I would never have dreamed of saying what I do in this post in my old life, but I know many women in power positions secretly feel this way. Still, the professional world does not allow them to voice or give attention to “silly fears and insecurities” like this. So it gets added to the list of things that are swept under the rug. I talk from experience. So if you are pulling an undercover reading act with this post – welcome, fellow traveler. Your secret is safe with me.
My most significant obstacle in the journey to inner peace was loving the skin I was in. This mainly sprouted from a poor body image that followed me like a shadow all my life and got significantly worse after giving birth. I read hundreds of articles and supportive commentaries on loving your body as it is, embracing the miracle of life, and the fact that my body made that happen. Still, nothing seemed to make a significant shift in my mind.
Although I was never deeply invested in fad diets, my vice was always over-exercising. I worked out my entire life with fierce resilience. Post-partum, I went a little insane. I exercised until every part of my body was in pain, and I could barely move. I pushed through fatigue, pain, stress, and illness. My weight and how my body looked were the only goals, the only things that mattered, and the most essential measures of my identity. Yet, the scale never moved an inch.
Being inundated with information about diets, workouts, or the one “weird old trick” that will officially help me shed those last kilos did not help. It seemed like someone on the internet always had the secret to helping me get there fast. However, many fad diets appeared to include a drastic reduction or even eradication of core food groups, all proclaiming the benefits of this radical approach.
How can I expect my little girl to see her own beauty and be confident in it if I could not even love myself? What example was I setting?
The profound and burning hatred of my body remained, and I spent hours combing through every piece of clothing in my closet before I went out. In my mind, nothing fit, everything made me look fat, and I was beyond ugly. I said awful things to myself. While I would never say these things to anyone else, I somehow felt comfortable expressing them to myself.
One morning I was getting ready to go on a girl’s day with my 4-year-old. Standing in front of the mirror inspecting the final result, I didn’t even realize it when I berated myself out loud. What was actually said is so cruel I cannot bare repeating it here but it ended with something along the lines of “stop staring, this is the best you’re going to do.” I get a chill even writing these few words. As I think of this, it’s shocking to see how I spoke to myself. The worst is that this is only a single example. I usually engaged in this self-talk a couple of times a day. My little girl turned to the mirror, inspected herself, and said, “yeah, my tummy is also fat, mommy, yuck!”
I was appalled! My heart broke for her. I would never want her to speak to herself like that. She is gorgeous, beautiful just as she is, and beyond measure. Then it hit me! How can I expect her to see her own beauty and be confident in it if I could not even love myself? What example was I setting? Is my reality so distorted that I am okay with speaking to myself this way? I would be appalled if someone else talked to me like this. Something had to change. Now!
So, in my quest to turn all this around, I realized 3 core principles I do my best to live by every day. To be clear, though, this does not mean I don’t still get mornings when I feel bloated and gross or days that I berate myself for not exercising. I am human, and this is a journey, not an accomplishment. All that matters is that I am aware of it. I try to stop the negative self-talk and redirect if I can. On the days I can’t, I embrace the feeling, work through it, and get to a brand new day tomorrow. If I do my best at any given moment, there is always a reason to try again.
1. Move Your Body – Not The Needle On The Scale
The steadfast love I’ve always had for exercise became a hated pass time in my quest for my version of perfection. My grueling pace left my body sore, depleted, and fatigued. I hated getting up in the mornings and motivating myself to get to the gym. I was a near-permanent visitor to the osteopath or physical therapist because I always had some muscle I overworked or overstressed. And guess what: Still, the scale did not move!
Out of steam and due to pure exhaustion, I made the best decision of my life. I took back the power. I canceled my gym memberships, canceled trainers, deleted all my training apps, and politely redirected conversations when well-meaning friends tried to sell me the benefits of their workout and diet secrets. I did not need to hold myself to anyone’s standard anymore. Just my own.
“I started going to my exercise space when I was good and ready, when my body told me to take a break, or when I found my head spinning from meetings and long hours behind the desk.”
I set my own pace, narrowed down what worked for me, and investigated what felt good to me and what I enjoyed. Yoga re-entered my life, and I set up a calm space for exercising. I set the intention to be more aware of the mental chatter that abused me on days I skipped workouts. Instead, I worked on congratulating myself for allowing my body some time to rest and rejuvenate.
I try to exercise three times a week, but I remind myself that life happens and it is not the death of all things if I only make it to my exercise space twice in any given week. I also shifted my focus from the aesthetics of a perfect body to how my body was speaking to me and what it was telling me it needed. Calm stretching and mobility? A day out in the open air working in the garden? Or a mind-clearing walk in nature? When I reprogrammed my approach, I began to enjoy exercise again. I felt re-energized by workouts and not burnt out and in agony.
I stopped setting exercise schedules which became much easier to do, I will admit, with work from home. I started going to my exercise space when I was good and ready, when my body told me to take a break, or when I found my head spinning from meetings and long hours behind the desk. This really helped me find intervals of calm during my day, and I returned to work relaxed and revitalized. I know this is not an option for everyone, but the key message here is to exercise on a schedule that works for you and makes you feel good, not guilty, or more stressed.
I don’t hold myself to burning a certain amount of calories in a workout session or pushing through for a full one-hour workout. I just focus on the joy and release exercising brings me and where my body is on that day. This means I sometimes want to powerhouse an hour’s cardio, and other times I move through a gentle yoga flow that only lasts thirty minutes. Either way, I try to congratulate myself for any time I manage to set aside for this and revel in the feeling of being physically active.
2. Moderation in Abundance
If you’re feeling less than beautiful in your own skin, it’s easy to be tempted to jump down the diet-fad rabbit hole. For me, this approach backfired many times. I get shaky, sweaty, and nauseous if I don’t eat regularly. Hunger is also one of my biggest triggers for managing my Panic Disorder. So depriving myself of balanced regular meals was never a wise choice.
I learned that balance and simplicity are the key drivers to feeling good. In my opinion, there is no good reason for depriving yourself of healthy foods unless you have a medically diagnosed illness or have been advised by a medical professional or nutritionist to follow a particular diet for a specific reason. I never experienced any of the many benefits everyone touts about Keto, Paleo, or fasting for long periods at a time. I always just felt sicker, weaker, and miserable.
“I try to not deprive myself of anything. I don’t eat that piece of chocolate cake – I savor it and enjoy every bite.”
I now embrace the notion that there are enough complications in life. While not everything can be simple, making things unnecessarily difficult is also not helpful. I was an overall healthy woman, and I decided to instead celebrate the fact that I could eat a balanced diet and that I was not in a position that forced me to eat a certain way or refrain from eating certain things. I found joy in being this blessed and felt even more so when I saw the pain and frustration friends with celiac and other diseases had to struggle through each day.
I try to keep moderation in mind and not deprive myself of anything. I don’t eat that piece of chocolate cake – I savor it and enjoy every bite. I don’t have carb nights where I don’t count calories – I indulge in that Fettucine because it’s delicious. I drink that glass of wine because it’s cold, perfect, and beautiful. I don’t do it every day, but I don’t deny my body its requests when it makes them.
Life is so short, and its speeds past me so quickly. I do not want to think about that chocolate cookie I should have eaten in my dying moments. What’s the point of savoring that bowl of pasta if I’m constantly proclaiming to the world how bad this is for me and how I should not be eating this many carbs? There is no rhyme or reason in this for me anymore. I surrender to balance, and I am grateful for it.
3. Self-Acceptance Grows Into Self-Love
Looking in the mirror and identifying things about my body that I did not like never worked for me. It was awkward and insincere, and it felt forced. Pointing out all the things I did not like about myself and then saying something positive about it followed the same trend for me. Celebrating my inner attributes, was much more accessible and it had a much more powerful impact on my journey when I started internalizing my praise.
I worked on my mental narrative about my body by trying to immediately thinking about how I would react if my little girl had said what I just said to myself or thought about myself. This was the kick in the butt I needed to change my negative thoughts with true conviction. Once I realized I said something negative about my body out loud or thought it, I immediately told myself you are radiant and glowing from within. This is not always easy and I still struggle with this sometimes. We all have days we the mirror seems like our worst enemy and when we feel the visual picture staring back at as is much more powerful and real than the invisible inner glow we are working on.
But, focusing on the inner beauty instead of the outer really helped me to slowly and eventually more easily focus on change that was more complete and permanent. As long as I felt bright and glowing on the inside, it slowly started to matter less if butt looked a little more jiggly or the unexpected pimple dropped in to say hello. It was like the inner glow moved outward and either disguised the physical in my mind or gave me a new perspective on it. I am honestly still figuring the last one out. What I know for sure though is that when I am in doubt I need to settle my thoughts within.
These are my 3 principles I try to live by, but will admit, I do not always master. As with my anxiety disorder I just try to focus on the fact that I am trying and that I am aware of my mental chatter. The rest will come. I don’t know if I lost weight, toned up or anything changed physically because I threw out the scale and my clothes seem to fit the same. But I definitely feel different, I feel more beautiful, I feel changed, and I feel like I am constantly learning to celebrate my body more. This is the only peace I require.
Comment below on your journeys – I would love you to share.
Love and light Goddessess!