You are Worthy as You Are. No Diet Required.

Okay male Noom user on the commercial- you “got your life back” from losing 27 pounds? How much self-worth must you lack to let 27 pounds require the need to “get your life back”?

Friends- don’t let this time of year rob you of joy. Don’t let the commercials that are designed by the best in the business to make you question your self-worth change your trajectory.

If you find yourself thinking “it will all be better once I lose weight” stop yourself in your damn tracks -literally if you have to- and say “FUCK THAT! I’m worthy *exactly* as I am and my thoughts, time, and energy are needed for real and important things- not altering my body based on somebody else’s preferences.”

Yes- they are somebody else’s preferences. Check out the info. Bodies -HEALTHY bodies- come in all shapes and sizes.

If you are in a circle getting ready to “take your lives back” by “*finally* losing that weight”, encourage your circle to say “fuck that” with you and go volunteer or get new customers or take a trip or go to the movies (AND EAT THE GD POPCORN AND DO NOT LET YOURSELF FEEL ANYTHING BUT JOY DOING IT).

If they aren’t ready to join you tell them you love them, you value them, and want to spend time with them and ask them not to discuss weight loss or diet when you are near. If they love you too they will support you.

When the bombardment of commercials floods your screen remember your commitment to yourself! Remember that diets DO NOT WORK, are unhealthy, are dangerous, and are designed to make us feel horrible about ourselves so we will buy the thing.

YOU ARE WORTHY, VALUABLE, and WANTED in exactly the body you are in. Love it, accept it, and celebrate it exactly as it is. I know. It’s hard to believe. It’s hard to understand that the size *your body* is is not the exception. It is NOT the exception. It IS worthy of being celebrated. I promise.

So what do you say? Can 2020 be the year you say “fuck that” to others making money by lowering your self-worth? If so, you’re in great company. You’ll find loads of us. I promise.

PS: Spoiler- Noom IS ABSOLUTELY a diet.

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Here’s to the Next New Beginning and it Does Not Need to Be Grandiose

Here’s to the next new beginning. It’s just the next one. It’s not grandiose or loud. No one next new chapter creates seismic shifts. It’s a million next new chapters practiced thoughtfully, intentionally, and repeatedly that creates new beginnings. I’ve learned the hard way that some of those previous chapters have to be dealt with before we can get to the good ones.

Wherever you are in your story know that you have plentiful company. You are worthy exactly as you are. You are not the exception.

We’ve all made poor choices. We’ve all been irresponsible. We all have things our wiser selves would not have chosen. And since we are reading this, we are all still here.

If this is the year you breakdown remember you are loved and belong.

If this is the year you are scared and healing, look out the window and find comfort in the real beauty around you.

If this is the year you are confidently healing, move through it with self-compassion.

If this is the year you find your self-worth, celebrate that shit like crazy!

If this is your next new beginning, reach that strong and steady arm back to bring another woman along with you.

This next new beginning will neither make nor break you. It’s one of many. Forget the pressure so many are putting on us with this new decade. If you want it to be a big huge new chapter- take it! If not though, if you want this month, this year, this decade to be lived the way you’ve been living, that is to be celebrated too. That is a beautiful and inspiring choice. We’ve heard lots of talk about how we should grab this decade by the balls and make it ours. Some of us prefer a quieter, steadier way of moving through life.

Whichever new beginning becomes a part of your story it is important, valuable, and yours.  It is also not as big or important as some are making it seem. Nothing magical happened when the clock struck midnight. No timer started nor did one expire.

Each of these lives belongs to the one living it. If you need a fresh slate, maybe this is the time to find it. You can also find it next week, next month, or next year. Maybe more important than waiting for a magical moment to grant you a fresh start is understanding that the life we live holds value- including all of our choices.

I’ve learned that owning our stories is likely the most grandiose thing we can do. Whether we like to move through life in a loud, enthusiastic, and exciting way, or a mild, calm, and softer way, the value of our stories do not change. We all have important experiences. We all have wisdom to share. We all have stories to share that are worthy of being heard.

However you enter this new decade, I hope your next new beginning is one that makes you feel the way you want to feel. Whatever actions you decide to take or not take, I hope they are authentically yours by desire. Whatever road you are walking, or whichever divergent path you step onto, I hope it leads you closer to the life you want.

Wishing you a very happy Next New Beginning, whatever that looks like. Happy 2020!

What is your Next New Beginning? Will you share in the comments for us to know too?

 

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Finding My Self-Worth is My Greatest Accomplishment

Self-worth is essetnial to living a happy life, I think. I did not realize it, though. How about you?

Everyone is looking back at their year, it seems. There are lots of posts and conversations about greatest accomplishments. I love reading them. I love hearing about how you made something happen. I love to see you celebrate! It got me thinking about what my greatest accomplishment is this year and within seconds of wondering, I knew the answer: this year I found my self-worth. Not superficially. Not in theory. Not because I’m on-trend. I deep down, for real, understand my worthiness for the first time in my life.

What does this mean? It means when I enter a room or conversation I think about the people and the conversations we’ll have rather than if I’ve camouflaged my stomach enough. It means I no longer think about whether the food I’m eating is good or bad and have alllll that time freed up for far more important things and thoughts.

It means I no longer judge myself for living in a way that’s best for me even if it’s atypical. Whether that’s a different sleep schedule, wearing comfortable clothes instead of fashionable, or embracing true food freedom, I love myself and know these are good choices even when the person in front of me stares incredulously.

Finding my self-worth means that when I don’t understand something or think I should know a piece of information that I don’t, I no longer fall down a shame spiral. Now I know this doesn’t mean I’m stupid or less wanted. It just means I know different things.

Having high self-worth has allowed me to see the worth in others. I can see now that even though someone is living differently than me it’s not necessarily better or worse- it’s worthy. I can set boundaries so that if the way someone else lives negatively impacts my life I can step aside or out of it.

This year’s accomplishment in finding my self-worth is life-changing. It has set me up for the second half of life so much better than the first. I suspect it won’t feel like the same person living it. Except it is. And it’s all those fuck ups, poor choices, and irresponsibility that helped me to get here.

We all start at different places. I wish I’d started with higher self-worth. I’m not grateful for starting where I did. Life would have been better if I’d had self-worth before turning 45. My life would have been better if certain things had not happened. I don’t believe it all happens for a reason.

Hopefully, all of this work I am doing is allowing my kids to start with high self-worth. I mean it is. I know it is. I see it in them every day. And that’s what we all hope for, right? To give our kids a better starting point than we had?

My vision for this year is to share the tools and resources that helped me get here in case they are also useful for other women. The more women I talk to the more I understand how too many of us have been robbed of self-worth.

It’s not that I hope other women have the same experience I do. Of course not. I just want more women to have access to living a life unaplogetically and without so many of their thoughts being stuck on how lousy and unworthy they are.

We read about women stepping into their power and for me it was easy to dismiss this idea as corny or woo. Now, of course, I see that it is neither. Stepping into our power allows us to live in a better way. This doesn’t mean grandiose or famous or rich. It just means better in whatever  better means to us- better boundaires, relationships, work, self-love, self-talk, or whatever makes life better, happier, for you.

With all of the struggles, injustice, and wrongs we women live with, it seems we also live at an exciting time. We are stepping into our power and talking about it- sharing what works, spreading our confidence, role modeling boundaries, and stopping ourselves in our tracks from apologizing. It’s not right that we have all this work to do but we are doing it anyway.

Here’s to us stepping into our power and putting our hands down to pull up another woman along with us. Has there ever been anything more hopeful?

Do you have resources that have helped you raise your self-worth? Will you share them in the comments? The more we women help each other the better the world gets for all of us!

 

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Maybe a Happy Family is this Simple: Eat Cake Together

The kids and I just sat at the table together for close to an hour. We laughed so hard Sydney snorted her soda. Our bellies hurt and we begged each other to stop so we could catch our breath.

The kids got into a spelling challenge and grabbed notebooks. We talked about all sorts of light, fun things— and a couple of things that were a little heavier.

We only sat down to have cake- a delicious lemon cake we made yesterday, that we all love. It has lots of sugar and flour and a delectable buttercream frosting.

When the kids were ready to go up to their rooms they both thanked me for the cake, gave me a hug, and went upstairs with rosy cheeks and smiles. As I walked back to the table I saw this scene and decided to leave it for a minute…because it’s so beautiful.

I hope my kids will always enjoy cake at my table wherever it is and however old they are. I hope when they pull in a chair at my table they know when they push it out again their bellies and hearts will be full.

I could say “no” to cake and time and other things that draw them near. I’m so grateful I was shown another way. A way that understands emotional and mental health are important. A way that values connection and critical thinking. A way that knows food serves many purposes and tables should be comfortable.

I have some more years with my kids at my table eating most meals with me- cooked by me, or Kristopher. I can’t make their tables comfortable when they aren’t with me. I can’t help them leave with a full heart if I’m not there.

I can set the foundation now though so that comfort, love, and acceptance are what they know at my table, so that when they need it they know where to come.

Yes. I’ll leave this scene for a minute. It’s so beautiful and I love it so much. ♥️

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Boundaries: A Quick and Useful Thought

Here’s something I’ve learned about boundaries: if someone has a good handle on boundaries and has them set, it doesn’t matter if you think the boundaries are appropriate. That’s the point. They are their boundaries.

In fact, the more we judge, disapprove of, and try to dismantle those boundaries, the further away from us that person will push. They will include us in their life less. We will not approach the glorious space of intimacy because we cannot be trusted to be respectful, trustworthy, or capable of holding relationship.

It’s a fascinating thing, really. There are all sorts of memes about it and quick one-off thoughts. There is a real disconnection that comes from not understanding and appreciating boundaries, though.

Boundaries and Self-Worth

I’ve noticed that people with higher self-worth tend to hold boundaries. I don’t know which comes first- does high self-worth come from understanding boundaries, or when we have high self-worth do boundaries just come with it? I also suspect people with high self-worth don’t challenge the boundaries of others.

Personally, I find it much easier and safer to be with people who understand and implement boundaries. Not only do these folks appreciate my personal boundaries, but I know them better and better understand how to be in  relationship with them because they have their own strong boundaries.

However boundaries come to be, what we do with another person’s boundaries very much determines how well we get to know them- how we get to be in their lives. The more we fight to break through the boundaries of another the further apart we will get, the less we will be trusted, the less we will be invited *in*.

Growing up is tough, isn’t it? 🙃 It’s so worth it though.

Will you share a thought on boundaries in the comments below? It’s so helpful!

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Fuck This Shit: For Women Who Want to Move Forward

This “fuck this shit” bracelet arrived yesterday. Knowing the hands that made it makes me feel even more empowered and powerful when I wear it. It is a work of art. It is a reminder to bat away the bullshit that tries to keep me down; expectations, roles, people pleasing, self-worth crises, overthinking, fear of failure, fear of success, gossips, mistakes, poor choices, believing my past determines my future, thinking I’m meant for less and that I have to conform.

Here’s to batting all that noise away with three little words “Fuck this Shit.” “You’re not good enough. You don’t know what you’re doing. That’s meant for other, better people.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit”.

“Women aren’t capable. Breasts make you dumb. People with vaginas have one purpose.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Be appealing. Every man should desire you sexually. It is your role to ensure these things are true. It is your purpose in life.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Cover up so men can stay focused on important things. It is your role. Take up less space. Be quiet. Be invisible. Find the perfect spot between silent and helpful so that you can contribute appropriately and as directed.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Allow purity culture and male-forward ideology to remind you of your place, your capabilities, your time to speak.” Bat, bat, “Fuck this shit.”

See, it won’t look like some big shift. It won’t spark a televised movement. It won’t rally investors and supporters to jump into the next trendy thing. What it will do is create tiny little empowered moments in me, and maybe in you. The small choices that allow us to move forward toward the life and activities I want.

The reminder of “fuck this shit” will be a quick little personal rally cry that might allow us to shake it off in the moment. A literal shaking back and forth of the head to bat away the shit that keeps stopping us from being who we are meant to be.

Maybe this is the power of middle-aged. Maybe peri-menopause serves a fantastic purpose. Maybe it is this burning, raging fire created by so many sisters who have said “ENOUGH. I am more than this. I am capable. I am strong. I have worth. I hold value. FUCK. THIS. SHIT.” And have gone on to live extraordinary ordinary lives doing exactly the things they love.

These aren’t angry words. These three little words help me to bat all those thoughts out of my path so I can keep moving forward. I love them. And this was made by the talented, capable, creative, skilled hands of the wonderful Joanna Taylor and that just makes wearing this feel even more powerful. (Joanna is a friend and I was in no way compensated for sharing her work. You can click on her name to connect with her).

Do you have a few words you keep in mind to bat away the stuff that keeps you back? Will you share them?

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I Cannot Live in the Rabbit Hole: It’s Happier Outside

Poisoned food. Fracking. Climate change.  Vaccines.

I have gone far, far down one Rabbit Hole- no, two. I know there is truth to a lot of the things we dismiss as conspiracy theories.

Here is the thing though; I cannot live there. I cannot live in the place where the government may be out to make me sick with our food or by shooting poison into my children. I cannot live in the place where I believe there is a possibility that I cannot escape the poison- that my children cannot escape the poison- that permeates our existence.

I know that upsets people. “Ignorance is bliss” they say. “I sure wish I could just leave it for somebody else to deal with, too” others say. “Must be nice to just ignore all the things that are killing you and your kids.” “Don’t you worry about your grandchildren?”

Do I worry? Yes. I worry about everything all day, all the time. I do not get a break from the worry, in fact. So why would I choose to live in an environment that feeds my panic? Why would I surround myself with sights and sounds and voices that that prove how murderous the world is?

I am not ignoring these things, though. I am just choosing not to live in the Rabbit Hole.

Because in the Rabbit Hole, life is dark and glum. There are boogymen around every corner and pits of lava and trees whose branches will reach out and rob me of my breath.

In the Rabbit Hole, a cloud should be feared, not admired. The sun will kill my children and doctors do only harm.

In the Rabbit Hole, nobody can be trusted. Everyone is the enemy. There is no safe space or place to enjoy life, or the world; flowers are not beauty realized, but are poison carriers and representations of our dying bees.

I understand there is truth to some of these things, and for a while, I did live in the Rabbit Hole. Life is unhappy, and scary, and dark in the Rabbit Hole. Happiness cannot exist there.

I can put sunscreen on my kids and still basque in the warmth of the sun. I can research the agents in the bottle that the doctor wants to shoot into my child’s arm and still appreciate their ability to heal. I can buy organic when that feels important to me and mix Kraft Mac and Cheese when it does not.

I have chosen not to live in the Rabbit Hole. I have chosen to let some things go. I can both educate myself and opt out of being responsible for the solution. With age has come the wisdom that I am not responsible for changing everything. With greater age has come greater wisdom that it is immature of me to think I can.

Most importantly though, I have come to learn that I can acknowledge the things that need to get better and still choose happiness. I now know that I need not feel guilty when weeks or months go by and I have not even peeked into the Rabbit Hole. Instead, I can celebrate. I can feel good that I have made a healthy choice to see the colors of the leaves as they are and to smile big at the way the sun’s rays light up the beautiful clouds.

For me, only peeking into the Rabbit Hole on occasion allows me to be more of a change agent than if I lived there. By seeing beauty and making small changes when I am able, I have found a balance that allows me to enjoy my time on this Earth instead of fear it.

 

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Life Learning and Homeschooling Might Not Be What You Think

Life Learning and Homeschooling Might Not Be What you Think

Sometimes people think homeschoolers casually and nonchalantly decide not to send their kids to school. Sometimes people think we don’t understand the education system, academics, or how it all works. Sometimes people think we are a simple-folk-a-livin’ in a bubble.

That very well may be true for some. I’m thinking of religious homeschoolers especially.

As for me and mine (tee-hee), I chose not to send my kids to school because I understand the education system. I’m well versed. I spent time both as student and faculty learning it. Living it. I was formally trained in how to “educate” children.

Life Learning is Highly Intentional

Little boy in cape with title of piece in text life learning and homeschooling might not be what you thinkSince the decision not to send my kids to school I’ve spent my life learning about and observing how children learn, thrive, and engage. It’s literally my life’s work. All-day. Every day. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. It’s what I do on an intense and constant basis.

While our lives are relaxed, my decisions, actions, and interactions are not casual. While it might look like all we do is play (which is accurate) I observe and foster learning, connections, and meaningful understanding all day every day.

I feel like it’s worth putting out there so that people have a better understanding of many homeschooling families and how much we understand what’s happening- how thoughtful, educated, and intentional this decision is. It’s worth knowing because too often we are seen as outliers not just in numbers but in understanding.

We are outliers in both, I suppose, but not in the way many assume. Many of us have a deep understanding and value of not only learning but other things too. Things like critical thinking, emotional-intelligence, self-worth, self-compassion, self-love and living a peaceful and happy existence. I do not mean a new-agey etherial existence but one that allows us to operate from a calm and contented place- one where learning is able to happen all day every day. We understand the relationship between these things,  learning and meaningfully contributing to society. We know the value this holds in making the world a better and more loving place.

Life Learning

Every day we see how much people learn just from living, some refer to this as life learning. We see the results of creating an environment where curiosity and creativity are supported. This often means removing blocks like access to resources, enforcing arbitrary sleep requirements, and switching focus from exploring the rabbit hole to food or chores.

Many of us choose to homeschool not nonchalantly or because we are stuck in some ideology. For many of us, religion and the subjects being taught in schools has no bearing at all on why our kids do not attend.

For a large number of us, we choose not to send our kids to school because we understand that the very act of living is learning- life learning. We see that when curiosity is supported on a whole-life basis, instead of hindered by arbitrary requirements, kids not only learn everything they are “supposed to” but a million things more. We watch as these things stick, are easily recalled and contextually and appropriately applied in an innovative way.

In Conclusion

There are lots of different reasons people homeschool. Even within homeschooling circles, there are vast philosophical differences. More and more though parents are deciding to partner with their kids to learn through living. Because this is unfamiliar to the majority of us I think it’s worth noting how thoughtful, researched, involved, and committed living this way is.

Assumptions about homeschoolers are plentiful. Some, sadly, are accurate. For so many of us though we are contributing great things to this world by choosing to live this way with our children.

I hope these thoughts are helpful for others. Maybe you have a loved one who is homeschooling this way and you wonder how it works. Maybe you have a loved one who doesn’t value the way you are choosing to live. Maybe you live in a small conservative community of religious homeschoolers and find yourself subconsciously swayed toward school-at-home.

Whatever the reason, I hope these words offer some clarity and helpfulness in figuring out what works best for your family. I also hope they offer those who hold inaccurate assumptions about homeschoolers to reconsider. For many of us, this is our life-long, large, and meaningful way to contribute to positively changing the world.

 

 

 

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My Story

A couple of years ago I was in the darkest, scariest place I’ve ever been. I was diagnosed and treated for Generalized Anxiety Disorder before my kids were born. I got better.

Then we went through a bunch of life and just as things started to point up and get happy and exciting, bam! I had an intense and long-lasting mental breakdown.  Looking back I think it probably came then because my mind knew it was the safest time to not be able to hold on.

There came a day when I knew I was in a dangerous place. I was sitting on our porch waiting for my kids to wake up, in a state of something near prolonged paranoia. My mind had crafted the most horrible non-reality and I was living in it.

Hopeless. Terrified. Thinking that at 42 my life was ending- not by suicide but by the number of years I’d lived. It was not depression. I still found moments of joy with my children, but those moments were quickly sent to the depths of a dark and all-consuming abyss.

When I look back at that woman I feel so much compassion for her. I want to comfort her. I want to sit with her, hold her hand when she wants it, make her delicious food, buy her the most comfortable clothes, and find her the resources and tools she needs to move out of that space.

In retrospect, I did do that for myself. It’s exactly what I did. Sitting on my porch that day I knew that if I could not find a way to turn things around starting right then- there might be no turning around.

I got on medication. I started taking a particular B-12 and Magnesium. I reached out to a friend who had made herself visible about a similar struggle. I asked her for resources. She gave them to me and I used every one. I did a lot of work. Hard work. Work I really did not want to do but I also knew where I’d end up if I did not.

To be crystal clear: some people with mental illness cannot change their outcome no matter how much work they do or what kind of medication they take. Literally every day of my life now I pause and offer love to those people. It’s a tragedy and I have so much compassion for people who have to live in that space all of their lives. 

As I sat there trying to think of a simple, basic, actionable step that I could actually take, I evaluated what, if anything, made me feel better and what made me feel worse. Again, I was very lucky to be able to do this even though I was in such a horrid place.

Food and Clothing- Interesting, Huh?

The first couple of things that came up for me were food and clothing. I had been on a near lifetime of enmeshment in diet culture- constantly berating myself for what I did or did not eat, obsessing about food (either what I’d eaten, wanted to eat, or what I “could not” eat). It was, literally, all-consuming, and decreased my self-confidence, self-love, and self-worth.

Though I was a full-fledged member, I did not yet know about diet culture. All I knew at that time was that I did not have the mental space, energy, or resources to think about food for one more second of my life. So I stopped. I was in crisis and what I weighed, or if my cholesterol got high (I had not learned about diet culture yet remember) it did not matter. If I didn’t take my obsession with the restriction of food off the table to move toward feeling better, I wouldn’t have survived long enough to have my cholesterol matter.

The truth is, poor mental health is fatal for many. Just like Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. I needed to do whatever necessary to increase my chances of survival. So I stopped thinking about food and ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I had no idea at the time that this would become one of my core self-care tenets. You can read about it by clicking here.

The next easy actionable step I could take was to wear clothes that made me comfortable. I had long given up shapewear and heels, but I was still wearing clothes for the main purpose of trying to cover up my fat. I spent hours and hours in dressing rooms looking for the best option. Comfort did not matter. The style did not matter. All that mattered is if it helped cover up the worst parts of me (oof. It’s so hard to know those words were true for me for so long).

I started wearing leggings from LulaRoe (I’m not going down the rabbit hole with you. I don’t sell them. I wear them. I love them.). I wore clothing from J. Jill because it had an elastic waist, a great cut, and incredibly comfortable materials. I found t-shirts that were comfortable and fit well and wore them with shorts.

As it turns out, wearing comfortable clothes was another core tenet of self-care for me. Each night when I picked out my outfit for the next day it was a gift. It was a way of saying to myself: “tomorrow you will be comfortable all day. When things are bad and you do not know what to do, the comfort of your clothes and body will not make you feel worse. They will not be a distraction from getting better.”

Other Things

Gratitude, self-talk, listening to music, self-compassion, changing the voices that I allowed in my head (which is how my Podcast started  Click here to read more), sleep, play… all of these were other practices I would adopt in the name of survival. What I did not know then was that all of it was helping to raise my self-worth. Low self-worth had led to low self-love for me. Couple that with poor mental health and it is no wonder now that I was near death.

If you met me now and I did not tell you, you would have no idea of where I’ve been. I’m stable. I’m productive. I’m happy. I’m optimistic. I’m authentic.  I’m engaged (in life. I’ve been (mostly) happily married for 16 years). I’m friendly. I’m conversational. I’m excited. My passion is back. Though I am not at all new-agey, I really am stepping into my power and it is awesome.

But I was there. And now I am here.

Learning what real self-care is combined with medication is what saved my life. If I had been practicing these sooner, I never would have lived in the depths of despair.

You don’t have to have poor mental health or be at rock bottom to start using real self-care practices. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom who loves her life or a corporate executive who travels 50 percent of the year doing work she adores, we are all being fed a list of “must-dos” when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Too often, I believe, these come from people who have not practiced it themselves and their self-care directives are superficial.

I think it’s so important that we all start to learn what taking care of ourselves really looks like. Personally, I don’t know of a better or more beautiful way than sharing our stories.

Pondering Jen is a place where I will share my story in hopes that it will help other women. I look forward to learning more about your story, too, if and when you are comfortable sharing.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter over there on the right and follow us on our social media channels. Click these links to follow us: Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. 

Welcome. I am so glad you are here.

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Be the Change You Wish to See in the World As An Action Not a Quote

Last week I published a post about weight loss and how it makes us fat. (Click to read). I was impassioned and shared the post around anywhere I could. I desperately wanted women to know the truth about diet culture. The more I thought about how many women, like me, have spent so much of their life wasting so much time, energy, thought, and resources on losing weight -when it actually makes you gain weight- the more confident I grew sharing the piece.

It was shared on a page about diet culture where it ended up getting attacked. “Fatphobic” and “cringe-y” were just two of the insults quickly thrown. They got mean and more descriptive.

Imagine My Embarrassment

I cannot exactly remember what I first felt when I read the words that described my writing. I think it was a sick to my stomach feeling with the realization that I had hurt people’s feelings. (This is not a people-pleaser behavior, of which I am recovering from. Rather, it stemmed from me being ignorant and not fully understanding the weight of what I was saying). What I said was offensive -even to myself. I just did not know it until it was pointed out.

As the comments came in I realized that some who were throwing the critiques likely had not read the piece. When this used to happen to me I would completely dismiss the person’s comment and call them out in a not very kind way about how ridiculous it is to comment on a post you have not read.

Maybe the title of my piece was offensive but the content of the piece was anything but (I thought). If these people would just take 5 freaking minutes and read it they would not be making any of these comments! I guess I was annoyed.

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years though. I’ve grown so much. After my mental breakdown the world became different. I had to learn what real self-care looked like. For me that is engaging in causes that feel unjust to me in a way that won’t send me back to the depths of despair and disconnection.

Be the Change

So, in this case, I paused for a moment. I took a look at what these commenters were saying. I stepped back for a moment and considered my words from their perspective. When I really looked, it did not matter whether they had read the article. The very title of my piece was hurtful, offensive, and perpetuated the very myth and damaging stereotype they have spent so much of their lives trying to debunk. It did not matter what my words after that said. Whether or not they read the post, my words would have been tainted anyway. I was wrong.

Instead of being defensive or justifying what I had written, I engaged. Instead of looking for a winner and a loser, I had a conversation.

See, November 2016 changed a lot for a lot of people. Many of us were left in disbelief. The impossible happened and it was incredulous. We couldn’t imagine it getting this bad but it has. When I woke up the morning after the election the first thing I said was “this is what happens when we don’t listen to each other”. I believe those words still and that single morning changed the way I look at everything. I knew I needed to be the change I wanted to see and I had to be it hard.

But How? Have You Even Been on the Internet?!

So I listend. I engaged. I asked questions. I considered. I detached myself from the emotion and embarrassment I felt so that I could change my piece to make it inclusive.

image of woman in front of computer with text "be the change you wish to see is an action not a quote"I have to tell you, this experience was beautiful. It was humbling in a way I have not experienced before. Admitting how little I know is not something I have ever had a hard time with. I have a hard time though when it seems like people are just trying to be trouble makers. I’ve assumed the latter far too often.

The conversation that followed the initial attack was so helpful- for me, and for my piece. My piece will now benefit more women. More women will be able to read it and receive it’s message. And you know what? All I had to change was the title.

Hopeful and Empowered are Good Results

A lot of times I have felt hopeless about how to affect change. It’s easy for me to get lost thinking one person is not enough to make a difference and get overwhelmed with the possibility of it all. The conversation this group and I have had over the last week affected change on a global level. It did. I have no doubt. What a powerful and empowering realization.

Some of the folks on that thread were absolutely just looking for trouble, or maybe they were just angry. Maybe they are fat and have faced discrimination and hurt their whole lives and were reacting to the awful title I had written. No matter which parts of this are true we modeled something different that day- we modeled understanding, vulnerability, kindness, compassion, humanity, growth, and making the world better for women. Worst case this thread was shut down to the ridiculousness of trouble makers with intelligence, honesty, and a willingness to listen to each other. Best case we unintentionally modeled discourse for the greater good in front of a whole bunch of people.

So What?

Lest anyone think I am trying to pat myself on the back (well, I mean, I am. I am really, really proud of myself for how far I’ve come, but that’s not why I’m writing this). I used to be the angry one. The one who lashed out quickly, shut the conversation down, and shut people up- and don’t get me wrong- sometimes it was absolutely justified and necessary. It became my default though and I carried the weight of the hurts I’d caused for a long time. For me though, now, being the change I wish to see involves more listening. It requires me to replace winning or losing with a conversation.

Instead of being filled with shame this last week for behaving like an asshole and getting in an internet war I have become less ignorant, had more connection, and feel steady and confident moving forward in social justice issues because now I know I can trust myself to be the change I wish to see in the world.

I don’t know about you, but for so long I thought this nice quote was for big important people- people with lots of reach and influence. This week I learned that’s not true at all. It’s for all of us who have the mental space and capabilities to practice it in our every day lives, even when it’s hard.

 

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