Full Life Reflections

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

Last month, I wrote about my ongoing challenge with negative body image and shared some helpful tips on this subject from my online friends. Since I received so much helpful advice for improving a poor body concept and didn’t want the post to get too long, I decided to break it into two installments. Today’s …

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Two weeks ago, I accidentally re-published an old post I was editing as part of back-end enhancements I’ve been doing on Full Life Reflections. Some of you may have received this post – titled “How is Your Body Image?” – and wondered about it, especially if you noticed that it dated way back to August …

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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.

I don’t really like the word “addiction” because it carries with it a sense of being completely out of control or even victim to a particular type of behavior. I think this attitude is a big part of why I never stuck with the 12-step programs I attended for both my eating disorders and codependent behavior. I couldn’t get past the first step, which is “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and my life has become unmanageable.” While I was more than willing to cop to having an unmanageable life, confessing to powerlessness was just something I could never do. I guess I’m just too much of a control freak!

It is not my intent to either criticize or advocate the 12-step philosophy. I know that AA and associated programs have helped a lot of people over the years and very likely could have helped me as well had I steadfastly adhered to the steps. My best advice is always to do what works, and what works can vary for any of us as time goes by. My current choice is to follow Louise Hay’s advice and philosophy outlined in “You Can Heal Your Life.” Louise addresses the concept of addictions in detail in both her book and the corresponding companion book.

This post outlines Louise Hay’s philosophies on addictions, as well as some of the advice she gives for releasing addictive behavior. I also share some secrets regarding one of my compulsive behaviors and the insights I gained from completing the Chapter 6 exercises on addictions in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”

For most of my adult life, I’ve either weighed too much or too little. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at a happy, healthy, and comfortable weight. I want to believe that I can turn this around and find balance in this area of my life, but sometimes it’s difficult to remain optimistic. This post focuses on my struggle to maintain my weight and looks at some of the potential reasons for this phenomenon. I also explore ways to achieve balance in terms of both weight and self-image.

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.

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.

Does your weight affect your mood? Mine definitely does… As I’ve mentioned before, I rarely step on the scale and there is a good reason for this. Nothing has the power to deflate my spirit and ruin my day as much as seeing a number on the scale that I view as unacceptable. I wish this wasn’t true, but the sad reality is that I allow a three-digit number to dictate my moods.

Unfortunately, however, my not weighing myself doesn’t mean that I escape what I term as “weight mood shift.” There are other measures of my weight besides the empirical data provided by the scale. There is the way I feel… Do I feel light and energetic, or do I feel heavy, bloated, and tired?

The way my clothes fit also provides me with fairly reliable data on how I am doing weight-wise. If I slip on a pair of pants and find myself unable to effortlessly zip or button them, or if they feel uncomfortably snug in the hips and thigh area, that’s a clue that I have put on some unwanted pounds. While it’s true that the weight might just be water retention instead of actual fat, the end result is the same – I feel unhappy.

I had intended to post much earlier in the week, but you know what they say about good intentions… This has been a difficult week for me, which probably means I should have been devoting more attention to my healing project, instead of virtually ignoring it for a number of days. In getting back on track today, I searched for an exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life” to complete and write about. I was quickly drawn to the most appropriate exercise for me at this particularly point in time, the “Mirror Exercise” on page 35.
Simple Yet Not Easy…

The Mirror Exercise is extremely simple, yet not at all easy. The straightforward instructions are: look in a mirror and into your own eyes, speak your name, and say, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.” Louise Hay asks each of her clients to do this exercise during their initial session with her. She states that she has rarely had a calm reaction to her simple request. On the contrary, some clients were brought to tears, while others became angry and refused to do the exercise. One client even threw the mirror across the room! Needless to say, it isn’t easy to proclaim love and acceptance for ourselves.

If someone were to ask you if you love yourself, how many of you would reply with an enthusiastic “Yes”? How about if you were asked if you love your body? I know that for most of my life, I would have found both questions absurd. I definitely and unequivocally did not love myself or my body.

For years, I was my own worst critic. I would unleash a torrent of criticism upon myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. In fact, I was my own worst enemy. Nothing I could do was ever good enough for me; my standards were impossibly high and there was no way I could reach them. While my targets for accomplishment and success were virtually unachievable, my standards for my body and physical appearance surpassed them by leaps and bounds.