Scarcity and the Cracks in the Road

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On our walk to my daughter’s school this morning, we ran into a couple of power-walkers from the neighborhood.

One of the power-walkers stopped and asked us to weigh in on a bet between the of them.

“These newly paved roads – how long do you think it will take until they start showing cracks? One month or two months?”

The roads still had a pretty strong smell of tar emanating from them and they also seemed a bit delicate as the tar was still soft and settling. I shrugged, “I do not know… maybe even sooner?”

The woman did not like my reply and huffed off. The suggestion the perfectly paved roads were not going to last was simply. not. ok.

I hollered after my power-walking neighbor in all of my nerdy therapist glory:

“Hey! There is nothing wrong with a few cracks in the road.”

The woman stopped, turned around and took off her rather large sun hat, setting her stern eyes on me while placing her hands on her hips as she said,

“I once had a contractor tell me if you have a crack and you can fit a dime in it, you are in some deep trouble.”

Turning on her heels, off she went to finish her morning power walk.

Ugh.

I started getting all defensive for the poor cracks in the road. And the pressure the newly paved road had on it to stay…perfect.

And so began a conversation in my head with the power-walking neighbor telling her the cracks are just a reflection of:

  • how hard the road works
  • how much pressure the road tolerates day in and day out
  • how the road has been neglected and not cared for well. The road is just doing what it is made to do and cracks are inevitable.

Conversations in my head and feeling defensive for an inanimate object were good clues a nerve had been touched.

I took a deep breathe and checked the source of my vulnerability.

Walking home, I found myself looking at the cracks in the road that had not been repaved yet. Some were small and others could hold a roll of dimes.

And I could not shake the heaviness I was feeling about the neighborhood walking buddies already betting on when the newly paved road was going to “fail” to be “perfect”.

Wow.

The pressure to be perfect and meet all of the various standards of those who see us when we show up in life is truly intense at times.

We devote a lot of time, effort and resources to covering up or trying to get rid of our own imperfections.

Scarcity fuels critics like my two power walking neighbors.

Scarcity shows up ever where.

Bathing suit season, finals, tax time, finding a job or changing careers, relationships, parenting, creativity – you name it – there are a whole host of triggers these days that make chasing the perfection carrot a daily grind.

Seeing the messy, the cracked as beautiful is hard when your lens on life is in defend/perfect mode.

Cover Up. Protect. Do Not Be Seen. 

The critics are here to stay. As long as there are products to be sold and love to be desired, the critics will be present.

I do my best to push back on the power and influence of critics in the world and in my head.

But one of the most effective, sustaining and rewarding resources to managing the relentless critics has been developing my own life-long shame resilience practice.

Doing this work involved me getting clear on:

  • my personal shame triggers. Shame work is trauma work and trauma work is shame work.
  • how I respond when my shame is triggered.
  • what vulnerability is,  is not and how vulnerability is the pathway to living the life I am called to live.
  • who my go-to support team is in my life. And how sometimes my support team shifts depending on the season and the issue.
  • who I thought I was striving to be and who God is calling me to be
  • how best to care for, rest and feed my body and my soul
  • what values guide my decisions personally and professionally
  • the importance of maintaining good boundaries so I do not overextend, live in regret or resentment
  • how to move away from unhealthy perfection and towards healthy striving.

My shame resilience practice has helped me understand – in action, not just intellectually – the concept of wholehearted living:

“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 is 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.” – The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown Ph.D. LMSW

Cracks and all, we need to dare to show up and be seen.

If you are ready to develop your own shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) Define Courage workshops. This work is life-giving soul work that helps you take insight to sustained change so you can (re) define the cracks in your life.

How do you feel about the cracks in your story? Do they allow shame to drive your choices or do they inspire you?

Cheering you on and respecting the cracks in the road –

Rebecca

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I choose respect over body shame – will you join me?

I choose respect (over body shame)

 

February is often a month dedicated to bringing awareness to food and body issues, with the last week of the month specifically focused on Eating Disorder Awareness.

I have been a big supporter of this time of year for the last decade. There is such a need for more understanding, awareness and education on eating disorders and related issues. They are deadly, misunderstood and too often unintentionally perpetuated by many who mean to help those struggling with these issues.

Whether you have a history of struggling with disordered eating, negative body image or are really passionate about wellness, sometimes you may have a bad body image day, week, month or more.

In a culture where a good portion of the few thousand messages coming at us a day are focused on our body, health, and image, it is hard to not internalize some of the scarcity, comparison and shame hurled at us.

So, even if you are at a place where you can generally say, “I am ok as I am — mind, body and soul” it seems completely understandable to me that there are seasons, bumps in the road per se, where your relationship with your body is not always full of love.

Many in recovery are ashamed and fearful of having a season where their old ways of thinking and being make a comeback. So the masks of “everything is perfect” go up and the fear of showing vulnerability spikes.

I started seeing some masks pop up in my clients and friends hiding the fear of being seen struggling; not having it all together; not being seen as holy enough…

We can’t force a love relationship with our body. Building or rebuilding trust with your body takes time. Eating disorders, chronic illness, abuse, depression, anxiety, and shame induced by cultural ideals of beauty all can rob you of your ability to trust your body.

So many people have a hard time loving their body, let alone liking it. Sometimes you have to start from a place of respect before you move to love.  

I hear many share their frustration with how body-focused they are and offer a lot of self-judgement because their brain is stuck obsessing about what the scale says, what the mirror reflects, and what is eaten.

Food and body issues are real. Call it what you want — I think it is time to redirect the judgements that pop up about these struggles and try to really understand what is at the root of the pain.

From my perspective, when someone’s sense of comfort, peace and wellness is attacked, it impacts all other areas of their life. These are not trivial, self-indulgent, self-absorbed issues.

In an effort to debunk the stigma around body image struggles and normalize these common struggles, I gathered colleagues, teachers, parents, pastors, students, and business owners for an “I choose respect” photo shoot at Potentia.

We are posting an “I choose respect” feature photo every day this month on the Facebook page and the response has been so encouraging.

And here is a special gift for you inspired by I choose respect over body shame month: our Respect Your Body Creed.

(click to download)
(click to download)

What is your respect your body creed or mantra?

Share in the comments below and, if you feel bold, post a picture here or on our Facebook page letting me how you choose respect over body shame.

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

 

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Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.35 AM

Note from Erin Curlett, Potentia’s Marketing Communications Manager: Our final interview this week is with Rebecca. I wanted get her thoughts on some of the questions we have been asking in honor of Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thanks for sharing some of your heart, Rebecca!

How do you define fat talk?

It often occurs when conversations foster bonding over critiquing their bodies or the bodies of others.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

Where do I NOT hear it? The gym, at the meal table, at church, at schools, at parent meetings, on TV… Holidays, weddings, reunions, parties in general, when the weather warms up and we approach bathing suit season (which is mostly year round here in San Diego).

How do you respond to fat talk?

Gosh, it depends on the day and the circumstances — sometimes I am full of grace and tact and other days I can trend on the blunt side. Most of my friends know exactly how I feel about fat talk so when they bring it up, they usually are trying to rile me up or tease me. But when it is with people I do not have a previous relationship with, I try my best to redirect the conversation or just not participate.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Shame, culture, anxiety, peer-groups, family of origin, temperament, unhealthy perfectionism, traumas/distressing life events

Where have you been surprised to encounter fat talk?

I think I have been the most bummed to hear it in faith communities that I run in. It really hurts my heart to hear people fat talk and mask it in the name of faith, holiness, or humility.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Oh my goodness, yes! When I was in high school and through my twenties was when it was the worst. My unhealthy drive for perfection really jammed up my ability to see my true worth and value for a while. But I am grateful for the gift of growing, healing, and falling in love with my amazing husband and two children which gave me a powerful perspective on what being enough really means.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

When I am feeling particularly uncomfortable in my skin, I pause, take a breath, and ask myself what is really going on around me that triggered these dark thoughts. I can usually credit them to one or more of the following:

1) not enough sleep;
2) feeling disconnected from my husband;
3) not moving my body regularly or feeding it well;
4) over booking my schedule;
5) not spending enough meaningful time with God.

Once I take an inventory of the above, I make sure I take time to meet my needs for mind, body, relations, and soul. And sometimes I just have to jolt my brain by talking out loud and telling the fat talk thoughts to go to permanent time out — which is a g-rated version. 🙂

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Fat talk fans the flame of dieting and disordered eating. Once we lose site of our true worth and value and start buying into the lies of shame, fear, and the fat-phobic culture, obsessions about our looks, how we feed and move our body can become all-consuming.

How has being a mother changed your view of fat talk, if at all?

I am 100% committed to trying my best to have my words and actions match up. (NOTE: TRY) I am very fierce about not allowing any negative or obsessive talk about food, our bodies, or the looks and bodies of others. We also steer clear of praise, especially about looks, and instead reflect back to our kids how proud they must feel, how capable they must feel, etc. I talk about beauty in terms of character in addition to what is pleasing to the eye. When my daughter shares with her brother or when when she extends grace, I note how her choices just made her heart even more beautiful.

We also avoid commercials (which is so tricky when my husband is watching a game) and most TV shows. They are going to be exposed to so much more in culture as they get older but I am committed to making our home a safe zone from the toxic aspects of culture.

What are your thoughts on the current trend of sharing “fitspiration” images? Do these encourage a healthy body image or foster more fat talk?

“Fitspiration” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and triggers fat talk big time. It can be like cocaine to the brain and can deplete your self-worth when you come down from the high. These images are most often photoshopped and they only fuel comparing, dissatisfaction, and feeling not enough. Yuck.

How do you help your clients combat fat talk?

I walk with them as they seek to heal their relationship with food, their body, and their story. I have found EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) to be so helpful when people are stuck with negative core beliefs, ie: I am broken, I am permanently damaged, I am not _______ enough, I am a failure and so on.

I work with Megan Holt, Potentia’s Coordinator of Wellness and Nutrition, to help support them in moving and feeding their bodies so their brain can get on their team and help push back on the lies and the noise of fat talk.

Lastly, we work a lot on what it is like to respect your body, even if you do not like it. This involves working on negative self-talk but also re-evaluating core relationships and boundaries.

Have you seen changes in your clients as they work to resist such negative self talk?

Yes! As they heal and draw on their amazing courage, it is truly incredible to witness their spark, hope, and healing as they push back on how culture defines health and redefine that definition to a creed that serves their true health in a sustaining and life-giving way.

How does your faith play a role in combating fat talk?

It has taken me years to finally really believe the truth about what God says about me. The kind of love, grace, forgiveness, and guidance He offers me blows my mind. I think finally trusting His words, His Truth has been medicine for my soul. Spending the last few years building my shame resilience skills and training to help others do that work has had a profound effect on shifting my core beliefs about myself on an even deeper level. I now know feeling bad, gross, like a failure, not enough is what I feel though not the truth. Now I can push back on those feelings and lean on God’s Truth, regardless of my emotional state. Some days are easier than others but whew, the freedom I feel from building my shame resilience super powers has been life-changing in my relationship with God.

What role do you see the church playing in combating fat talk?

I think the church could really play a significant role in combating fat talk. If the pulpit stopped being a place for fat talk, body shame, or buying into trendy diets in the name of holiness, that would be a good start. My dream is for pastors and their leadership teams to stop church-wide dieting and talking about numbers; to get educated on the disordered eating spectrum; to learn how to lead their congregation in a fast with sensitivity and awareness and be a safe place for those struggling with food and body issues. I have found some incredible leaders in the faith community leading courageously and boldly in these areas, but we still have a long way to go. One step at a time. One heart at a time.

Thanks so much for following along here on the blog and on Potentia’s Facebook page as we supported Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thoughts? Any new insights or convictions? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Stay connected and join our email list for blog updates and thoughts on how you can (re) define your definition of health.

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Do you know your value?

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For those of you in San Diego, we would love for you to join us for a time of reflection, connection and a break from the to-do lists, deadlines and have-to’s at PLNU’s Wonderfully Made Know Your Value Conference.

Sometimes you need to push back on noise between your ears and show up, connect, reflect, and lean in so you can be reminded you have something important to offer this planet.

Especially you. One-of-a-kind you.

And if you wrestle with the fear of being be seen in your not-enoughness, you are so not alone.

Yes, it is hard to be human. Our hard-wired desire for connection makes us vulnerable to heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, judgement, loneliness and more.

And often these distressing experiences can alter how you see yourself and those around you.

Core negative beliefs about yourself attack your perspective, purpose, worth and the meaning of your story.

Chronic struggles with feeling safe, overly responsible, and ashamed can lead to losing site of the agency you have and usher in a deep sense of self-loathing, hopelessness and confusion.

Energy is then spent on maintaining an image – masks – that are supposed to serve as a shield from the critics and feelings of vulnerability – but in fact keep you in bondage to fear and shame.

But I know you desire more. The light in your heart is a beacon of hope that you are defined by more than the number on the scale, the opinions of the collective other, the grades on your report card, the salary on your paycheck, the title on your business card.

Come join us on October 19th. Let your soul be refreshed. Register for free here.

And be reminded you are a person of value and we are all in this life together, trying/struggling/fighting/longing to figure out who the heck we are what we are supposed to do with our lives.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

PS – If you want to dig deeper and experience sustaining change, please consider attending a (re) define courage workshop which is based upon the research of Brené Brown or set up an appointment to meet with one of Potentia’s psychotherapists and receive specialized support for your individual needs and goals.

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What Drives Your Hustle for Worthiness?

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If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.

Brené Brown – Hustle for Worthiness

You are living your life on the sidelines when you:

  • are trying to make sure everyone approves of you.  “Everyone” has differing views, opinions, and needs, so it is exhausting to try and keep “everyone” happy.  And since it is impossible to please “everyone”, the hustle is perpetuated.
  • are hiding parts of your story for fear of rejection and judgement. Your story is YOUR beautiful mess and glory-of-a-story. When you deny speaking and living your story and delegate your worth to “everyone” else, you end up missing out on true connection, healing, and joy.
  • are avoiding dealing with deep soul pain (or even surface wounds) for fear it will leave you alone or cause you more pain. Hustling for worthiness is an excellent numbing agent to fear, shame, pain, and keeps you from reaching out and asking for help. But this hustle is not sustainable and can become a gateway to some serious issues emotionally, physically, relationally, and in your faith journey.
  • believing the lies that you are not worthy of love and belonging.  This is the ultimate lie of shame.  And when this belief is driving the motivation behind your thoughts and actions, then you are living life on the sidelines but deeply longing for a sense of worth and belonging  – for which you are hardwired.

Our upcoming Hustle for Worthiness Encore Workshop on September 13 will help you develop a better understanding of what drives your own personal hustle. Register to soon to reserve your spot – it usually sells out quickly!

HFW at Potentia

At this workshop, we gather together to view an exclusive video of Brené Brown sharing her powerful research on perfectionism, shame, and vulnerability. Participants enjoy a lovely spread of food, a stocked art bar for creative inspiration, and a journal to use to take notes and document reflections.

What makes this workshop unique?

Hustle for Worthiness is different from our other workshops in that it intentionally does not have a lot of structure.  This is our introductory workshop offered in a safe and casual community. The video we show is not available for purchase, so this is one of the few venues in which you can view it.

Who should register? 

A lot of people attend this workshop because of their connection to me, one of the members of the Potentia team and/or their connection with Brené’s powerful message.

Friends, family, significant others are welcome. You do not have to be a client of Potentia to attend.  Part of the power of this work is that it brings us together. Connection and community help you put into practice your shame resilience skills.

If you have mustered up the courage to come alone, please say hello.  I think you’re freakin’ amazing! Just the act of showing up to a group where you will be seen is vulnerable and brave and proves you are tired of living your life on the sidelines.

Is this workshop only offered in San Diego?

For those of you in SoCal, I would love to see you at our next Hustle for Worthiness Workshop.  It usually sells out, so make sure to register soon if you would like to join us.

If you do not live in the area, I am happy to connect you to someone in The Daring Way community who could facilitate a workshop for your community. Just send me an email at rbass@potentiatherapy.com.

Every time our Potentia team hosts this workshop, I find it truly magical to see people take in Brene’s words and feverishly write down the powerful nuggets that spoke to them. Expect to exhale deeply, laugh out loud, and elbow your friend knowingly. It happens every time!

Note: HFW alumni who want to bring a friend, your registration fee is on me.  Just email me at rbass@potentiatherapy.com as I only have a limited number of slots available for alumni.

Desire to dig deeper?  There are several other mini workshops coming up this fall that offer a more structured flow and will provide action and insight as you seek to refine your shame resilience skills.

And SoCal locals and out-of-towners alike, please consider joining us at one of our (re) define Courage: Dare to Show Up + Be Seen Weekend Intensives.  The September workshop is sold out, but we still have space for our November 1-3 event.  Our schedule for the 2014 Workshops and Weekend Intensives will be posted soon.  Sign up for our (re) Define Courage email list to be the first to know about these dates.

Cheering you off the side lines of your life –

Rebecca

PS – And do not forget to register soon if you want to attend.  This workshop is expected to sell out. And for every workshop you register for in the month of August, you receive an entry to win a $100 Anthropologie gift card.

 

 

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The Dark Side to Celebrating Eating Contests

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For the last several years, I have started writing posts about the mixed messages of celebrating eating contests and the dangerous impact reverberated by these mixed messages – but I have never finished them.  This year, I am pushing back on my unhealthy perfectionism and finishing a post I started earlier this month.  I hear the PR voice in my head saying it is too late and the peak for sharing this has passed. 
Well, so be it.

The fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I am a fireworks fanatic and this year we brought both of our kids to watch the glorious display of firework fun in the sky. This holiday is a lovely time to rest,  play, and celebrate.

But one tradition around this holiday frustrates and concerns me: Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest and the many iterations that have followed its popularity. Some of my friends and family think I am a bit of a buzzkill for not being a fan of this kind of eating. Such is my life as an eating disorder specialist – I cannot unlearn what I know about the physical and emotional dangers of binge eating and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

I like this write up by the Mayo Clinic staff on BED:

You may have no obvious physical signs or symptoms when you have binge-eating disorder. You may be overweight or obese, or you may be at a normal weight. However, you likely have numerous behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety
  • Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
  • Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting

After a binge, you may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting your eating may simply lead to more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle.

(Notation from Rebecca: Many fall somewhere along the spectrum of BED. You do not need to have all of these symptoms to struggle with the issue. Denial, minimizing, and rationalizing often keep people from getting the help they need because they do not feel like it is that serious.)

5 reasons eating contests hurt our collective psyche around food

1. Eating contests give the impression that binge eating is always a choice. As of May, Binge Eating Disorder is now a clinical diagnosis in the new DSM-V. This is a huge victory for those who struggle with these issues along with those who are passionate about treatment and advocacy. Prior to BED officially being placed in the DSM -V, there was a lot of controversy around whether this diagnosis should be included; many thought this diagnosis was making excuses for those making bad choices. If this struggle was simply fixed by a choice, there would not be millions of people struggling with this serious issue. Addressing core issues such as attachment wounds, anxiety, depression, distressing life events and traumas, perfectionism, shame, and identity issues are at the heart of this struggle, not a simple choice. The choice available to those with BED is reaching out and asking for helping instead of staying stuck in the cycle of shame, pain, isolation, and physical distress.

2. Eating contests make BED and related behaviors a joke and sport to many. We laugh. We cringe. We build up the hype. It is a business and we are buying into it. This recent Forbes post on whether eating contests should be considered a sport noted:

“While spectators question the validity of such a label, its organizers say there is no confusion – competitive eating is a serious business in the world of sport.”

Man Vs. Food with Adam Richman (I confess, I adore Adam — he is so endearing!) is a perfect example of eating as sport. Adam travels to a new town each episode to discover a city’s best sandwich or meal and then engages in a restaurant’s food challenge by eating an insane amount of food in a designated time period. People are around him cheering him on as he takes his body on a dangerous episode of binge eating — for all the world to watch.

But my work with people on the disordered eating spectrum has taught me food competitions do great harm to our collective understanding of eating disorders and related health issues. This double standard keeps people struggling with BED spectrum in silence, fear of reaching out for help and making binge eating behaviors a joke. A sport.
Binge Eating Disorder is not a sport. Though many who participate in these eating contests may not fit the clinical diagnosis of BED, many of the behaviors mirror this serious illness. When we make binge eating cool to watch, we decrease the seriousness of this issue. It is time to stop the jokes and change the dialogue around this issue.

As long as we are watching, cheering on, and participating, eating contests will be good for business. And bad for health – mind, body, and soul.

3. Binge eating is very hard on your body. If you have ever seen the line-up at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, you can see a representation of different ages, genders, and sizes of those who down dozens of hot dogs in a matter of minutes. Physically, binge eaters are at risk for developing: type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, sleep apnea, and other related health concerns. Professional binge eaters have the same health risks as those who are clinically struggling with BED. This is not something to be celebrated or perpetuated.

4. We have become obsessed with talking about food and eating contests just add to this unhealthy obsession. Food is personal and how we choose to feed ourselves is a very vulnerable topic. How we eat, what we eat, when we eat, and where we eat are all hot topics that can breed food shame and discord instead the joy of breaking bread with family and friends. Eating contests (and most reality shows for that matter) encourage us to become professional judgers and blamers. We talk about “good food vs. bad food” as if we are talking about sinning or staying pure; we Instagram our meals with a sense of awe and worship; the latest trends in eating, dieting, health dominate the majority of our conversations. We are obsessed with food. This obsession masks core issues of identity, worth, shame while fueling anxiety and depression. And the resistance to looking deeper is intense – understandably as it is much easier to talk about food than the messy, vulnerable, deep soul stuff.

5. Eating contests are a waste of food when so many are food insecure in our country and our world. In our country alone, food insecurity impacts about 15% of households. I often wonder about the positive impact companies and businesses that promote eating contents could make if they took their resources of time and money and fought hunger instead. We can change this demand by choosing not to watch and not to participate – which will shift how companies spend their advertising dollars.
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Post your feedback below and let me know what you think about eating contests? Do you think binge eating is just a choice?  I look forward to your thoughts on this controversial subject.

Happy belated 4th of July (take that perfectionism!)  –

Rebecca

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It is so hard…

Some days...
Some days…

On my way to Potentia earlier this week, I listened to an interview on NPR with Dr. T Berry Brazelton.  He is known as the “baby whisperer” and has been a go-to resource for parents for six decades.  You can catch the whole interview here.

Towards the end of the interview, Dr. Brazelton shared about an encounter with a women in a grocery store.

It took my breathe away.

Dr. Brazelton saw a women struggling with her 2 year old while grocery shopping.  The mother then began hitting her screaming child.  In seeing this, Dr. Brazelton walked up to the mother and said, “It is so hard… to take a two year old to the grocery store.”

After those words, the mother immediately started to cry.  She held her toddler and they began to reconnect and repair.  The child even started to wipe the tears off of his mother’s face.

Whoa.

“It is so hard…”

This story gripped me in so many ways.

Spoken words in time of vulnerability, fatigue and overwhelm were medicine for this mom.

Instead of judgement, she received compassion.
Instead of chastising, she received kindness.

And healing began immediately between mother and child.

I was so touched and convicted listening to the recollection of this story  – as I have been judged and can also be the judger.

I have felt the judgements, seen the eye rolls and heard the whispers of critique about me or my children.

I have also stepped on my high-horse of “I am right. You are wrong.” when all someone needed was a hug and to be heard.

At Potentia, I regularly hear about experiences of condemnation, self-loathing, rejection, isolation, abandonment and the aftershocks these experiences have left on their hearts – rocking their souls.

It takes immense courage to speak of such pain.  It is so hard…

  • being a parent
  • recovering from food and body issues
  • sitting in the aftermath of a failed marriage or relationship
  • feeling lonely and disconnected
  • trying to heal from depression, anxiety
  • being the person you are called to be
  • taking a stand
  • feeling like no one understands
  • asking for help
  • giving the undeserved gift of grace
  • receiving the undeserved gift of grace
  • believing you not an exception to God’s grace, love and sacrifice
  • not letting shame corrode your sense of worth and purpose
  • healing from sexual, emotional, physical abuse
  • forgiving yourself for being relentless in beating yourself up.

It is so hard to be human.

When times are tough, self care is down and the worst parts of ourselves come to the surface – we can feel unlovable, make bad choices, do harm to self or others.

And in those moments, we can choose to add to someone’s pain or help relieve it.

When we find ourselves in the dark zone of the messiness of life and are offered the hand of grace through kind words or gestures, we can choose to receive it instead of shutting down.

I think what made Dr. Brazelton’s words so powerful and able to penetrate this woman’s heart was his sincerity and the tone of his voice.  He was disarming and genuine. Not condescending or patronizing.

But by the grace of God can I strive to live a life that facilitates healing and forgive myself promptly when my quick tongue rises up to judge someone or myself. 

These words: grace, compassion, kindness – are words we are all drawn too.  But to really live these words and put them into action takes guts. And tenacity.  And the willingness to mess up and not be perfect.

I see this courage and determination in my office everyday.  I see it in my kids and in my husband.

Just imagine someone approaching you with respect and kindness during a time of exposed “raw and real”.

Double Whoa.

And what if we stopped the eye-rolling, the judgemental thoughts, the whispers under our breathe but still loud enough to be heard?

And think of what our little worlds of influence would be like if we REALLY lived grace instead of judging and the distancing “tsk tsks”.

Whoa explosion.

We judge in the areas we are most vulnerable. Fear drives these kinds of judgements.  Getting clear on your vulnerabilities can help you be a vessel for healing in your own life and in the lives of those around you.

Giving compassion to self and others+receiving the undeserved gift of grace is like a cool glass of water on a hot day.

We are all in the desert doing the best we can.

It is so hard.  Trust me.  I know.

I may not know your specific experience but I know what it is like to be out there, exposed, afraid and broken.

And I am where I am at today because I have received from others, myself and God the permission to be a hot mess and find redemption in my mistakes.

Self-loathing is culture’s homeostasis and it is simply not sustaining.

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It takes living from a place of love, confidence, selflessness and respect to be the person to give compassion as Dr. Brazelton did.

And love bombs like the one Dr. Brazelton dropped on the mother in the grocery story can create sustaining change in our world.

I have received love bombs this week from my friend Madison who came to help out my family while my husband was on a work trip.  And words of affirmation came my wayvia  emails from Nancy and Lauren and a voice mail message from Marc  – all of which brought tears to my eyes.

I was struck at how their kind word and gestures were difficult to receive.  But I sat with their love bombs – and they quenched my thirst to be seen and understood.

So my challenge to you this week is this: drop some love bombs in your world of influence. At least three.

Your love bomb may be an email to someone, a phone call, a text. You may go old school and write a letter.  Whatever you do, keep these words in mind: It is so hard…  And remember – Less is more.  Tone is key.  Let empathy  – not distancing sympathy – guide you.  And let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

I would also love to know about any love bombs that have been dropped on you lately.  Were they hard to receive?  How did you receive them?

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

PS. Potentia’s cornerstone workshop  – Cultivating Courage – is an incredible place to get clear on your vulnerabilities, work on rewiring judgements and building resilience to shame.  We believe this work is a game-changer in how we do all aspects of life.  I would love to see you at one of our future workshops.  Please email me at rbass@potentiatherapy.com with any questions or post them below.

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How are you dealing with your fears and doubts?

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Last week, two women I think the world of personally and professionally, Tara Gentile and Brigitte Lyons, wrote to their list of business owners and thought leaders about how fear, anxiety, and the “not enough” storyline can hold us back from living out our purpose; our calling.  I am grateful for their words on a topic so dear to my heart.

Brigitte took my breathe away when she asked this powerful question in her last email,

“Are you letting fear keeping you from being found?”

And Tara had me saying, “Amen” out loud after I read these words:

“The stories we tell are the stories of the people we serve. But all too often we pay more attention to parroted beliefs and limiting thoughts than the actual, expansive stories that are playing out in front of us, with us.”

I have learned first hand your personal belief about yourself can nourish or kill creativity and the clarity on your calling.

So I am writing this post to all of you who are not writing, creating, launching, leading, speaking, not showing up because fear, anxiety and negative core beliefs are keeping you from living your purpose.  I am writing to all of you who are afraid of being found.

Sometimes it is hard to discern between rationale fear and irrational fear.

  • Rational fear keeps us safe from death or harm.
  • Irrational fear tells us we will die or be greatly harmed but it is not based in fact – even though every brain cell firing tells us to stop, freeze, numb out and hide.

Sure, you can push back on irrational fear and its first cousins: anxiety, worry, stress which feed the “not enough” thoughts.

But changing the narrative of “not enough” is not always a simple switch to flip.  And leaning on sheer willpower is not a sustaining source of change. When the willpower fuel tank runs out, shame and fear are the fumes that run our lives if we are not careful.

Trust me.  I  have lived seasons of my life on sheer willpower and these toxic fumes only to get burned out and crash hard.

Three years ago, I began to make plans to move Potentia from just a website to having a collaborative practice of specialized, highly trained professionals all under one roof in a space that felt safe, homey and inspired healing and creativity.

I had also recently given birth to our second child and had a lot of big dreams burdening my heart but struggled with finding the space and the systems to execute them.

I was full of joy but at the same time I also hit a wall with my own expectations of myself.  Then the green monsters of jealousy, envy and perfectionism took hold and it got pretty ugly in my brain and soul.  Given my season of life, I was tired and did not have the usual freedom to connect with my support system.

Where there is isolation, shame and doubt have a party.

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I was my own worst enemy as God continued to prod at my my heart for me to trust Him and His leading of me and this dream He had given me.

God trusted me with this dream.  I just did not trust myself.

I have found that the “never enough” belief is able to be diminished but if you are driven, desire excellence and have big dreams, then it never really goes away.  This is a vulnerable and tenuous space to hold in your heart and mind.

I saw this tension in my previous careers in politics, advertising, international youth work and see this tension now in my work with my clients – many of which are filled with an entrepreneurial spirit as business owners, corporate executives, ministry leaders, creatives, educators, therapists.

Developing a practice of community, connection and self-care is a non-negotiable for any creative, dreamer, leader, parent, business owner ie: human.

And this is a life long practice.

This practice is one of shame resilience.  A practice cultivating courage so we can all dare to show up, speak truth, ask for help, take a break, write the check, say yes, say no, press publish, send the email.

Managing fear and doubt is still not easy but these emotions sure as heck do not blind-side me like they used to.  Studying disordered eating, trauma/distressing life events and shame resilience have had a profound impact on my own life.

As Brené Brown regularly says, “You study what you need to know.”

Truth.

And I love supporting my clients and those in the Potentia community in their goals to (re) define health in their own life personally and professionally. Healing distressing life events, food and body issues, traumas and family of origin wounds are not indulgent but often necessary in order to have courage to bench leading, loving, dreaming, launching.

Your fears, worries and negative beliefs are not the enemy.  How you respond to them is what jams you up.

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Learning how to bench negative and intense emotions is key so these emotions can help inform you instead of paralyze you.

Potentia is offering three options to attend a Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives this year so you can improve your ability to manage negative and intense emotions, identify and re-author the narratives of negative core negative beliefs and begin a practice of shame resilience.  We would be honored to help you get unstuck so you can live your life to the fullest.

The world needs you to follow your calling, show up, lead, create and be seen.

What specific fear or belief is holding you back and keeping you stuck?

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

 

 

 

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I have a confession to make to you…

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2013 has been full of some serious body image blues.

You know how it goes:

  • not feeling comfortable your skin
  • feeling like none of your clothes fit well
  • not wanting to see your image in a mirror or a picture
  • struggling not to be tempted by the false promises and quick fixes of the diet and so-called “wellness” industry
  • feeling less then, ummm, hubba hubba with your spouse
  • not wanting to be very social
  • playing the compare game

A couple things crept in that started to take away from my New Year’s calm and clarity (my word for 2013): lack of sleep because of all things toddler (winter colds, potty training..) and my newly diagnosed asthma.  I was missing my time with my boot camp buddies – my one-two punch for social and active time.

I hit a wall. Right about the time I was doubling the staff at Potentia.  We just completed two successful cohorts of our 8 week Cultivating Courage workshop and put dates on the calendar for three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives.

All good stuff.

I was super pumped about all these happenings but was getting really depleted and disconnected from my social support.  My health was starting to suffer, too.

And in walked my body image blues right through the front door.

Shame said, “You hypocrite.  You are leading these men and women to heal their relationship with their bodies and you do not even feel good about your own.  You are a fraud.”

Ouch.

But here is where things took a different turn.  My discomfort in my skin did not necessarily dissipate but how I responded to these thoughts and feelings took a rather radical detour.

I practiced, practiced and continue to practice my shame resilience skills.  I dug in and wrote my daily gratitudes and read my daily devotions.

I got really clear on my needs and spoke them to my friends and family, not as demands but as requests.

I made my self-care – mind, body and soul – a priority and made sure my schedule reflected these values.

I practiced empathy with myself and others when judgements and crankiness reared their ugly heads.

I re-evaluated my boundaries and made sure I was not setting up walls which protect but also isolate.

I spoke my truth to my really, really safe people.

I now know I am enough even on days I do not feel enough.  I can hold that space while I feel yucky and not attack my core worth. Some days it is a bit of a knock down, drag out fight – but shame resilience has helped me run the marathon of living life reflective of my values and my true worth.

Wow.

Those who work in the eating disorder field are not immune to struggling with their own food and body issues.

And I am no exception.

It was pretty incredible to see how the ongoing practice of shame resilience kept me from dancing in the pit of self-loathing for very long.  It has helped me practice respecting my body even when I do not like it much.

Yeah, I am not immune to these thoughts or feelings.  But how I respond when they hit has truly been, well, awesome.

And as I say every day in my office, “Rarely are bad body image days about food, weight or the aesthetics of a certain body part.”

Negative body image is often the equivalent of that scratchy throat you get when feel you are starting to get sick. If you ignore the symptoms and do not take extra care to build up your immune system, you will get leveled and feel even worse, taking longer to recover.

And instead of going old-school and obsessing over weight, looks and what others think, my shame resilience skills are (almost) my default now and the obsessive tendencies to measure my worth by the number on the scale (if I had one) or how much I have worked out were not nearly as loud as they used to be.

This new response to shame has been so, so, so freeing and healing.  Instead of fearing vulnerability, I have grown to understand and respect its place in my life – though I do not like the feeling of it most of the time.

Reading Brené Brown’s books over the last few years have been so helpful in building my awareness about shame and normalizing the universal experience of shame.  I developed a whole new vocabulary.

But these last 9 months training with Brené, Robert Hilliker and the rest of the Connections team to complete my Certified Connections Facilitator Certification moved me from an intellectual insight of this work to a daily (well, mostly daily) practice.

I have seen the fruits of this practice in my marriage, my work as therapist and in my relationships with God, myself and others.

And this is why I can barely contain how excited I am to offer this work – Potentiafied for you in our Cultivating Courage Workshops and Weekend Intensives.

We have three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives scheduled for the remainder of this year: June 14-16, Aug 23-25 and Nov 1-3.  And my colleague, Molly LaCroix, and I will be launching our 8 week Weekly Cultivating Courage Workshop Series in January 2014.

For those who are local, we have some digging deeper workshops which will be launching this summer to give people a chance to freshen their Shame Resilience skills or have a toe-in-the water experience with this powerful work.

And plans are in the works to take this work online so our Potentia friends outside San Diego can have access to this material, too.  Make sure you are signed up to receive email updates so you can get the latest details on all of these happenings.

I would love to know what your questions are about shame and Brené Brown’s shame resilience theory.  Please email me directly at rbass@potentiatherapy.com or post your questions below.  If I feature your question in a future blog post, you will receive a copy of Brené’s most recent book, Daring Greatly.  So don’t hold back, I really want to hear from you.

Working on being my own cheerleader while cheering you on, too!

Rebecca

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A Twist on Dealing with Negative Body Image

Negative Body Image.

In my tribe of Eating Disorder Treatment Specialists, we often say negative body image is the first to come and the last to leave in the treatment of food and body issues.

And that is a pretty constant truth from the many recovery journeys I have witnessed over the years.

My clients have taught me some more nuanced facts about body image, regardless of whether they have had a full blown eating disorder or not.

Everyone has (at least) a bad body image day.

Depending on where you fall, if at all, on the disordered eating spectrum, dealing with dark, obsessive, and/or negative thoughts and compulsions regarding your body is a part of the gig when dealing with disordered eating.

You may recognize all too well some of these reccurring negative thoughts used to bully and shame yourself – just fill in the blanks with your own words to customize these statements to your experience:

My ____ is so ____.
I feel so ______.
I am so ______.
My _____ looks so ____.
I just need to___.
When I _____ I will be _____.
I hate my_____.
My _____ will always/never be_____.

Ugh.

So many try to manage these thoughts and feelings by stuffing them and putting on their “I love my body” and “It’s all good” masks of virtue, hiding the truth that they are living at war with their body. Others externalize these thoughts and add to the cacophony of negative body talk and diet talk.

And this is where things often spiral.

Many try to manage the pain of being in their skin and their body shame by:

  • over exercising
  • restrictive eating
  • dieting
  • mindless, emotional eating
  • comparing
  • competing
  • shaming
  • all of the above

And this can lead to a dark journey into the world of eating disorders and disordered eating.  Yet, many hover in this place of emotional ickiness where they cannot shake the uneasiness of living in their skin and make genuine, though harmful, attempts to get relief.

For many of you, this battle really is not about your body.

If my client is stable emotionally and physically, and her needs are met nutritionally, then I often look at negative body image as a sign of something bigger.

Like when you get that scratchy throat feeling.  It is a sign you are on the verge of getting really sick; it is not just about the sore throat.  You know you need to rest, to take some extra Vitamin C, drink some tea, ask for help with projects, cut back on your social calendar.

When the yuck of a bad body image moment comes up, it is often a sign of something else going on in your life.  I move my clients away from the laser focus obsessions on what needs to change with their body and pull back the blinders to look at what else is going on in their life.

If you are feeling this way, it is important to asses:

  • if you are you getting enough rest,
  • how you are adjusting to weight restoration or weight loss (yes, weight loss can be very triggering)
  • stressors
  • social support — safe, sustainable, available social support
  • if you daily activities are life giving or draining
  • dieting behaviors
  • traumatic or distressing life events that have gone untreated
  • if your temperament is perfectionistic, obsessive-compulsive, cares big, and feels emotions intensely
  • labs taken within the last month and making sure all physical systems are operating well and your body’s needs are being met

I have learned that setting the expectation to always be comfortable in your skin is a set up for continual frustration and feelings of hopelessness.  (Not helpful…)

The key is not to focus on the goal of eradicating negative body image days (though the parallel process is to decrease the frequency and intensity of those days, for sure)  but instead to respond on those days, weeks, months when you are feeling crappy in your skin DIFFERENTLY.

Instead of defaulting to negative food and body obsessions and action, I work with my clients on how to acknowledge what they are really feeling and what they are really thinking in that moment. 

Then we focus on respecting those thoughts and feelings in the moment.  I also emphasize the truth in how my clients feel.  What they feel is always real but rarely is it ever fact.

Finally, we focus on how to respond differently when body hatred arises.  Instead of stuffing, minimizing or denying — which only fuel the negative thoughts and coping tools — I work with my clients on accessing new tools and strategies when the dreaded body yuck surfaces.

When there is too much focus on feeling better in your body and not looking at the correlation with bad body image to other factors — physical, emotional, social, and spiritual — then I think we are limiting the potential of experiencing true health and true healing.

And it is ok not to love your body all the time.

But I think it is imperative to focus on respecting your body and being grateful for your body — even when you do not like it.

You can actually dislike your body while also showing your body respect and gratitude.  Eventually, respect and gratitude will win if you hang in there.

For example, there are a good handful of people I know that I do not care for but I respect them, treat them with dignity and kindness, and find space for being genuinely grateful for the challenging relationship.

Consider this strategy in your relationship with your body.

With heavy doses of respect and gratitude in addition to responding differently to your bad body image days, the feeling of your body never being enough may dissipate, and an eventual truce with your body may be declared.

And if one of those days surfaces again, the hope is you do not shame yourself for backsliding in your recovery but see your body image woes as a clue, a hint to investigate what is out of sorts in your life.

All the while administering generous doses of respect and gratitude.

How do you deal with your bad body image days?
Do you agree that it is not realistic to achieve a space where you never have a bad body image day?

With respect and gratitude –

Rebecca

 

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