Tag Archives: self-criticism

Shopping and Body Perspective

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I recently found a journal entry I made following a shopping experience I had in 2004.  I titled my journal entry “Perspective.”  I’m sharing what I wrote eight years ago because I feel it’s still relevant today for those who struggle with body image issues. 

NOTE:  I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity and removed references to specific sizes, as such information may be “triggering” to some and is not pertinent to the overall message.

Size – It’s All Relative…

Shopping and Body Perspective

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day.  While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation between the customer in front of me and the saleswoman behind the counter.  The customer was buying a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size, a size I feel is unacceptable.  I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me.  While I would have been dismayed to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I don’t like wearing the size I am now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What depresses me thrills her.  Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.

Powerful Questions

Some powerful questions came into my mind following the above experience:

  • What would be possible for me – or for any of us – if we were to change our perspectives?
  • What if I could be grateful for wearing my current size, as well as grateful for the fact that I am basically healthy and have many advantages in life?
  • What if I could focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong in my life?

What’s Right…

Many things are right about my life.   Despite my continuing struggle with my weight and body image, a number of things are also right in that area of my life.  Here are a few things that are right for me at this point in time:

  • I no longer have lists of good and bad foods.
  • I no longer suffer from the utter tyranny of diets!!!
  • I now have a life beyond worrying about my weight and what I eat.
  • I am no longer a captive to the scale. (In fact, I no longer weigh myself at all!)
  • I am gradually learning to define myself in ways outside of what I look like, and learning to love myself for who I am instead of what size I wear.

Those are just a few things that are right in my life regarding food, weight, and body image.

Eight Years Later…

Looking back on my words from eight years ago, I am reminded of the importance of perspective in the body image recovery process.  There will always be things we don’t like about our bodies or our lives.  If we choose to focus on those things, we will be miserable and dissatisfied.  If we instead choose to focus on the areas of our lives – or our bodies – that we do like, we will experience a much greater degree of happiness and peace.

My “right things” from 2004 are still right for me!  In addition, I can add some more things to my list:

  • I am now in touch with my body and have learned to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’ve had enough.
  • My weight has leveled off at a point that is healthy and attractive, and I am able to maintain my weight fairly easily through eating nutritious foods and moderate exercise.
  • I have learned how to dress to maximize my unique figure, highlight my greatest assets, and downplay the areas that are not my best points.
  • I am able to look in the mirror and more readily see the good instead of criticizing the “negatives.”
  • I have fully committed to recovering from my negative body image (and I am making good progress!).

Closing Questions

For those of you who also struggle with body image issues, it might be helpful for you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • So what’s right for you in terms of food, weight, and body image?
  • What do you have to be grateful for in these areas?
  • How can you shift your perspective in a positive direction to help with your body image recovery?

We are all a “work in progress” and each new day presents new opportunities for growth and change.  We all deserve to love ourselves and our bodies, and shifting our perspective toward gratitude and appreciation can help us reach those goals.

Messages From Pain

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I usually try to be upbeat in these blog posts, but today I need to rant about a frustrating ongoing challenge…  As I write this, I am suffering from my ninth migraine headache this month! I just had a migraine on Wednesday and I am so frustrated that I am afflicted with yet another one just two days later.

I track my migraines and have found that my monthly average is seven to eight headaches.  They vary in terms of severity, so I am not always completely debilitated by the pain, but it does adversely affect my life in a multitude of ways.  Since I’ve been living with migraines for 25 years now, I’ve learned to adapt and do as much as I can through the pain.  Yet, although I am able to “grin and bear it” for much of the time, I am more than ready to release this dreaded condition.

Many Potential Remedies, No Lasting Solution

Over the years, I’ve tried many, many potential remedies to become free of these devastating, throbbing headaches.  I’ve taken numerous prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, tried bottle after bottle of supplements, eliminated various foods from my diet, and visited a long list of medical professionals, both traditional and alternative.  There have been pockets of relief along the way, but these reprieves have been short-lived at best.  My migraines are like a broken record that keeps playing its tired song over and over again, month after month, and year after year.

I’ve mentioned a “laundry list” of health issues that I am working to heal through my healing project.  Some of these challenges have cycled in and out of my life, while others plague me for only a short time period before miraculously disappearing just as quickly and mysteriously as they materialized.  But the one problem which has accompanied me on my life path since the age of eighteen has been the migraines.  So I’m guessing that the lesson I need to learn from this tired and tireless ailment is the most important one of all!  The Universe keeps literally rapping me over the head because I continue to fail to get the message!

Louise Hay’s Views on Migraines

What does the abundantly wise Louise Hay say about migraines?  When I read these excerpts from “You Can Heal Your Life”, I wonder how she could know me so well when we haven’t even met:

“Migraine headaches are created by people who want to be perfect and who create a lot of pressure on themselves.”

“Dislike of being driven.  Resisting the flow of life.”

If you were to look up “perfectionist” and “control freak” in the dictionary, you would see… my picture!  I’m kidding, of course, but that’s not far from the truth.  I have tried to relax and go with the flow more in life, but I’ve found it difficult to change this aspect of my personality.  I’m the type of person who writes a lot of lists and tries to pack as many tasks as possible into a given day.  Despite these practices, I never feel I accomplish enough and am riddled with self-doubt and fears of failure.  I often speak of myself in derogatory terms and find it hard to let myself off the hook when I don’t live up to my self-defined expectations.

My healing project is helping me to become more aware of my thoughts and my self-talk.  It is now clear to me that not only am I extremely hard on myself; it comes with a very high price – my health.  I realize that my migraines and other health challenges are a type of spiritual “kick in the pants” to show me how important it is for me to change.

Headaches and Invalidating the Self

When writing about headaches in general, Louise Hay states the following:

“Headaches come from invalidating the self.  The next time you get a headache, stop and ask yourself where and how you have just made yourself wrong.  Forgive yourself, let it go, and the headache will dissolve back into the nothingness from where it came.”

My problem is that I make myself wrong for the same “offenses” over and over again.  I beat myself up for the lack of material success in my life, for not living up to my potential, for not being a good wife (or family member or friend), and for a number of other affronts I’ve committed toward those in my life, myself, and even God.  I often feel that I’ve wasted my God-given talents by being indecisive and not sticking with a singular career path.  I also feel guilty for not being sufficiently grateful for the many blessings in my life and for continuing to dwell on insignificant things like the size of my thighs and the frizziness of my hair.

The Inner Tyrant…

My critical inner voice is like an unrelenting tyrant.  I once had a school assignment to keep track of negative self-talk for a day.  I’m sure I didn’t capture all of it, but what I did write down was mind-boggling.  My ratio of positive to negative messages is abysmal.  Once in a while, a compliment manages to make its way into my mind, but it is quickly drowned by the sea of criticism surrounding it.

I invalidate myself all of the time – and it’s killing me.  As I write this, I am fully present to the cost of my “stinkin’ thinking.”  Something’s gotta give!  I need to forgive myself, start talking much more nicely to myself (I’ve improved in recent months, but I’ve done some backsliding as of late), and treat myself with more respect and kindness.  I wouldn’t wish my internal negativity on my worst enemy!

Resisting Meditation and Silence

I’ve recently been reading the best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I loved reading about her indulgence and enjoyment in Italy, but found myself less enthralled by her time of reflection, meditation, and silence in India.  I could in no way picture myself meditating for hours and hours each day or scrubbing floors as part of a “retreat.”  Although she was striving for inner peace and connection with the Divine, my thought was that it wasn’t worth the price of admission, especially without an iron-clad guarantee for results.

As I reached the end of the India section of the book, however, I experienced a change of heart.  I wondered what it would be like to live even one day (heck, even one hour) of my life without the constant inner chatter and self-recrimination.  I decided that I want that!  I know that there are many paths to peace and many roads to salvation.  My path may not be the same as Elizabeth Gilbert’s.  My path may not take me to an ashram in India.  I know that I may not even have to leave my hometown to reach the state of freedom I so profoundly desire.

Claiming my Freedom

It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Perhaps my throwing my hands up in desperation tonight at yet another migraine is that step.  It’s possible that I am ready to forgive myself and let go of the need to be perfect – from this moment on.   Peace and freedom for me lie within, not without.  I just need to claim it…