our bodies are basically the middle child who has gotten pretty self-sufficient and learned to handle things, so we just kind of forget about her.  We know if we take care of the bare essentials, she’ll handle the rest.  We don’t have to worry about her, she’s got it covered.  Until one day when all the neglect builds up and she blows her top and throws a massive shitstorm.  Oh crap, did you want to be cared for too??

I’m not bitter.

We need to start listening to our bodies.  They have a lot to say; you’d be surprised.  It’s amazing how often your body actually DOESN’T want that ice cream bar, or DOES want to go for a jog, or just really needs a 10-minute power nap, if you just took the time to shut off your brain for a few minutes and tune in to your physical being.  It completely shocks me how often I go looking for a piece of candy, and then upon pausing to see what my body has to say about it, find that it actually doesn’t want candy.  It’s my brain or my feelings that want the candy (probably from all that childhood neglect).

MH910217182

So this week, start getting reconnected with your body.  Listen to what it says, and even try to just follow it’s lead even when your brain doesn’t want to.  Your brain has been running the roost for so long, it will probably feel awkward at first, but keep at it.  It doesn’t require any effort, just a little mindfulness.  Just a little reminder here and there to check in. After a while it will become a habit, and you will find yourself close to both physical health and personal wholeness.

Because even middle children need a little love.  Even as adults… who would never think of holding a grudge…

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

Second Real Girls Giveaway Winner: Poetry

I am SO excited to announce our next Real Girls Giveaway winner: Sarah!  This fantastic lady sent us a brief glimpse into her life and her talents by submitting a poem – all the way from Dubai!  Inspired by the last Real Girls Giveaway winner, she wanted to share this poem she wrote on being real.  

A few comments before I post the poem: I am so unbelievably inspired by this poem.  It is so eloquently written and uses very sensual visuals to illustrate the raw reality of being “real”.  Poetry has such an incredible ability to express things that we cannot say in any other way, and it takes real talent to be able to bring together the harsh reality of our everyday lives with the beauty and subjectivity of the written word.  I am also in LOVE with her handle: Desencajada, which, according to her blog, means “out of her place”.  I believe it is Spanish (Foreign languages have such an amazing way of conveying meaning we often can’t express in English!).

You’ll love this read – 

What’s yours?

Link to the original poem on Sarah’s blog:

 

To stop resenting others for their happiness,
to unclench the knot in your throat that forms when they smile, 
pouring out their joyous abundance.

To start sculpting your own happiness, 
with bare trembling hands and tears in your eyes.

To dig deep in the dirt of your own secret garden 
and bury deep in the fertile soil 
all of your own dreams and hopes 
and grow and care for that garden, 
not allow the winter nor the beaming sun 
to either freeze nor burn your desires and destinies.

To gouge your own ditch 
to let the countless little streams of your heart flow 
until they form the thirst quenching sea 
and to have the courage to jump into it, 
not be afraid of its depths nor shallows 
and swim all the way through it 
to get to know its tide and temperature.

To untie all the strings that your fears have woven around your ankles,
keeping your feet from walking 
away from this house, this backyard, this fenced garden of deafening monotony.

To embrace the pain of growing wings, 
of tearing open your best guarded box, 
that chest, treasurer of that little throbbing muscle, 
and let the sunlight undisclose all the hideous secrets,
yes, 
to live and not dread the honesty of being real, 
range of possibilities exposed, of steps untaken and peace unmade. 

And yet to love, deeply, freely, guiltlessly, oneself…

To Love Freely Oneself

My favorite line is:

“To start sculpting your own happiness, 
with bare trembling hands and tears in your eyes.”

What’s yours?

Thanks again, Sarah, your gift will be arriving soon!

If you have a story, poem, experience, thought, piece of artwork, photo, or anything else that tells us about who you really are, please email Real Girls at BeaRealGirl@gmail.com and you’ll have a chance to win the next Giveaway!  

 

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

I Am So Proud of My Daughter

Image

A couple of months ago my daughter encountered a very distressing situation.  She had a friend at school she had been spending a lot of time with and she wanted to invite her to her birthday party.  I sent her off to school with her invitation, and she was so excited!  Much to my dismay, she was NOT so excited when I picked her up.

Apparently, when she had presented her friend with her birthday invitation, her friend had said “No, I don’t WANT to go to your birthday party!”.  My daughter was devastated and very angry.  We talked a little bit about how that was not a nice thing for her friend to do, and its perfectly ok for her to be angry about it.  I let her feelings run their course through the rest of the evening.

The next morning while we were getting her ready for school, I asked her what she wanted to do with the invitation.

“I want to try inviting [her friend] to my birthday party again.”  Ok, that sounded like a reasonable idea – you never know what her friend may have been dealing with the day she invited.  I prepped her a little bit, letting her know that she didn’t have to try inviting her again, and if her friend reacted the same way again that she might want to consider whether or not this was a good friend to have.  She seemed to understand, but was insistent that she wanted to try again.

This time it went well.  Her friend simply said “thank you”.  The issue seemed to have been a simple case of someone who had a bad day.

A couple of weeks ago, I entered the school again to pick my daughter up on our usual schedule.  This time she was sitting with two different friends I hadn’t seen before.  After introducing me to her new friends, she said “[her friend she had invited to her birthday party] isn’t my friend anymore.  She was being mean and pushed me down on the playground.”

Now, even just 5 years ago I probably would have said “well, that’s not nice to say someone isn’t your friend” or “maybe she had another bad day” or “think about what she might be going through”.

Not anymore.  I’ve learned a little something about boundaries in the past few years.  About valuing and prioritizing myself.  About drawing the line between me and toxic people.  So what did I say?  “Sounds like you made a good decision.  You don’t need people like that in your life.”  I congratulated her.  I told her ‘good job’.  I encouraged her to continue to find people like her current friends to spend time with.  I gave her a big hug.

I am SO proud of her.  I knew very little about setting boundaries when I was a child.  I took the friends I could find and rarely had the courage to say “no” or to stand up to mistreatment.  I’m thrilled to see my daughter paving the way to a very healthy life with very healthy relationships.  I realize that this little girl she is no longer friends with may have perfectly valid reasons for behaving the way she does.  But I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she needs to stay in, or enter into any kind of toxic relationship with someone for any reason at all; it doesn’t matter what the other person’s circumstances are.  Boundaries are good for my daughter and, frankly, they are good for her ex-friend as well.

Here’s hoping I am raising my own Real Girl (and Real Boy as my son gets older!) who is unafraid to be herself and embrace her value!

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

Looking Out for Number One

foam-hand1

We’ve all been there, right?  You’re walking down the street, or through the mall (do teens still hang out at malls?), or at the park talking about your friend’s ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or boss who has been less than kind lately, and your friend utters the cliche we all know and love: “You know her: always looking out for Number One.”

Ok, maybe I’m dating myself thinking that’s a common phrase, but either way, you’ve heard it before, right?  We all know that those who put themselves in the #1 spot every day of their lives have a problem with being selfish and don’t spend enough time thinking about or helping others.

Right?

Actually, no.

Wait, wait WAAAAAAAAIIIT!!!!  Don’t go yet!  Just hear me out first!  This is very, very important because I think so many of us have been conditioned throughout our lives to always put others first, to forget yourself, to exist only for the good of others.  And these are all great and wonderful sentiments!  In theory, anyways.  But they can cause a lot of confusion, as does this idea that putting yourself first is a self-absorbed way to live your life.

So let me see if I can clear this up.  Now, I’m not a big fan of labels for myself or anyone else, but I do think it’s important for us, as we go about our lives, to make judgements about the acts or humaneness of others so as to help us decide what we want to choose for ourselves and what kind of people we want to be in our lives.  The purpose is not deem a person “good” or “bad” or to pit ourselves as “better” or “worse”, but instead to simply and objectively say, “That thing that person did, or the person that human is seems selfish, so I don’t think I want to live my life that way, it doesn’t seem like it would benefit me as a person.” (I find it helpful to avoid “that person is selfish” and rather say “they seem selfish” because it reminds me that I don’t really know their circumstances).

So, with that in mind, I will openly acknowledge that I have known a lot of people throughout my life who seemed to live rather selfishly.  Some of them have had a very drastic effect on me, and others have just made for good observable guinea pigs.  Either way, I’ve tried to learn something from them.  And this is what I’ve found:

I should probably remind you that I am not a psychologist or sociologist, or even anything cool like a Magician or a Lance Corporal.  Nor do I really have any credential for anything related (though a certain affinity for card games has earned me the nickname ‘cobra’ – more on that later), so I am speaking very simply from careful observation and a [fairly obsessive] desire to understand.  

Being selfish or self-absorbed has very little to do with putting yourself #1, and everything to do with how far beyond #1 you put #2 and #3.

I’m a visual person, so I’ll try to help illustrate this with a picture.  Let’s say we’re looking at an “Importance Meter” where you’re ranking the people/things most important in your life.  At the very top you have #1 followed by #2, #3, #4, etc.  But in this case, there is no set distance between each number.  So while #1 is always at the top, #2 can be halfway down the meter, a quarter of the way down, or even all the way at the bottom depending on how important your second priority is to you.

According to much of the common knowledge we’ve been taught, #1 should be everyone else at the top, and  #2 – you – should be (depending on how much the “think of others before yourself” rhetoric has been drilled into you) halfway down, maybe even at the very bottom in some cases.  Fantastic idea in theory; great way to overexert, exhaust, and depress yourself in practice.  But wouldn’t the reverse – putting ourselves at #1 – make us incredibly self-absorbed and not concerned about others?

I often wonder who came up with that idea – maybe someone who was worried that if s/he taught people to put themselves first they would cease to serve him or her’s every whim?  There’s the cynic in me for you. 🙂

It’s simply not true.  BOTH selfish and unselfish people put themselves at the top in the #1 spot.  The difference between a selfish and an unselfish person (assuming labels for simplicity’s sake) is that a selfish person puts #2 (typically family and friends) at the bottom of the meter, or maybe doesn’t even have any other numbers on the meter at all.  An unselfish person, by contrast, puts #2 perhaps just inches below #1, or maybe even feet below at times when their individual health and sanity needs more attention than usual.

To be sure this idea makes sense, let’s look at it a couple of different ways to see if it justifies itself.  There’s, of course, the most common justification I hear for putting yourself first which is that “if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?”.  Which has some merit, but at the end of the day is kind of like saying “put yourself first so that you can put other people first” which is confusing and takes away from this incredibly valuable truth:

You are worth putting first.

Put yourself first simply because you deserve it.  Because you are valuable, because you are worthy, because you are amazing.  Put yourself first because no one in this world merits your love more than your own self.

If you’re anything like me, your brain fights you on this justification.  It wants to step back and take a holistic viewpoint: isn’t everyone as valuable as me?  Ok, let’s humor that side of us.  If you’re looking at it from an outer space view of the whole world, yes, every person is equally valuable.  But even in this paradigm, it does you no service to value others over you because you are the only one you have control over.  You are the only one you can truly nurture, love, and embrace and KNOW that it makes a difference and brings value in your life.  Yes, please, absolutely keep your loved ones very close to the top; there will be times when their needs take over and you have to give unrequitedly for a while.  But always, always return vehemently to the respite that is the caring and nurturing of yourself.  Maintain it as often as you can without letting your loved ones slip too far down the meter.

The ironic thing is that, by doing this, you will inevitably teach others to do the same.  Prioritizing yourself and your physical and mental health makes the world a better place, and more importantly, you a better person.

It makes you more Real.

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

My “Mistake” Was Letting You Convince Me I Make “Mistakes”

mistake

I’m feeling a bit caddy tonight.  Maybe a tad facetious.  May even a little irritable.  But it’s all good, because I write my best posts in this state of mind!!! (doesn’t give me much hope for my career…)

So you may be wondering about the title.  It’s all good, I don’t think I’m perfect.  I realize I have moments where unuseful words leave my mouth, or I make a poor decision, or slip up on a project.  It happens quite a lot actually, hehe.

I used to hate myself for this.  I used to beat the crap out of myself for my awkward social moments or for letting someone down or for choosing something that caused me to take two steps back instead of two steps forward.  And you know what?  I’m done with that.  Those days are over.  I gained nothing from dragging myself down like that as a result of my own criticism or the criticism of someone else.  And one of the reasons I’ve been able to get past it and leave it all behind is because I’ve let go of this one simple word: mistake.

I’M OVER IT.

This word does us a disservice.  I’ve been trying to figure out why and I’ve come to the conclusion that words like “mistake” (to include “screw up”, “sin”, “blunder”, and many more) do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except express a judgement about the situation.  They don’t tell you what happened, they don’t explain the problem, and they definitely don’t provide any solution.  In fact, you might even say that they imply that there is NO solution.  How is that helpful??

I recall many a time in my younger years, finding myself caught in stereotypical “screw-up” at work or with a loved one.  Inevitably, my boss or friends or whatever would say “What were you thinking??  What happened??  How is this possible?”.  (by the way, these questions serve no purpose either – in and of themselves they are very useful questions, but the implication is typically to pass intense judgement on the idiocy of the sinner rather than seek for practical understanding).  My go-to response after years of failed attempts to actually answer those questions honestly (which clearly failed for the above reasons) became “I don’t know, I just, I screwed up.  I don’t know, I just made a mistake, I’m a total idiot.”  And then hoped that throwing myself before their proverbial altar would grant me forgiveness, or at the very least a break from the yelling.

Which of course, would come eventually.  And we’d move on having learned nothing and having accomplished nothing.  Actually, that’s not entirely true: my judger would have accomplished a feeling of satisfaction having appropriately “punished” the do-badder, and I would have walked away with an increased feeling of insufficiency and addiction to perfectionism.

Wait, how is that helpful??

It’s not.  It’s just.  Not.  I’m not writing this to criticize the people who overreact about mistakes – we’re all human, and impatience and ego come just SO naturally to every single one of us.  But I think this kind of situation is where “mistake” and “sin” got their bad rap.  So, focusing on the screw-upper in this scenario, let’s do what my lovely sister calls “reframing the situation”.

First, let’s get rid of those pesky, nasty, useless words.  Go on, throw them out the window!  Use your crime of choice – murder, arson, abandonment… I like to imagine boxing the words into a pile of broken pieces, throwing them in the back of a trash compactor, then bagging them with a block of cement and dropping into the depths of the ocean with a nuclear bomb tied to the side.  But that’s just me.

And now, since words are kind of helpful for understanding, we’ll have to pick some new words to describe what has happened in these difficult situations.  Yay, shopping!!  I’ve found it very helpful to focus on the boutique that sells the “mis”‘s.  Misunderstanding.  Miscommunication.  Misapprehension.  Misstatement.  See how much nicer those are?  It’s a bit ironic because technically “mistake” is a “mis”.  But it’s taken on a life of it’s own in our language and no longer means strictly to “misinterpret” or “mis-take” as in the scene of a movie.  So we exiled it to a remote island.  But not a cool one.  A lonely, rocky, burning one with weird bugs.

So, anyways, let’s try these new words in a sentence.  Here’s the scenario: I just finished a project for my boss and it turns out she wanted it in a different format.  How do I respond?  Pulling my sentence from earlier:

“I don’t know, I just, I misunderstood.”

Oh my goodness!!!  Do you hear that?!?!  That’s the sound of pure, unadulterated self-non-judgementalness and – get this – understanding!  You misunderstood.  It explains what happened – it’s OK to misunderstand.  It happens all the time to normal, strong, well-adjusted adults.

Now what happens next on the part of the other person could go many different directions, and you may have to spend sometime reiterating your new words to yourself to remind yourself that you don’t deserve their judgement, but that’s ok.  Because you’ve now communicated to yourself that what happened has an explanation, and that no judgement towards yourself is needed.  If the person you are working with is in a reasonable state of mind you can now begin to improve your relationship – how did the misunderstanding happen?  What words were used that do not have similar meanings for both of you?  What was assumed in the communication by either party?

Of course, obviously, old habits die hard so getting used to viewing yourself in such an accepting manner will take time – I am still working on this big-time – but you’ve made the first step!

Word of caution – be careful about finding ways to use these words in a way that unnecessarily inflicts the blame all on yourself.  For example, the word “miscommunicate” is best used as “we miscommunicated” rather than “I miscommunicated”.  A miscommunication requires two people – just because you are the subordinate worker or the newbie doesn’t mean you should carry the full load of the problem.  Even in a situation where you “misunderstood”, there is the element of the other person having not explained the concept in terms you understand.  There are always things both people can do to improve the situation to alleviate future issues.

So go on now, make use of your new words in your daily life!  Because since we’re all humans, we all have another “mis” coming up right around the corner.  So we should get good at this really quick, right??

Funny, I don’t feel so cynical anymore.  You Real Girls are good for my psyche.

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

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

Image

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.”

Image

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:

Image

Seriously.

 

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

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

Just This: Know Your Mind

Image

I have some amazing people in my life.  People that love me to the core; people that bolster me up when I’m down; people that lovingly turn my head when I’m facing the wrong direction.  There is nothing like meeting a good friend over hot tomato soup after a tough week – catching up on each other’s lives, sharing inspiring stories, crying together, and reminding each other what makes each of you wonderful, unique, and valuable.

I feel strongly about what I’m going to write about tonight.  I have had the opportunity to know some incredibly strong women and men in my life.  They exude a strength that I always felt alluded me.  A resolve, a self-confidence, a solid rock in the center of their being that never allows them to waver in their self-worth.  Now they are not perfect, of course, everyone has their issues, but I’ve always greatly admired this part of them; it’s a part of me I am belaboring to build and develop.

(Don’t worry, I will get to the part where I tell you what it is!)

I think I’ve always had a stubborn streak about me.  I recall times in my younger years when I was unafraid to argue or step up on my soapbox when I felt injustices were being committed.  But I always had an awful time making decisions.  I did NOT like to decide!!  It ties back directly to my perfectionistic tendencies and fear of making the wrong choice, but it crippled me in many ways, especially when there were those around willing to make the decision for me.  Be it a parent, a friend, a teacher, an authority, God, or a spiritual mentor, I always preferred to let someone take the responsibility for the final decision.

Though I have grown in this area throughout my life, I’d like to dispense the advice I would LOVE to go back in time to give myself in my teen years:

KNOW YOUR MIND.

Know what you think.  Know your opinion.  Know the decision you would make it if were up to you.  As a teenager or young adult, you are often in a situation where you don’t get a lot of say.  It’s easy to throw your hands up in the air in frustration or simply enjoy the lack of responsibility that comes with being young.  But no matter the situation, know your mind.

Even if it’s not your decision; know your mind.

Even if you know others will disagree; know your mind.

Even if you never express it because you are afraid of the response you might get; know your mind.

Even if you decide to default to someone else’s opinion; know your mind.

Even if you decide to leave the decision in God’s hands; know your mind.

No matter the situation, take the time – even if a few minutes is all you have – to think it through.  Weigh the good and the bad, look at the logical and emotional consequences, consider how you feel about the situation, consider what you’ve been taught by your parents, your education, your religion, your mentors.  And begin learning how to sort through, weigh, combine, and contrast those things to come to a conclusion that you feel confident about.  Know what your mind wants. Know what your mind needs.  Know what your mind thinks.  Even if you find out it’s wrong.  Even if you find out it’s right or good, but what you wanted was not an option.

There will be many times in your life when the better solution to your problem comes from the advice of someone else, or from putting your faith in God (if you believe in one), or from leaning on the teachings of your upbringing despite your reservations.  That’s OK.  Do what you feel is right; follow your instincts.  But I wish that, when I was younger, I would have spent more time thinking things through first.  I wish I had made my own decision and formed my own opinion before approaching someone else for advice, or asking God for guidance, or defaulting to what I knew and what was most comfortable.

And then what?  Own your decision.  Own that you decided to follow someone else’s advice, but never forget what you wanted to choose because you NEVER KNOW the right answer or decision until after the decision has been made and the action is complete.

Knowing your mind is about two things:

1) Taking responsibility for your opinions and your final decisions.

2)  Knowing yourself, what drives you, what you value, and what you are willing to sacrifice to get it.

The day may very well come when these skills come in handy because you will have no one but yourself to rely on to make a given decision (don’t be confused – you are always the only one you can rely on in decision-making; everyone else is simply an information provider or a spiritual guide, but the final decision is always yours – However the day may come when you have no one to turn to for advice or direction).  But don’t do this for any other reason but for yourself.  Do it simply because you are valuable, your opinions are valuable, your decisions are valuable (right or wrong), and you have intrinsic worth that deems that you can think and believe whatever you choose.

And if you already do this – that’s awesome.  Find a friend to share it with.  Discuss your thoughts, your ideas, your opinions – even your wacky ones.  Find friends like I have: that love you, embrace who you are, and see your incredible potential.  You are doing wonders for your own personal development and inspiring others to the same.

Be Real.  Be You.  Know Yourself.  Know Your Mind.  Embrace it.

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below:

What It Means to be a Woman

It bothers me that this post even needs writing.  But I recall all too well those years of high school on into young adulthood when my identity seemed so skewed and so hard to grasp.  Most teenagers of any gender probably deal with this, and there are certainly social expectations for both girls AND boys, but I believe it’s particularly difficult for you young women because of all the mixed messages that are received from social experiences, pop culture, religion, parental teachings, school, etc:

Girls are told by the media that because their bodies are beautiful they deserve to be ogled at, and they are there to fulfill the desires of men.  They are told that sexy is ideal, prude is bad, they must be pretty, they must be happy because that’s how they will gain male admiration.

Girls are told in the religious sphere that their bodies ought to be covered up as a means to preserve the sanctity of male thoughts.  They are told that sexy is bad, prude is good, they must be pure, they must be calm because that’s how they will attract the right kind of men.

Girls are told in social situations that being bold and assertive is overbearing, and that being smart is being a know-it-all.  They are told that sexy is trashy, prude is boring, they should be understanding but not a doormat, they should be independent but not “wear the pants”, they should achieve but not become too powerful.

It feels a little bit like this

Attractive Woman with Her Books

How is a girl to find herself when she is constantly surrounded by people and institutions not only attempting to tell her who she “should” be, but giving her impossible standards to live up to?  And how is a young woman to begin to understand how to value herself as an independent being when all the messages she is receiving are centered around securing a relationship?

This is the big chore for young women and those who support young women.  And I want to attempt to break down some of the confusion by helping you girls understand what the requirements are to be considered fully and completely a ‘woman’.

First, let’s look at the definition of ‘woman’ by dictionary.com:

Woman: “the female human being.”

…….

Um….that’s it.

Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong – that’s not “all” – there is so much more to being a woman.  That’s simply the end of the restrictions, requirements, and limitations to being a woman.  You simply have to be female.

You get to decide the rest.

YOU get to decide what characteristics you develop, what personality you have, what road you take, what kind of person you want to be, what career you pursue.  And all of the options can make you an incredible woman.

So, girls, let’s change the conversation.  Let’s forget the conversation everyone else is trying to have with us and start a new conversation.  A better conversation.  Instead of discussing all the qualities and attributes that women should have, or that are common to women, or that make women appealing, let’s discuss the myriad of amazing, unique, inspiring, and either orthodox or unorthodox ways there are to BE A WOMAN!

The sky is truly the limit!  There is no “right” way to be a woman, there is no special formula to follow.

You can be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and be 100% woman

You can be a truck driver and be 100% woman

You can be a sexy cowgirl and be 100% woman

You can be a robe-donning religious leader and be 100% woman

You can be a stay-at-home mom with 10 kids and be 100% woman

You can live in a shack in Harlem and tutor inner-city kids and be 100% woman

You can be a police officer and be 100% woman

You can be a wife, mother, and entreprenuer and be 100% woman

You can be a hermit, lesbian, doctor, sailor, Christian, Atheist, Jew, American, Greek, or Russian and be 100% woman

You can be an Alaskan underwater basket weaver who enjoys Croquet and playing the kazoo and be 100% woman

Do you see the the great power you have?

Ever changing teenager

I’ve done a fair amount of world travel in my lifetime (actually, by today’s standards it may not be considered “a lot”, but it was for my generation!), and I have met amazing women from all walks of life that were kind, endearing, bold, courageous, assertive, practical, sweet, skillful, artful, giving, demanding, merciful, just…. And any other adjective you can think of!  All of these qualities are good and all of these qualities are accessible to you.  Simply find the ones that come most naturally and build on them.

You’re allowed to do that.  You’re allowed to be the person your heart tells you to be.  You’re allowed to follow your own path.  You’re allowed decide to be a person that others don’t like, or agree with, or support, or that others love, cherish, admire, and envy.  Because if you simply work to become more YOU every day – the REAL YOU – you will always feel connected to the world around you, and you will always feel fulfilled in the path you choose to take.

Others will tell you who they think you are supposed to be.  Believe you me, people love to control the world around them and construct organized containers to fit people into because it helps them feel more in control of their lives.  You don’t need to function within that paradigm.  The world isn’t meant to be controlled or even fully understood.  Have faith in yourself and take the steps forward that feel right, moral, and most beneficial to you, and you will end up on the right road.

You wonderful girls are so loved.  You are so appreciated.  You are so NECESSARY.  We need you.  The real you.  We know you are strong.  We know you are wise.  You will find your way.

To receive the RealGirls Inspirational Monthly Meme, please sign up below: