(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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Big news…

Potentia 2.0 is rolling out this summer!  To better serve our clients,

  • I am moving Potentia to new office space in August. For those who live in SoCal, stay tuned for the date of our open house so you can come by and check it out.
  • A massage therapist is joining Potentia!  A variety of services and packages will be available to complement our other professional services offered under the same roof.
  • To help meet the demand for our specialized services, an MFT intern is also joining the Potentia team.  In addition, she will provide expert support for families of special needs kids.
  • New e-products are in production for students, parents and ministry staff.
  • An updated website that has a video component to feature commentary and interviews on subjects important to the Potentia team will be launching soon.

All of these changes are in support of our mission to (re) define health.  We believe that true health is not based on the numbers on the scale, labeling food good/bad, perfection, what others think.

We are living in a time where the focus on health, food and weight has never been more intense.  In addition, culture is promoting an extremely distorted definition of health, beauty and worth.

Contrary to the messages saturating our world, being healthy is not just about what you eat, how much you exercise, what you weigh.  Health is a mind, body, soul package that cannot be contained in a number.

True health involves caring for your body (in the non-diet kind of way), safe and fulfilling relationships, finding meaning in your life, moving your body with purpose and for fun (not just to burn calories and punish your body), addressing emotional pain and doing the hard work to heal your heart.

Trying to fix emotional pain through food (restrictive or emotional eating), minimizing or denying traumatic experiences, staying in a destructive relationship or shaming yourself because you think you are not enough/not worthy only further infects emotional wounds.

It takes courage to ask for help and strength to live life to the fullest.  And the team at Potentia is ready to partner with you and your community as you seek to (re) define health.

I would love to hear from you.  How do you want to (re) defining health in your life or in your community?

Cheers to a true-health kind of summer.

Rebecca Bass, LMFT


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In the name of Health

In The Name of Health

In the last several weeks, I received news about amazing women I know fighting for health in their lives.  One family member is fighting for her baby’s health as he struggles to eat and maintain his weight, another friend is planning for a radical surgery as a preventative measure against cancer.  A newer friend of mine recently discovered a mass in her lungs and has begun chemo therapy to tackle the cancer in her body.  All three of these women greatly inspire me with their courage, passion and strength.  In their quest for health, they face challenges, uncertainty and a roller coaster of emotion.  Their stories have unwritten chapters ahead of them as they seek to do what is best for their health.  Yet, my work has taught me that our quest for health can look completely different from person to person.

Health (re)defined

Health.  We hear this word a lot: In the news; in commercials for products and diets; in research findings; in schools; on magazine covers with claims of the best in the name of what is healthy. When looking further into the meaning of what all of these voices are calling healthy, I find such a wide-range of definitions.  Marriam-Webster online defines health as the following:

1 a : the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially : freedom from physical disease or pain b : the general condition of the body <in poor health> <enjoys good health>

2 a : flourishing condition : well-being b : general condition or state <poor economic health>

If I use this definition as a platform for discussing health, then that leaves many I know operating from a warped and inaccurate view of what is truly healthy.  Many of the men and women I work with are striving for health, but in a way that actually depletes their health body, mind and spirit.  50+ billion dollars annually are spent every year in our country on diet and “health” related products.  Many of these products make a lot of promises but rarely deliver.  Others leave people in bondage so that they are fearful of living life without sticking to a specific plan.

This is a big theme as I seek to propose ways we can (re) define health as we know it.   We crave, hunger, desire for so much more.  Diets, health food, fear of fat, control, deprivation, denying who we are called to be for fear of rejection, alienation are some of the many ways in which we try to manage our pain and our fear.  Yes, we have choices on how we feed, move and care for our bodies and souls.  No, there is not a quick fix to being able to sit with the tension of it all.  But if we are operating from our passions, are in touch with our true identity – not one sold to us – then maybe, just maybe, the diet industry may go out of business (OK, a girl can only hope…) and health, quality health, can be achieved.

(re)Defining Health with Respect

The news is not lacking with stories about the “obesity epidemic” and television shows focusing on radical weight loss in the name of health are very popular. I will add my voice to the discussion on:

  • the disordered eating spectrum,
  • Orthorexia and how the quest for health can turn into a debilitating and often deadly obsession,
  • EDNOS (Eating Disorder not otherwise specified)
  • the HAES (Healthy At Any Size) movement
  • Intuitive Eating and a non-diet philosophy

Challenging various definitions of what is “healthy” can be volatile and feel very personal.  My hope is to respectfully challenge some of the beliefs, philosophies and motivations behind the many definitions of health out there with the goal of moving the discussion away from fear, prejudice and misinformation towards true freedom and health with passion, love and respect. There will be other contributors to add additional perspective to the effort to (re) define health.  Stay tuned.  Some good stuff is coming! I also hope you will join in this important discussion.  Your voice matters.

  • How do you define health?
  • What do think about the struggles of obesity in our culture?
  • Do you think an over emphasis on weight will prevent obesity or create more food and body issues?
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