Let's Talk About Body Image

Let's talk about body image for a second.

Last week, I posted some images from a collaboration I did with yoga + undie line Dear Kate and mentioned that I was hesitant at first to participate. Granted, I wore yoga pants in most of the photos, but if I'm honest I think what scared me the most was not that other people would see me in non-clothing, but that I would have to look at photos of myself. On a camera screen, wearing underwear, in natural light. 

I did it anyway, and as I said, I'm glad that I did. Of course I looked at the photos, but I didn't dwell on them. And that's one of the things I wanted to bring up in this little talk about body image – knowing your comfort level when it comes to your insecurities, and particularly those insecurities surrounding body image.

Maybe you're one of the 7 women out there who are completely comfortable with their bodies and weight in all aspects. I really hope you are.

But if you aren't, there may be certain things that make you feel better about your body than others. Whether it's a dress to avoid because it doesn't make you feel good, or a behavior that makes you self conscious, knowing yourself and knowing what makes you "tick" is a hugely important part of dealing with any insecurity. 

It's probably my age (old) but I'm far more confident about my body than I used to be. At this point, I've also come to the realization that my weight tends to stay within the same 5-7 pound range. I eat right, exercise, and focus on that rather than some of the things I used to focus on. Health = wealth, right?

I've learned that I genuinely feel better when I take care of my body, but still partake in a little treat yo'self action. Because otherwise, what's the point of it all?

Part of this improvement I've experienced in my self image is due to the fact that I've learned what my trigger points are. Trigger points, meaning the things that turn my thoughts about my body from fine to not great. I've learned to avoid things that make me overthink my weight, or that cause me to ask myself questions like: Are my cheeks fuller or is it my haircut? Did I gain fat, or muscle in my legs? How old is that picture of me?

My trigger points all relate to fixation. (Sorry, but not in the psychosexual Freud way.) If I spend too long looking at old photos of myself where I may look thin, or too long looking at new photos of myself that I don't like, or even too long getting ready, a dark cloud starts to settle.

And once settled, the dark cloud tends to stick around, fogging up everything in its wake.

So I actively avoid those activities, and instead focus on the the positives and the things that make me feel good, like pushing myself in yoga and trying new, healthy foods. When I do that, I find the dark clouds clear, and everything falls back into perspective. I avoid dwelling on my hair length, avoid fixating on how full my cheeks are or aren't.

Anyway, it's a topic I've never brought up here before so I figured I'd do it.

How are you guys doing? Are you tired of talking about body image, or is it en evergreen insecurity? If you're ok with sharing, I'd love to hear.

 

(p.s. – excuse the blurry photos.)


That Inner Voice

The other night, Derrick and I were on a crowded bus headed to the Tube which would take us to dinner with friends. (Isn't city life glamorous?)

I'd been having a two-fold mental situation all day. I was paranoid and feeling anxious, but at the same time I knew that my anxieties were false because I'd completely made up the very thing I was so worried about. Like completely. As in it didn't exist and I'd pulled it out of some weird, dark, mental magic hat.

I asked D if he ever made anything up then thought about it so much, convinced himself of it so thoroughly, that it felt true. Hand to god, he said sometimes he imagines a zombie invasion so real that he feels like he's on the cusp of a major disaster.

(Insert quippy comment about the differences between men and women here.)

The thing is, as unfound as D's worries seemed (sorry), I had no room to talk – mine were just as off the wall. For whatever reason that Friday, I came up with a completely false idea about the way I'm viewed in the eyes of others. I, for who knows what reason, decided that people probably thought my blog sucked, hated my Instagram, were sick of me. And the reason this completely made up worry bothered me so much was that I really, really enjoy blogging and the community I've built and would be so sad if that were to suddenly disappear.

But still – that doesn't merit a false panic or an abusive internal monologue. Right?

Like I would imagine most of you, I've been doing this weird, false anxiety thing for a while. Around age 10, I remember convincing myself one day that a friend didn't like me anymore because maybe she thought I was snobby, so I spent a lot of time and mental energy making sure that I was as down to earth as a third grader can be.

And remember The Rosie O'Donnell Show? Around the same time-ish, I convinced myself that Rosie had become this super mean, fake lady overnight, and I kind of hated her for a couple of weeks. Then I got over that.

So, what is that? Why is that? Why do we do that to others, and to ourselves? (Also, please tell me that other people do, in fact, do this.)

This isn't even my normal inner voice we're talking about here. The normal inner voice is constantly making up worries and things to panic about, and is particularly active at 4am on weekdays and around 6:30am on Saturdays. That's just my normal inner gal, reminding me about life insurance and incomplete paperwork and people I should be pitching stories to.

But this inner voice? This is my Birdman – the one who tells me I'm not good enough; the one who tells me that people don't like me. And it's crap, it's totally fake. But it's still there.

Luckily my inner Birdman passes with time. Come Saturday, my self worth rose again and I was back to my regular early morning mental Olympics of overthinking about whether to buy eco-friendly laundry detergent vs. regular, and other things.

Now the only thing we have to worry about is a zombie invasion.


How To Overcome Insecurity

Though it seems to fade more by the week, day, hour, and sometimes minute, insecurity is something I've dealt with for a while.

Sometimes I'm insecure about the way I speak. Sometimes I spend hours overanalyzing my day and worrying that I'm not good enough

There are certain coping mechanisms that I've found that have helped me to overcome my insecurity. These mechanisms are like little tools in my mental health toolbox, and they've help me get through my professional and social life just fine. In particular, there's one method that I use and have noticed myself using more as my confidence grows.

That method? Oversharing.

And I mean oversharing of all information – small stories, big stories, back stories, future stories. The idea is that I'll get everything I'm insecure about out in the open before anyone can discover what's really going on. I know a lot of women feel this way – it has to do with the idea that at any moment the curtain will lift, and everyone will discover what a fraud you are. So by oversharing, not only are you putting the other person at ease by having a conversation filled with self-depreciating anecdotes (surely a symptom of Good Girl Syndrome – see above) but you're also protecting yourself.

It's a total win-win.

I've known about my tendency to use oversharing as a method for battling insecurity for a while, and last week as I attended my first Alt Summit I found myself yet again employing these means of constant too much information-ing.

Even though almost everyone in attendance was was incredibly friendly, completely on the same page, and encouraging in a way that only a room full of supportive, creative women can be, I was still insecure. Us introverts tend to find things to worry about. 

During the meeting and greeting and friendship-forming, what should be a simple question became a mental minefield for me with each person I met. The question that tripped me up the most: Where do you live?

The truth? The truth is that I live half in North Carolina, half in London in a complicated way that only expats in transition can fully understand. Case in point – I recently had a call with my U.S. phone carrier. When I explained to them that I'd soon return to London, they asked how long I'd be out of the country. After telling them that I didn't have an exact return date, hearing their confusion, then over explaining that right now I was in the U.S. but soon I'd be in London but then would be back hopefully sooner rather than later, I realized that my oversharing was hurting me rather than helping me. I was the crazy lady on the phone who talks so much that it sounds like she's just looking for someone to talk to.

I'm not that gal.

At Alt, where you're meeting someone each time you turn around, I found myself telling everyone I lived in "North Carolina" – air quotes and all – then explaining the entire story of the immigration process to sweet, confused Californians and Oregonians. (How easy it must be to just say "Portland" and smile.)

So instead? Instead, on the last day, I began telling everyone the truth – that I've been in living in London for about three years, and that my husband and I are in the process of moving to the States. Why was that so hard?

Oversharing is a protection mechanism. It puts me in control of situations which contributes to my new-found confidence. Still, I hope to get rid of my oversharing tendencies sooner rather than later. I'm aiming for honesty and simplicity in all areas of my life, including this one.

But until then, don't ask me any questions (even the simplest of ones) unless you want the real answer – self depreciation, air quotes, and all.