If this is your first visit to my page take a look at Act 1 and Act 2 to understand a little more.
So where am I now?
Well, lots has changed but as they say the more things change the more they stay the same because old habits die hard and protective behaviors die even harder.
Old habits die hard and protective
behaviors die even harder.
Though much of my paranoia, night terrors and nightmares have come to pass there is still some fear. I still fear that people won't like me, that they will think I'm strange, that I won't fit in. I can come off as standoffish or stuck up because I don't always feel comfortable saying hi to people I know even though we say hi every time we see each other. I still fear sexual assault though in a different way than I used to but in all of this I have found ways for the most part of coping with these things in a different way.
I joined sports that made me feel powerful like Roller Derby and Crossfit. I take pride in my wide shoulders and thick thighs. I adorned my body with tattoos and body jewelry and hair that is outside of what society deems as "normal". I absolutely love every bit about my body. My tattoos all tell a story about my life and where I have been. Some of them are decorative and some of them are shields. Some of them protect me and some of them draw attention where I want attention drawn. Still there is this extra bit of weight that I cannot shake. 20-30 lbs depending on how I'm feeling and how on top of my self care and sleep I am that I keep as a barrier between me and the outside world. It is still there not because I can't get it off or don't know what to do. It is there because deep down I have not yet gotten to a place where I am ready to have it off. It would feel like exposure. I try to convince myself that I am safe and that I am ready but the truth is, I may not be and that is ok.
It is OK
It has to be ok because only when I am ready and feel safe in the world will the weight come off without me fighting and without me putting it right back on and I made a decision a while back not to fight myself anymore. Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be me.
Here is the thing. The BIG thing.
Your weight, just like mine, is about
It is offering you some sort of protection or comfort that you cannot get elsewhere. That's why you can't get it off, can't keep it off, lie to yourself about how "good" you have been and how well you are going to do on this new diet, new set of rules or new regime but at the end of the day, that extra weight is there for a reason. Until you can figure out what it is providing for you and find a way to either get that from somewhere else or do away with the need for it altogether that weight is going to stay put because it is your brain's way of taking care of you.
My weight is sill here because I am afraid. I am afraid of the wrong kind of attention. I am afraid that if I look a certain way that I will be back where I was with yet another sexual assault under my belt which will reawaken the troll in my head and bring back all of the shame I felt over my assaults. That is something worth protecting myself over.
So how do we get over whatever it is that is holding us back? We first need to figure out what that thing is. For me it was largely the sexual assaults and I cringe to think how many of you out there have experienced similar things but for others of you it will be something different. Finding it and moving through it is key.
To be honest, this is tough. Facing your shame can be a very raw experience, you will cry and if that is something you are not used to let me tell you this. If you don't feel the bad stuff you cannot feel the good stuff. Emotions are like a light switch - without a dimmer smart ass. They are either on or they are off. If you have been pushing the bad feelings and stuff aside and escaping it any way you can then this is going to be rough and it is going to take practice.
1. Write your story. If you are hardest on yourself about your body when did that start? When did you begin to think that it wasn't perfect or that it should change. What influences where there in your life that led you to that conclusion? Maybe your mom was very hard on herself about her looks. Maybe someone pointed out that your legs were more muscular than the other girls in high school. It can be quite benign from an outside view but have had a large impact on you so don't discount what seem to be small things. If you remember it then it's something. If it was something other than your body then explore that. Try to go back as far as you can and explore your feelings towards whatever it is you are hardest on yourself about.
2. Explore how your shame manifests itself inwardly. That nasty troll voice, that is not your voice, that is your shame speaking. The voice that says you are not enough, the ongoings in your head when you are trying to sleep, the part of you that has you changing your outfit seven times before you go out. All shame. Be gentle but start to recognize in what ways your shame shows up inside your head. Don't get angry with your shame, it will only get louder. Fighting with your shame is like fighting with a toddler, you won't win. The toddler has more in their arsenal. They will yell louder, keep it up for longer and are willing to throw themselves on a dirty gas station restroom floor. Relent, say things like - thank you for protecting me, I've got this, I appreciate it but I'm fine. Be gentle with yourself. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone you cared deeply about. If you have children think about the way you speak to them. We are hardest on ourselves so try to take it down a notch.
3. Explore how your shame manifests itself physically. Do you lose sleep over lists because you need to be the person that is reliable? Do you stress out about little things that maybe are not as consequential as you may think? Are you perhaps a bit - or a lot - of a perfectionist? Do things have to be just so and on a schedule? Are you everything to everyone but not yourself? What happens if it all falls apart? What happens if you forget something or the kids don't get their nightly bath? What happens if you say no to someone? Does the world fall apart? Do you fall apart? Think about how these things affect you. Think about what happens for you when something that you are tied to doesn't work out. Now think about why you are so tied to it in the first place.
4. Explore in what ways your shame manifests itself externally. Do you find yourself judging other? Do you find yourself shaming others? Living in shame can be very lonely and isolating. Do you isolate yourself by being critical or judgmental of others? As hard as it may be to admit it when we judge or criticize others it is a reflection on our own insecurities. When you find yourself judging other try to reflect as to what it is that you see in yourself that makes you upset about the other person. Do you judge the clothes some people wear? Is it because you feel shameful about your body and therefore do not feel comfortable wearing the types of things you are judging? I used to judge people for taking up space. I worked so hard trying to make myself seem small because I was so big then when others dared to take up space I got upset. I still struggle with spacial issues but that’s a post for another day. If this is not the case for you does your shame manifest itself through fear instead? Are you afraid you don’t or won’t fit in? Are you afraid to speak up? Afraid you are “damaged” or not worthy in some way? It’s important to move through these feelings. Don’t push them aside or berate yourself for having them. Take a nice long deep breath and let yourself feel afraid. By letting the fear be it will be able to eventually move thorough you and right out. Can you sit with this fear, shame, criticism for a minute? How about five?
5. Change the conversation. That voice inside your head that you are now being gentle with, treat it like a toddler. How much weight do you put on what a toddler tells you? If a toddler told you that he saw a T-Rex walking down Main St in a tuxedo would you believe him? Probably not unless you saw it too. The things that voice in your head says to you are just as ludicrous, you are not incompetent, inadequate, lazy, unlovable. There are most likely many people in your life that feel the opposite of you so try to not take that voice in your head so seriously. Maybe the T-Rex was just a small toy not a walking, roaring, car stomping, people eating beast. The voice in your head is just as small and insignificant.
First know that if you try this you will stumble, you will fall and you will fail. It's ok. Eventually though, with practice, you will prevail. The road to success is not linear. Learn to pick yourself back up and try again. Take a deep breath, figure out how to clean up the mess and keep going. Confide in the people in your life that will be empathetic and supportive. People who can and will say yes, that sucked. It was as bad as you think now get back in there.
Give yourself permission to be you,
just as you are right now.
Flaws and blemishes a plenty because we are all imperfect and no one should strive for perfection, it’s an illusion. The working mom that makes it home overnight to make dinner and tuck the kids in but also makes it to every PTA meeting and bakes for the school bake sale, the fitness trainer that never eats cookies or misses a training session it’s all a facade. It’s a curated window into an otherwise imperfect life. No one and I mean no one has it all together like that.
Be yourself, get open and vulnerable and see how the world around you changes. When we are open and honest others are open and honest with us and we start to see that we are not alone. This is scary at first. Fear of upsetting people or letting people down. Fear of being ridiculed. Remember two things as you work on this. The first is that by showing people your true self rather than the self you have been presenting in the past you may let down some people and you may even piss some people off - see my Facebook post about using the word Vulva publicly. The second thing to remember is that just as when you are critical of others it's about you when others are critical of you it's about them.
Find your kind. Your kind of people, a way to be kind to yourself and a way to be kind to others.
A great place to start will be to join my free Find your Find-ness program. Sign up for my newsletter for registration info.