Don’t You Dare….

People often ask me how I keep coming up with things to write about or if I ever run out of ideas. Sure I do. But I know something will always come to me as long as I just keep living life and paying attention.

This past Friday morning at 9:59am I had no idea what my next blog post would be about. Then I had a 10:00 meeting that inspired what I think is about to be one of the most important messages I’ve written.

The formula for my posts is: Inspiration + Personal Experience = Making a Connection

Well, the inspiration was the new yoga teacher that is joining my team at the Y. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’ve never met a yogi that I don’t like. I don’t know what it is… yoga people just seem to “get it”, ya know? It’s that whole awareness thing (yes, that’s the whole point of yoga – not flexibility.)

So anyways, this yoga teacher just happens to be old enough to be my mother and she calls me a “kid” which I take no offense to. I don’t know how we got on the topic, just two yogis talking about life I guess, but we began discussing the self-love movement that started in the last couple of years.

The WHAT, you ask?

Yes, it’s a movement. You see, about 40ish years ago “aerobics” became a thing. Those were the days of Jazzercise and then step aerobics. Women everywhere were becoming cardio queens and going on diets because deep down, all women have some body image issues going on and they figured this would solve the problem! (*sigh*)

Back to the conversation in my office last Friday….my yoga teacher friend said something that hit me like a ton of bricks (and I’m paraphrasing here)… “When I was your age, no one talked about accepting or loving ourselves. We were all just trying to look like Twiggy. It was all about losing weight, all the time.” (She asked me if I knew who Twiggy was, I said I thought so then googled Twiggy later and I was right, I did know. But all I really needed to know is that she was nicknamed after a twig…)

twiggy

Here comes the personal experience part. You know that phenomenon when you look at an old picture of yourself and you think “Wow I looked great, I wish I had known that!” because you know that the you in the picture wasn’t feeling good about herself when the picture was taken?

I just had that experience the other day when pictures from my friend’s wedding popped up on Facebook for their 6th anniversary. I was a bridesmaid and as I scrolled through the pictures I thought “dang Steph! Looking good!” but I know at the time I was feeling “fat” and insecure and was comparing myself to other bridesmaids who were smaller than me.

It all goes back to Twiggy (seriously, who gave her that nickname?) Women have just had it drilled into our heads for decades that we need to be smaller. Have smaller bodies, have smaller opinions, have smaller voices, just shrink into the background so you don’t make anyone uncomfortable okay?

Sorry, I’m getting off on a rant.

Now I’m back to talking about that awful feeling you get when you look at an old picture and you start kicking yourself for not enjoying that moment in time because you were drowning in insecurity. Maybe you still are. When will it end?

It will end when you decide to appreciate where you are right now today. We are always wishing for a past or future version of ourselves. But why? We can’t go back and that future self is just imaginary at this point. We need to enjoy the now.

Don’t you DARE let yourself look back on entire DECADES of your life and have that same feeling of looking back on an old picture.

Don’t you DARE spend all of your time and energy looking in a mirror and thinking about what you should “fix” about yourself when you could be using that time and energy looking out into the world to see what actual problems you can fix.

Don’t you DARE let yourself believe that being desired aka “looking hot” is more important than pursuing your desires.

If you are around my age (I’m 31) then you are SO LUCKY to be a young woman living in a time when self-acceptance and self-love IS talked about. If you’re 21 you’re even luckier! I spent my whole 20’s thinking I had to fit some sort of ideal of what a fitness professional “should” look like and hating that I didn’t.

I’m just grateful I only lost one decade. If you’re 41, 51, 61….you still have the chance to change your perspective and to start accepting and loving yourself.

We are so lucky to live in a time where this whole idea that you just might be alright, enough even, just the way you are has been presented. Now all we have to do is believe it.

Hold up.

There’s a catch. This whole “self-love movement” is a backlash. It’s the pendulum swinging the other way. I love the message and I preach it. It is a much needed breath of fresh air and so necessary. Women need to hear this message, it’s so important. But like anything else, it can be taken too far.

There’s nothing wrong with having fitness goals or weight loss goals. The problem is when they take over your life and steal your joy. It is simply too easy to slip into unhealthy and obsessive behavior if you are setting goals from a place of self-hatred and wanting to “fix” your body.

That is why I decided to create a self-confidence course and why I’m so passionate about it. It’s not because I hate fitness. I love it! I work full time at a gym and I teach group exercise classes. I’m not living some double life here. I just realized that I had things in the wrong order.

Self-acceptance and self-love come FIRST then self-improvement.

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For years I was helping clients strengthen not only their physical muscles but also their comparison muscles and their self-loathing muscles. They wanted to “fix” their bodies and I was subscribing to that and helping them.

If I ever own a group fitness studio again (which I probably won’t) I would make taking my 28-day course a pre-requisite before they could attend a class. The desire for self-improvement has got to come from a place of love, not hate, if it’s truly going to be a positive change. Otherwise, we’re just going to have a bunch of really fit and really miserable people on our hands and no one wants that.

I realize I’ve been all over the place in this post but it’s coming straight from the heart. I don’t want a minor regret, wishing I had appreciated how I looked 6 years ago, to turn into a major regret of wishing I hadn’t wasted my entire adult life wanting to be less of who I was in any way. That’s not going to be my story. Don’t let it be yours either. Don’t you dare.

You Have Permission

Remember when you were a kid and your parents wouldn’t let you quit your soccer team, or piano lessons, or whatever it was that you were committed to because they were trying to teach you a really important and valuable lesson to build up your character?

I do.

I’m glad parents do that. I’m going to be that type of parent one day too. My kids won’t just quit something they’ve committed to the second they don’t love it or they feel challenged by it in some way that they aren’t used to being challenged. That’s some smart parenting right there.

But guess what? I’m not a kid anymore and neither are you.

I’m a 31 year old woman who knows who she is and I get to make choices that keep me in alignment and harmony with my true self…even as “who I am” grows and evolves!

I give myself permission to quit stuff that’s no longer serving me.

I give myself permission to change my mind – as many times as I want.

I give myself permission to try things on and take them off if they don’t “fit”.

And that’s okay!! That’s what life is!!

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The highest expression of self-confidence is being your true self and not apologizing for it. Your unique personality, all of your quirks, and every experience you’ve had is for a reason.

But you’ll never figure out what that reason is if you keep trying to imitate others. You’ll never discover your purpose if you’re wasting energy forcing things that don’t feel right to you. You’ll never evolve as a person if you stay stuck in old ways of thinking.

I’m Stephanie. I’m a little bit lazy in the mornings and I don’t like 5:00am workouts even though, practically speaking, they are a very good idea. I’m a decent runner but I don’t love it as much as other people seem to so I’m just going to leave that on the dressing room floor. (Yep, I quit Ragnar) I like to eat healthy but I’ll never say no to pizza.

I’m very open and opinionated so if you appreciate that in a person you’ll really like me! But if you don’t…well just be glad for all the things I don’t say because even I have a filter.

I’m super passionate about encouraging others to be healthy, awesome and courageous in life. If I’m not careful I can easily deplete myself in the process. That’s why I preach self-care – it’s a good reminder for me too!

I used to think aesthetics and peak performance were the purpose of health. I’ve changed my mind about that. Now I believe true health means being gentle with yourself; physically and emotionally. I consider half an hour writing in my journal or talking to my sister just as beneficial for my health as a 30-minute workout…it all depends on what I need at the moment.

I’m happiest and most energized when I’m connecting with others and I love to laugh and be silly. That’s me.

Who are you? Are you honoring that person?

Give yourself permission to be yourself, whatever that looks like! Then give yourself permission to actually LIKE and accept yourself. This is the surest path to self-confidence :)

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5 Misconceptions About Self-Confidence

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I was inspired to write this post by the women who were in the test group for my 28-Day Self-Confidence Tool Kit. I was the one leading the course but I learned as much from them as they did from me on the topic of self-confidence. It’s an area I’m increasingly interested and passionate about especially because of my background as a fitness professional.

Isn’t it funny how we just assume others see things the way we do? When I decided to create this course, it was because I had these two thoughts:

  1. Everyone wants to be more self-confident.
  2. Fitness/Weight Loss isn’t the answer.

What a shock to learn that not everyone shares those thoughts! There were women in my test group who went into the course not agreeing with me on at least one of those two points.

Now I wasn’t so surprised that some of them believed they really just needed to lose weight and they’d feel better but heck they’ll give this course a try anyways. If I’m being totally honest, even though I’m in a place of more self-love and self-acceptance than I ever have been in my life…deep down I believe that I’d be happier if I weighed 15 pounds less. I don’t act on it because I know better but it’s still there and probably always will be. And that’s okay.

But I was very surprised to learn from one woman that, until taking my course, she had viewed confidence as a negative character trait. That blew my mind. Then it opened my mind. To the fact that we aren’t all on the same page when it comes to self-confidence, what it really means, and whether or not it’s something to strive for.

So I’ve come up with this list of common misconceptions that some people have about self-confidence.

  1. It Is Synonymous with Arrogance.

Being self-confident doesn’t mean you think you are better than everyone else. It’s not thinking you are less than anyone else either. It’s about not comparing yourself to others at all. I think the opposite is actually true and that arrogance and “cockiness” come from a place of low self-confidence. If anything, humility should be synonymous with self-confidence.

humility

  1. It an Extrovert Thing.

Some people assume that all extroverts are confident or that you somehow need to possess the qualities of an extrovert in order to confident. I’m a huge extrovert but I haven’t always been confident. In the same way, introverts aren’t any more or less likely to be self-confident simply because they recharge by being alone. I don’t think there’s a connection there. I’ve seen confidence express itself in loud ways and in quiet ways. It can be bold or it can be understated. It just depends who is carrying it. I think confidence attached to any personality type is beautiful. It’s equal opportunity and available to all.

love to

  1. It Cannot Co-Exist with Doubt and Insecurity

This is a huge one. A lot of women assume they’ll be self-confident when they reach their goal weight. But it will never be enough. That line of self-worth will just keep moving further away if you’re measuring it by the scale. It’s not just body image either. If you are waiting for any of your self-doubts and insecurities, in any area of your life, to go away so that you can be confident then you’ll be waiting forever. Self-confidence is about acknowledging the insecure feelings and fears that exist within us but not allowing ourselves to be controlled by them.

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  1. It Is Something People Are Born With…Or Not.

Actually, I think we’re all born with it but then we lost it. I look at my 6 year old niece and how she carries herself, how fearless she is in approaching people of any age, and how it never occurs to her to not be totally confident in herself. Who care that she’s missing nearly all her teeth?! She sure doesn’t! Look at any child and they are this way. I’m not sure at what age it goes away. To me, building self-confidence is less about learning and more about UN-learning. It’s about getting our confidence BACK that we had as a child, when we were just being ourselves and not looking for approval for it.

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  1. It Means Not Caring About Others…and That’s Just Rude!

This was the misconception that the woman in my test group had. She understands now that self-confidence doesn’t mean you don’t care about other people. Being self-confident means you don’t base your self-worth on the opinions of others. It means that you value yourself enough to balance your needs with the needs of others. It means that you set boundaries to honor yourself even if others disapprove. Self-confidence has nothing to do with being unkind to others but it has everything to do with being kind to yourself.

how rude

What do you think? Did this help to clear up any misconceptions you might have had about self-confidence?

Meditation is Supposed to be Hard

I’ve long known, admired and respected today’s guest author, Betty Ann! (To me, she’s always going to be Elizabeth because that’s what she went by when I met her back in college) She and I have crossed paths many times as fellow fitness instructors and wellness professionals in this beautiful city of Mankato, Minnesota that we both call home! I’m all about “community over competition” so I was thrilled when this woman of many talents offered to write a guest post for my blog! She gave me a list of topics to choose from and this one jumped out at me immediately.

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When I first started teaching BODYFLOW I didn’t value the meditation portion at the end of class so I would cut it short. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of it and I didn’t realize how much I was cheating my participants. Now it’s my favorite part of class! I chose this topic for Elizab errr Betty’s post because I think it’s one that a lot of my “followers” might need to hear and I like to challenge you guys….

If you find yourself rolling up your mat and sneaking out of the studio during those 5-7 minutes of relaxation and mediation at the end class because you don’t see the point and you need to hurry along to that next thing (yes I’m talking to you)….I urge you to give this post a read…

Take it away Betty!

Meditation is Supposed to be Hard

The first meditation class I took was led by a Buddhist monk in a universalist church (I figured if I was gonna meditate, I was gonna MEDITATE! …You can tease me later). The monk gave us a simple breathing exercise and then we were instructed to sit quietly and practice. And we sat. And we sat. And we sat. Only I didn’t sit, I fidgeted. And after only a few seconds my brain began whirring away and I was lost in thoughts, completely forgetting about my breath. I figured I had failed. Meditation over.

I was wrong.

What I didn’t know then was this: Meditation is supposed to be hard. I had naively reasoned that meditation would be this easy, blissful experience that would just happen magically. Nope. The mind definitely has plans of its own, and magical bliss just isn’t in the blueprints.

Our minds constantly chatter – go ahead and listen in for a minute right now, what’s it saying? That chatter is compelling, it draws our awareness and attention from the present moment experience, labeling it, judging it, taking us into the past or the future. It can be helpful, or harmful, or neutral. Acceptance and awareness of what is, as it arises, is lost in all that noise. And sometimes its a lot of noise.

Cutting through all that chatter is hard and that is exactly what mindfulness meditation, the practice of awareness and acceptance, asks you to do. Meditation is to step back from your thoughts, to bring awareness to the mind’s chatter, to stay grounded on the shore rather than being swept away as your thoughts roll in and out in constant waves, to recognize we are not our thoughts, but the awareness behind those thoughts.

So, yes, getting carried away on a stream of thought is part of what makes meditation hard. But here is the good news! Getting distracted and “failing” (like I thought I had) to meditate is a-ok. Because then you have recognized you weren’t aware, and that recognition brings you into awareness, and boom! you are meditating again. So sure, meditation is hard. But don’t sweat it, its supposed to be.

Be sure to set your self up for success, too. A forty-five minute meditation class was probably not the best way to kick things off, considering I impatiently fidgeted and internally swore to myself for the duration of that session. Try shorter meditation sessions (1-2 minutes) and increase duration gradually. Seek out meditation exercises that jive with you, maybe its breathing, maybe its sound, maybe its a body scan, find what works best for you.

And don’t lose hope.

Sometimes meditation is easy and blissful, but not always and not even all that often. Ease or difficulty aside, the scientifically studied benefits of a regular mindful meditation practice are remarkable, so give it a go, and be sure to struggle a least a little, ok?

Benefits of Meditation:

  • Stress reduction (I think I can probably stop here, but…)
  • Improved focus and memory (Where are my keys?)
  • Enhanced physical performance (PR, here I come!)
  • Improved processing of emotions, lower risk of depression (Enough said.)
  • Helps you be more aware, less judgmental, more compassionate (Be a better person!)
  • Better immune system (Goodbye cold season!)
  • Better sleep (And… best for last! Zzzz.)

betty

About the guest author: Elizabeth “Betty Ann” Harsma is an educator, yoga instructor, and wellness professional based out of Mankato, MN. Betty is also a dancer, musician, and circus art enthusiast, practicing meditation to help her balance the tendency to do all the things, all the time. Follow her on Instagram @happybettyann

References:

“The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael A. Singer (2007)

“Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013)

Three Ways to Transition from Body Shame to Self-Love

The original title of this post was going to be “…from body shame to BODY love” but I changed it because if that was the title then this post would need to be written by somebody other than me. I can’t tell you how to love and adore every square inch of your body.

The truth is… you don’t need to.

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I hope you just let out a huge sigh of relief. I know I did.

I am hereby giving you permission not to love your cellulite, or your wrinkles, or your thighs. So you can stop thinking there’s something wrong with you, that you’re maybe just too shallow of a person, if you have some insecurities about your body. Instead, let me congratulate you on being normal.

The thing I want you to understand is is that the opposite of loving your body isn’t loathing your body.

Let me invite you to a beautiful place called Body Neutral Land, home of the free! This is a place where you have a body and you appreciate it but you aren’t defined by it. Your body is your vehicle for chasing dreams and for living out your purpose. It is not the source of your self-worth.

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of my tummy. Even at the peaks of my physical fitness, I still felt pretty “meh” about it. But I can finally say that I’m okay with that. Just last month, I bought the most adorable one piece suit when I was out in California. After 15 years of feeling like I had to be comfortable in a teeny bikini in order to be confident, it felt so good to release that pressure and just wear something that I felt good in. I could just be me.

Could I achieve a super lean, toned tummy? Yes, probably. But I’d have to be willing to do what it takes. That kind of effort and sacrifice is only possible when you want something with your whole entire heart and I simply don’t. It’s not that I’m lazy or unmotivated. I’ve just decided that achieving a “perfect” figure isn’t my purpose in life.

My heart is for encouraging others and I don’t need to be flawless to do that. I find a lot of peace in that.

So instead of looking in the mirror and picking yourself apart, here are three ways I’ve found to love yourself better…

1. Cultivate Self-Compassion.
When I first started teaching yoga I didn’t truly understand it, I thought it was just about the physicality. In case that’s where you are at, let me save you some time…
Yoga is not about the physical poses. The goal isn’t to become more flexible, that’s just a positive side effect. Yoga is about cultivating the mindfulness needed to become your best self.

When I finally understood this I began taking my yoga practice off the mat. I practiced being less judgmental, less critical, and less reactive. Nowadays, I’m more aware of negative self-talk and I’m kinder to myself. I don’t react to a bad body image day by deciding to go on a diet or compulsively exercising. Through yoga, I learned self-compassion.

When you find yourself focusing too much on your outward appearance, look inward to find out what you’re really struggling with in that moment.

2. Let Go Of Control.
The summer before my senior year of college I was counting calories, taking supplements, and planning meals that had to be consumed every 2-3 hours. I was obsessed with my weight. Then something happened that snapped me out it…I lost control.

I started working as a cocktail server at Grandma’s Saloon in Duluth, Minnesota. It was a tourist hot spot and every day we got slammed. Once my shift began I didn’t have a chance to even think about myself until at least 6 hours later, many more if I was working a double. If we had a few seconds to spare, we would run into the kitchen and grab a bite of anything the chefs had made for us before heading back out to our tables.

Being forced out of my perfectionist mindset into a mode of total survival was a game changer for me. My meal plans were shot to hell and yet nothing bad happened. It made me realize that I don’t need to have control over every little thing. I don’t need to obsess over my body. I just need to get busy living my life and serving others!

When you loosen up your grip on life you can relax into becoming more of who you are.

3. Quit Comparing.
Look, I work in the fitness industry so I get it. Some women’s bodies are so stunning that it’s hard to even process. But you know, a few of those bodies are coming to my mind right now (in a totally non-creepy way), and it occurs to me that each of them is so very different.

If you want to shut the door on comparison, you need to ditch the scarcity mindset that tells you another woman’s beauty takes away from your own. I was once compared to another woman and told that she was “hot” and I wasn’t. At the time, it hurt me. But now I find it to be a rather ridiculous statement. My body is as unique to me as my face and my personality are. Maybe I don’t have her brand of “hotness” but I have a ton of my own!

This isn’t just about comparing to other women, it includes comparing yourself today to former versions of you. Start appreciating yourself as you are in this moment. Stop comparing your body to the way it looked 5 years ago or before you had a baby or when you got married. Just like the seasons of our life, our bodies are constantly changing.

In your own skin is the only place you belong and when you allow yourself to be comfortable there, that’s when you’re the most beautiful

(This post was originally an article I wrote for The Real Food Dietitians at http://therealfoodrds.com/body-shame-self-love/)

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A Little: Self Love vs Self Improvement

Many of you have requested this topic and so even though I wasn’t in the mood for a long post today, I thought I’d write up a “little”. There will be more to come because I do feel this is an important concept to get clarity on but for now there’s this…

Okay, so you know the movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey? (Please say yes because we can’t be friends if you don’t like this movie) A line from this movie popped into my head today when I was thinking about this topic. I can’t explain how my brain works, it just does. Anyways, Andie and Ben get into a fight and as they part ways for the night she tells him this…

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That’s it!! That’s the perfect way to explain how self love and self improvement go together.  Your relationship with yourself is just like a romantic relationship.

You can be annoyed with your significant other while still being head over heels in love with them. There may be some things about them you’d change in a perfect world but you would still choose them every day just the way they are.

In the same way, you can choose to accept yourself – flaws and all. You might have some things you’d like to change about yourself and you can work on improving those…all while still being totally in love with yourself!

That’s the balance between self-love and self improvement. You don’t throw a relationship away just because it’s not perfect, you work on the weak areas and you focus on the things that make it great!! That’s not settling or complacency, that’s just real life. That’s love.

It’s the same for you in your relationship with yourself. Your worth isn’t diminished by your flaws. You have so much going for you, so much that is awesome and beautiful. Focus on what’s good, work on what’s not, and accept the stuff that’s just never gonna change.

That Thing We’re All Looking For…

No, I’m not talking about Pokemon. I still don’t get what that whole thing is all about.

Balance.

One of the great things about social media is that there’s no shortage of inspirational or meaningful quotes. Sometimes it seems a bit overdone but I actually think it’s a good thing. All it takes is seeing the right quote at the right time and your life can change. Every once in a while you are stopped in your tracks and you have to take a second to be like “whoa” because a simple quote has somehow managed to sum up everything you are struggling with in that moment and made you feel like it’s all going to be okay.

A couple years ago, this was that kind of quote for me. I even had it as the background of my phone for a good year or so.  I’m sharing it today hoping it might hit some of you right where you are at and help you.…

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One of the women currently taking my self confidence course asked me if I had any tips for her on how to find more balance in her life. I always figure if one person is asking, a lot more want to know too. I do and I don’t have an answer for this.

I used to say “balance” was the key word when it came to healthy living. Now I know that’s not very helpful. As if we need one more thing to feel pressured about. Let’s add “achieve balance” to the list of things to do. You see, the most balanced, scratch that, the most FREE I’ve ever felt is when I embraced not being balanced.

So that’s the answer. You’re never going to feel perfectly balanced. Sorry.

But I do have one tip to help you with that whole “embracing” part…

You can start by trusting your intuition. You know what’s best for you at any given time. Do you need to work or relax, to take “me time” or give to someone else, to be alone or socialize, to rest or workout, to indulge or resist? Do what you need to do. Giving to one area of your life will always take away from another. It will be this way always and forever.

That’s OKAY.

Sure, there will be those fleeting times in your life when you really have your ducks in a row and you feel “balanced”. Your relationships are smooth sailing, your career is soaring, your fitness is on point, your house is clean, your parenting is impressive, and your friendships are fulfilling….then one of those darn ducks steps out of line. And another! Now your life doesn’t even resemble a line at all! It’s just a big old mess!

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I was just telling my fiancé the other day that I want kids in theory but the actual reality of it scares me. Then I realized why. Because I’m comfortable with my current ducks, I’m even cool with them not being in a row. I like my current mess of ducks. But I’m scared that I can’t handle one more duck.

That’s just me falling victim again to this idea of “balance”, this pressure to effortlessly handle everything in our lives. It’s just not a reality and it’s really not something to strive for. Doing so will only hold us back and cause us to make (or not make) decisions out of fear that we’d get even more off balance. Think of all the joy we’d miss out on if we aren’t willing to lose our balance from time to time!

The truth is, I’d figure out how to handle one more duck just like I always have. Some ducks naturally just fall away as other ducks get added. That’s a necessary part of life and a reason to let things go.

Trust that you’ll find a way to not only survive but thrive in the glorious chaos of your imperfect life. You are beautifully imbalanced. That’s what I like about me and that’s what I like about you.

My Acne Analogy

In order to be confident you must let go of comparing yourself to others and cultivate your creativity. It was in this spirit that I decided to create my very own analogy that relates to body image and self-confidence. It’s funny how seemingly small moments in life can really grab hold in your psyche and that’s how my acne analogy came to be…

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At some point during high school, or maybe it was earlier than that, I got skin care advice that changed the way I look at problems. I don’t even remember who it was that said it to me but if I had to guess it was my mother. Either that or I read it somewhere. All I remember is that it made so much sense to me.

Like most adolescents, I struggled with breakouts. I didn’t have horrible acne by any means so I was actually pretty fortunate. But my skin wasn’t clear either and since it was my face, it was a big gigantic deal to me. So I reacted the way most people do and went crazy with the skin clearing products. Any face wash or cream that promised to fight blemishes or zap zits, I had it. I was washing, scrubbing, toning, and applying at least three times a day. It didn’t help. In fact, I could swear it was making my skin worse.

It was in the midst of this frustration that I heard this advice….

If you stop treating your skin like “problem skin” it will stop being a problem.

Basically the concept was that in using all of these skin clearing products and using them so often, I was repeatedly telling my skin “you have acne” and so it responded by breaking out.

I needed to stop the cycle.

So I got rid of all the abrasive products and I began a regular skin care routine. (Mary Kay all the way!) Instead of reacting to every little breakout by panicking and piling on the products, I stayed consistent and used products made for normal skin. Guess what? My skin cleared up and I haven’t had problems since.

I think part of the reason my skin cleared was simply because I stopped stressing about it. Something about that advice was very freeing for me to hear and I really clung to it. Now that I have a platform where I talk a lot about self-confidence and body image, I can see a huge connection between the two situations.

We spend so much time obsessing over our bodies and telling ourselves we aren’t thin enough, we have too many wrinkles, our thighs are huge, and on and on and on.  Then we react (overreact) to this self-perceived problem by going on diets, restricting calories, starting workout programs, pushing our bodies to the point of exhaustion….all with the hope of fixing the “problem”.

We need to stop the cycle.

What if we stopped telling our bodies, through our thoughts and behaviors, that they are a problem in need of fixing and just went about living our lives in the way we actually enjoy? Sure that would still include healthful eating and daily exercise but it would be coming from a place of self-love. How freeing would that be?

free

Basically I’m equating self love with moisturizing 😉

Obsessing over our imperfections only magnifies them in our own minds and makes us miserable. Start obsessing over your strengths and how awesome you are. Stop talking about everything you don’t like about your body and start talking about what you DO like. I’ve got awesome hair, long toned legs, and big brown eyes! Yay!! What about you?? Can you quickly name 3 things you love about your body? If you can’t, I bet your friend could. Other people don’t pay attention to our “blemishes” the way we do.

In my self-confidence course, I don’t spend a lot of time discussing fitness, weight, nutrition, or body image at all. Even if those factors are the motivation for many of the women signing up for the course in the first place, I’m not going to focus attention on those things and my acne analogy is why.

When I was a teenager I thought my skin was the problem and so I focused on fixing it. It didn’t work. It made the problem worse and it stressed me out. I want women to see that their bodies aren’t the problem nor do they need to be the focus of their lives. Our bodies shouldn’t be the source of our insecurities OR the source of our self-confidence. Our bodies are merely our vehicles to live out our real purpose and to chase our dreams. THAT is why we need to love them and take care of them!

Why I Quit Beachbody Coaching

If you clicked on this post thinking that I’m going to bash direct sales or multi-level marketing companies then move along, that’s not what I’m about.

I enjoyed being a Beachbody coach and running challenge groups. I’m a HUGE believer in the accountability and support of a group. In addition to that, the products are high quality. I helped a lot of people get healthier and yes, I made money too.  People like to vilify that part of it. My time is worth money. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if you love your job, you’re doing it for a paycheck.

Ok anyways, I digress. The reason I’m not Beachbody coaching anymore is because I’ve found something that plays even more to my strengths.   A few things about me: I am extremely generous with my time and energy when it comes to encouraging others. I love giving emotional support and practical advice. Finally, I’m bold and original.

Beachbody coaching allowed me to put my time and energy towards encouraging others. I was able to provide my challengers with support, accountability and lots of practical advice. But the part that wasn’t being fulfilled was the “bold and original” side of my personality. Which left me looking for something more….

I wanted to create a program of my very own. For a long time I’ve seen a need for something that goes much deeper than meal plans and workouts. It just took my being brave enough to address this need and become a part of the solution. I decided that the research I’ve done combined with my experiences, observations, and insights has real value.

I once had a personal training client who wouldn’t look in the mirror at my studio. Her glance was always downward. One day I was teaching her an exercise and I directed her to look in the mirror so that I could show her something about her form. She couldn’t do it. When she tried to do what I asked, she immediately and instinctively looked away. Her self-esteem was that low. I remember thinking in that moment, “This is the last thing she needs right now”. All I wanted to do was give her a big hug and tell her that her worth was so much higher than she had been led to believe. I didn’t because that would probably have been awkward and it’s not what I’d been hired to do…

hug

To make up for the hug I didn’t give that day I created a course to help women become more confident. My “28 Day Self Confidence Tool Kit” is my way of hugging all the women who have spent their lives dieting and exercising out of a deep rooted shame and belief that they weren’t enough.  Even beyond body image, it’s for women who long for the freedom to show up in their life every day just as they are, unapologetically, without the pressure to be “perfect”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about eating right and exercising. Healthy habits are a big part of self-confidence. But I’m more interested in what is driving those healthy habits. Is it guilt, obsession, compulsion? If so, forget the meal plans and the workouts and work on yourself first. Eating right and exercising should come from a desire to love and honor your body. It shouldn’t be a constant uphill battle.

As a fitness professional for over a decade I’ve seen far too many women (including myself at one point in time) fall into the trap of obsessive exercise, calorie counting, and constantly measuring their bodies. They believe that achieving the “perfect” figure is where their self-worth lies. But even when they achieve that body, it’s never enough. They still aren’t free. Outward appearance is a terrible place to get your self worth from. Body obsession is not healthy.

So that’s why I’m no longer Beachbody coaching. Not because it’s “bad” but because I’m choosing to put my time and energy into the area where I see the most need and where I have the most to offer. The only negative thing I’ll say about running Beachbody challenge groups is that it forced me to be on social media constantly which did drain some joy from my life. That is why I’ve decided to do my self-confidence program over email. I already feel so energized by this new project and feel that it is my calling. It’s 100% in alignment with my most authentic self and I believe I am going to help women in a bigger way than ever before.authentic

I don’t regret Beachbody coaching one bit. It brought me closer to a dear friend because we did it together (she rocks at it). I helped a lot of people build healthy lifestyle habits including myself!!! It was a necessary step in my journey and helped me evolve. I am glad I did it but I’m ready to move on from it as I step into my purpose.

Contact me if you are interested in taking my “28 Day Self Confidence Tool Kit” course when I offer it again in September!

Howe-to Marry Yourself

Disclaimer: This is not relationship/marriage advice!! This is an analogy about self love…

Think about what a healthy, happy relationship looks like. It would be two people who love each other, despite being perfectly aware of the others flaws and imperfections. It’s two people accepting and embracing each other just the way they are.

How long would you date someone if they were always pointing out your less than perfect parts? How miserable would you be if you were married to someone who didn’t accept you and just wanted to change you?

The thing is, you are in a relationship with a person like that if you don’t practice self love. You are in a relationship with yourself. Except you can’t leave yourself. Which is why self love matters.

Your body doesn’t have to be perfect for you to love it completely.

You can acknowledge your physical “imperfections” without using them as reasons not to love your one and only body.

Your weight can fluctuate without your self worth fluctuating with it.

If you’re constantly going on diets and exercising out of obligation or guilt then you’re at war with yourself. You’re in an unhealthy relationship.

Practice accepting yourself just the way you are today. Stick up for yourself like you would for your significant other when negative self talk creeps in. Become aware of how you are treating yourself.

A place of self love is where you can start making positive changes. You can enjoy eating well and exercising because you LOVE and honor your body not because you hate it and are trying to change it. Then and only then can you be on a JOYFUL journey of healthy living.

Doesn’t it sound freeing?

Marry yourself and make it a happy, healthy relationship full of self love and acceptance. Improvements welcome but not necessary.

marry