Monday, November 26, 2012

You Are Fabulous!

You Are Enough

Acknowledging Positive Attributes and Feeling Good About Ourselves

After over indulging during the long Thanksgiving weekend I am feeling not so fabulous about myself and my body. The Thanksgiving meal- stuffing, wine, pie, potatoes- and days of eating leftovers has really messed with my mind and sense of self. My bad body image thoughts are completely out of control. My rational mind keeps trying to interject telling me that "It is not possible for you to have gained any significant amount of real weight over the course of three days." And it tries to calm me down by offering advice such as, "Now that you're back on campus you'll return to your normal eating and walking routine. Even if you did gain weight it will come off naturally." Although these thoughts are present my eating disordered thoughts are strong and over rule my rational voice the maturity of the time. I am feeling fat, afraid, and out of control. I am wearing baggy clothes because I am nervous that if I put on jeans they will fit more snugly than they did previously. I am afraid that I won't be able to stop over indulging now that I have started and that my weight will just continue to sky rocket to a number that I am uncomfortable with. And I am feeling out of control because I have not been able to follow the rules and strictures that I usually set for myself regarding food. What if I can never follow them again? What if I just continue to overeat? 

My eating disordered voice is screaming, "You must start restricting now! You need to make up for the past few days! You are fat and disgusting! You are out of control and gluttonous just like everyone else! You have to lose this weight immediately!" The exclamations haunt me every moment of the day and force me to feel uncomfortable with what I have consumed. They evoke a level of fear in me that I can't even begin to describe. The provoke me to feel miserable mentally and disgusting in my own body. They inspire me to want to restrict to extreme measures so that I can take off any weight I may have gained and then some just as a precaution. My eating disorder makes me believe that I am not enough unless I am visibly underweight. It blinds me from seeing any positive attributes that I possess and subsequently prevents me from feeling good about myself. We all feel some remorse or regret after splurging over the holiday. Many of us plan to alter our eating habits for the days following in order to regain a sense of balance. But my thoughts and plans are extreme and that in itself scares me. If I listen to the advice of my eating disorder will I actually feel better? Or, will I begin to spiral down and lose control of the restricting and weight loss? Is listening to my eating disorder worth becoming sick again and potentially missing Christmas for the second year in a row? My rational mind answers with a resounding NO! 

So the question is how I am supposed to believe that I am fabulous no matter what I have eating and regardless of what I weigh? How can we look at ourselves and honestly say that we are enough? I am going to start of with a few affirmations to help us on journey to feeling fabulous-

I give myself all the compassion I deserve and need.

The more I acknowledge my positive qualities, the stronger they become.

I am worthwhile- imperfections and all.

I know it can be difficult to focus on three separate affirmations at once but I felt I needed to include all of them because collectively they cover three important elements that we need on our path to feeling  good about ourselves and believing that we are fabulous! The first element is compassion or self-love. We are so much harder on ourselves than we are on other people. We look in the mirror and pin point faults that others do not see or simply don't exist. We condemn ourselves for our mistakes, yell at ourselves for making stupid comments, and blame ourselves for situations that are out of our control. It is time that we show ourselves the same compassion that we show to others because we need and deserve it just as much as anyone else.

"If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago..."

- Cheri Huber

The second element is acknowledging positive qualities. Like I said previously if we can learn to recognize and acknowledge positive attributes that we possess than our supposed faults will begin to fade and seem less important. Acknowledging positive attributes also offers two more significant benefits. It forces us to look past the exterior and think about qualities that truly matter- kindness, intelligence, faithfulness, graciousness. We are more than our weight or shape and acknowledging positive attributes about ourselves that are not based on appearance enables us to see that there is more to us than what we look like. Acknowledging positives also commands us to realize and admit that there is good within us. There are things about us that are exceptional if we take the time to look at our own reflection- internal and external. Seeing these positive elements can help us to feel good about who we are and allow us to believe that we are fabulous! And finally the third element is feeling that you are worth it no matter what you have done, despite the faults you believe you have, and regardless of any mistakes you have made. Just being who you are is enough and is worth friendship, respect, and love. Because I included multiple affirmations and expanded upon all of them I am going to break it down into the three main themes in the hopes of preventing confusion. In order to believe that we are fabulous lets concentrate on these three elements or themes: compassion, acknowledging positives, and feeling worth it.

Because I am struggling so greatly with bad body image and eating disordered thoughts and urges at the moment I want to include a couple affirmations that speak specifically to these feelings and are directed to the eating disorder community. If this portion does not apply to you skip over it and continue reading. Even if you do not have an eating disorder you may find some use for the following affirmations but if you are already overwhelmed with the three affirmations that preceded this section than I encourage you to ignore it and focus on the affirmations the best apply to you and suit your personal needs. The holiday season can be exceptionally difficult for individuals who suffer from eating disorders. But the aftermath of the holidays can prove to be even harder and more draining. During my Thanksgiving meal and the days that followed my eating disorder voice was a whisper suggesting that I not eat the food but not preventing me from doing so. Now that the holiday is over and the deed is done my eating disorder is raging, making me miserable, and driving me to my breaking point. I know that I am not the only person who is feeling this way at the moment.
You are enough-
There are millions of us out there who suffer from eating disorders and need some extra help and encouragement during this time of year. I am going to offer a few affirmations that relate to eating disordered thoughts in the hopes that we can attempt to believe them and continue to move forward with our lives-

Neither the number on the scale nor the size of my jeans dictate my worth.

I can be happy even when I'm not comfortable in my body.

I have more important things to do than fight with my body and my mind.

I chose these three affirmations because they touch upon three themes that I believe are crucial in order to feel good about ourselves: a number is not a reflection of worth, happiness, and purpose. The first affirmation is a very typical one, used frequently in the eating disorder world, so I am not going to take the time to discuss it. However I would like to pay special attention to the last two affirmations which concentrate on happiness and purpose. Lets first look at happiness. 
Bad body image day-

Today I feel fat and miserable in my body. But, why should I allow that to ruin my day? Are there not other things in my life that can bring me happiness despite my discomfort? Just because we are having a bad body image day does not mean that we have to dwell on it and sulk. Instead we can distract ourselves by doing things that bring us joy- go to a movie, get a manicure, hang out with friends- and not let our physical insecurities debilitate us. Bad body image may be unavoidable at the moment but it does not have to dictate our mood or the way we conduct ourselves today. Just because we don't feel completely comfortable does not mean that we have to be miserable. Don't give yourself a moment to sulk! Suck it up, distract yourself, and do your best to enjoy the day. Your body image will most likely improve if you are active and involved in the world. Now lets think about the third affirmation about purpose. Today my eating disordered thoughts are loud and out of control. They are interjecting when they are not wanted and preventing me from doing the things that I want and need to be doing. I have class to go to, assignments to complete, and a personal project that I would like to work on. 

I don't have time for these thoughts !
But I am so in my head that I cannot focus on any of these tasks. I am physically present but mentally absent. I don't have time for this bull shit. I don't have energy to waste fighting with my body and arguing against the thoughts in my mind. I have a large purpose, more important things to do, and I cannot waste valuable time toying with my eating disordered thoughts and playing the anorexia game. I have bigger and better things to do in my life, productive things that will add to my happiness and well-being, significant tasks that help move me forward and bring me closer to my goals. I know how difficult it can be to believe that the number on the scale does not matter. Honestly, I don't believe it myself. To me every pound still matters and every calorie counts. Holidays are not an excuse to over indulge and whoever said "It's on the inside that counts" is full of crap. But if I can focus on my want for happiness and my purpose than maybe I can quiet the eating disordered thoughts and escape the torment that currently exists within my head. Whether you have an eating disorder or not we all have insecurities and they don't necessarily have to relate to physical appearance. Yes, everyone, especially women, is slightly vain and has negative thoughts about our bodies. We say things like, "Our feet are too big," "I hate my thighs," "My stomach is flabby." 
As always I need to add some humor-
But we also feel inferior in other areas of our life as well. We won't ask a question in class because we are concerned we will look dumb. We refuse to hold hands with people because we're self-conscious that our hands are clammy. We refuse to speak out because we dislike our voice or accent or believe that we don't speak as eloquently as others. We won't contribute to conversations because we think we are boring, don't have anything interesting to add, or that people won't listen to us. All of these insecurities have the ability to interfere with our every day lives. How can we buy shoes if we don't want anyone to see our big feet? How are we supposed to learn anything or we refuse to ask questions?  How can we order coffee if won't let anyone here our voice? How can we make friends if we are too afraid to get involved in conversations? Insecurities can be exceptionally debilitating but only if we allow them too. If we can counter our insecurities, give our shortcomings less significance, and truly believe that we are fabulous than our negative thoughts will not be able to prevent us from living our lives, feeling good about ourselves, and trusting that we are enough just as we are.
This kitty does "not give a shit !"

"One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit."

- J.A. Konrath

Konrath suggests that by overcoming our insecurities we will learn to not care what other people think about us and perhaps this is true. But do all of our insecurities stem from fear of what others may think or how they will respond? I know some of my insecurities are related to the opinions of others but a great deal of my insecurities come from within. I don't think anyone else would consider me fat, yet, I am still insecure about my body. I am insecure because it doesn't look exactly how I want it to look, how I think it should look, and what I think my appearance says about me as a person. Although others would not condemn me for over indulging during the breaking and perhaps gaining a pound or two I am still insecure about it. The insecurity stems from a hatred for myself not from a fear involving what others may think. I believe that a great deal of our insecurities have nothing to do with other people and have more to do with ourselves and our own opinions. Not "giv[ing] a shit" does not mean we are insecurity free. I can honestly say that after all I have experienced in my life there are very few people and opinions that I truly "give a shit" about. My sense of self-worth comes from my own opinions, my personal ideas, and my own view of myself. So the question is: How do we challenge these insecurities that are not based in the opinions of others but instead rooted in the way we give value to ourselves? I don't possess the words to answer this question so as usual I am going to rely on two quotes to help us attempt to figure it out-

"Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks."

- Goethe

"There are two kinds of perfect: The one you can never achieve, and the other, by just being yourself."

- Lauren King

I want to briefly look at these quotes in connection with each other. Both quotes focus on the need to accept all aspects of who we are in order to be ideal versions of our true selves. Goethe talks about the necessity of flaws in order to be complete. We love our friends and they love us in return despite faults. None of us would be the same people if we didn't possess these "quirks," odd attributes, or shortcomings. We all have qualities that we dislike but without them we would no longer be the selves- friends, daughters, mothers, siblings- that people in our life have grown accustomed to and love. King brings up a final point about perfection that I found interesting. We are constantly being told that "no one is perfect" but maybe this is an inaccurate statement to make. Perhaps King is right in say that there are two kinds of perfect. We can achieve perfection by remaining true to ourselves, accepting our faults,  acting in accordance with our beliefs, and making use of our positive attributes. By believing that we are enough we have found perfection! I am not sure if these quotes adequately answered my question but they have definitely helped me in getting on the right path to figuring it out. No matter what makes you insecure and regardless of why try to remember that not only are you enough but you are fabulous just as you are.

Continue to focus on the positive and remember to treat yourself well,

I know, I am absolutely fabulous!
Beautiful, Christina Aguilera

29 Days Til Christmas Eve, 30 Days Til Christmas