Body of Evidence

We will never find happiness when we are too stuck in our own single story.  We MUST see the world from a perspective larger than just our own eyes to see the full complicated truth that is out there, beyond just our personal story.  Beauty and happiness lie in the bigger picture.

When it comes to how we see our own body and face we forget that our little window into the world is often distorted.  TRULY distorted.  When looking at an image of ourselves – in the mirror or in pictures – we judge, we criticize, we compare, we go on seek and destroy missions about our “flaws”….  all of this non-acceptance is like looking at a reflection in a fun house mirror that is stretching, smashing and skewing the truth of our own unique beauty.

Sing the Body Electric

These lines are from one of my favorite poems – I Sing the Body Electric, by Walt Whitman.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

Walt Whitman writes about the beauty of the human body, and the need to honor it in all it’s forms.  We are born with the ability to see ourselves.  Some of us just lose that ability from years of taking in misinformation from others (often from the media).  It is not our beauty that is lost.  It is our habits of criticizing and “improving” that lead us away from the truth of our beauty.

Watch this video.  What might you have said?  What habit might you need to change to get back to singing your body electric?

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April 10, 2013

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Don’t Forget Your Star Player

Okay, I’m not endorsing all the language used here.  But with all the non-official authority I can muster I am endorsing Katt Williams as a self-compassion ambassador!

 youarebeingliedtoAmazing Photoshopped Images

Do your brain a favor.  Go here now:  Seventeen Mesmerizing Before After Photoshop Gifs.

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The Best is Not Good Enough?  Not a Problem.  Photoshop to the Rescue!

These Photoshopped images are wonderful examples of how far the art of visual deceit has come. These are beautiful women with bodies that are closer to the ideal than most of ever had or will have.  These women have the budget and time for healthy eating and a personal trainer.  These women likely already started “ahead” with what genetics contributed.  And as if these advantages weren’t enough, they are transformed by a team of stylists before a photo shoot.  We never stood a chance of having a picture of ourselves look as amazing as these women.  And yet being one of the most beautiful people in the world is no longer enough.  Celebrities are routinely subjected to a virtual nip and tuck bonanza before their image ever reaches our eyes.

Photoshopping:  Now with More Deceit!

Yes, already ample breasts are often enhanced.  And already slim waists and arms reduced.  But it goes so much farther than that.  Pick any image and watch it flick back and forth between real and unreal several times.  Look for the smallest changes that are being made.

  • See Beyonce’s already slim face gets trimmed ever slightly more.
  • See the lines removed from Megan Fox’s neck to make her skin look younger.
  • See the one eye that is raised on Angelina Jolie to make her look more symmetrical.
  • See Katy Perry’s forehead get reduced on the right side.
  • See Faith Hill’s already slender back get trimmed along with her arm being reduced almost in half.
  • On the second image of Megan Fox, see her already full bottom lip get plumped, and already seemingly perfect eyebrows get reshaped.

“I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford”

It’s important to understand just what “Photoshopped” means.  We aren’t talking about just adding a cup size or two in a bathing suit.  Today’s Photoshopped images are a study of intolerance for human beauty.  Cindy Crawford famously once said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.”  Even she can’t meet the beauty ideal put forth by her own image. 

You are being lied to.  Your eyes are one of the most important tools you have for taking in the reality of how things are.  When I talk about using distress tolerance skills, I often suggest techniques using the senses, particularly the generally dominant sensory system of vision.  I suggest using vision precisely because our senses are here to detect what is present and true.  Turning our attention to the truth of the present can help pull us out of a looping internal narrative that is causing us pain. And so!  Photoshopping images of bodies is a particularly dangerous way that our understanding of reality is being altered.

Our brains trust that what it sees is true.  It has virtually no defenses to prevent Photoshopped images being uploaded from our eyes to our filing system of “human bodies” in the brain.  The repeated exposure to these images alters the file we have in our head of “human bodies.”  We begin to look around us and notice “flaws.”  But these flaws are only detection of differences between an unrealistic ideal that snuck into your head and the reality of beauty that surrounds us.

Back to Life.  Back to Reality.

So what can we do to keep ourselves from being hurt by these visual lies?  Keeping our eyes shut at all times would certainly be 100% effective, but also probably impact our lives in other ways.  (Move over texting while driving.  Here comes Driving with Eyes Closed!).  But when we see an image in advertising we can remind ourselves that it’s a lie.  We can upload visual information of real bodies by looking at the diversity around us.  Careful – our eyes loves to look for examples only of bodies that are “better” than ours in some ways.  Choose to look around at ALL of the bodies that surround you.  Young ones.  Old ones.  Different skin and hair and teeth and genders.  Each body carrying around a person with hopes and fears and a desire to connect and be loved.  And the same is true for you.   You deserve to be loved, and to love your body for what it does for you in this moment.  It will never be perfect, because perfect doesn’t exist.  But your body is here now.  Practice being grateful for what it does for you, and the beauty that exists in the uniqueness of you.

And for goodness sakes, don’t compare your body to a picture!

(If you find that your body image concerns are significant enough to impact your life on a daily basis, I’d recommend checking out this book:  The Body Image Workbook.)

http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/super-soul-sunday.html

Brené Brown on Super Soul Sunday

Okay folks, set your tivos for 11amET/PT this Sunday. Oprah has another great Super Soul Sunday coming up this week.  Brené Brown!  Fist pump!  This episode is not to be missed. (Okay, or to be missed and watched on the internet later.)

Authenticity Advice from A Vulcan

Long before Brene Brown came on the scene, Dr. Spock (okay, Leonard Nimoy) was on making the case for connection with others starting by letting go of who we want to be and embracing who we are.

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What a great way to start National Eating Disorders Awareness Week:  Jennifer Lawrence is so unexpectedly fierce.  She has said a lot of awesome things about loving her body, despite being considered “obese” by Hollywood standards.  I loved watching her in this clip above.  She is just being her goofy, relate-able, human self even when the environment pulls for outward beauty and the illusion of perfection.

Jennifer Lawrence, you can be my wing man anytime.

Find ways you can be involved National Eating Disorders Awareness Week here.

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Transitioning Into You

February 20, 2013

Annika Penelope Gives Us A Peak Behind the Curtain

This blog post by Annika Penelope – read it!  She is wonderful at communicating the cultural pressures that we ALL need to get over before we can be happy with who we are. Yes, it’s about her transition.  Trust me – this post is also about something much more universal. It is about the cultural pressures we all face to be someone different than who we really are.  You will be glad you read her writing regardless of your own relationship with your gender.

Eating Disorders and Transitioning Genders:  What We ALL Can Learn From These Experiences

Of course recovering from an eating disorder and transitioning between genders are two completely different experiences.  Completely.  So don’t get me wrong when I talk about the things that I have learned from working with people on these two unrelated topics.

It is precisely because they are such different experiences that I find any similarities in these paths to be remarkable.  We live in a culture that thrives on making us feel bad about ourselves.  We are bombarded with advertisements, airbrushed images, reality TV shows, and so much more, all sending messages that beauty equals happiness, and anything less than a continual quest for physical improvement is akin to sin.  This cultural pressure to focus on our appearances – specifically to focus on continually “improving” our appearance – takes a toll on our self-esteem.

Recovering from an eating disorder and successfully transitioning share this one thing in common:

Success requires finding and then tossing out the pressure our culture can put on us to be someone who we are not, in order to finally love who we are.

The Culture Of Authenticity

The first step in escaping the death grip of our cultural pressures is to recognize that there is no right way to be a male or female.  Each one of us finds a new way to be the gender that we are.  Some gals love flamingos and pink.  Some gals are pilots.  I know one gal who is a pilot AND loves flamingos and pink.  Is she less of a female than me for working in a largely male dominant profession?  Is she more of a female than me because she likes pink flamingos?  Of course not.  As Annika says in her post, “You deserve to live an authentic life.”

  • Living authentically means recognizing that our cultural does a poor job of telling us how to live authentically.
  • Living authentically means recognizing that how someone else chooses to dress or what they choose to do has nothing to do with what is right for you.
  • Living authentically means recognizing that there is no one point that we are all moving towards.
  • Living authentically means recognizing that you choose what is right for you and your body.  Even if it is scary to let go of pressures to be something else.  Especially if it is scary to let go of pressures to be something else.
  • Living authentically means letting go of the idea of life as a destination, and begin to enjoy the journey of becoming.