broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘self-acceptance’

Are You Good Enough? Really? You Sure?

In behavior, domestic life, life, women on November 15, 2011 at 5:37 am
Elizabeth I of England, unknown artist

Queen Elizabeth I. She really had it rough! Image via Wikipedia

Such an American obsession, this fetish for self-improvement!

Nice piece about it in The New York Times:

“There’s a tendency to seek and seek and seek and never find,” said Kristen Moeller, creator of the Web site selfhelpjunkie.com. (The motto? “Stop Waiting. Start Living.”) “It becomes one more addiction.”

It’s not that trying to find ways to improve ourselves is a bad thing — not at all. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” the poet Robert Browning wrote. But when we’re constantly reaching rather than occasionally being satisfied with what we have in front of us, that’s a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.

“We grew up with the idea that we can do anything,” said Hollee Schwartz Temple, a professor of law at West Virginia University and co-author of “Good Enough Is the New Perfect” (Harlequin, 2011). “But we took that to mean that we have to do everything. And many women took it as you have to do everything perfectly.”

I admit it, I’ve read some self-help books I’ve found useful, from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit to an oldie-but-goodie, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m OK with this, because, especially as a self-employed person, I have no boss to guide or mentor me and only online colleagues, often very far away, to give me advice or feedback.

But there’s a limit to how “perfect” anyone can — or should try to — be. And “perfect” in whose eyes? I know there are many ways I could improve myself: lose weight (20 to 30 pounds, ugh); be much more tidy (papers and magazines everywhere); manage my investments better (a 15 percent drop this summer. Ugh indeed!)

But you know, we’re all works in progress. I keep a clean, organized home with fresh food in the fridge. I organized Jose’s closet the other day (feeling a little guilty for being so invasive). I write real thank-you notes on carefully-chosen stationery.

I’m reading, very slowly, a great biography of Elizabeth I — I think my life is complicated? Between wars and treaties and endless suitors and a bossy Cabinet and gossipy court and religious battles and the challenge of maintaining order — she had two men’s right hands cut off once to prove her point — my 21st century life is a bloody picnic, even without castles or a crown.

What do you need to improve on?

Really?

Fear Of Shopping

In behavior, business, Fashion, life, Money, women, work on April 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm
Vintage Clothes Shops Camden London

Vintage clothing shops in Camden. Fun, but not this time! Image by iknow-uk via Flickr

I did it.

I went out and spent a gobsmacking amount of money last weekend buying new clothes.

It was not quick, simple or fun — at several junctures, like an infant needing a nap, I found myself trying not to cry with total frustration. Everything was ugly: too tight, too expensive, too baggy, too bright…

The poor sales associate, Frances, fearing my imminent meltdown, found the department manager, a lovely, calm, reassuring man named Dallas. He offered the necessary sangfroid of my admired sartorial tutors — Clinton and Stacy on my favorite television show, What Not To Wear.

(If you’ve never watched, and need female fashion help, WNTW is your new best friend, the kind whose style and panache are matched with compassion and kindness for your freakouts over body issues. We all have them!)

Only with the help of three gently-encouraging people, including my sweetie who — being a photo editor and a man who’s been my partner for 11 years has both a great eye and knows my taste — could I even find enough clothes to feel that, yes, I now have assembled the start of a stylish and professional wardrobe.

Big deal, right? Isn’t this pretty basic stuff?

Maybe if…

You make a lot of money, so spending it doesn’t freak you out and make you fear a penniless old age in a cardboard box

You work in an office surrounded by other people whose clothing and style help you figure out what to wear so you’ll fit in

You wear clothing in a one-digit size

Your mom/sister/best friend/auntie/Granny/gay male friend with fab taste took you shopping and helped you develop a clear idea what’s flattering on you. Which, of course, must change as you age. But how?! (My poor Mom and stepmom fled in fear after a few teenaged trips with me in search of a winter coat and a prom dress. I finally found both but not, literally, without visiting dozens of shops. I haven’t shopped with anyone female and stylish since then.)

You’re blessed with total confidence about the shape and size of your body and which colors and shapes you’ll rock. (My late step-mother, 13 years my senior, had exquisite clothing and a teeny tiny body and made me feel like a heffalump. My mom, a former model living far away, saw me in March: “You’re fat!” she said. Accurate, perhaps, but not confidence building.)

You don’t live in a city where many women and/or their husbands are very high earners, work out daily and stride the streets with terrifying hauteur In New York, (as in some other punitively stylish spots), looking successful on a budget isn’t easy. And if you’re ambitious and don’t look the part, you’re toast.

I find buying clothes so overwhelming I avoid it and then — boom! — I really need to look great right now and what the hell am I going to wear?

In 2009, I appeared on CNN on two days’ notice, in 2010 on BBC within hours of getting an email from England and, quite likely, will be doing some television appearances when my new book is out in two weeks. Right now I have 12 public appearances scheduled, from a closing conference keynote in Minneapolis in August to a local library reading in two weeks.

So I need clothes that are: flattering, comfortable, stylish, age-appropriate, forgiving of the weight I haven’t lost yet and chic.

And semi-affordable.

And what do people expect an author to look like?

No pressure!

Luckily, I finally found some great things, including two Tahari dresses, a strong sea-blue cotton shift and another in black; a gray print sheath dress that works with my curves, and three pairs of trousers. That’s a ton for me to buy at once and everyone was worn out, hungry and cranky by the time we got out of the store.

But working alone at home, year after year on a tight budget, has meant I’ve slid by on a snoozy, safe, comfy diet of leggings and Ts , flats and cardigans. Time to up my game!

Do you enjoy shopping for clothes?

What are your favorite places to find great things?

Does A Long Look In The Mirror Scare — Or Inspire – You?

In behavior, women on May 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm
An Etruscan mirror encased in bronze decorated...

An Etruscan mirror. Twas ever thus...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

From one of my favorite sites, thefbomb.org:

This morning I got out of the shower, walked to my room naked and stood for a solid 15 minutes looking in my long mirror at my naked body. It’s really amazing what I noticed. I have kinda flabby arms, I never noticed that I had some muscle in there. I found a big freckle on my right breast and a birth mark on my left thigh, things I never knew I had.

Why did I never know? I’ve never really stared at my body before. I don’t have terrible self-esteem, but I don’t have great self-esteem either, so why have I never done this before?

While looking at myself, completely exposed I thought “I love my body.” I really do. Yeah, I have a stomach, bigger thighs, my legs aren’t shaved and always have some sort of bruise or scratch on them and my arms are big and my nails are bitten, and I could think of many other things that are wrong with me but so what? By thinking of all these things am I really helping myself? Is my image really that important?

So then I just had this extreme loving thought towards myself. That I love my body, I DO love my curves and my back spots and my bigger arms and my freckles. This was then slammed down a second later by another voice in my head asking why? Why should I love this? There was so much disgust in this voice, I was shocked. How could I have such a loving moment to myself then followed immediately asking myself why I should ever feel such love towards myself when I look this way?

I make it a point to look at myself in a full-length mirror in broad daylight every day. Like millions of others, I’m trying to lose weight so it’s not pure vanity, but necessity. But unless you have a “perfect” body — and even models think they’re flawed — it’s often not amusing. No one wants to face “failure” head-on, but if you’re otherwise healthy yet have let your body turn to flab and jiggle, you’ve got some thinking to do.

Aging and bearing multiple children take their toll. But go to the right gym, pool or yoga class and you’ll find women, and men, in their 60s, 70s, 80s, who are still working it. Women are so constantly barraged in the West about the hideousness of wrinkles, sags or loss of muscle tone that a mirror’s judgment can feel frightening.

And women in many cultures are taught our bodies are a source of shame, something to flaunt sexually or cover up, but never acceptable  — let alone valuable and worth loving — in all their fleshly corporeality. Men, still, often get a pass.

But the mirror isn’t the best judge of your body. It’s useful if you’re heading out for a professional meeting or date — it will help you catch any stains, tears, a rip in your stockings — but it’s not a place to obsess. Health and strength are key, not being skinny or Botoxed.

Having studied ballet and jazz for decades, I know that a mirror is simply a tool. It offers you information and feedback on your alignment, line, grace, turnout, epaulement.

I think two groups of women are consistently ahead of this curve — moms and athletes. Having used, relished, tested their bodies’ strength and capacity, we know our body is also a determined, sturdy vessel, a smoothly-functioning machine. It can be both a tower of strength and a soft, comforting place of nurture.

Is your mirror friend, foe or neutral?

Demi's Missing Hip, Madonna's 'Ageless' Face, Crystal's Rolls: Newsweek's Gallery Of Re-Touched Women

In Media, women on January 27, 2010 at 10:22 am
Heideprinzesschen (Heathland Princess) by Frit...

A little young, but, you never know...Image via Wikipedia

Read this and weep — or snicker. But don’t compare your butt, thighs, crow’s feet or cellulite to theirs. They don’t have any!

For any woman, and her daughter(s) or younger female friends, who looks at magazine photos of “perfect” faces and bodies and despairs, buck up. It’s all about the re-touching. Lots of bright lighting and some Botox and great make-up all help, but nothing can beat a techno-fix after the photos have been shot. Any woman who miserably compares her real-life body and skin to the fake flawlessness of the images shoved at her daily in every medium is asking for trouble: plastic surgery, anorexia, bulimia, dieting. Misery.

Trying to attain the literally unattainable means billions in profit for the manufacturers of fake boobs, cosmetic procedures and products, diet companies, gyms. Women trying to look “just like” the women shown to us in ads and editorial images are trying to scale a greasy pole. It simply won’t work.

I attended a social event last night and wondered who the hhhhhottie in the black sequined T-shirt, thigh-high boots and skinny jeans might be. She had honey blond hair and looked stunning. It was a woman I’ve known for many years, but who I met when she weighed — as she told me last night — 90 pounds more. She was always, one could tell, beautiful. Now she’s slim, confident and — as the French say, bien dans sa peau (literally “happy in her skin”) — as much for her pride in beating back her food-related demons as re-discovering the pleasure of easily dressing well and enjoying her corporeal self.

I asked how she did it: a full year of meal replacements (2 shakes, 2 energy bars and 1 meal a day) and re-thinking what food means to her. I  need to lose weight and find the endless drama of that tedious, boring, frustrating and sometimes just overwhelming on top of my many other priorities.

Hard work, discipline, self-awareness, she said, without using those words. The basic tools we all know, deep down, rarely change in this regard.

Not re-touching.

Designer Labia? Count Me Out, Boys

In Medicine, women on November 12, 2009 at 11:24 am
Doctors conduct a vagina surgery on a patient ...
Is this really the place for a scalpel? Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

British women are lining up to nip and tuck their lady parts, reports the BBC. The surgery, performed to make the labia, the external vaginal lips, more attractive isn’t new, but last year saw a 70 percent jump in its popularity. Labiaplasty (warning, graphic photo attached), is done for a combination of aesthetic and functional reasons, surgeons say. It’s increasingly popular worldwide, sorry to say.

One doctor tells the BBC:

“They’ve gone a bit over the top. Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring. The procedure won’t interfere with sexual function.

“Women want this for a number of reasons – some find it uncomfortable to ride a bike for instance, but for the majority it is aesthetic, that’s true.

“Lads’ mags are looked at by girlfriends, and make them think more about the way they look. We live in times where we are much more open about our bodies – and changing them – and labioplasty is simply a part of this.””

“Elegant-looking”? Please, show me (no, not literally, thanks) a chic set of male genitalia — or a bunch of guys lining up surgery to make sure their boy-bits are as attractive as all those in porn magazines, terrified to be considered unattractive by their female (or male) sexual partners.

Any guy who’s wigged out by a woman whose vagina doesn’t match his porn-fueled fantasies is really a very sad little thing and any woman who cuts her flesh to please him and his ilk needs to re-consider.

Want sex, even with your allegedly imperfect labia? Try a little candlelight, a little wine, a little — acceptance?

Do You Really Hate Your Body? Six Reasons To Re-Consider

In women on September 28, 2009 at 7:43 am
American model and television host Michele Merkin.

Image via Wikipedia

Do you really — women-only question, for a moment — long to look like the model in this photograph?

Several bloggers here at Trueslant have recently focused on how much some girls and women loathe their bodies, starving them through bulimia and anorexia in an effort to mimic the sleek, long-limbed specimens shoved in our faces daily by the media. Yes, we all need to reach and maintain a healthy weight — not sliding into diabetes or obesity. But this absurdly narcissistic focus on the size, shape and allure of our noses, breasts, faces, hips, thighs, bottoms and even our genitals (yes, women are paying surgeons to alter the shape of those, too) has to stop. Why?

Hating the parcel of flesh that is now carrying you through this lifetime — to the movies, to work, to win (or lose) a soccer game, to make love, to produce, nurse and hug your kids, to enjoy a sunset — is madness.

There are six reasons I love my body, with all its spider veins, moles, wrinkles and double digit size. (And, no, that’s no a size 00) You should love yours too.

Maybe one of these will resonate for you:

1) Between 2005 and 2007, we lost 12 friends, colleagues and relatives forever. I felt like a figure in some 15th. century woodcut cringing in a corner as Death swung his scythe hard and fast and furiously all around us. Trish died at 49 of ovarian cancer, “Killing Fields”photographer Dith Pran at 65 of pancreatic cancer, Sandy at 63 of lung cancer, my aunt Barbara, at 82, of cancer, my Daily News boss, Bill Boyle, at 59, dead of melanoma, New York Times editor David Rosenbaum at 63, murdered the day after he retired. What wouldn’t every single one of them have given for another day, week, month in their bodies, in this world?

2) If your life/body has never been threatened, you may not realize its value to you or others. My mom, at 75 still kicking my butt, has survived three kinds of cancer: thyroid, when she was 30; breast cancer, and a brain tumor at 68. A very thin scar circles her throat, as much a part of her as her bright blue eyes and ready laugh, the scar from her first cancer surgery. I grew up knowing cancer, and its shadow. Before her six-hour neurosurgery in 2002, I reassured her she’d be fine — but she doesn’t remember, so badly affected was her cognition at that point. Two days later, with 20+ staples in her scalp, we fell happily back into intellectual argumentation. (There’s a piece about this on my website.) I’m deeply grateful she’s survived what her physician airily called “her malignancies”, and equally grateful having learned, early, how fragile our bodies can be.

3) Millions of people around the globe want nothing more, this second, than reliable access to sufficient, clean, safe food. They are dying of starvation. For a little perspective, consider this map of the world showing countries well-fed as thin and those whose inhabitants are dying of starvation swollen by these deaths. Obsessing over calories when we are drowning in their easy, cheap availability seems a little neurotic to me.

4) My body still allows me to enjoy the life I most value. I’ve had two knee surgeries and a shoulder surgery since the year 2000 and tons of re-hab. After the age of 35, it helped me climb the rigging 100 feet above the deck of an Australian Tall Ship, to compete nationally as a saber fencer, helps me hit to the outfield most Saturdays. I can’t play squash three times a week anymore (my knee cartilage now shot), but I can, and do, walk, ski, skate, run, play softball, dance, travel. Spoiled, demanding, impatient, I used to rage at its deficiencies. Now I thank every ligament, tendon, muscle and bone for its continued service.

5) Love your body, then form a fan club for it. If your partner, whatever their gender and putative desirability, demands you be rail-thin and wrinkle-free to win or keep their love and undivided attention, why are you putting up with this? (Parents, if you’re doing this, shut up!)  Yes, we all need to maintain a healthy weight, and it’s nice to take care of your appearance. But spending time with someone, let alone internalizing their hatred of your body as it is, who consistently picks at the psychic scab of your self-loathing and shame, is not a wise choice.

I’m lucky to have found a sweetie, (10 years so far), who loves my curves. The size of my brain and heart matter more to him than the size of my butt. (Tell ‘em I love your butt, too, he insists.)

6) If your body is strong and healthy, that is enough. On March 16, 2007 I was admitted to my local hospital with a temperature of almost 104 degrees. In the ER, the doctor read my chest X-ray and closed the curtain around my gurney. That’s never a good sign. “I think you might have lung cancer,” he said. “The spot on your lung is very big.” There are no words for that moment. I did not have lung cancer, only pneumonia. Self-employed, scared to disappoint clients and lose income, I had driven my body like some Dickensian factory owner, working it non-stop through worsening illess. In the hospital shower, drenched with fever sweat, so weak I could barely stand, I apologized aloud to my body. Never again would I — will I — treat it with such dishonor.

The next time you choose to hate your body’s imperfections and weaknesses, please stop.

It’s all you’ve got in this lifetime. Cherish it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,117 other followers