Finding Self-Love Through Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a very real thing. It means (in a nutshell) that a person obsessively thinks badly of one part of their body or another. They look in the mirror and all they see are their flaws. This happens in both men and women. 

I remember that when I was younger I thought nothing bad about my body. It didn’t matter what size I wore or that my boobs were smaller than my friends or that my hips were bigger. I remember looking at my developing body thinking it was pretty great. I didn’t care what I ate or how much exercise I got. It is true that I didn’t really need to, but I had so many other challenges and obstacles in my life this was the LAST thing on my mind. (At least that I can remember,) I was confident in my physical appearance. I saw the models on the magazines and tv and didn’t think I looked that much different.

Then something happened. Something changed.

I was married very young and had my first baby at the age of 20, I changed the way I saw myself. People told me I needed to lose weight, (even though I lost my baby weight within weeks of having him.) I recognized that I was being compared. Mind you, I was in an industry where your physical appearance is HUGE. I wanted to model, I wanted to act. And instead of celebrating my talent, I heard over and over again why I wasn’t good enough. Rejection, for me, became about my physical appearance. I was able to find unhealthy outlets to combat these feelings in my mind. I got skinner, but it never seemed to be enough. So, instead of finding a healthy way to heal my mind, body, and soul, it destroyed my confidence and my self-worth even more. 

Photo by Trinidee Rae Photography

I compared myself to other women as I picked them apart, secretly saying what I had and didn’t have that they did.

I was horrible to the person looking back at me in the mirror. If I heard a man saying another woman was beautiful I would take it to mean I was not. I was hurt in relationships I told myself that it was because physically I needed to do more to look better, then they would love me. I developed what I would say ” borderline body dysmorphia.” To this day I struggle to love this body of mine and I know so many women that do. It is something that I work on daily. Not only for myself but for my kids too. My daughters AND my son.

I do my best nurturing this part of me constantly so I can keep my self-love strong.

I beat myself up about it over and over. Thank goodness I never took it to the extreme of anorexia or bulimia, and I celebrate myself with that. It doesn’t mean that I am not in love with my life. It doesn’t mean that I do not have a good sense of who I am, but it does mean that I understand what it feels like to be in your shoes, even if it’s just a little bit. I understand that self-love and body-love are no easy fix. It needs to become a part of your daily practice. Loving yourself needs to be a way of life. 

Now don’t think that I am saying don’t continue to work on being healthy in your body as well. Feed it right to fuel it. Exercise and see how incredible it is. Celebrate when you see changes…all of this is ok too! Just make sure to notice the beauty in your pain. Acknowledge the warrior you are underneath your scars. Feel good about your choices of being the best version of yourself and see how unique and special you are, from your head down to your toes.

This is your life…honor all the parts of you. It is possible to heal these wounds.

Find a way to dig deep into the layers of your soul. Find what gives you strength and allow yourself to love the journey. I say this for anyone who struggles. No matter your size, your color, your race, your ethnicity, your age, or your history.

My goal is to continue to pull back the layers and get back to that little girl I was who innocently loved her body before everyone told her she wasn’t good enough the way she was. I challenge you to do the same. You are worth it!

Photograph by Trinidee Ray Photography

To find out more about gaining more self-love, body-love, and soul-love, please come to our retreat where we have helped many women, just like you. We have been there. We understand. You are not alone.

Self-Love With Stef

Who do you want to be and what is stopping you? Are you ready to step into your full self and start to thrive in life? Well, get ready to be inspired as Stef Iliff joins me today to talk about the beauty of finding self-love, self-motivation, and self-empowerment.

 

Coffee Talk Tuesday: Love Your Selfie

So many people have a hard time accepting their bodies, especially after 40. In this interview with Cat Palmer she talks about a project she’s doing to help anyone who is struggling with body image to overcome them. To find out more visit catpalmer.com Also, please join my mailing list  to get more awesome interviews with people making a difference in their communities.

Sponsored by naturalforce.com

My Happiness Theory

I felt as if I was falling, no tumbling, through the rabbit hole and I just wanted to wake up, but I wasn’t Alice, this wasn’t the rabbit hole, and I wasn’t going to wake up. This was real. This was me. I was facing heartbreak on a scale that I never imagined. Three major things that I cared about were being stripped away from me and I was left to figure out how to keep going. This is where I came up with it: Chalese’s Happiness Theory….

What is happiness?

Why does everyone search for this?

Is it possible to obtain?

Is it possible to sustain?

Here is what I found: happiness is an emotion. It is an emotion, just like sadness, just like being scared, or nervous, etc. Of course everyone is capable of feeling this, so it is possible to obtain, but it is not possible to sustain. You see, that is not reality. That is not life. It is not possible to live in a constant state of happiness or else you’d see us all with the Stepford wife permagrin on our faces.

When I really started to think about it, if you live in a constant state of happiness, that happiness becomes bleak, stagnant and normal. We like being happy, because it is an emotion that doesn’t always happen. Now, we don’t like being sad or angry, but it is something that will happen regardless of whether you want it to or not. Feeling those emotions are necessary in order to truly understand what happiness is.

Understand that I am not simply saying we shouldn’t strive to be happy. Feeling happy is incredible! I love to be happy! What I am saying is when I stopped searching for happiness I found more of who I really wanted to be. I don’t just want to be happy, I want to live a fulfilled life. I want to thrive! I believe that what we find when we strive to live this type of life is that we begin living from a place of bravery. We are courageous and hopeful. We find ways to feel all of the emotions and become grounded when we start to float away with our thoughts. We start to accept and love ourselves unconditionally. This to me is joy. This to me is bliss. The idea that I can conquer anything that is put in my path gives me strength.

When I think about my life I remember the times when I was happiest as well as the times when I was the saddest. I remember times I laughed and I remember times I cried. They are all important to my story. They are all necessary for my growth. I am just as grateful for the dark times as I am the times when I feel full of light and shine bright for all the world to see.

If I had my choice, I would naturally prefer not to go to very dark places anymore…I feel as if I’ve had my share of pain and suffering, however I accept I have no control over this. My motivation is not the search for happiness. My motivation is creating harmony and balance. It is loving not only my journey and my process, but the ones that surround me as I dive deep into the feelings and emotions of what got me here.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with searching for happiness if that is what you need to do. I am saying to be cautious about the words you use and the way you think of it. What does it mean to be happy? Are you limiting what you are capable of? For some people it may just be words. For me it is a mindset. If you are living your life to its fullest you are doing more than simply searching for happiness. You will never escape hard times. Days, weeks and maybe even months are not always going to be fun and you won’t always enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that you won’t still be fulfilled and thrive. Thriving in life means you are continuing to grow. It is my belief that if you stop searching for happiness, you will be able to feel it with more ease. You will recognize the emotion and enjoy being happy. You may even be able to feel it on an even deeper level because you won’t be afraid of what might happen when life happens and another emotion arises.

My theory is just that…a theory so I can be proven wrong. My underlying hope is that you recognize how beautiful all of life can be. If you are struggling right now, remember that you will get through this as well, you have before. Even though you may be feeling sad right now, if you are tired of fighting and just want to be happy again…you will be. Look for the light in the darkness. Have gratitude for what surrounds you. Find that peace in the storm and smile. It is not an easy thing to do, but as difficult as it is, there are so many blessings that you are possibly missing right here right now. All you need to do is feel it, embrace it and honor it. Like my dear friend Susan once said, “You don’t want to miss this part of the story.” I will never forget that, and I hope you won’t either.

Getting Rid of Guilt

Guilt. I can’t stand it when I feel guilty, yet that guilty feeling happens way more often than I care to admit. I hear so many people all the time that are living their lives out of guilt. People are doing so many things because they “feel guilty” if they don’t. I see so many people limiting themselves of their capabilities because of this icky gooey control that guilt has placed them in. Yep, I have done it to. I am guilty of it myself. It makes sense as to why it happens. We grow up being given that dreaded guilt trip by our parents, or grandparents, or teachers, or church leaders, or just society in general. We fear judgement, and our souls are crying desperately for us to learn how to overcome this so we can be free and live our truth and find our happiness. It is not based on anyone else’s beliefs, it is based on our own.

Let me put out a warning to you: Overcoming living a life of guilt is a brave and bold thing to do. It will set you apart from most. People will look at you as if you have lost your mind. They will see you start to live the life you want and try to bring you down. Well, just so you understand, that even when you are living a life of restriction, you are not ever going to be capable of making everyone happy. Get that notion out of your head. There will always be people who don’t understand why you are doing the things that you are doing. There will always be people who look down on you for taking a risk, or living your life. You may even be called (cue music) ….selfish. People fear what is different and that is why they judge. But that is a topic for another time. Right now, we are going to focus on GUILT.

I’m not saying that guilt is not something we should not ever feel. Our bodies, minds and souls were created to feel things in order to move us along our journey. It’s when we are ruled by any of our feelings or emotions that we become out of alignment with ourselves. Feeling guilt is not a negative thing. I am not the person that would ever tell you,“Don’t ever feel guilty!” It’s okay to feel guilt. It’s our bodies triggering us to ask ourselves if we are in alignment with our truth. “Are we doing this because it is what I want to be doing, or am I doing this out of obligation?” “Why am I feeling this way?” Look into it and dissect it. What is causing the guilt? Is it something you have done that is not true to YOU? That is the question to ask yourself. If it is not true to YOU, then what can you do in order to get you back in alignment with YOUR truth, not someone else’s truth.

For example, “mom guilt”. We, as moms, (and many times dads,) feel this guilt of not devoting 110% of our time to our children. We do all these things for them, give them food, and comfort, and love. We make sure they get off to school, do their homework, take them on activities, put a band-aid on their cuts, wipe their tears, cuddle them, clean up after them, the list goes on and on and on…yet, a field trip comes up at school and we are unable to attend, or don’t really want to, and this pit creeps up in our gut and we feel GUILTY!!!!!!!  

This is a perfect example of when we need to be asking ourselves these questions. Most of the time we are going to find out that we love our children, that we are doing enough, that not every single mom in the whole entire world is doing “it” perfect. Or, are we? What if we give ourselves a break and accept that we are rearing our kids exactly the way we should be for them and for us. I’m not saying that there won’t be areas for growth and improvement, I’m also not saying that if we are being neglectful of our children’s welfare and are being abusive and bringing them harm that you should continue. Absolutely not! What I am saying is that the majority of parents out there are honestly doing their best to give their children everything they need. They are trying each and everyday to do better than the day before, and isn’t that the definition of success? One day at a time. Keep moving forward and being a little bit better than before.

There are so many other things we feel guilty for. Not being perfect on a diet, missing a work out, talking too much, talking too little, not standing up for ourselves, our house is too messy, I haven’t put Christmas away yet, I chose to go play instead of finishing my work, staying in bad relationships, not going back to toxic relationships, I tried to hard, I didn’t try enough….the list goes on and on. We are constantly allowing our guilt of not being perfect each and every day run our lives. THIS IS NOT HEALTHY and you will never find happiness if you don’t get a grip on it and start to change the way you think.

This is my challenge to you, the next time you get that feeling, you know the one I am talking about, that pit in your stomach that starts to grow and fester, that feeling of guilt, take a step back and ask yourself the questions mentioned earlier. If you are doing something, or not doing something you in your heart and soul really want to be doing, than give yourself permission to do it. If you are not, then take the steps to CHANGE IT!  This takes a while to master, believe me, I’m still working on remembering to catch that pit before it has me enveloped, but it does get easier to do. It is a skill and it takes time a patience to get good at it. Give yourself that time. Know that you are worth it. Know that you will be happier, your kids will be happier, your coworkers, your friends and everyone around you will see you living your life to your fullest potential. Believe in yourself and work through that guilt, it is there for a reason, and that reason is in us to live the best version of ourselves as possible, not anyone else’s version of you, but yours.

2019: A Clean Slate

The new year is quickly approaching. There have been so many changes, not just for me, but everyone around me. As I sit here by the light of my Christmas tree, sipping my hot coffee out of my new Wonder Woman mug I just got for Christmas from a friend, writing the first blog to my new site I can’t help but reflect on all of the experiences I had in 2018 that brought me to this point. 

There were experiences of loss both in love and in my career. There were experiences of joy, experiences of healing, and experiences of travel. All of these experiences needed to happen to get me to where I am at right now.  This has probably been one of the most serendipitous years I have ever have, or maybe I am finally aware enough to see that life is not happening to me, but is happening for me.  It only took me 40 years to figure this out! 

Yes, at the end of January, I will be turning the big 40 and I am so excited about it! How awesome is it to be able to enter into a new decade of life with so much more of an understanding of myself and the world around me, yet at the same time really knowing absolutely nothing at all!? This is exactly why I am choosing to enter into this new year with a clean slate. I am approaching 2019 as a single mom and an entrepreneur with my eyes, ears, heart and soul open to all the possibilities life is about to offer me.  Not only am I going to be a student in my new life, but I am also enrolled to be a college student so I can get my AS in business. 

Every year seems to be it’s own unique chapter in my own personal book of life. I don’t think that I can even look back and ever say, “Well, that year was sure boring!”  Even though sometimes I trick myself into thinking it would be nice to lead a boring life, but then…I would be so bored! I am an action person. I am told all the time that I do so much. I am constantly hearing things like, “I just don’t know how you do all you do,”  and “Your lazy is me feeling like I’ve accomplished something during the day!”  To me, it’s just being me. Now that I have been laid off of my Corporate America job, I really don’t know how I had time to work a full time job and do everything else I was doing. There were sacrifices I made. For example: I rarely, (if ever,) volunteered in my children’s classrooms, which I have been able to do twice now. I worked out a little at home instead of going to the gym. I ordered most everything online, including groceries because the thought of going into a store was overwhelming, (which is actually still way more convenient and I may continue doing that!) And the biggest sacrifice I feel like I have had to make is that I have been blogging, making videos and trying to start up my nonprofit with little success for the last two and a half years. 

Now coming into 2019, I am no longer going to allow myself to put my passions on hold. Life has really set me up to finally do what I am meant to do. There are times that I wish I could have, or would have done this earlier. I believe this is something that we all think about. I call it the “If only” or the “Should have, would have, could have” Syndrome. You know exactly what I’m talking about. That moment where you realize, “If only I would have started this earlier,” or “I should have made a different decision in life and I would be somewhere else.” Well, the thing is you don’t really know how different your life would actually be, or if it would even be any better. All you have is right now. All you know is what is.  That is why living in the present is so critical, and also it is so difficult! I’m not saying that we should stop dreaming, or having goals…no way! What I am saying, and reminding myself of, is living in the moment and figuring out what is it you can do today that will get you one step closer to where you want to be tomorrow. 

For me, I realize that the last few weeks where I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to prepare for this new life of mine in 2019, I have actually been doing exactly what I have needed to. I am constantly doing a lot of self work and that is where my mind and soul took me. My clean slate is not only a whole new career path, but it is also ridding myself of the distractions and the constant heartache of men, which is ironic that what started the big change for 2018 was getting my heart not just broken, but shattered. I didn’t want to be alone again. I didn’t want to be without love, and now just in time for 2019, I found a way to back to accepting where I am in life and realized I have worked hard to get to this moment and because of this I know this is my time to shine. The next two years I will be building my life. I get to show not only the world, but myself what I am capable of, (which is really the most important part.)  I will be strengthening the relationship with my children and myself. I made a conscious choice and cut all the negative and toxic strings that were keeping me stagnant in my own personal growth. It wasn’t easy and there is more to write about in that topic, but that is for another day. 

Today I leave you with my sincere wish that all of you take a good look at the pain you have suffered this past year and find the gratitude in the tragedy of your life. Ask yourself where it has given you the opportunity and the ability to find a strength in you that you never knew existed. Where is your life better? Where have you been blessed? Give yourself credit for surviving and realize it is now your clean slate to start thriving! 

Happy holidays and see you in 2019!