Dividing the Pain

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I received an email last week from a dear high school friend detailing the failing health of her mother.  I immediately picked up the phone and called her.  My plan was to let her know she is in my thoughts and prayers + how much I love her and her family.

But as soon as I started to speak, my words turned into a hot mess of jumbled words and tears.  I choked up as I realized the depth of my love for my friend, her family and the role they all played during such an important season of my life.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in myself for my ramble as I had wanted to be “strong” and a rock for her during this tough time. I felt a bit like my message was a burden and that did not sit well with me.  A few days later, I wrote my friend and apologized for my hot mess of a voice mail message and more coherently articulated my sentiments.

Minutes after I fired off my apologetic email, I received a voice mail message from my friend.  She was so gracious and noted how touched she was by my expression of emotion in addition to being encouraged knowing how her mom had impacted me.

(Note to self: authentic and sincerely expressed sentiments are ok.  Lighten up on yourself for not being “perfect”.  Yes, I am a recovering perfectionist.)

And then my friend said something so beautiful and brilliant.

“When you have things like this happen, you just want to divide the pain.  When I sent the email message to those I love sharing the bad news, there is some comfort I received in dividing that pain and having others hold it with me.  So, thank you.”

My friend shared more about the path that was ahead of her and her family as they seek to make her mom comfortable while her body slowly shuts down.  This led my mind to race with memories of how our lives and families intersected over the years:

  • time at her childhood house;
  • getting ready for homecoming;
  • sleep overs;
  • sneaking out and skipping school during state tournament season;
  • late-night swims;
  • eating at their kitchen counter;
  • getting in trouble at their kitchen counter;
  • practicing our cheer routines;
  • going to her cabin;
  • flying to California for my sweet sixteen/golden birthday birthday;
  • double dates;
  • mean girl drama;
  • jerky boy drama;
  • family weddings;
  • and few other memories that are best to remain private. 🙂

I love my friend’s statement about dividing our pain and am very aware of how so many people I know personally and professionally keep their pain silent within themselves, often for fear of being rejected or a ridiculed.  And some do not feel like they can manage the vulnerability of being seen in their pain.  Then there are those who do not have safe community they can reach out to and trust when they are struggling.

I really believe lasting healing happens when we divide the pain by giving witness to our hurts and invite others into our experience to share our load, our burden.

And for many of those I work with at Potentia, I have had the honor of giving witness to their pain, struggles, shame and fears.

The power of sharing your story, receiving support + respect instead of shame + judgements is medicine for your soul.

Let’s be honest, it is risky to be open about your heart struggles. To allow yourself to be seen – with safe and boundried people –  as not strong enough, tough enough, perfect enough allows the lies of these negative beliefs to dissipate.

I really think we miss out on incredible healing opportunities when we do not divide the pain and instead put on masks telling people, “It’s all good.”  or  “It is meant to be.” or  “It could be worse.”  My friend could have minimized things but instead she leaned into her safe and loving support system.

I wonder, what are the negative beliefs that are keeping you from reaching out?

What one risk can you take today to reach out and divide the pain?

Never forget: Real+Safe relationships heal.

Having a safe and sincere relationship with God, yourself  and others is crucial to managing the curve balls of life + experiencing the blessings in life to the fullest.  Shame says, “stay hidden”.  Truth says, “You are worthy to be seen”.

Dividing+Conquering  –

Rebecca

PS – Thank you Mrs. A for raising an amazing daughter who blessed my life richly and for loving me – along with the rest of the young women in your world of influence  –  as one of your own.

 

 

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Faith Fast or Crash Diet?

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I was recently asked to put together a handout for an organization getting ready to start a community-wide faith-based fast and I want to share this important information with you, too.

Spiritual fasts are a powerful and important discipline which can bring about some truly meaningful experiences and growth.

But in today’s culture riddled with the extremely high incidence of eating disorders and disordered eating, I encourage individuals and leaders to please consider the following when engaging in a spiritual fast:

• When fasting from food, daily hydration is essential for sustaining LIFE.
• Fasting can trigger eating disorder symptoms in persons, especially those who have recovered or are in recovery for these issues.

• If at any time the goal of a fast shifts to primarily losing weight, it is no longer a fast but a crash diet. Fasting should not be used as a tool to promote weight loss. It’s ineffective, and it also lowers metabolism.

• Many who struggle with food and body issues will engage in a fast as a mask for their disordered eating. Given the prevalence of eating disorders, disordered eating, dieting, and body shame in our culture, regularly focusing your community on the priorities of the fast is crucial.

• Food restriction tends to intensify food related obsessions and talk, and this can persist for some time even after the fast. This kind of talk can also be very triggering for someone struggling with food and body issues. Encouraging a “no negative food or body talk “ pledge during a fast is wonderful to include at the start of a fast.

Validating and encouraging other non-food options for fasting can help people struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating have the freedom to participate in a fast with their community.
• Many report feeling like a “bad Christian” or “not a good enough Christian” if they choose to not participate in a fast “perfectly” ie: fasting from food. Helping individuals in your community to make the best decision for their mind, body, and soul is respectful and empowering.

• Fasting is not recommended for active persons that wish to continue with exercise during the fast. Our bodies need the fuel (and electrolytes) before and after exercise, and throughout the day!

• Certain groups should never participate in fasting, and these include: children, elderly, pregnant women, persons with a history of disordered eating (or currently struggling) or are undernourished, persons who have problems with blood pressure (or are on medication for blood pressure), kidney disease, diabetes or are prone to hypoglycemia, persons with unique nutritional needs or nutrient deficiencies (just to name a few).

What are your thoughts on this hot topic?

I would love to hear about your experiences with spiritual fasting in the comments below.

Rebecca

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But I’m Still Beautiful…

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I received this email yesterday and was so moved that I immediately asked permission to share this story.

When I read this email at our staff mtg later in the day, I choked up with tears reading through it again.

Inspired as a mom and as a therapist, this story is a reminder for me to keep in check my struggle with sprouting cynicism + doubt that the work we do at Potentia is really making any kind of difference.

I am grateful for this reminder.  I do believe that every effort to help people on their journey to understanding their true worth and value is meaningful + fruitful + powerful.

Now go get some Kleenex before reading further.  You have been warned.

Rebecca,
I have to share with you that happened at work yesterday.  I know you’ll appreciate it as much as I did.
Yesterday, as I led one of my middle school speech groups, my heart smiled as I witnessed something I wish all girls could say about themselves.
I was working with three Special Ed students.  And mind you, these students have little filters on what words flow from their mouths. 
The one boy in the group made a comment under his breath about one of the girl’s ‘mustache.’  Because she did not hear, I let it go as to not draw attention to the hurtful comment; instead, choosing to pull him aside after the group to talk about his choice in comments. 
But immediately following that comment, another girl piped up and said to the girl, “Do you wash your face?”
The 7th grade girl, who is a miracle of life that was born less than a pound 13 years ago, has acne covering her whole face. 

I saw the train wreck happening before my eyes and was scrambling to decide how to intervene and respond.

The girl dropped her head, dejected, and said quietly, “I wash it every day.  But sometimes I forget.  My mom helps me.  I have medicine to put on my face too.  But sometimes I forget to put that on too.” 
My heart ached for her. 
She said, “I have bad acne.”  But then she looked up from behind her thick glasses with her crossed eyes and said,

“But I’m still beautiful.”

Indeed.  In so many ways.  My heart smiled. 
Kudos to her parents.  And kudos for her innocent spirit that undoubtedly believed that truth. 
All I could say was, “You are absolutely beautiful.” 
After I told her she was absolutely beautiful, she smiled at me and said, “I know.”  haha…love that girl.  

If only we could all say that about ourselves with such confidence.

Amen.

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Valentine’s Day Eve Inspiration

These words are like a valentine to all who read her work.

Thank you, Brene’ Brown!

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.

It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think,

No matter what gets done and how much is left undone; I am enough.

It’s going to bed at night thinking,

Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Choosing authenticity is an act of resistance.

Choosing to live and love with our WholeHearts is an act of defiance.”

 

(Can I get an Amen?)

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The ABC’s of Self-Love: B is for Beauty

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I am excited to participate in my first ever Blog Crawl (find out more about The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt here), hosted by Molly Mahar of Stratejoy  celebrating the upcoming launch of her Fierce Love program.   I really appreciate Molly’s commitment to helping others discover the power of truly healing your relationship with your body and your story.  Molly would say how important it is to “adore yourself” in such an infectious and genuine way that you can’t help but take pause and believe she is on to something.   So when she tapped me to be the writer for the letter “B” with the topic of Beauty in her Fierce Love blog crawl, I was humbled and excited

Beauty. It is a tricky word and hard to define.  Defining beauty is very subjective, personal, intimate.

There is also a narrow standard of beauty, dispensed by the multi-billion dollar advertising industry, which has left those who believe this definition with intense body hatred, low sense of of worth, depression, depleted bank accounts, anxiety, fear of intimacy and dangerous food and body issues.

Some of the many lies perpetuated from this narrow definition of beauty state that you will be loveable, feel more confident, life will be more tolerable: if you weigh a certain amount, your body looks a certain way, you dress a certain way, you play by everyone’s rules and act a certain way, your (fill in the blank) is (fill in the blank).

It is time to stop the crazy-making, take back the power that has been externalized to the opinions of the “collective other” and (re)claim how you define beauty.

How do you define beauty?

I must confess, I spent years believing a flawed definition of beauty.  I was a slave to what other people thought of me.  I worked my body hard and rested little.  I hated what I saw in the mirror and was an approval junkie.  I was unsatisfied, frustrated, disconnected from God and my own values and dreams. I was lost.  And really tired.  All because I wanted to be beautiful in the eyes of others with the hopes I would then in fact be beautiful.

I thought the world’s definition of beauty = being enough.  I was just drinking the Kool-aid.

But thankfully, I healed some infected wounds, fought some battles, had a gun held to my head (twice – that is another story) and experienced some fierce love from myself, God and some incredible people.  I woke up to the lies I was telling myself about my worth and value and regularly fight back the desire to play the lose–lose game of comparing myself to others.

I now revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of courage, generosity, gentleness, kindness, sacrificial love, compassion, vulnerability, motherhood and respect.

I discovered confidence, the power and importance of surrounding myself with safe people. I say, “No thank you,” a lot and “yes” to my calling on this planet therefore putting the “shoulds” and “have-tos” in permanent time out.

I regularly push back on the lies shame tells me and now know that being perfectly imperfect is a whole lot more life-giving than striving for perfection. (This one can be tough on some days…)

I believe the state of my heart, character, integrity are more powerful indicators of beauty verses my outside image.

How do you define beauty? Is your definition is keeping you stuck, in pain and shame or is it is life-giving and freeing?

What changes are you going to make in how you talk about beauty so you do not inadvertently collude with the world’s definition of beauty?

With fierce love –

Rebecca

 

 

Find out more about  Molly’s “The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt” here.

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(re) defining Failure

 

We live in a failure-phobic culture.

We are so terrified to be seen as deficient, less-than, weak.

We want to avoid admitting failure and experiencing failure at all costs.  And when we do fail, instead of acknowledging it, we have learned how to spin it away with rationalizations, justifications because the belief is that accepting failure is like accepting defeat.

But what if our failures are important experiences that help us find our victories? Against popular belief, failures are often intrinsic with the path to a victory.

Without failures, there would not be cures to diseases.

Without failure, we would keep dating the same guy again and again… Sometimes this takes a lot of fails for us to finally date a different kind of person. (I know this one from experience.)

Without failure, we would keep going down a path that keeps us stuck and in pain.

Failure lets us know that things are not working, that we need a change, to do something different.

To risk failure takes courage, faith and trust.

To never risk failure is living in fear; not healthy fear but irrational fear that strips us of our power, our identity, our worth.  Many live in constant awareness of what “others” think while trying to get approval from this collective “other”.  That is exhausting and speeds up the tail spin to feeling really out of control.

Failure is not a final destination but provides navigational information.

Failure is often, but not always, subjective.  If you need to get 70% to pass an exam and got 65%, you failed the exam.  But YOU are not a failure.   A failing grade is an indication there is  room for growth, change and maybe a need to ask for help.

Failure is a guide post and data. Failure means something is not working and gives opportunity, hope and direction.

Failure doe not always mean defeat, the end, shame. (Shame says you are not good enough, you are not worthy of connection, you do not have meaning unless you perform a certain way deemed “enough” by culture.)

Failure can be a powerful support; a built in ego check and even an inspiration.

Risking failure means being open to triumph.

Therefore, (re)defining failure is crucial.

I often hear people say that they are a failure if they:

  • lose or gain weight (depending on their struggles with disordered eating);
  • cry;
  • stay single;
  • are not perfect;
  • don’t just suck it up and move on;
  • show vulnerability;
  • make mistakes;
  • do not appear to have it all together;

and the list goes on.

If we look at failure as something to avoid, then we cease living the life we are called to live and become prisoners to court of public opinion.

It takes guts to feel bad, to admit flaws and to make mistakes.  It takes even more courage to push back and fight to believe a truth that no one may know but you.

How do you define failure?  Does failure inspire you or paralyze you – or a little of both? 🙂

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It’s My Body by Jenni Schaefer

 

Jenni Schaefer

I saw this poem by Jenni Schaefer last year in one of her newsletters.   I love it and she graciously gave me permission to post it.  Soak up this powerful push-back to the lies that can clutter our minds and our culture.

 

It’s My Body by Jenni Schaefer

It’s my body. If I am overweight by societal standards or some height/weight chart, my body does not need to be starved in order to fit in. My body will be the size it is supposed to be if I am taking care of myself. I will not fight it.

It’s my body. If I go out on a date and a guy buys me dinner, I do not owe him a kiss or anything else. A simple, “thank you,” does the job just fine. Despite what society might say, my body is not my currency.

It’s my body. If I overeat at a party today, because the food is just so good, I do not need to restrict or over-exercise tomorrow. My body needs to be nourished, everyday, and never deserves to be punished.

It’s my body. If I have been abused, my body does not deserve to be hated. My body is not disgusting because of what someone else did to me. My body is not something to feel ashamed of or to hide. I cherish my body.

It’s my body. If I am sick, I need to give my body rest and do whatever it takes to get well. My body is not invincible. It is fragile. I must not abuse it with food, alcohol, drugs, or anything else. I must take care of it.

It’s my body. Today my organs are nourished and can function properly. I get enough sleep. I am strong. I do things that feel enjoyable like hiking, swimming, getting a massage, yoga, or even kissing my date — when I choose to do so.

It’s my body. I do not look like you or anyone else. You might be taller or thinner than me. By societal standards, you might be prettier than me. But you are not me. And I am not you.

It’s your body. Respect it. Nourish it. Love it.

If you have not already checked out Jenni’s books, “Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too” and “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life.” I encourage you to add them to your library.  These books are incredible resources for those in struggling with an eating disorder and those who have a loved one with an eating disorder.

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Is your definition of health keeping you unhealthy?

I had the chance last weekend to meet Jess Weiner, a self-esteem and body-acceptance expert.  It was a real treat to meet her as I have been aware of her advocacy work for some time and I have come to really respect her voice on issues dear to my heart.   She authored an article published in Glamour that hit the stands on Monday in the states that is bold, courageous and honest.  I encourage you to check it out.

Jess expressed some trepidation with being so transparent about her shift in ideology that involved a newly focused attention to her weight and her labs.   I could see she was bracing for criticism and comments of betrayal by many as she boldly stated her previous definition of health was keeping her very unhealthy.  Personally,  I think Jess’s story brings up some important issues around health and numbers.

As an eating disorder treatment expert, I have worked for years helping men and women detox from the diet mentality and the shaming effect of our “thin” obsessed culture.  Part of their recovery journey is the process of letting go of the stronghold of numbers (on the scale, sizes on their clothes, calorie counting) which have become entrenched in their identity.  For many, the Healthy at any Size movement created a space to seek true health while not focusing exclusively on scales and charts, such as the antiquated BMI.

I speak and advocate to my clients and large groups on theses principles of the HAES model:

1. Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.
2. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include
physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.
3. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes.
4. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger,
satiety, appetite, and pleasure.
5. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather
than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.

Yet, discussing numbers is a touchy zone for those of us treating those struggling food and body issues.  On one hand, there is an importance to letting go of the numbers that can plague us and rob us of our peace and true worth.  But for many, if and when the individual is ready to manage this information appropriately, gaining awareness of how one’s body is functioning and performing ( ie: knowing labs and weight) can often be an important part of recovery in healing one’s relationship with food and their body. Truly empowered body acceptance involves making sure your body is operating at it’s best.

This can be a scary place for many who spent years obsessing about the number of calories they ate or burned at the gym. Many people, like Jess, who are in recovery from an eating disorder, understandably swing to the other direction and want to avoid numbers and doctors as they were a significant trigger and source of shame. It comes as a welcome break to not think about the numbers and many end up avoiding good health care for fear their brain will grab onto the numbers like the jaws of life if they go there.

Yet, denial is not a part of true health.

Neglecting your health is not true health. It may take a while, but finding the right doctor, as Jess did, who is knowledgeable and not shame based about such matters may be an effort but is necessary.

I remember when I was first asked by a client, “Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?”. I have since heard this question frequently in my office from women and men of all shapes and sizes. I respond by asking “What are your motivations and what is the meaning for you if you lost some weight?” Flushing through the answers to these questions is important to assess as you seek to make sure your definition of health is not going to keep you stuck or do your body harm.

The sole focus on weight in regards to health has and continues to be harmful. Shaming someone for being overweight does not motivate someone to make true change and reduces the chance of someone hearing important information about their body.

I still despise the scale. It really is a trap. Yet, totally neglecting our physical health in the name of health is not wise or recommended. For many, if their labs are ok, it gives them a reason to still engage in their eating disorder behavior. I see this a lot. If an individual is using numbers as a reason to avoid doing important deep soul work, than it is time to re-think this approach to living life because it will eventually spiral to a dark place.

I believe Jess is adding an important and much needed dynamic to the size-acceptance discussion. She is taking ownership of her choices and putting herself out there sharing what she has learned. I also believe she is doing this responsibly by giving out information with full disclosure and context. I am excited for a provocative discussion to follow up as a result of her leadership.

This is a nuanced and highly personal topic for many.  I am always inspired when I meet someone who walks their talk.  I especially admire those who have put themselves out there and adjust previous held beliefs while holding their head high and standing strong.  The journey towards true health in the public eye is a gutsy one and I thank you, Jess, for being you.

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