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Selasa, 16 Januari 2018

Januari 16, 2018

how to help a friend with low self-esteem

It’s so very painful to see the people we love in pain, and to feel like we can’t do anything about it.

This is especially true for caring, empathic people (and I know you’re one of ‘em, because you’re here, reading this). We’re likely to feel deep sorrow when our favorite people are hurting. What hurts more is the feeling of powerlessness: no matter how much we want to, we can’t fix it, can’t make everything magically okay.

Although magic isn’t the answer (unfortunately), there are things we can do to help just a little bit. We can’t fix the pain of a loved one, but we can provide space for it to exist. If we’re lucky, we can even ease it slightly.

Here’s how:

Let your loved one know you’ve noticed, and provide a space for dialogue.

Some people vocalize their negative self-talk because they want help but don’t know how to ask for it. Let your friend know that you’ve noticed she’s been saying some negative things, and ask if she’d like to talk about it. It’s pretty likely that she’ll say no, at least the first time you ask.

If it feels right, you can do the same thing (gently) again in the future. You probably don’t want to ask every day, but you might ask again in a couple weeks. It takes some people a little while to warm to the idea of sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Include her in fun stuff.

Feeling badly about yourself can keep you from wanting to do things, whether or not you’re also feeling depressed. Make sure to invite your loved one to do things with you and participate in life.

Even if she declines, continue to ask, without too much pressure. Remind her that you want to spend time with her, and that other people do, too.

Try not to get too frustrated.

It can be extreeeeemely frustrating to be around someone who’s constantly saying negative things about herself. Especially when you think she’s the bee’s knees and don’t understand what the heck she thinks is wrong with her.

Continue to reassure her that she’s fabulous and gorgeous (as I know you’re already doing, because you’re you), and understand that you can’t make her thoughts and actions change.
That said, if her negativity becomes too much for you to take, your responsibility is, first and foremost, to take care of yourself. Taking time to refuel, away from your struggling loved one, is necessary. Ultimately, she is the one responsible for her own well-being.

Model positive self-care and self-talk.

Quite often, modeling positive self-talk can be more effective than telling your loved one she’s great. Someone who’s struggling with self-worth can easily shrug off direct compliments as insincere. However, the way you talk to yourself helps to establish a norm, demonstrating that this is how we talk to ourselves: kindly.

Taking good care of yourself, and demonstrating that you accept yourself fully, flaws and all, will show your loved one what self-acceptance looks like and make the terrain of self-love more familiar to her.

Share helpful resources, gently.

It can be tempting to send your friend every helpful resource you can possibly think of, especially if you’ve been through similar struggles yourself. Your loved one is lucky to have someone with a connection to those resources. Share them gently and with discretion.

You might ask your loved one if she’d be open to outside help, and if so, what kind. Depending on what she says, you might share your own story, let her know about great therapists, coaches, and healers who have helped you, and pass on articles and books that could help.
If your loved one responds negatively to your attempts to share resources, understand that she might not be ready right now, and respect that. You never know when she might remember your offer and reach out to you herself.

Be a beacon of light.

One of the greatest gifts you can give is your relentless patience and positivity. Continue to radiate love and acceptance for yourself, other people, and your loved one who’s struggling.

Providing a rebuttal to all the negative voices that are overwhelming her is an incredible contribution to her wellbeing. Keep it up, and continue to be a reminder that the negative voices don’t always have to win.

In the comments: Have you ever helped a friend or loved one who was struggling with self-esteem? If so, what worked? What didn’t?

Senin, 15 Januari 2018

Januari 15, 2018

a tool to help you seize your summer

As I’ve mentioned, summer isn’t my fave. Here in New York, it is hot, sticky, and oh-so-stinky. (Oy.)
I’m doing better this year, though. In fact, I’m really proud of how I’ve dealt with this summer so far.

However, as we know, there’s always room for improvement (especially when it comes to this hot, sticky season).

Because of that, I created a tool to help myself seize summer. I want to share it with you today, because you might find it helpful. Or you might know someone else who would find it helpful.
The Summer Compass
I’m calling it the Summer Compass. It’s a tool you can use to reorient yourself when you wander off the charted course, or to remind you that you’re headed in the right direction when you are.

You can create your own compass by asking and answering a few questions. (Ask ‘em on paper, not in your head. Writing these down is critical for creating a dependable tool to return to over time.)

1. What’s your destination? (What are you aiming for this summer?)

Here are just a few ideas of possible destinations:

  • I’m aiming to look back on this summer and be proud of how I dealt with what can be a challenging time for me.
  • I’m aiming to feel more like a part of my community, and less lonely, than I usually do during the summer.
  • I’m aiming to take advantage of the outdoors.
  • I’m aiming to do the activities that I want to do, without being held back by negative body image.

2. When are the times when you’re most likely to go off course? (These might be pitfalls you recognize from years past, pitfalls you’ve experienced this summer, or pitfalls that you think might show up soon.)

Here are a few examples of what going off course might look like:

  • I go off course when I spend too much time watching television by myself.
  • I go off course when I decide not to go to the beach because I don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit.
  • I go off course when I go to more than X social gatherings without giving myself introvert recovery time.
  • I go off course when I do things I feel obligated to do but don’t want to do.

3. What helps keep you on course? (What things can you do, either once or on a regular basis, to keep you headed toward your destination?)

Some examples of what might help you stay on course: 

  • Seeing a person I love at least X times per week keeps me on course.
  • Finding clothing I feel comfortable in keeps me on course.
  • Making sure I do the dishes every day keeps me on course.
  • Spending time outdoors at least X times per week keeps me on course.
  • Giving myself a small, nourishing sensory treat, regardless of whether I think I “deserve” it, every day keeps me on course.
It isn’t just for summer.
I know you already know this, but you can make yourself a compass even if summer isn’t hard for you. Just choose something that is hard for you, and get started. Your compass will be there when you need it, to provide something steady to hold onto. It doesn’t judge, it doesn’t chastise, and it’s always available for you to customize to your own, unique needs.

Minggu, 14 Januari 2018

Januari 14, 2018

you’re invited: who am i now?

who am i now? blog post photo

I wake up, and it’s dark outside. It’s quiet except for maybe a car starting or a crow squawking.
I no longer wake up to the muffled yells of our apartment neighbors, scrambling to get ready for work and school.

I wonder what they’re doing right now. Whether they still yell the same amount, or less.
Sometimes I miss the hubbub.

Here, the air is wetter.

My hair has grown out quite a bit, and it curls in the damp air. I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet, mostly because every couple weeks, it calls for something else.
Different products, a different process. A new curl where there wasn’t one yesterday.

It’s dark, dreary, and damp. My favorite sort of weather.

Every time I take a walk, I pause to look at the mountains, and the foggy clouds seeping down to embrace them. No matter how many times I stop walking, pause to look and listen, that view never fails to startle me into reverence for this place and this moment.

A year ago, I had no idea that I’d be here now. I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told me.
This isn’t a place I need to “cope with.” I’m not managing my interactions to prevent overstimulation, the way I was in New York.
There are no weekend train schedules to dread. Instead, I can hop in the car to drive to the store, literally moments away.

I can buy a twelve-pack of toilet paper and store it under the bathroom sink. (It’s the little things.)

This is all new and different and, even after several months, sometimes surprising.

People ask, “When did you move to Seattle?”
I find myself waffling when I respond, “March.”
Because I feel like I don’t know how to fully be in this place, not yet.
Even though this is a good, good place for my soul to be.

Who am I here?
What do I want?

What do I need?
What do I yearn for?

Who am I, a week, a month, a year after the last time I checked?

Who am I now?

I’m going to be exploring this question, and the multitude of others it contains, from January 5th to 18th.

We’ll be going deep, getting curious, letting go and returning to ourselves. All through daily emails containing prompts for inquiry and action, plus a private Facebook group to support each other and evolve in community.
Who am I now?
Who are you?
Januari 14, 2018

the first step to changing a habit

how to change a habit
We think we know ourselves.
What we do, why we do it.
But we don’t.
When we try to think back, most of us can’t remember everything we ate today, much less what we said, how we said it, and why.
Nor do we know much about our habits and why we’re beholden to them. But we try to change them anyway. We attempt to change our habits even though we know only the most cursory details about them. We try to erase them before seeing what they look like.
This is the approach most of us use, and it’s usually pretty ineffective.

A more effective approach.

Even though that’s the most common approach, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. The approach I’m introducing today is more effective, gentler, and it feels better. (Cheers to that.)
When you go about changing a habit, your first step is to get to know it, intimately. Think of your habit as a machine. Let’s say it’s a car’s engine. I know nothing about the engines of cars, but I think (I hope?) I know enough to make this metaphor work.
If your goal is to rebuild the engine in a way that works better, it would be best for you to learn about the engine, and how it’s functioning now, before you begin. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a whole bunch of pieces, a mess, and no idea how to put it all back together.
If, on the other hand, you study the engine before you disassemble it, you’ll be more successful. You’ll know where things go. You’ll know what’s making the wrong noises and what’s out of place. You’ll have a great deal more information, and that will make it infinitely easier and less frustrating to rebuild an engine that works well.
Plus, you’ll learn things about your engine in the process. The next time something breaks, you’ll be able to pinpoint what’s wrong more quickly and easily. Your knowledge about engines will empower you as a mechanic and as a person.

Impartial observation. Hard. And worth it.

As in our engine metaphor, habit change works best when you learn about yourself and your habit before you take any action at all. Observe how your habit currently functions. Observe it as nonjudgmentally as you can. (This is hard, the nonjudgmental part. It can feel painful to observe our habits without doing anything, especially when we perceive that these habits, in their current iterations, are hurting us.)

When you’re looking to change a habit, you don’t want to go straight from unconsciously performing it to unconsciously changing it. You want to bring focused attention to the study of how it functions, gather all the data you can before you start changing things. You can begin by observing the following:

Who: Who performs this habit (you?), and who else, if anyone, is involved?

What: What does the habit look like? What physical objects does it include?

When: When does this habit take place? At the same time each day? Only when certain stimuli occur?

Where: Where does this habit take place? Is it always in the same spot, or does it vary? Are there places where this habit never occurs?

Why: This question is less empirical than the others, and far more subjective. If you don’t know why, take a guess. Is this habit perhaps meeting a certain need? Does it seem to happen for no reason at all? Is it related to suppressing or enhancing any particular emotion?

Get out that notebook, and collect some data.

Your homework for today, should you choose to accept it (homework is always optional with me), is to choose a habit that you’d like to change, get out your notebook, and start writing down your observations. I’m guessing you’ll surprise yourself with what you know, and what you didn’t even know you knew.

Sabtu, 13 Januari 2018

Januari 13, 2018

i will not abandon myself

Friends, this post is part of The Declaration of You‘s BlogLovin’ Tour, which I’m completely jazzed to be a part of. If you’re wondering what The Declaration of You is, it’s a gorgeous, fun, fanciful book (the real, live, paper kind that I love!) that’s coming out in just a few short days. You can learn more — and join the fun — right here.
 . . .
I believe it was near the beginning of my freshman year of college when I decided to abandon myself in service of accomplishment. It wasn’t a conscious decision, because I didn’t realize there were any other options. I do, however, recognize it as a decision.
I had been admitted to New York University by what seemed, to me, the grace of god, and I would do anything to stay there. Anything turned out to be a lot. Mainly working late nights at a Starbucks which seemed to be frequented by Lower Manhattan’s grumpiest and/or most strung-out clientele. 

Anything also included spending a lot of time alone, entirely without a local support system. I didn’t know this was a problem at the time. Now I do.

Spiritually homeless.

That year, I had my first major depressive episode. I developed a binge eating disorder that possessed me in a tornado of shameful fervor. The few people I knew, I didn’t treat particularly well.

I am ashamed of who I was that year. 
While I was myself, I was a version of myself who was abandoned, spiritually homeless. My inner caretaker was too consumed with staying afloat in an unfriendly city to tend to me. And so I threw a tantrum, a tantrum which I don’t think had too much of an effect on onlookers, but (as tantrums do) ravaged me.

A glimmer of light.

If you’re thinking that I realized the err of my ways and learned to care for myself after that year, you would be wrong. The self-neglect continued into the next year. It was halted mostly by the miraculous appearance in my life of  Mary, the woman who’s now my wife.
Mary appeared as a wholehearted glimmer of light. Her presence reduced the extent of my lonely suffering. Still, the process of returning to care for myself was gradual, and took years. I think that Mary saw that I was abandoned, and her caring formed a bridge as I learned that I could also care for myself. Since then, I’ve been juggling the dual pursuit of caring for myself and pursuing my dreams.
. . .

It’s possible. Not easy, but possible.

Self-care and achieving our goals are not incompatible with one another, and we need to stop believing that they are. The accomplishment of your goals isn’t going to mean much to you, for longer than a moment, if you abandon your own needs, your very human needs, to get there. You don’t have to keep believing that achievement must come at the expense of self-care. You can make a commitment to caring for yourself and being ambitious, and you can then puzzle out what that means.
I cannot tell you how to do this. Each of us must create our own subtle mixture of ambition and self-care, tailored to our own particular body and soul.
What I can tell you is that it’s possible. Not easy, but possible. You do not have to neglect yourself to achieve great things. There is another option: valuing yourself and your work, and making the daily commitment, even though it’s hard and you’re not sure how, to pursue both. Staying committed to both yourself and your goals is what will keep you thriving for the long haul.
. . .
What I know now.

I now know that pursuing my dreams is contingent upon taking care of myself. Abandoning my own needs to pursue a goal is, quite simply, not an option. I have to remind myself of this often, because I forget often, as we tend to do with these things.
One of my favorite quotes I’ve read from Macklemore is this one: “It’s very important to go into the rooms of AA, smell the shitty coffee and be reminded that without sobriety, I would have no career.”
Switch out sobriety for self-care, and here’s my personal reality, whether I like it or not: Without self-care, I would have no career.
If I didn’t do all the many things that comprise my own self-care, I’d be unable to be a coach, a photographer, or anything at all. As annoying as it sometimes is, if I didn’t sleep every night, eat somewhat-healthy food, go to therapy, take my meds, go to the doctor, take my supplements, move my body, and spend time with people, I would not be functional.
And so I care for myself. Not only because I love being a coach and a photographer, a friend, a daughter, a wife, but because I like myself. And every day, I choose not to abandon myself again.

Jumat, 12 Januari 2018

Januari 12, 2018

modified bodies

anthony bourdain quote

When I think about Dolly Parton, I think of someone who knows who she is, likes who she is, and cares about doing good in the world.

I think about Dollywood. I think about unnaturally large breasts on a tiny woman, and sunshine-blonde hair teased up to the heavens. That boisterous, jovial, irreverent twang.

I don’t think of someone who hates herself.

But I think that self-hate is probably something that a lot of people who are interested in liking themselves tend to think about when they hear the words plastic surgery. And Dolly Parton has had a lot of plastic surgery. As she herself says,

“If I see something saggin’, baggin’, or draggin’, I’m gonna have it nipped, tucked or sucked.”

This post by Kate of Eat the Damn Cake is what started me thinking on this in the first place. 

Thinking, that is, about the conception, in some circles, that one cannot possibly like oneself and undertake voluntary, non-”medically necessary” surgery, to make oneself look more conventionally beautiful.
But what constitutes medical necessity? And who gets to decide?
Is breast reconstruction after cancer okay?
What about cosmetic reconstruction after severe facial injuries?
Breast reduction to increase physical comfort?
Breast reduction to free oneself from relentless teasing?
Breast reduction to ease back pain?

If it’s not my body, it’s none of my damn business.

For each of the above items, I have an immediate judgment, so quick I can’t even catch it, about which of those surgeries imply self-hatred, and which do not. I then notice those automatic thoughts and remember that it depends on the person and the situation. And also the fact that, if it’s not my body, it’s none of my damn business. (That’s my feminist take on the matter. And I’m nothing if not a feminist.)
Depending on our culture and our viewpoints, we can form opinions about whether or not we find each of these procedures acceptable, palatable, justifiable, or necessary. Our opinions multiply quickly, wrapping like ivy around the facades of our bodies, creeping outside our own space, onto others.
What about the other ways in which we permanently or semi-permanently change our bodies? In some communities tattoos are the norm, while plastic surgery is generally taboo. In others, plastic surgery is expected, and tattoos are seen as disrespecting one’s body.
Because of who I am, where I live, and what I value, I unknowingly assume that most people get tattoos for reasons that have to do with liking themselves, not hating themselves. I enjoy seeing other people’s tattoos, and hearing the stories behind them. (I particularly enjoyed this piece on Lisa Congdon and her ink. And this one, about Helen Lambin.) Other people see tattoos as brands of self-hatred.

I wonder:

What about things like hair removal? Does it mean you don’t like yourself if you remove hair from your body? Or does it mean that the preferences of the mainstream culture in which you live are worth some pain? Or both?

What about dying your hair? Does it mean you hate yourself if you prefer something less natural than what grows out of your scalp? Or do you just like variety, or bright colors? Or is it, honestly, far more complex than that?
How about pierced ears? Pierced noses? Pierced tongues?
Are bikini waxes a sign of self-hatred? (They certainly feel like it to me, but that is neither here nor there.)
What about wearing makeup? What about trying to lose or gain weight? What about lifting weights to become stronger?
I don’t have any answers today. None at all. In fact, I think I have far more questions than when I began.

I’d very much like to hear what your take is on all of this.

Do you feel that certain body modifications connote self-hatred? Have you modified your body in a way that helped you to like yourself more? Or less? How do you feel about the body modifications of others, and how do you feel about the fact that you feel that way?

Kamis, 11 Januari 2018

Januari 11, 2018

comparison’s a thing. but it doesn’t have to get you down.

There is one issue that comes up nearly 100% of the time when I’m working with clients around self-esteem and self-acceptance.

That issue? Comparison.
We human beings are astonishingly adept at comparing ourselves to others. Give us any topic, at all, and we can find a way to make it into a metric against which to measure ourselves and others.
This phenomenon might be entertaining, if it weren’t so darn maddening, self-defeating, and depressing.
One of the many results of our insatiable drive to compare is that we can get sucked into what other people are doing and forget to live our own lives. Or even worse, use the accomplishments of others as a reason to never, ever do any of the things we want to do.
So even though comparison is a useful skill to have (objectively), we use it against ourselves in really hurtful ways.

Because of all this, I made The Comparison Cure.
It’s a comprehensive, gentle ebook that will help you get familiar with your own particular comparison tendencies, and then gently detach from them so you can live your life (finally, thank the heavens, hallelujah).
It’ll also teach you how to use your comparison patterns to actually make your life better, funner (not a word but I don’t care), and more sparkly.
Really. Truly.
The Comparison Cure is available now, and it’s $15. If comparison is something you struggle with, I highly recommend it. And if you know someone else who’s needing this, please pass it along to them, or gift them with it.