Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

As this is the holiday season, I gave some thought as to what might be an appropriate post for “The Healing Project.” While for many people, this is a joyous time of year, for countless others, it’s a time of stress and despair. As I am not a particularly religious person (I always call myself “spiritual but not religious”), I have had to give some consideration as to what this time of year represents to me. In this post, I share some of my personal insights on Christmas and the holiday season and what I consider to be the greatest lesson for this time of year.

As Christmas approaches, we start to see the holiday decorations in the stores and television and newspaper ads for gift suggestions and sales. We are told to show our love for those in our lives by buying them the “perfect gift,” often at a premium price. Since many people are already strapped for cash in the midst of the recession, the stress induced by the pressure to buy is higher than ever. We wrestle with questions of who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend. We rush out to crowded shopping malls and comb the packed aisles and racks in search of a gift which will either serve to express our love or fulfill an obligation. Most of us don’t stop to wonder, “Is this what Christmas is all about?” Religious or not, we can probably all agree that Christmas has been distilled down to a shopping and buying related event in this country for many people. If we think about it, we may consider it a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

Do you have trouble making decisions? Is a decision as simple as what to eat for dinner or which movie to see enough to send your head spinning? Do you second-guess your decisions immediately after you make them and wish you could turn back the clock and do something different?

Indecisiveness is a common problem and one I’ve suffered from tremendously over the years. I have driven myself crazy when wrestling with all types of decisions, from the large to the seemingly insignificant. I have wasted countless hours in weighing pros and cons and wracking my brain to make the “right decision,” and I have lost out on things I’ve wanted by taking too long to make up my mind.

I recently listened to a broadcast of Dennis Prager’s Happiness Hour on the topic of indecision. Both Dennis and his callers presented some powerful points on this important topic which have made a difference in the way I approach decisions in my life. This post highlights some of these key points and I hope it will help you to combat the perils of indecision.

I always love when a woman with an alternate body type rises to fame in film or television. When I say “alternate body type,” I’m referring to a woman who does not possess the standard Hollywood stick-thin figure embodied by most starlets today. I think it’s good for young girls to witness other types of bodies on the big or small screen, especially since most women are not naturally a size 2 or 4. It’s healthy for them to see stars that have curvier bodies but are still regarded as beautiful by society at large.

One such woman who has recently risen to fame is Christina Hendricks, the lovely actress who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.” Christina has flowing flame-colored hair, alabaster skin, glowing blue eyes, and a bombshell figure which evokes comparisons to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Her shape is a pronounced hourglass and she proudly shows off all of her gorgeous curves, both on “Mad Men” and on the red carpet. She stands out not only because she’s stunningly beautiful, but also because she looks different from most of the other women we see in Hollywood today.

Have you ever heard of the term, “Debbie Downer”? This term, based upon a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character, refers to a person who is frequently negative and complaining, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around her. Sadly, I have to admit that I can be this person at times, and since my name is Debbie, that makes it even worse!

I don’t mean to complain a lot, but there are times when I catch myself spouting out all kinds of negativity. At least I catch myself more often these days, but I am still dismayed when I realize I am whining and complaining. My husband gets the worst of it, and this normally very tolerant man has been known to lose his patience with me on occasion. Yesterday was one of those times, which is what has prompted me to write this post. I will look at why we complain, when it’s okay, and how to reform our tendency to gripe and moan.

What contributes to your level of happiness more strongly, your weight or your love life? A recent article posted on the Daily Mail website revealed some surprising findings from a 24-year study on the topic of happiness. This post outlines key points from the article, as well as my insights related to slimness, relationships, and contentment.

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin conducted a study of the ups and downs of the lives of thousands of Germans from 1984 through 2008. One of the findings of this study was that a woman’s weight has a greater effect on her happiness than her love life. Being obese is associated with a higher degree of emotional suffering and dissatisfaction than being single and having a thin body leads to more life satisfaction than being in a committed romantic relationship.

Are you a critical person? Do you have a tendency to look at others – and life – with a “glass half empty” attitude? Are you someone who is never happy because you always find things to fault about the people and situations in your life, including yourself?

How do you feel about anger? Are you someone who readily expresses your anger and sometimes has a hard time controlling it? Or are you someone who is very uncomfortable with anger, such that you can’t really remember being angry at anyone? Do you confine your angry feelings only toward yourself because that feels more safe and comfortable?

I recently completed the exercises in Chapter 5 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.” This chapter is titled, “Critical Thinking” and explores the tendency we all have to be judgmental and critical toward others and ourselves. The exercises focus on our beliefs and practices related to critical thoughts and the acknowledgment and expression of emotions, including the often controversial feeling of anger.

I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on the topics of criticism and anger. I will share some of Louise Hay’s thoughts on these topics, as well as my reactions and insights from the Chapter 5 exercises.

Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing? Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear? A recent article on the Weight Watchers website (posted by a fellow member of the “Let’s Fashion Talk” forum) describes this phenomenon. Many women have a specific size in mind when shopping for clothing, and they are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Some highlights of the article include:

* There is no standard sizing convention among women’s clothing manufacturers. Often, the more high-end the designer, the smaller the size. Even within a single brand, there are disparities.
* “Vanity sizing,” in which measurements run larger than standard, is used by the majority of manufacturers today. One exception is the dress-pattern market, in which the measurements for the McCall’s size 8 correspond to the current 0 or 00 on the Banana Republic website!
* Vanity sizing is driven entirely by marketing psychology. Women like to fit into a smaller size and single digits sound better than double digits.
* The average American woman is 5’4.5” and wears a size 12 top and a size 14 bottom.
* The dream size for most women on the Weight Watchers plan hovers between an 8 and a 10.

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. Over the years, my vision for how I would do this has shifted, but I have maintained my desire to help others. Lately, I have questioned how much of a contribution I’ve been making and have increasingly felt that what I do is not good enough. A recent experience vividly illustrated the powerful truth in Mother Teresa’s simple quote. The focus of this week’s post is on that experience, what it taught me, and how I will proceed in life based upon what I learned.

The following is a journal entry which I made on August 31, 2009. I titled this passage simply, “The Decision,” and have been carrying it in my purse now for over a year. Although I didn’t start my “healing project” until February 2010, I consider “The Decision” to have been the start of my turning my life around. It was when I decided to change my attitude from negative to positive and to take charge of my life.

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I made an important decision today which I know will be life-changing. It happened while on my elliptical machine reading a book which I’ve had for a year but only recently started to read. The book is called “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.” I was so excited when I bought this book last September, but I was too busy to read it until now, or maybe I wasn’t ready until now…

I turned 43 a few weeks ago, so statistically that puts me right at midlife. Of course, I have no way of knowing if I have 40 or 50 more years to live or only a few months. But even if I assume that I will live until 80 or 90 or more, do I want to live my life in the way I have been living it?

I recently found a journal entry I made following an interesting shopping experience I had back in 2004. I titled my journal entry “Perspective.” I am sharing what I wrote six years ago because I feel it is timeless and highly relevant to the “body image rehab” process. I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity. I also removed references to specific sizes, as that information may be “triggering” to some people and is not really pertinent to the overall message.

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day. While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed that the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size; a size which I feel is unacceptable. I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me. While I would have been horrified to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I hate wearing my current size now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What disgusts me thrills her. Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.