Monday, April 11, 2016

A Journey and an Announcement!

You don't have to be fearless to act fearlessly. When I was 48 years old and at a crossroads in my life, I was seeking a new path and being challenged by what I was going to do next. The thought of choosing what would I be doing for the rest of my life was almost paralyzing. I applied for many jobs and became one of the final two contestants for two of them. I convinced myself I could do both of these jobs and be happy enough. Needless to say, I didn't get them because I wasn't putting the right energy out there; I had a different path to find. 

I am so grateful to have been passed over. It's true that things always work out in the end. One day, when I was feeling so stuck that I would do anything to break through, I took my friend up on an offer to go to a seminar she had signed up for. Each paying person was able to take a guest for free. It was a seminar about living your dreams. At this point, I didn't even know what my dreams were. It was through the work I did there that involved talking to many strangers with lots of tears that I had a breakthrough. I knew that I wanted to be in a position to help people. I knew that I wanted to let go of the dream of having tons of money (this was only acting as a block that was limiting my imagination). I knew that I wanted my life to be more about being in service to others. What I really wanted to do was counsel people one-on-one.

I really enjoyed the coaching work I had been doing at the time, but I knew that most of the people I was coaching needed more help than I was skilled to give them. They really needed counseling or therapy (whichever word you're most comfortable with). Here was the problem: I had lots of excuses why I couldn't do it. All of those excuses were based in FEAR. In my experience almost every excuse is either based in fear or laziness. I may be lazy when it's time to clean my house, but I'm never lazy about something I'm passionate about and being able to help others in a knowledgeable and skilled way was something I was very passionate about. 

Here are some of the excuses I had that day: what will people think of me, if at this age I am starting something brand-new? Will they think it's because I've failed at everything else? There's no way I can afford it! What if I go for it and I don't enjoy it or I'm not successful at it? What if I can't do it? I might go back to school and find that I'm not capable. 

Can you say FEAR to the Nth degree??

All that day through the leadership of a wonderful person at this Dream University, I was able to break through every one of those excuses. Do I really care what other people think if I'm doing what's right for me? Can't I find a way to make the money work? Of course I can succeed at school, even if it's a huge challenge! Once I broke through the excuse, was I still afraid? Absolutely! But now I knew my fear wasn't based in reality. It was just a useless emotion that I could use to propel me forward.

So here we are 4 1/2 years later. I completed my Masters degree in two years and loved almost every minute of the process. I've been in private practice building my own business for almost 2 1/2 years. I have earned two additional certifications and attended many continuing education seminars. I love learning new things and honing my craft. 

Drum Roll Please......

Today I have become fully licensed! I have fulfilled all of the state's requirements. I no longer need supervision. I get to drop a letter from my title. I am now a full blown LPC. I am as legitimate as it gets, and I have never been happier or more proud of my accomplishments.

As you read this, I hope you are thinking about what new challenges or opportunities you are letting fear keep you from reaching. Think about if they are based in reality or just your perception of reality. Be rational, and break through your excuses! Don't let the residual fear stop you from trying. If you have to, fake it till you make it! You'll be glad you did. Take it from me :)

Images: M.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ditch the Resolutions!

So, here we are at the beginning of another new year. For some, it's a time of taking stock, making changes, and even setting yourself some of those dreaded resolutions that usually run out of speed by the first of February. 

Many years ago, I made a promise to myself to never make another resolution. What a path to feeling like a failure those can be. If there is a change I need to make in my life, I will try my damndest to make it. If it doesn't work out, I'll try another way or re-assess the need for the change. That's what life is all about.

What really pisses me off this time of year are the plethora of diet commercials preying on people who feel that in order to be better you have to be thinner. Have you seen Oprah's new Weight Watchers commercial? It makes me see red. It starts with Oprah, sitting in her grove saying "Inside every over weight woman is a woman she knows she can be".

Really Oprah, EVERY overweight woman? You can count me out of that group right now. My extra pounds don't keep me from being my very best self!

She goes on to say "You look in the mirror and don't even recognize yourself because you get lost, buried in the weight that you carry". I'm sure this speaks to some, even many, women, but this negative bullshit spin that she is putting on it to sell the product (Weight Watchers, which is paying her $43,000,000 over 5 years plus 10% of their stock!!) is really doing everybody a disservice.

This notion that in order to find out who you are you must lose weight, be thin, meet society's (ever less popular ideal) of beauty is pure crap and it sets our gender (and increasingly men as well) to fail and feel even crappier about themselves. It's time to stop it!

Stop blaming pounds on not knowing who we are as individuals. Stop saying, "I'll be happier when I lose.....". Stop this cycle of self-cruelty and start leading with kindness and self-love.

If we could all just get to know our inner selves (which doesn't change with the scale), learn to like ourselves as humans - thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, passions, opinions, THEN we will start honoring ourselves out of love and stop berating ourselves out of hate. THEN we will began caring for ourselves with compassion. We will start nourishing ourselves out of respect (if your body has natural changes to make they will happen!) .

We will start having fun with ourselves, increasing our activity. We will start honoring our bodies needs with rest and rejuvenation. Then we will begin relating to one another with support and kindness instead of judgement and jealousy.

If you want to change your life in 2016 begin with self-love and self compassion, NOT with self-recrimination and self-hate, if this path sounds kinder and more inviting to you, please consider joining me and other like-minded women in my Be Body Positive STL 2016 community.

Nothing would make me happier in 2016 than helping you on this new, exciting and freeing journey.

Cheers to you!

Image: frankieleon

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don't Fear the Fork!

I’m excited to formally announce the new title of this little blog I write.  

If you follow me you may have noticed the new URL, Don’t Fear the Fork, appear a couple of weeks ago.  I had been thinking of names and waiting patiently for the Universe to inspire me for months.  Then, one day when I was walking into a Starbucks, a student athlete was walking out.  Her jersey said “Fear the Fork.”   She was a student at University of Missouri – St. Louis where their mascot is a Titan.  

I thought it was very clever but doing the kind of work I do in Body Positivity it also got me thinking.  So many of us ‘fear the fork.’  Our relationships with food can become obsessive.  Always thinking/worrying about what we just ate, are about to eat, want to eat, should eat, and on and on…..  Through my work as a Body Positive counselor, I help people heal their relationships with their body and find peace with food.  

Let’s make self-compassion our priority over caring about what others think!  Let’s practice radical self-acceptance and strive to be the best versions of ourselves.  Let’s be comfortable in our skin and in being or authentic selves.  Let’s all experience the freedom that comes with these actions!!  Can I get an Amen?!?

Photo: Peter Miller

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Create Community: Body Positive Psychology Part 5

Welcome Back!!  I hope you have been enjoying and benefitting from this series of posts on the five competencies of being  Body Positive.

      Reclaim Health 
      Cultivate Self-Love 
      Create Community

Today I'm talking about the fifth and final topic, Creating Community.  Perhaps I should have started with this one because in order to fully embody the first four competencies, it is essential to build a like-minded Body Positive community to support these changes. We don't live in a vacuum and making big life changes is harder to do when you are doing it on your own.  Without at least one other person in your life who understands your new beliefs and lifestyle, it is easy to fall prey to the messages that promote inadequacy and insecurity. The likelihood of blaming your body for other problems in your life (especially if you’ve done so in the past) is greater if you are isolated from others who are doing the work to make peace with their bodies. Your Body Positive community exists to love and celebrate you just as you are in the moment, even with your struggles and perceived “flaws.” 

Being part of a BP community means supporting others to feel better about their lives because they choose to bring out the best in one another. Coming together to celebrate life—the hardships as well as the triumphs—and to learn from the unique experiences and perspectives each individual brings to the group. Body bashing is not the focus of conversation instead help one another focus on the positive things your bodies are doing for you.  Find the humor and acceptance in your changing bodies.  Share the thoughts and tips that work for you.  Share the doctors and therapists that have helped you.  Don't be shy! Ask your therapist or counselor if they would put a monthly group of like minded BP'ers together to meet on a regular basis.  Be a resource and source of compassion, inspiration and love for one another.

One last note, as you proceed along this journey, making positive changes, listening to your inner voice instead of the voices of those around you, you will be moving away from the parts of yourself that no longer serve you.  As you distance yourself from those self-destructive parts that cause you to be unhappy you will be facing the truth about some relationships you are in that are contributing to that unhappiness.  Some may be as negative as the behaviors you are leaving behind while others may be the cause of those negative thoughts and behaviors.  You will have to make decisions about leaving these relationships behind.  Listen closely to what feels right in your heart and make these decisions knowing that you have become an expert at listening to your inner voice.  Keep your physical and mental health at the very top of your priority list.  While it can be very hard to leave relationships of any kind, remember that it is more than OK to make a choice that is in your best interest.  In doing so you are making room for new loving and supportive relationships to take their place.

It has been more than my pleasure to lead you through these brief explanations of Body Positive Psychology.  If you would like to learn more about BP, I highly recommend this book:

Embody, Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and Quiet that Critical Voice) by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott (I am not an affiliate and profit in no way by your purchase of this book)
If you have any questions or feedback I would love to hear from you!

Remember, be kind to yourself.  Treat yourself with Love and Respect. You deserve all that and more!

Image: art around

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty: Body Positive Psychology Part 4

Welcome back!  If you've been following this blog for the past few weeks you know that I have been covering the 5 competencies of being Body Positive (BP).  Finding and embracing these practices has truly been a life-changer for me and I know they can be for you too.  Here is a recap with links to the corresponding blog posts:

      Reclaim Health 
      Cultivate Self-Love 
      Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
      Create Community (check this one out next week!)

Today I'm talking about my favorite topic, Declaring Your Own Authentic Beauty.

I know, I know, you're dying to know why this one is my favorite!  Ok, I'll share.  Through this declaration I have learned how to experience beauty as a creative, dynamic process. How to inhabit my unique body with joy and confidence. I have expanded my imagination to behold authentic beauty in myself and others.
 “It seems so obvious that if we really appreciated what a gift it is to be alive in our bodies and how amazingly complex and intricate these bodies are, we wouldn’t be able to hate ourselves so well. We would recognize our own beauty not in an arrogant way, but simply as part of the beauty in this amazing world. Just imagine if all the talent in advertising that went into convincing us that we aren’t good enough, could be freed for true creative work.”
J. Ruth Gendler, Notes on the Need for Beauty 
This is about seeing and expressing yourself just as you are—internal and external qualities combined.  (I've been working with many clients lately on getting their validation internally instead of from external sources. If this is a problem for you, find a counselor for some help in this area.  Relying on others for your self-worth is counter-productive in all areas of self-growth and improvement.)  

This is about looking in the mirror and loving who and what you see.  I hear you grumbling and saying how can I love this body?  I have fat, wrinkles, grey hair, crooked teeth.  The list could go on and on.  When you can love all of what you perceive as flaws and the journeys that brought them to you, you will begin to treat yourself with kindness and respect.  This leads to you treating yourself better, being kinder to yourself, and making better choices about how you are going to take care of this body that you have a newfound love for.  It's about no longer blaming yourself for mistakes you have made in the past and moving forward with a brand new perspective! 

If you are blind to your authentic beauty, you will be more susceptible to harmful messages that society churns out promoting insecurity and doubt. And, as we know, the behaviors that go along with attempts to fundamentally change our bodies can lead us to worse health over time. Seeing your beauty is not an exercise in vanity—it is a necessary component of good physical and emotional health.

I teach the Body Positive program in a local school to girls in 3rd-6th grades.  When we talk about this, they worry they will be viewed as conceited.  Here's how I explain it to them: conceit is competitive, and generally arises out of people’s need to mask their insecurities; confident people, however, know their intrinsic value.

Confidence is something that can be seen and felt.  It doesn't have to be announced or acted out.  I have clients who tell me they started out the day feeling great about themselves and confident and it fades away during the day.  One of the biggest traps that may erode your confidence is comparing yourself to others.  When we can honor that diversity exists on every level, we observe difference for what it actually is—just different. Embrace this ideal and you will no longer feel the need to compare or judge. You will be comfortable being your real self without fear because you know that each of us is no better or worse than any other person on the planet. No beauty hierarchy exists, only difference, and we learn to see genuine beauty in ourselves and in all people.

When that self-criticism rears its ugly head again, and it will, ask yourself where it is coming from.  Are you tired, angry, disappointed about something in your life?  Be compassionate towards yourself and recognize that none of those things have anything to do with who you are as a person worthy of love and respect from yourself and those around you.  Take a moment and practice the Self-Care and Self-Love we talked about in past blogs.  Tell yourself how special you are (even if it takes a bit to believe it again).  Connect with a Body Positive Community.  I'll be talking more about this last competency in the next blog post.  Until then, you are beautiful, you are special, and you are loved. 
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart."  Helen Keller

Here's to you!