I’ve made no secret around here that I have been riding a self love roller-coaster these past few years; a mix of terrifying and exhilarating.
You can read about it here and here but in a contextual nutshell (no, not activated); the pill, pregnancy and various lifestyle factors manifested for me last year in a 20 kilogram weight gain. In the understatement of the year I will let you know that showing up in the world (especially in the health industry) has been tough at times.
But while the physical effects were pretty undesirable it was actually the eroding of my self-confidence that was the most damaging part of all. I hunched, I declined party invitations, I drank for confidence. I said no to projects, I backed out and I self-sabotaged. Basically; my perceived ‘bigness’ was keeping me really small.
After having a slight meltdown about the pace of my progress my personal trainer and coach, Janine Farrow, asked me a few questions that stopped me dead in my tracks “What are you meant to learn from this Em? What are you holding on to, what belief is holding you back, what memory is buried in your fat cells. What do you need to find?”
These questions lit a fire under me. Like Indiana Jones before me I donned my leather fedora and went searching for the answer. I found my answer in my photo albums.
There were photos of me 10 years ago where I was 25 kilograms lighter. I looked great. I was also unhealthy, toying with starvation, and living on a diet that comprised of mushrooms, bean shoots, soy sauce and vodka. And I thought I was fat.
Then 5 years ago, I was 20 kilograms lighter. I looked great. I was also binging and purging and walking 3 hours a day. I was beating myself up about my food decisions and was looking for the wonder diet that would make me thin. Cabbage soup anyone? Oh.. and I thought I was fat.
1 year ago, 15 kilograms lighter. I looked great. I also decided out of desperation – despite all nutritional knowledge and training – to try a shake diet. Oh yeah and I thought I was fat.
In every photo I saw – despite whatever I felt about my body at the time – I was candidly captured looking gorgeous, happy and confident. You see, people look great when they feel great. Smiles are sexy.
My happiness and confidence did not hinge upon the kilograms I weighed or how straight my nose was.
That was the message that was buried in my fat cells.
Those fateful email questions posed by Janine were a switch that flicked in my mind (it occasionally flickers mind you) but since applying that mental vignette my confidence has skyrocketed.
Nowadays, I look great. I am still heavier than I have ever been but I am damn healthy. I am fit and capable and I no longer define myself by an irrelevant numerical value. And I don’t think I am fat anymore. My body is catching up slowly but I couldn’t wait for that to show back up in the world.
So here’s how I learned how to love my body… instantly!
I started chasing how I wanted to feel rather than how I wanted to look
Danielle La Porte revolutionised goal-setting with this theory (which she poetically fleshes out in The Desire Map). She beautifully says, “I only want to hit my targets if the aiming and the hitting both feel good”.
In other words, your journey needs to feel how you want the destination to look. As I mentioned above, regardless of my weight I have always wanted to be lighter. Because when you chase a transient goal instead of a feeling the goal posts inevitably move.
All those years ago, had I instead focused on feeling fitter or stronger I would have hit my goal 100 times over and probably been carried away with the intoxicating inertia of progress. It doesn’t bear thinking how much time I wasted complaining about the size of my jeans instead of reveling in how far I could run.
F*ck your scales or your mirror; how do you want to feel? Fitter, stronger, sexier, desirable? Chase that and get instant gratification via a yoga class, some sexy lingerie or a nice organic face mask rather than an imaginary high from some size-ranking on your thighs.
I stopped hiding myself.
Looking back I feel kinda like my two year old. When we are playing hide and seek she will sometimes sit in the middle of the floor and close her eyes (while giggling loudly). She can’t see me so obviously I can’t see her.
Similarly, I thought that if I wore big baggy t-shirts then maybe no one would notice my weight gain or me. In my mind, I didn’t deserve to try be sexy when I was so clearly not. But in reality, all that “hiding” myself did was make me feel like a slob (and look like one too).
After realising it was time to change, the first place I visited was my cupboard. I chose clothes that cinched at the waist, that hugged my hips a bit tighter and I showed off my legs. I hosted a workshop where I stood in the centre of a cirlce of women in leggings – while pouring my heart out (gold star for vulnerability, please). I had a professional photo shoot and insisted on lots of body shots (rather than the seductive lure of requesting some flattering cropping and photo-shopping).
It made me feel authentic and proud.
Choose your favorite part of yourself and emphasise the hell out of it. Wear dresses that celebrate your curves, draw attention to your eyes or wear flowers in your hair if that’s what you like. Adorn yourself.
I Got Myself Some Spirit Women (as opposed to Spirit Animals).
If the FBI were to judge me by my internet history they would surely pick me as a horny 15 year old boy – I have download a lot of pictures via the search term “Jennifer Aniston Bikini Hot”. All my bikini-clad Jen’s stared at me from my fridge like angry sexy teachers, reminded me of that homework I didn’t do (namely, running great distances).
So I twisted it. I decided instead to invoke the confidence and spark of these women rather than just admiring their shell (something I am so against – unless I was looking in the mirror of course). Look at the real substance of the woman and be inspired by that rather than comparing myself to something as innocuous as the centimeters of their waist.
How exactly do you do that? Well… I stepped into their shoes. I asked myself a few things…
Does Beth Ditto worry about industry standards before hitting the stage or does she just stride out and do what she was put on earth to do?
Do you think Serena Williams was oogling Sharapova’s long arms as she annihilated her to win her second consecutive grand slam? Likewise, do you think that Sharapova found comfort looking at her lithe limbs after losing the Australian Open?
Did Bethany Hamilton give up surfing after losing her arm or did she realise her dream of becoming a pro surfer?
Instead of comparing myself, I celebrated the bold women of the world and let a bit of their magic rub off on me.
Here are a selection of my fave spirit women…
And If All Else Fails… I Ask Myself This Question
Despite my magical mindset makeover there are still days that trip me up. Where the thought of rocking up to that party/coffee date/yoga class is just too much. On those days I ask myself this question;
“If the world was blind how much value would I add to it?”
Ask yourself that question now.
Just like me… you are not your face. You are not your body. You are not the size of your nose or chin or the colour of your hair.
You are not your clothes or your car or any other possessions.
What are you?
You are your kindness and your talents. Your knee-slapping ability to burp the alphabet and the way you make people feel.
You are the person that would give the shirt off your back to someone in need and the girl that texts your friends to make sure they got home safe.
And you are way too flippin’ awesome to be thinking you are anything but.
I’d love for you to share this article with any of your sisters that you know are feeling small (or big).
(and of course join me in the comment section below…)