Full Life Reflections

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

This is the first blog post I’m writing in my new home. My husband and I moved two and a half weeks ago to a condo we purchased about fifteen minutes away from where we were previously renting an apartment. The past month has been a whirlwind… Not only is moving stressful and labor-intensive, but …

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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.

A lot of attention is given to celebrities who have enviable figures. We’ve all seen the magazine articles with such titles as “The Hottest Hollywood Bodies,” “Body after Baby,” and a multitude of other stories chronicling celebrity weight loss and the body ideals showcased by the stars. Similarly, many of us know “real people” with amazing physiques and we may compare our own bodies to theirs and find ourselves coming up short. Seeing beautiful bodies can either motivate us or deflate our spirits, depending upon our mindsets and how we feel about our chances of achieving our body goals.

While it can be helpful to have body role models, it is even better to have body image role models, especially for those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body concept. This post will highlight a few of my personal body image role models and show what I have learned from the women in my life who embody healthy attitudes toward their bodies.

You’re probably familiar with the expression, “my past came back to haunt me,” and you likely have some personal examples related to this phrase. While it is always good to live in the present and embrace “the power of now,” do we ever fully escape our pasts? Can we truly be free of our mistakes and poor behavior of years gone by?

This post will focus on our so-called “sins of the past” and how they affect our lives in the present time. I will relate personal examples pertaining to my past relationships and physical health, and do my best to provide useful insights and suggestions for letting go of regrets and repercussions from the past.

To my one and only miraculous body,

It has taken me over 44 years to truly appreciate and accept you. I am writing this letter as a way to express my appreciation and ask for your forgiveness for my past indiscretions.

For most of my life, I have waged a war against you because you didn’t look the way I wanted. I’d look in the mirror and lament what was wrong and missing; that was all I could see. I was upset that I didn’t have the body of a supermodel and didn’t possess many of the attributes deemed desirable in our society. I didn’t have blond hair or blue eyes and my hips and thighs weren’t slim and narrow. I cursed my natural curves and did whatever I could to completely obliterate them.

“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.

Those of us who grapple with body image issues tend to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on our physical imperfections and lamenting all the things we feel are wrong or missing. We are often so keenly attuned to the perceived negatives of our physical being that we completely lose sight of the many positive aspects inherent in having a body.

Today, I completed exercise #3 from “200 Ways to Love the Body You Have.” This exercise, simply titled “Gratitude,” challenges us to list all of the ways our bodies serve us, those things we wouldn’t be able to experience if we didn’t have a body. Surprisingly, I had no trouble at all creating my list and within a short fifteen minutes, I had listed 25 blessings for which I feel gratitude toward my body.

My list mostly encompasses the many joys of experiencing life through the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog. These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue. The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind. Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

1. I should be more productive.
2. I should make more money.
3. I should get a real job.
4. I should get up earlier.
5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?” The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations.