"We can't hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love" - Lori Deschene
As we approach the festive season, the shops are full of party dresses. However, Christmas parties - with work colleagues, friends, or families - can be a source of worry for Good Enough Mums.
Questions that can plague us include:
- How on earth will I find an outfit I look good in?
- Am I going to look fat? Is my tummy too big?
- Where will I find the time to shop?
- How can I lose weight quickly for Christmas?
What is "supposed" to be a fun celebration can all too often become an ordeal.
Even if we manage to find something we think is half decent, there is still a tendency to compare ourselves with other women who may be taller/slimmer/younger/shorter/rounder/older than us ... you get the picture.
Often our response can be self-punishing.
We berate ourselves for the times we've eaten those biscuits, that chocolate, the sneaky dip into the ice cream tub, the handfuls of nuts when we've been cooking dinner and are starving, the visit to the bakers on the school run, or the gingerbread latte when we need matchsticks to keep our eyelids open.
We feel full of regrets and self-recrimination.
Too often that leads to either a strict diet and exercise regime to try to slim down, or a flight to more comfort eating.
Either of these options fails to address the underlying problem which is about our relationship with ourselves and our bodies.
We do live in a world where we are surrounded by unrealistic images of women and high expectations of beauty. If you're feeling insecure about your body, it's probably best to minimise time spent on social media looking at body shopped images.
However, to blame the media for our uncomfortable feelings about ourselves is to abrogate responsibility and to make ourselves victims.
Only we are responsible for our thoughts about ourselves.
When we're able to accept responsibility for our feelings we can begin to make changes. This isn't necessarily an easy process but it is possible.
There are different facets to learning how to think differently about ourselves and to move towards self-acceptance.
Recognise You are Enough
It is particularly important to recognise that you are enough, despite all your imperfections.
Time and again we think we need to be different in order to be acceptable. We start with the assumption that we are not good enough as we are. Good enough is an elusive goal that is always slightly out of our reach.
Even if we find something where we feel we're good enough, there will be a gap elsewhere.
If we don't think we're good enough, the feeling is going to keep popping up in different areas. It's a bit like whack-a-mole. Just when we think we've conquered it, it pops up somewhere else.
So we may diet and have a slim body, but then we'll decide we don't like our hair. Or we'll start criticising ourselves for a mental attitude we don't like, or a particular way of relating, or the type of personality we are.
When we try to be good enough we're setting ourselves up to fail in some way.
We're using whatever arbitrary measure that seems important to us in the moment - be it hair, body, communication skills, personality type, mothering abilities, the list goes on - as a stick to beat ourselves with.
I'll let you into a secret - this is never going to go away until we decide to be different.
It's time to stop. It's time to recognise that we're attempting the labour of Sisyphus (from the Greek legends - he's the one who keeps pushing the boulder to the top of hill only to see it roll down again).
The way to be different is to acknowledge defeat. To admit we've been mistaken in chasing after an unachievable goal. To let go of that way of being.
Be Kind to Yourself
Instead we need to be kind to ourselves. We need to allow ourselves to be flawed human beings. We need to acknowledge that life is difficult and full of challenges, that we're constantly learning how to respond to change, and that we haven't got it right yet.
It helps to acknowledge that it is painful to us to be rejected and that we fear rejection if we don't fit in. Perhaps we have been deeply wounded in the past and suffered guilt and shame as a result. This has been hard and we may full of fear about it happening again.
Returning to the Christmas party outfit problem, our fear of rejection can become entangled with having to look "right".
Our brains are programmed to focus on threat. If we're feeling fearful about our bodies being unacceptable, we'll be focused on our body's imperfections. We'll look for all the flaws. We'll notice all the things that we think are "wrong" and we won't notice anything that could be considered "right".
We turn our fear of rejection from others into an attack on ourselves as we reject our own bodies.
We make our self-worth dependent on our looks and the opinions of others. Again, this is making ourselves victims of other people. We are making them responsible for our feelings about ourselves.
Why not make a decision that you're not going to criticise your body anymore?
You cannot hate your body into a version of your body that you love.
You will always find an imperfection if your starting point is rejection of yourself.
Our poor bodies! They sustain us in our lives, they've grown, they've borne children, they enable us to experience sensation. We repay them by hating them.
Why not decide instead that you're going to be grateful for everything your body does for you? Even more challenging, why not sit down and make a list of what is great about your body. You may not like your tummy, for example, but you may have some fabulous curves. You may have a wonderful smile. Your hair might be a source of pride.
Let Go of Comparisons
Have you ever notice who you're comparing yourself to? When you're feeling overweight, who do you look to? Is it more likely to be women slimmer than you, or women fatter than you?
And what do comparisons do? Are they helpful or do they make you feel worse? If they make you feel worse, why are you punishing yourself by looking? Is that what you deserve?
When you're comparing yourself to other people, what issue is that distracting you from? Is there an issue in your life that needs resolving but which you're hoping will go away?
When you're comparing yourself to others, you're using your energy to focus on their lives rather than your own. You cannot change their lives but you could use that energy to change your own. Comparisons tend to lead to resentment of both yourself and them.It's not a helpful way to use your time.
It's also a flawed measure. There are two unique people here who cannot be compared.
Choose Your Focus
It can help to decide to focus on other aspects of life. Decide what your aim is for particular occasions. For example, if you value friendship, you might like to decide that at the party you'll try to be friendly and get to know other people.
The following quote sums it up:
"Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life — where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it.” –Glennon Doyle Melton
If you'd like to feel more confident, please do get in touch with me to arrange counselling or life coaching.