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.…

embrace

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?

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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.

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Moving Weekend Reflections

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Moving weekend!! I can’t wait to leave this place yet it deserves a moment of appreciation from me. So I sat outside the front door this morning to enjoy my coffee. I’ve never done that before but I’ve learned the importance of taking the time for stillness and moments of reflection and it felt like something I needed to do.

This is where I started over after a divorce, a life event that showed me how much clarity and self knowledge I truly was lacking.

This is where I came home to each night after teaching 3 or 4 classes in a row at my studio.

This is where Nick and I’s relationship grew; making dinners, watching movies, having arguments.

This is where I cried myself to sleep during the most painful emotional crisis of my adult life that made me a stronger, wiser, and better person.

This is where we brought our beloved rescue husky, Mikko, home to!

This is where I watched Nick play Twister in the living room with my niece and realized he’ll be an amazing dad.

This is where I sat at the kitchen table and made the super difficult decision to transition my career by closing my studio and accepting a job offer at the Y.

This is where I came home to after a trip to NYC where I got engaged!

This is where my sister picked me up from as we headed out on an epic road trip across the country.

This is where I grew into a woman who knows who she is and what she’s about.

But now that I’ve taken the moment to acknowledge all of this…I’m so ready to move on. I can’t wait for new dog walking routes and to live near the Red Jacket Trail! (Maybe I’ll run more frequently?!)

I love the opportunity to de-clutter and simplify that moving provides; emotionally, mentally and physically. A new place means new routines, new rituals, and new memories.

Good things await….

Persist with hope.

great leaders

Lately I’ve felt beaten down. One thing after another left me extremely frustrated and slightly annoyed at the world. It was really getting to me so I’ve been praying for God to give me strength, to put that FIRE back in my heart and a genuine smile back on my face.

We all know that motivation is like a cat. It goes away from time to time but it always comes back, right? I’m an extremely resilient person, I always bounce back. But I was starting to get impatient because it was taking longer than usual. I don’t like the feeling of having no motivation. It feels hopeless. It feels like going through the motions. It makes me feel trapped and then I start looking for an escape instead of a solution. But I don’t want a life that I want to escape from. I want a life I LOVE living.

This morning I walked into the locker room and a member I don’t know personally stopped me and said “Stephanie, I just want you to know how much I love all the instructors you have on your staff. When you first came here and brought all these new classes, I thought they weren’t for me. But they ARE for me and I am so glad you challenged us. Every instructor is so willing to help and they actually care. I’m so happy with the changes. I thought you needed to hear that.”

How would she have known I needed to hear that? I SO did but how did she know? Just like that I felt encouraged. My hope was renewed. It’s such a simple and powerful thing to hear encouraging words when your heart is hurting.

Thanks to God for hearing my prayer and sending the right person at the right time with the message He knew I needed to hear.

Now go encourage somebody.

 

“Howe to” Stop Falling Off the Wagon..

Don’t have a wagon. Have a life instead.

 

(I thought about stopping there. So if you get the point, stop reading. Otherwise you can read on while I expand and tell you about the moment that inspired what could have been my shortest post ever….)

While I was road tripping with my sister to San Diego, her home and the destination for my upcoming wedding, she exclaimed something in the middle of beautiful Utah that almost every woman on earth has said or could hear themselves saying….

“Let’s come up with a fitness challenge to do together before your wedding!”

Not that long ago I would have been all over this and we would have excitedly planned out the details and the rules of this “challenge” that would have us looking absolutely fit and fantastic in our gowns on my wedding day.

But my instincts have changed as I’ve been evolving and learning about myself and the true meaning of health. After entertaining the idea for about half a second my gut caused me to quickly say “Nope, not interested.”

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I felt kind of bad for shooting her down so fast but it was also very freeing to say it. Her suggestion was obviously well-intentioned. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work hard to look your best for a special event, plus the chance to do something “together” from afar with my sister? Hard to refuse!

But I’ve done a lot of work on myself in the last year or so and I’ve learned to work WITH my nature, not against it. What would happen if I agreed to do this challenge with my sister? I’ll tell you..

I’d stick with our “plan” for maybe 4-5 days and then life would inevitably happen and I would get off track. Then I’d feel bad about myself and wonder what is wrong with me. A challenge that was meant to make me feel good would end up having the exact opposite effect. Then after feeling bad about myself for a few days, I’d recommit (probably on a Monday) only to have the cycle repeat itself.

I KNOW that sounds familiar to so many of you. Guess what? It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t even mean you are undisciplined. It probably just means that you are a human and that’s your personality and you have other priorities.That’s okay. Did you hear me? THAT’S OKAY!!!!! Stop beating yourself up for it!!  Just live your life. Listen to your body. Make choices that feel good (physically, mentally, emotionally) and the pieces will fall into place.

This is one of the things I struggled with when I led my monthly challenge groups. When one of my challengers would say they had a celebration to attend and weren’t sure how to stay on track I was torn between saying “Screw it! Go have fun and get back on track later!” or “Honor your commitment to yourself,” What I’ve realized is both responses are correct. Sometimes, it IS worth it to make small sacrifices in one area of your life in order to achieve a goal. Other times, these self imposed “rules” steal the joy out of your life. It’s up to YOU to decide what is right for you. (not your coach, or your trainer, or anyone else)

Think of all the energy and emotions you could put towards something more positive if you weren’t always falling off wagons and pulling yourself back on….I’ve made the personal choice to intentionally JUMP off the wagon and stay off of it.

wagon

I’m absolutely going to work hard to look my best on my wedding day. But I’ve also got a life to live. I’ve got a friend who just got engaged and I need to take her out for drinks to celebrate. I have a townhome full of furniture and “stuff” that needs to be moved next weekend and I’m sure I’ll skip several workouts to get that accomplished. (Moving IS a workout if you ask me) There’s also my full time job, a ton of choreography I need to learn for the classes I teach, my “28-day Self Confidence Tool Kit” to complete for my upcoming test group, and I don’t even have a dress yet for my wedding in 3 months!

My point is, I’m under enough pressure just living my very full life! No need to add the pressure of changing my body to the list. By not committing to a “plan” or a “challenge” and just giving myself the freedom to make the choices that feel right, I give myself the freedom to work on my fitness without a side order of guilt for the days when the other parts of my life take priority. If my wedding date was tomorrow, I’d be fine with that. I’m already fit and fantastic just the way I am. If I happen to get MORE fit before October 28th? Icing on the cake!!

(Love you Joelle, thank you for the post inspiration!)

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Shame is Lame

Okay first of all, I have a new favorite hashtag: #shameislame

bye perfect

I have been having the BEST time these last few months. Developing my very own self confidence course, (it’s so fun to create!), reading Brené Brown’s books on women and shame (inspiration for this pic), eating and exercising intuitively, and just living my life obligation/guilt/shame free!!!! I’m so on fire with purpose and stuff that actually matters, I just don’t have time to think about calories or steps or plans that are going to change the size or shape of my body. It’s such a waste of life and leads to restricting, obsessing and comparing. It might lead to an “ideal” figure but it sure doesn’t lead to freedom.

It’s easy to change your body, you restrict calories and you workout harder. It takes self discipline which is admirable but it isn’t hard to figure out the steps to take. On the other hand, finding your self worth beyond your physical appearance and building true self confidence isn’t as easy. That’s what the “28 Day Self Confidence Tool Kit” course I’m creating is all about. It contains the steps to take and “tools” to use, at your own pace, to find your path to self confidence. The kind you can’t fake. It involves looking inward, being self aware, having courage, and being a bit rebellious. That’s a LOT more fun than self discipline 😉

It did take “ordinary courage” (Brené Brown’s term) for me to realize that my voice matters and my experiences matter. To know that I’ve got something to say and it can help so many women if I put it out there. To understand I can guide others even though I’m imperfect and a work in progress myself. I didn’t realize I was being brave by creating this course until someone said to me “kudos on putting yourself out there.” Yes I suppose that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve even noticed that since I’ve been shifting my message, my peers in the fitness industry have been shifting theirs too. I’ve been seeing a slightly different “twist” on their posts and I LOVE it. I’m not vain enough to say it’s because of me, but if it IS, I’m damn proud of that. If it’s not, I’m proud of them! It doesn’t matter why, as long as the message is changing. Fitness isn’t about shaming it’s about loving our bodies. On top of that, health isn’t all about fitness. It’s so much more expansive than that.

I challenge you to say BYE to perfect and HELLO to courage! Choose to be content and confident now. Today. Stop putting it on hold. Everyone already knows you aren’t perfect so take the pressure off and stop trying to be. Be your dang self, no shame allowed!! THAT takes courage. #shameislame

 

In This Skin

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Waking up in Ely at my fiancé’s family’s cabin, I’m remembering that it was 3 years ago on 4th of July weekend that I came with to the cabin for the first time. I was your typical girl during the first several weeks of a new relationship. You know, going shopping for the perfect “I’m not even trying” outfits, putting on make up immediately after waking up, making sure your hair is just right, etc.

Ha! How much has changed! Now we practically compete when we come to the cabin about who can wait the longest before changing clothes or showering (okay we’re not that gross, but sorta we are!) I do NOT care about make up or how my hair looks and I certainly didn’t go shopping for this weekend.

That early dating stuff is cute. I’m making fun of myself but there’s nothing wrong with it. However I’m glad that stage fades because it’s too much work! (much like striving for perfection in the rest of your life is exhausting and overwhelming) It sure is wonderful how over the course of a relationship you settle in and become comfortable just being “you”. We should all want that for our lives in general, to be able to settle confidently into our true selves without all of the people pleasing, pretending, shame, or judgement. Just pure freedom to be as you are.

In the same way our relationship has changed over the last 3 years, I’ve changed as a woman. I’ve been on a huge journey of becoming comfortable in my own skin, letting go of the this myth of “perfection”, and just being totally 100% Steph. Take it or leave it. (I’ve always kind of been that way but now it’s more intentional) So many are looking for fitness and weight loss to make them confident in their skin. I’ve learned that you can’t hate yourself into loving yourself. Those types of goals are secondary to the real work that needs to happen on the inside first. Once you love yourself, you can better yourself.

I’ve done this through lots of journaling and blogging, reading many books, and applying lots of real life practical strategies to my every day life. Basically I’ve gotten to know myself really well, learned to accept myself flaws and all, then LOVE myself as God loves me, and finally just BE myself. It’s a journey. It’s not like I’m “done” I’ve just gone far enough down the road that I’m ready to take others with me on this beautiful journey!!

This is what I’m going to be focusing on now. It’s where I can help so many others by guiding, supporting, and encouraging them through the process of self discovery, self acceptance, self love, and finally self confidence. I have 10 women in the test group for my ’28-Day Self Confidence Tool Kit’ course starting on August 1st and then I’ll go from there!! Stay tuned!!!