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Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Post - Living My Authentic Life: No Strings Attached

As promised, here is our return guest post from Mirror Health: Looking in the Mirror! Thank you so much, Melanee, for swapping with us!

Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are
is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage
to get to know who you are and what you want. 
~Sue Bender

I have been on a journey to figure out who I truly am. Not only that, but to like that person. I'm a people liker. I get along with all types of people. I always have. Yet I have struggled for years to grant that same acceptance to myself. I have struggled to make myself into something I am not. For example:

This is a picture of my dear friend Lizzy (in white) and myself a few years ago. We were in Germany. We had Eurorail passes with a couple of other girls. We were all just 20, touring Europe, and having the time of our lives. Notice the way I am dressed. Notice the way Lizzy is dressed. I borrowed a long sleeve shirt from her and tied it around my waist, just like her. I also turned up my jeans, just the way Lizzy did. To give myself some credit, it was sometimes cold and having a long sleeve shirt to throw on at all times was nice, but this was not my style. I was only dressed like this because I desperately wanted to be Lizzy. I adore Lizzy. I always have. But learning that I don't have to be Lizzy, well that has been a different matter altogether.

I have found that figuring out just who I am can often be tricky. I've spent 27 years trying to be someone else (Lizzy, my sister, that brilliant and talented girl in my college editing classes, maybe a hippie), letting  go of the need to conform to someone else's ideals is challenging. Let me walk you through my journey.

1. I decided I was done trying to be someone else. I was done hating myself as well. I just wanted to be happy with who I was. This decision was perfectly timed with the birth of my son. Becoming a mother made me realize how desperately I wanted my son to always love himself as he is because he's perfect. But children learn by example. So I needed to change. I also gained weight after my son was born (I thought it was supposed to be the other way around). Dieting was getting me nowhere. Besides, I didn't even like myself when I was skinny. Reasoning that out I'd say losing weight wasn't going to bring the acceptance that I was looking for.

2. I started blogging about my struggles. I wanted to share the resources and things that I was finding. Since I was telling the world of my journey I felt very strongly that I had to keep going. I knew others who had journeyed to self acceptance and I used them as examples.

3. I stopped bad talking myself. I also started learning to shut down my inner critic. Learning to silence that voice has been powerful. Very powerful.

4. I gave up dieting. I started on a path of intuitive eating. This has allowed me to get in touch with my body on a very physical level. It has created trust that was missing when I was trying to force myself to be something I would never be. The trust has also been the foundation for love to grow. Love that has allowed me to take better care of myself.

5. I dove more deeply into my yoga practice. Then I took a big plunge. I have been wanting to teach yoga for some time. But remember, I had gained a lot of weight after the birth of my son. I was terrified that I would never be accepted as a teacher. But I took a bold step and have started teaching yoga. I have been accepted and have found joy in that. Waiting for a certain pant size to live our lives is a mistake, but learning to overcome our fear of rejection in a world so focused on size is difficult, but oh so worth it.

6. I stopped emotional overeating. And overeating in general. I have been learning to actually feel my emotions. I have been learning that they won't overpower or destroy me. Instead they teach me what my body needs.

7. I learned to accept the things that I like and the things I don't. Maybe I'm not as social as I always wanted to be, but that's okay. It was sometimes hard to realize that I'm not the type of person who likes this or that, but now that I know my interests I no longer have to put myself in situations that will ultimately be unpleasant for me.

8. I stopped the fat talk!

Although these are numbered, they were not really specific steps that I took. These things have evolved and each day I have to do many of them over again. And some days I fail.

Yesterday I was stressed. I knew I had to write this blog post and I wanted it to be fantastic. I wanted to write something amazing that would blow your socks off. And it's April Fool's Day, surely I have a joke or something I can share (I'm horrible at April Fool's). But I also had a million other things going on. I have a big announcement I'll be making on my blog Monday (not as big as Jen's, but who can top hers really?) and I have so so so much to do in order to be ready for that big day. I have a little group of cub scouts that I teach on Thursdays. I knew they would be coming over soon and I had to finish preparing for their activity. My house was a mess. The laundry needed folded. My sister is coming to visit this weekend, and I needed to get things in order. Then I found out that my niece and nephews are also coming for a night, lots to do to prepare. And are those my eyebrows? When was the last time I plucked? I needed to teach yoga and wanted some time to prepare for that. I needed . . .

All of a sudden my stomach yelled "STOP!" In my hand was a large handful of Goldfish crackers. I had been walking around the house stressing out and shoving handful after handful of crackers down my throat. I wasn't thinking. My stomach was too full to take another bite. Emotional eating at its finest. But when I realized what I had been doing instead of beating myself up (which would have been my go-to reaction just a year ago) I took a step back, slowed down, and allowed myself a minute to relax and learn from what just happened. I was kind to myself, and what could have been a very self deprecating moment turned into a moment of peace, kindness, and learning.

I love this quote, it sums it up nicely: 

"I wish I could tell you that spiritual and creative growth was smooth, predictable, and without pain. 'All the best transformations are accompanied by pain,' Fay Weldon tells us. 'That's the point of them.' Personal growth also comes in spasms: three steps forward, two steps back, and then a long plateau when it seems as though nothing is happening. But it's important to realize that this dormant period  always seems to precede a growth spurt."
("Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach)

So while this post may not knock anyone's socks off, it is me. And that is enough. Because I'm enough. Finding out who you truly are may seem like a painful process that's not worth it, but I can assure you that the pain that comes with transformation and knowing yourself is less than the pain of always trying to be someone and something that you are not. Take it in baby steps, one day at a time. You may be surprised when one day you look in the mirror and realize that you like what you see.

Melanee is the author of Mirror Health: Looking in the Mirror where she tells of her
journey to self acceptance and love. Her blog focuses on ways to repair body image issues, 
heal unhealthy food relationships, and how to ultimately find health both in body and mind.

on Melanee’s blog!