Letters to Myself, Showing Up

Letters to Myself, # 2 – Slow Down (They Don’t Love You Like I Love You)

Quotes about gratitude

(Thanks, Beyonce, for the title inspiration from your song, “Hold Up” from your best album yet, Lemonade)

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Dear Me:

Hey there, it’s me again. I want to thank you for your response in the first letter when you reminded me throughout a really stressful, busy week last week to find and hold on to my joy.

Thanks for allowing Happier Us to stick by my side through apartment A/C issues (and getting the property manager & maintenance supervisor to realize we needed a new unit), babysitting two small, very fun and active girls two days in a row, traveling to and from Savannah in about a 36-hour period (and keeping Cynical Us from screaming “We’re going to die!” as a very exhausted us and John tried to navigate the last 30 miles home in early morning Atlanta traffic), not getting really good quality sleep, and it being so damn hot outside.

In this letter, I want to talk about something else I’ve noticed directing our life and decisions: Scarcity Mindset. The feeling that there is never enough and we are never enough. The way it makes us settle for shit we don’t want, ignore our intuition, mistreat our body, envy others whom we think have what we can’t have because they have it, pushes us so hard to try to make money any way we can to pay off our debt and be financially secure (knowing that in this mindset, no amount of money will ever make us feel secure), and keeps us trapped in comparison and feeds our feelings of inadequacy.

It isn’t our fault. We were raised in a scarcity-based environment. In America, it is called capitalism. Being shamed for our so-called inadequacies, told we can have “it all” if we just work hard enough or have enough money to buy it (ignoring all of the privileges many have that a lot were not given or born with), and being told to rest is to be lazy, worthless, and dumb.

In our family, we were taught that money is scarce as we watched our family members go into massive credit card debt and then one bankruptcy after another and saw no one ever had enough to be happy. We were taught to fear money or see it as evil. We were never taught how to be responsible with it or how to give ourselves the power over it and not the other way around.

We were taught that appearances matter most. Not who we truly were or how we truly felt, but what we and our lives looked like.

Our family tried so hard to seem financially well off and like everyone had their shit together and there were never any conflicts or issues.

Don’t you remember how Daddy was so mean to Mama, the boys, and us on the way to church and how as soon as we got out of the van and walked in the church doors, he became the man all our youth group girl friends wished their father was like, who the women Mama knew in their Sunday School group wished their husbands were like? And how as soon as we were back in the van, his friendly, warm smile returned to a sneer and his honey-dipped words returned to venom?

Or how Lib, June, Brophy, and Robert congregated on the porch, laughing and talking whenever the police showed up because someone (sometimes us) called 911 because their violent fights were so loud and frightening?

From around kindergarten up, we learned that food wasn’t a security either. It isn’t that we were really ever short on food, but it was the shame around being told we couldn’t eat the food we wanted because it was “making us fat” and being a fat girl was a vicious, dreadful sin. It ruined our “appearance” of how a thinner body was seen as beautiful, smart, hardworking, and cared for, and our fat body only showed neglect, laziness, gluttony, and lacking self-care, self-respect, self-esteem, and intelligence.

The more food was held as forbidden to us and the more we were told our body was “wrong,” the more scarce food felt to us and the more we rebelled, binged on it, and hated our self.

And in puberty, not developing breasts or round hips and instead developing rounder, broader shoulders and a rounder version of the pot belly we’ve had since infancy made us even more of a disappointment and eyesore. Here, we learned that love, acceptance, desirability, and attractiveness was scarce, and we were to blame for it.

In these times of scarcity, or perceived scarcity, we are conditioned to rush. Rush to sneak the “forbidden” food and shove it down our throat thoughtlessly, without enjoyment, and riddled with shame and self-loathing. Rush to lose weight in whatever means possible so we can finally be considered attractive, lovable, and worthwhile. Rush to do whatever we can to please others, regardless of the way we neglect our self and our needs in the meantime. And then rush to numb our pain, shame, sadness, and anger by whatever means necessary, which for us was/is food and spending too much time scrolling through the internet and social media.

There is no slowing down in this scarcity mindset. No time to think. No time to consider. There is so much to do to finally get enough so we are finally considered enough, and with every step we take, the ruler measuring success, achievement, control, safety, adequacy, and being considered worthy of love and acceptance is pushed a little further out.

Driven by this mindset, we went to a college we didn’t really like, settled on toxic behavior by men we were attracted to and wanted to feel noticed and wanted by, accepted the crumbs of attention from toxic friendships out of deep loneliness, a deep mother and father wound, and always being taught to feel worthless and like we had to take whatever we could get.

We settled on one job after another because we were told it was “smart” and secure even though they stifled our creativity and left us feeling miserable and lost.

This scarcity mindset taught us love is scarce and we could lose it at anytime so we better not do anything to “rock the boat.”

Things like:

  • Don’t speak up about your hurts and anger.
  • Don’t do or say anything that could be seen as critical or he’s going to leave.
  • Always be pleasant.
  • Don’t talk too much.
  • Don’t be needy.
  • Don’t speak up for yourself.
  • Squelch those emotions, you know you have too many of them.
  • Don’t do anything that could make you seem like a burden.
  • And for God’s sake, lose the fucking gut already, no man wants to look at that.
  • Always remember that whatever has been given can and likely will be taken away.
  • Don’t get too comfortable.

You know, this mindset keeps me up at night worrying about dying and never getting to live the life I want many years to live. Makes me so afraid we will die young and miss out on all life has to offer us. Makes me feel sick to my stomach at thinking about John moving on, finding someone else, and realizing we were never the woman he thought we were or that he ever really loved.

I get angry too, thinking about everything we want to do and how we never seem to have the money to do it because we can’t find or keep a job in a healthy, fun, creative environment. It makes me think of friends and family who are traveling where I want us to travel, doing jobs I want us to do, having money I wish we had, and comparing way too much of myself and life to everyone else.

Where there is a scarcity mindset, there is a focus on what we don’t have and a furious impatience to get it. To have control. To know what’s coming next, how to get it, when it’ll arrive, and how happy we’ll “finally” be when it arrives. I mean, isn’t that all the lie of every diet and/or exercise program we ever try? Every book or movie or TV show about finding “the one”? The sales pitch behind every beauty product and fashion line?

Scarcity mindset is the mindset that sells and makes billions of dollars in marketing and advertising for every possible thing you can think of from diets to religion to fashion to cars to homes and etc. “Let me tell you what you lack, how others perceive your lacking, and how buying this product will finally make you happy.”

Where there is scarcity, there is depression, war, greed, famine, sexual/physical/emotional violence, addiction, infidelity, genocide, treating people who don’t look like us as an “other” and dehumanizing them, anxiety, power-grabbing, fear-mongering, and depravity. Scarcity makes us take whatever we can get, however we can get it, no matter who – including ourselves – gets hurt.

Most of all, it takes us out of the present and robs us of joy, peace, love, and gratitude. It clouds our intuition and depletes the quality of our life. And quality always matters more important than quantity.

Amy, we are enough. Our life is happening as it is meant to, in the timeline it is meant to be on. There is no one set timeline for everyone. There is no need to rush.

We don’t have to worry about not having enough or being enough. There’s nothing we need to do or change about us to be worthy of love. Our very name, Amy, MEANS “beloved.”

If there is anything we can hold on to in our constantly evolving spiritual faith and what we learned in church growing up, it is to not allow ourselves to get wrapped up in the trappings of this world. Everything is temporary but it doesn’t mean it is scarce. Being weighed down by all of the stress that scarcity brings mean not being able to see the constant flow of joy, opportunities for new beginnings, love, and good still alive all around us.

Let’s slow down when we think, rest, eat, and dream. Our body is worth trusting and wants us to trust it. We are so privileged and lucky, Amy, we really have no idea. Let’s focus on our abundance so we can share it with others. When we know what we have, we know what we can give.

There is enough food to fill our belly and to give us pleasure and we don’t have to feel ashamed of what we eat. We can enjoy, savor, and be mindful of how and what we eat and why we are eating. We don’t need permission to feed our body when it is hungry. We don’t need to eat past fullness out of fear we will never get to eat that food again. We don’t have to restrict anymore.

We can move our body for the sheer joy of it and in appreciation of all it has done, is doing, and will do for us however many years we are meant to live.

Let’s not be inactive because the diet mentality is so deeply ingrained and twisted around exercise in our brain that it is hard to separate moving our body from the hope of weight loss, which is really just a hope of being seen as worthy of love and acceptance.

Our body is strong and still somewhat flexible (let’s try some yoga for this, okay?) and healthy, let’s focus on the abundance of this and move our body out of that mindset.

We aren’t our family. Their money issues aren’t ours. Their inability to have healthy relationships and marriages and live authentic lives don’t reflect on us. We are not doomed to repeat their mistakes. If anything, we have learned from them. How about we stop living from all the “what not to do’s” we learned from them and start focusing on what we have overcome, let go, forgive, and move on to the healing and the abundant future awaiting us?

Perfectionism is another scarcity mindset lie. It doesn’t exist, nor should it. We are free to make mistakes and learn and grow from them instead of feeling ashamed of them.

We were not born evil and in need of being made good and lovable by someone else. We were born in the image of God, who is all things love and goodness. Forget all of the fear-mongering, shaming, narcissistic religious bullshit shoved down our throat as children. That was all about control, another scarcity mindset tactic, and Amy, we are free. We are so fucking free to be exactly who we are.

Our marriage to John is beautiful because it is real. It is raw, vulnerable, and ever-growing, and it is authentic, transparent, and real. Don’t compare it to someone else’s marriage. We can’t see into the lives of others.

Let’s not rush the healing, depth, effective communication, and intimacy in our marriage. God willing, our marriage is growing into a mighty oak wrapped in decades of rings with unbreakable, replenishing roots that sway with the wind without snapping.

Right now, it is still a young, vulnerable sapling, only eight years old. It needs love, care, grace, understanding, forgiveness, nurture, trust, faith, rest, unity, sunshine, and patience. It needs time and it will need storms. Don’t be afraid of this.

Let’s not worry so much about money. We have enough to get by on. Let’s not be in such a rush to pay off debt, save money, buy a house, or whatever we see others doing that it’s not yet our time to do that we settle again for work that isn’t right for who we are, forces our self to stifle who we really are and what we really want, and lie awake at night in such unnecessary fear, anger, envy, resentment, and frustration. And remember, just because someone else has what we want doesn’t mean there’s now less of it left for us.

Amy, the way out of this scarcity mindset we’ve lived our whole life in is trust. Trust in ourselves. Trust in God or destiny or the Universe or whoever created us and is running things. Trust in our body to work and look as it was written in our DNA. Trust that we are always abundant in love, even if rejected, abandoned, and hurt by the ones we love. Trust that pain and suffering are a part of life and not to be feared because we also trust there is an abundance of good and joy in the world, no matter what our Twitter feeds tell us daily.

Slow down. Take deep breaths. Live in the present. Feel emotions and know none of them are wrong and all of them are valid and valued. We are not too much. We are not a burden. We matter. Our dreams and passions matter.

Our purpose is to live as our authentic self, love who we are exactly as we are, love others exactly as they are, and know our purpose will shift and change as our story weaves, waxes, and wanes through everywhere we’ve been and everywhere we are headed, no matter how long or short the story is.

Everything is happening as it is meant to. Listen to your gut. Listen to your heart. Take care of yourself. Be responsible for how you treat yourself and others and how your words and behavior affect others. And live in gratitude because really, we have been through hell, but we have never been defeated and we’ve truly never been unloved. There is nothing scarce in who we are, what life has given us, or what life still has left in store for us.

Love,

Me

Showing Up

There Is Only “Now”

A few weeks ago, as we were eating breakfast, I went to get a second piece of the quiche I made right as I finished the first, and John said, “Maybe you should wait before you eat anymore. It takes at least 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomachs are full.” I both felt enraged that he was spitting that diet mentality bullshit back at me and like I’d been stabbed in the heart. The look I gave him was enough to motivate him to get up and cut that second piece for me.

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I needed to say something to let him know that I cannot have him commenting on my eating habits like everyone else has my whole life. All I got out at the time was, “You sound just like my mom right now.”

While sitting there, barely acknowledging the piece of quiche I’d wanted just moments before while I ate it, I thought about my baby book. My mom gave it to me a couple of months ago. I remembered all of the notes about my weight she’d gotten from doctors and decided to hold onto as keepsakes. After breakfast, I grabbed that book and sat down on the couch opposite of John and started flipping through it.

I knew there were a lot of notes from my pediatrician about my weight in the book, but I was appalled to find out how far they went back.

The first one was dated September 28, 1984. My brother Adam wasn’t even a month old yet. I was about 2 weeks shy of my 2nd birthday. I first remembered being conscious of my body and weight around 5 years old, but it turns out the seeds were planted much earlier on. In the notes, my then pediatrician told my mom to carefully watch my weight. She, with her own lifelong history of disordered thinking around her body and weight, took that shit seriously and never stopped until just recently.

When I finished reading note after note about watching my weight, I looked at John and said, “I have never been able to have any peace with my body or with food. I never got to learn how to intuitively eat. I’ve never been allowed to trust my body. My weight and what I eat has been a topic of great concern and commentary my entire goddamn life.”

I have been thinking about this ever since, and unpacking the trauma behind it all. I have a lot of internalized fatphobia around it that I am continuously unpacking as well.

I have been obsessed with my weight and body my whole life because I thought I had to be, to seem like I was paying attention to it and working on it to make other people happy. I’ve been blogging about it since October 1, 2001. I’m beyond exhausted over it all and just want to stop.

I told John today that I don’t give a shit what people think of my body when I’m out in a swimsuit at the pool or beach, but that was a lie. Today, I almost didn’t go to the pool when I heard a couple of teenagers talking and playing in it. Then I turned away from them, like I turn away from John even though he knows what my body looks like from all angles, to take my pants off, took a deep breath before I turned around, walked to the edge, and jumped into the pool.

I worry about people thinking I’m pregnant because my belly sticks out a lot in comparison to my proportionate chest, hips, thighs, and shoulders.

I worry about John telling me, “Okay, this is about as fat as I can stand you. You need to lose weight.”

My brain continues to remind me that it doesn’t believe that I can take care of myself without the strictness of weighing myself and counting calories.

I talk about others never allowing me any peace or trust in my body, but I don’t have it for myself either. I instead run a continuous loop of all of these scenarios in my head to prepare myself for the comments of others that never come and if they did, do not define me.

I decided to take the above pics tonight to make a statement to myself to stop looking at myself as some project to fix and a body I can’t fully inhabit until it is societally acceptable. There is nothing wrong with it, nothing that deems me unlovable, but yet…

I have stopped dancing because I don’t like seeing my belly and thighs flopping all around when I shake my hips.

I have stopped wearing some of my favorite dresses because they still fit but more snugly around my belly.

I always wear leggings under my dresses because I don’t like how lumpy my legs are and because my thighs merge into one large mass when there is no fabric between them.

I am always making jokes about how fat I am in front of John.

Last week, I listened to @the.holistic.psychologist’s (Instagram) inner child meditation on YouTube. In it, you envision walking up to your childhood home (in my case, my grandmother June’s house since my parents moved every 2 years until they divorced), seeing the little child version of yourself, taking them by the hand, walking through the house and seeing every room, walking back outside, kneeling down to the child’s level, holding them, and telling them, “You are safe, you are loved, you are wanted, you are enough.”

I felt a wall of resistance at the beginning of the meditation. I thought, No, this is dumb. This is stupid. I can’t do this. I can’t meditate. I can’t get the breathing right. I don’t want to do this, but I persisted. Just at the point of holding my little child version’s hand and going into the house sent sobs wracking through my body. I could see every room in that house, and I heard June and Lib in the kitchen, but I didn’t see anyone. I could feel all of the pain, trauma, shame, and tension that I lived in at that time and for years to come. Coming back out and kneeling to about 5 or 6-year-old me, hugging her, and saying those words, more sobs came out instead of the words.

I never felt safe in that house. It was impossible to with all of the fighting and dysfunction and two uncles who made me feel very aware and very protective of my body while also very ashamed of it.

I never felt loved or wanted by parents. I only felt in the way. Hearing my mom say years later that I was too emotional, a burden, and that neither her nor my dad wanted me when they got divorced felt like a confirmation of that lack of love I felt from them and that it was my fault.

I never felt secure then and I don’t now. I know that’s why I go so all-or-nothing and fantasize that if I could just lose weight/get out of debt/find a husband/find a job I love/etc. as fast as possible, I can finally relax and enjoy my life. And life doesn’t work like that.

The peace I want isn’t just about being able to eat without diet advice or commentary. The trust isn’t about just preventing myself from binge and emotional eating so I don’t get any fatter.

This is all about grounding myself in who I am so that I don’t base my identity on how others see, think, or feel about me.

It is like those poles you see at the beach that tell you how high the storm surge of each category of hurricanes can get that actually survive the hurricane with the marks to show disaster assessors how high the waves got during the peak of the storm. I want to be firmly planted but able to bend and sway in the wind without snapping in two.

A friend of mine recently said my “color” (fire) seems to dim more and more every year, and she questioned if my marriage has played a role in that.

I don’t believe it is my marriage itself, but my expectations of myself in our marriage and my issues with codependency and people-pleasing. (This is not about the conflicts in my marriage that relate to both of us, and I’m not bearing all of the responsibilities and blame in them either.)

This is about me always putting myself and my desires on the back burner, something I have done my entire life. Spending more time wanting to be a different person, or at least have a different person’s body because I’ve been convinced my whole life that mine is wrong and flawed. About me still believing I am too much and being afraid of shining too brightly. About me being so intent on developing relationships with others that I don’t have the time or energy to develop the lifelong one with myself.

I’ve wanted to felt seen, known, and heard my whole life, yet I procrastinate and do everything I can to avoid allowing the person to see, know, and hear me to be me. I ache to be encouraged, celebrated, and affirmed, but withhold those things from being done by me. I thought the other night that I keep looking back at the me John found more attractive nearly eight years ago that I don’t stop to acknowledge how much I’ve been through in those eight years and that maybe, quite possibly, I’m a completely different, but stronger and better, person now. And that being in this relationship was the catalyst that made me face a lot of the trauma and associated emotions that only being with someone else, no matter who it was, could help me face and heal from.

Last Friday, I quit my second job in the past year and a half because it wasn’t right for me. I went against my gut yet again and wound up with a boss I had doubts about from the get-go. Again, settling and selling myself short. However, in this one, I began to find my voice and speak up for myself. I also decided to trust that my debt will get paid off, but that it is better that it is not at the expense of my mental or physical health. I am very fortunate as well that John is a supportive husband and has the means to cover the majority of our living expenses while I figure out what to do next.

First step is that it is time to get to know myself. To spend my free time alone and start not only hearing myself, but actually listening. To live fully in and enjoy my body as it currently is because no matter what, it will change numerous times throughout the remainder of my life. To write and maybe learn to meditate or at least figure out how to slow the swirling thoughts down in my head. To find things that scare me and do them.

To enter into a peace treaty with myself and decide okay, I am going to trust myself.

My goal this summer is to take life as it comes each day and take myself just as I am in those days because “now” is all I really have.

Showing Up

Self-Care & Self-Sabotage

For the past month, I have been keeping a food/mood log to write down what I eat, my hunger levels before and after I eat, and my mood when I eat. For the first couple of weeks, this was really helpful. I was more in tune with my body, understood why I wanted certain foods at certain times, and felt like my body and I were finally beginning to work together.

But then something went haywire.

I don’t know if was my stomach being so upset and angry following up to my period or what, but I find myself ignoring my body again and going against it. And my moods are all over the place. I will start off the day in a really great, excited mood and then hit the bottom of the barrel by the end of the day, angry and sullen.

I refuse to allow myself to feel good for a long period of time or to celebrate any progress or to acknowledge and appreciate where I am.

I just fucking hate everything, including myself, when I get into these moods.

And I want to binge eat. I want to eat pizza and ice cream even if I am stuffed to the gills and my body aches afterwards like it does today. It’s like in the middle of it, my body is demanding for me to listen to it, “we’ve come so far, Amy!”, and I am like, “Fuck you, I don’t want to hear it.” And then I eat too much and I physically hurt and then I feel awful the rest of the night.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Why can’t I allow myself some self-validation, self-acknowledgment, and self-compassion? Why am I holding that impossible and ever-moving measurement stick to MYSELF? Why am I treating myself the way I was treated my whole life, a way that shattered me into millions of pieces over and over again? Why do I refuse to see the good in my life, to see where I am loved?

I really don’t know but I am so over it all today. My whole body aches from trying to smother all of this anger and sadness with food last night and from not being able to sleep well from the pain. And like I mentioned before, anytime my stomach aches, I start cramping around all of the endometriosis in my pelvis so that’s happening too.

I have had it beaten into my brain so long that my body is not okay, that I am not okay, that I can’t seem to think anything else. I just keep expecting to be treated and leered at and made fun of like I always was growing up even though that never happens anymore. Nothing I could’ve done then or could do now would give me the acceptance and validation from those people who constantly belittled me about my body that I still so desperately want. I mean, if I wasn’t fat, it’d be something else. Even now, it isn’t so much about being fat than me not thinking along the same lines as them politically and religiously.

I think everyone sees me and my body the way those people did and it casts a big, black shadow on all of my relationships, including the one with myself.

I still want to punish my body for things that were never supposed to be seen as wrong, like its size and shape and how it works or doesn’t work.

Maybe I still don’t believe I deserve healing or to have a healthy relationship with anyone, including myself.

I haven’t gone to the gym in about 2 or 3 weeks and every day, I’m like, okay, go today, and then I go home instead. I want to start running again, but just go home instead. I have a bike now and the weather is nice, so it’s like, go ride your bike, but then I make my stomach hurt and I sit inside instead.

I wish I could stop being like this. I don’t even want to post this blog post. I don’t know how to take care of myself when I feel like this – so agitated and angry. I feel like I can’t communicate with my body or anyone else. I am so stuck in my head that it exhausts me and I can’t travel any further through my body.

How do I get out of this whirlwind of self-loathing and self-pity and how do I stop sabotaging myself? How do I allow myself to believe I am worth all of the effort I make to have a better relationship with my body, food, friends, family, John? How do I focus on validating and acknowledging myself without worrying so much about getting the same from others? How do I focus on my needs and feeling like they’re worth to be spoken aloud?

I am in a lot of pain today, probably more so emotional than physical though the physical pain is there too.

What do I do on days like this?

How do I take care of myself when I want nothing to do with myself?

I am so tired of feeling this way.

 

Beautiful You

Day 12 – Beautiful You – Realize That Your Dissatisfaction is Not About Your Body

Stories

The past several days have been really rough for me. I let my depression and anxiety and the negative thoughts that come with them destroy my peace of mind. I shut myself off from friends and John. I woke up crying yesterday and then really broke down when John pulled me out of bed and asked me what was wrong.

While thoroughly soaking the shoulder of John’s nice shirt with my tears (and snot, sorry), he told me about an article he read on a study of learned helplessness in dogs (it is so sad, I can’t even write it out here, but look it up if you’re curious) and how the only way the researchers could get them to get up and eat and move instead of cower in fear of being shocked over and over again was to grab them up by their back legs and pull them up.

When he finished telling me about the article, he said, “I’m not sure how this applies to you, but it came to mind.”

I replied, “Are you saying someone needs to grab me up by my legs and make me move?”

He responded (paraphrased because I can’t remember his exact words), “I think you feel like you can’t go anywhere or do anything because you don’t have a job yet or extra money so you wind up doing nothing and feel like shit.”

This is true. This is the story I’ve told myself over and over again. I don’t deserve to do anything. I can’t afford to do anything. I need to be applying for jobs 24/7.

This past week, I think I got dressed and left the house twice. My sleep schedule got all screwed up. John said when he left for work at 2p, I was in my PJs in my usual spot on the couch and when he got home at 4a, I was in the same PJs and in the same spot, and to him, that screams that I’ve given up even though he says he knows better. I don’t think he’s totally wrong though. In a lot of ways, I have given up lately.

This past week, I let the negative, critical, demeaning stories I tell myself break me and leave me sobbing in my husband’s arms for 30 minutes. (Progress though: I used to never be able to cry in front of anyone else, and John has grown in leaps and bounds at showing empathy instead of immediately trying to fix the situation.)

The crying helped though. Right before John pulled me out of bed, I was lying there picturing a town filling with water, flooding with no way for the water to escape. And as soon as I started crying, I saw the dam break and the waters flow out. Sometimes, no answers can be found, no relief can be felt until the tears come. This is something I wish I knew and honored growing up, but with my family, I understand why it took so long for me to know and honor.


From Beautiful You, by Rosie Molinary, the Day 12 prompt which plays into a lot of what I’ve been feeling most of my life:

TODAY: In your “Beautiful You” journal, consider that your dissatisfaction is not about your body. When you accept that thought, what comes to mind? What is your dissatisfaction really about? What is trying to tell you? What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment?

All right, let’s do this.

When you accept that thought, what comes to mind?

That I’ve made my body my excuse and scapegoat for most of my life and punished it for something it never did.


What is your dissatisfaction really about?

Fear. I often blame my weight and body for why I can’t do the things I love, like sing or dance in front of others. I blame it for an unsatisfying sex life. I blame it for not allowing me to be stylish and beautiful even though there are plenty of adorable clothes in my size. I blame it for not being able to do the physical activities I love without struggle, like hiking and running, even though I can definitely be athletic and fat because I was for the first 20 years of my life. I blame it for why I didn’t get to have fun in high school and have boyfriends and etc. and kept myself at home instead.

My dissatisfaction is in my fear of being seen, making mistakes, looking stupid, being a beginner and what others think of me. What’s crazy is, John told me yesterday that NOT doing what I want to do, and not my weight gain, is what causes him to be less attracted to me at times. No one wants to be around someone who lives like a bump on a log. I definitely don’t like me when I am being a bump on a log and can totally understand being unattractive to others for being this way.


What is it trying to tell you?

That it is not my body I often dislike, it is me. Because I know I am better than the person I allow the bullshit lies in my head make out to be. I know I am smart and capable. It’s telling me hiding myself with the idea that my life will finally be perfect and everyone will love me when I’m thin or out of debt or whatever is really what is wasting my life. It is telling me this is all I’ve got – this body and this life – and I can’t keep waiting for something that will never come.


What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment?

Like John told me yesterday, I GET to go outside. I have nothing keeping me from walking out the door and going wherever I want. I might not be able to afford the dance classes I want to take right now, but there’s YouTube and just putting on music and dancing in my living room. I want to work on realizing that there is so much I can do without a job or money and in my body as it is and to actually do it. Sitting in my dark apartment all day and night with no concept of time sure as shit isn’t cutting it for me and only adds to my greatest fear of wasting my life and not living it to the fullest.

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.

Beautiful You

Day 11 – Beautiful You – Realize That You Are Not Your Body

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

On Day 11 page of Rosie Molinary’s book Beautiful You, she writes about her struggles growing up with what others thought of her and how they defined her. In her twenties, she realized it was how she felt about herself – not how others felt about her – that defined her and helped her accept herself.

I wish I was there at 36, but I think I have made a lot of progress. Growing up, being thin seemed to equal being pretty, attractive, and feminine. With my broad shoulders and big belly, all the jokes were about how masculine I looked and carried myself and I was told I’d never be able or be loved by any “normal” man unless I was thin.

In my twenties, I learned how to dress myself better. My friend Sia taught me how to shop for clothes that flattered my body shape and showed me how to accessorize. I went from the teenage girl who went to class in overalls and a t-shirt, track pants and t-shirts, or jeans and t-shirts and who just wanted to be invisible to a woman who loves floral prints, loves dresses, and loves baring my shoulders which I see as beautiful and strong now. I don’t go out of my way to be visible – still don’t wear makeup or a lot of accessories – but I do try to present myself in a way that shows I care about myself and how I look even if I still struggle to feel beautiful and feminine in my body.

Rosie also talks about how a lot of our dissatisfaction comes from buying into the societal belief that we are our bodies, that all of our value lies in how we look. Like she writes, our bodies are simply vessels that take us through life, that allow us to experience the world. Our bodies change so much throughout our lives and can change significantly in one fell swoop that to put all of our eggs in one basket in regards to our value and self-acceptance is dangerous. How can we live fulfilling lives if we spend so much time trying to maintain a body type many of us were not born with and none of us can maintain throughout our lifetimes?

Like a lot of fat teenagers, I tried to focus more on being seen as funny, smart, and kind, someone people would “make an exception for” and “forgive” for not being all that aesthetically pleasing or able to fit in with a thin body. While it makes me sad how much I did this for the approval and acceptance of others instead of myself, it was a gift in that I developed a real personality and became a woman of great depth, introspection, empathy, and developed one hell of a sense of humor that has helped me survive so much of the trauma I’ve been through. And now those are things I appreciate, approve of, and love about myself even as I still worry too much at times about what others think of how I look.


Today: Embrace the notion that you are not your looks; that your value is greater than how you look. If you are at war with your body because you believe it should look different in order to fit some mainstream beauty standard, life will not be fulfilling. This not to say you shouldn’t care for your body and keep it in good operating order. In fact, you have a responsibility to do this. But if your project in life is to alter your looks, you are neglecting your purpose. In your “Beautiful You” journal, without mentioning your looks at all, explore what you really offer this world.

I am in the midst of a season of searching for a new job, my third in as many years, and the question of what I can offer has come up quite a bit as I write cover letters to convince an employer I am worth interviewing and hiring.

I have a tendency to sell myself short. As I look for jobs, I often find myself thinking, No way can I learn that or do that, like I didn’t teach myself Microsoft Office when I left my job with the State of Alabama where we were still in the Stone Age and using WordPerfect and Windows 95 and everyone else was using Office and at least Windows XP and like I didn’t get an administrative assistant job after a grueling in-basket assessment and four hours of brain draining behavioral “tell me about a time when…” interview questions.

What I offer this world is my open-mindedness and being teachable; my love for learning and the quick ability to do so; my transparency and honesty and self-awareness and willingness to be vulnerable at least on paper; my sense of humor and willingness to be goofy at my own expense but at the entertainment of others; my courage to keep digging at my struggles so openly in the hopes others feel less alone and like someone else understands what they’re going through; and my love for books, food (especially baking for others), singing, dancing, and traveling.

My mom calls me a “groundbreaker” and says no one can get people to open up and talk like I can (I say this is because I keep talking until they can’t take it anymore and start talking so I will shut up). John says I have helped him by calling him out on his shit as well as pushing him outside of his comfort zone. Where I was seen as too emotional growing up, I am now able to help others feel safe in showing their emotions by being unafraid to express mine. My mom now says my closeness to my emotions is a strength that everyone, including her, tried to break when I was growing up because they’d all been taught that to show emotion was weak and were overwhelmed by me having completely normal, healthy reactions to life (most of the time, anyway).

I hope I am seen as someone who wrings the most I can out of life even if I feel stifled by my financial situation, where I live, and sometimes my physical and mental health. I want to be as supportive, encouraging, gracious, and compassionate towards myself as I am towards others and to be as confident in myself and my abilities as I am of others.

I hope I am seen as authentic and genuine. I hope to grow in the courage to be more authentic, genuine, vulnerable, and trustworthy and to love myself as much as I love others. I don’t want to live the highlight reel where everyone thinks I have my shit together and I am perfect. The real life reel is hard, but it’s life, and I want to be relatable and to help people that way.

As the saying goes, “Life happens outside of our comfort zones,” and I am constantly hurtling myself way past my comfort zone so in the end, I at least know I tried everything I possibly could to make the most of my life. My offering to the world is the journey I take and who I become through it in the hopes someone else can learn and feel less alone from it.

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.

Beautiful You

Day 9 – Beautiful You – Consider What Your Words Are Really Saying

Danielle Koepe

I meant to post this yesterday, but wound up napping during the Iron Bowl (Roll Tide!) then again after dinner because I got very little sleep Friday night, so I didn’t get around to finishing it up. (I’m a light sleeper, John has a cold that has him stopped up and snoring like I don’t know what, and this is why we need to get the bed for our spare bedroom put together already so I can sleep there when I can’t sleep next to him.)

I went to bed about 9:30 or 10p last night and woke up at 4:45a and never could go back to sleep, so around 8a, I finally decided to just get up. I wound up having an idea that relates to this post, which you can read about on my Instagram page.

Onward to today’s writing prompt…


Today: As you begin to make Self-Appreciation Jar deposits for things you no longer want to be saying, take note of your words. What is it that you say about yourself? Why do you say it? What are your emotions when you say it?

Write it down in your “Beautiful You” journal, then consider what you are really saying. If “I am fat” is always coming to your lips, think those words through until you are holding some truth.

Are you unhappy with your weight because you would like to be more healthy – perhaps able to walk up stairs without losing your breath or get off a certain type of medication – or are you unhappy with your weight because it doesn’t meet a Hollywood standard of beauty?

By really examining the motivation behind your words, you can see the truth and act accordingly.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you and I didn’t get the numbering wrong.

As Rosie writes in the intro of the book, I skipped a day that didn’t really apply to me.

But it isn’t that it didn’t apply.

Day 8 was about creating a Self-Appreciation Jar and putting quarters in it for every critical thought to visualize how costly it is when we knock ourselves.

I have not done this because, well, I am unemployed and don’t have any extra change to toss into a jar. Also, with all of the thoughts that fly through my brain on a regular basis, there aren’t enough quarters or jars in the world to fill. Okay, maybe I just think that because I don’t realize once I started throwing money in, I might see how expensive these critical thoughts are and think, Hmm, maybe I should stop before it costs me everything.

Those expensive critical thoughts, however, go something like this:

I’m too fat.

I’m going to wind up having diabetes or dying of heart disease because I won’t lose weight.

I will never have a fulfilling life.

I am a boring, uninteresting person.

I am wasting my life.

I’m too lazy.

I’m not creative.

I am a failure.

I am stupid.

I will always be struggling financially.

John probably wishes he’d married someone else.

I am a burden and a drain.

I will never get my shit together.

Why do I say these things about myself?

Because I am constantly comparing myself to other people who seem to know what they’re doing and I come up short. I don’t know how to market myself or draw pretty graphics or write professionally or take beautiful photos. I keep settling for jobs that are emotionally draining because I keep chasing the feeling that being out of debt will make me feel better. (It does for a little bit, but like with losing weight without dealing with all of the emotional shit, it winds up being not enough when you haven’t really done the work to be smarter with your finances.) I look at other people my age and think they are so far “ahead” of me because they have good jobs, make enough money to enjoy doing things like travel without going into debt, and they own their own homes while I have none of those things at the moment.

Because I grew up in an environment where it was thought being mean and critical was the only way to teach someone to change their behavior and I carried those behaviors with me. I remember getting so angry at my dad because the only time he really paid attention to me as a kid was when I did something wrong and ignored me the rest of the time and his explanation was, “I figure when you’re behaving yourself and being quiet, it’s best to just leave you alone.” And now I pretty much do the same thing to myself and to John. I really struggle to bring light to the good in both myself and John and our marriage and tend to focus on what needs to be “fixed.”


How do I feel when I say those things?

Defeated. This morning, while trying to make myself sleepy enough to go back to sleep, I saw a post on Reddit that asked, “If you had killed yourself a year ago today, what would you have missed out on?”

Instead of answering that question, I thought instead back to 14 years ago when I had all but decided to kill myself after I finished college. I had so many of those same thoughts back then about my body (weighed what I weigh now but had zero cardiovascular endurance and walking more than to my car from my dorm made my whole body hurt), being a burden (this was around the time my mom told me I’d been one to her growing up), feeling so lazy and unambitious and like my college degree was a waste (I was so depressed I could barely function and just barely graduated), and I could not see my life ever being good. Everything hurt. Everything felt like shit.

I still feel like that sometimes, but when I think back to all I’ve done and all I’ve experienced in the past 14 years? Oh my god. Yeah, a lot of shitty stuff happened, but the good! I moved to Atlanta and started a life of my own. I met a man unlike any I grew up around whom I fell in love with and who loves me just as I am. I made such incredible friends. I now have a great relationship with my mom and my brothers and I are best friends and we love talking to each other and love the time we get to spend together. I’ve traveled places on my own. I’ve lived in a big city (Chicago makes Atlanta look like a small town). I’ve seen and played in snow (and lots of it)! I’ve read such great books and seen so much cool stuff and I’ve seen myself grow more and more into the person I wanted to be then but felt I never could.

Those thoughts are the “nothing” thoughts in my vicious all-or-nothing cycle. All I see are those words. Grace would tell me, “I am fat, but I am healthy and I feed myself nourishing food and move my body when I feel able to.”

I could apply “Yeah, but…” to just about anything.

The idea I had this morning instead of throwing quarters in a jar every time I have a critical thought about myself is a “How Did I Make Today A Day” list in my journal, on Evernote, or a scrap of paper. I am so much a “Today will be THE day” about eating healthier, exercising, saving money, not spending, looking for jobs, etc., and when I do something that feels like a mistake (eat ice cream for dinner, lie on the couch all day, buy something online or at Target, etc.), I send myself into a shame spiral and wind up on a quest to numb my feelings, which means binge eating or shopping with my credit card or whatever.

So on this note, I will write things like “Took Missy for a walk around the apartment complex,” “read a book outside on my settee,” “applied for one job/spent 30 minutes looking for jobs to apply for,” “uninstalled Ebates from my phone so I wouldn’t go online shopping out of boredom and buy something for the cash back,” and etc.

Social media, television, books, and more lead us to believe we live life on a rigid timeline. By 25, we’re supposed to be married. By 35, we are supposed to be established in a career. By 40, we should have two children. As a late bloomer who started her period a month before her 14th birthday while all of her friends started around their 10th and 11th birthdays and who didn’t get her first kiss or have sex for the first time til just prior to her 29th birthday, I know damn well there’s no real timeline.

There’s no one way to have a body.

Debt is not the worst thing in the world (though man, it must be nice to not have any).

NO ONE has their shit completely together because there’s really no such thing because no one is perfect.

EVERYONE is figuring things out as they go along.

What is meant to happen in my life will happen. Like Liz Gilbert says, my boat will not leave without me.


What am I really saying?

I want to lose weight because I want to feel lighter in my body. What I mean is, it is really hard to do the activities I want to do, like hike and run and cycle, with 270 pounds on my back, hips, and knees. It hurts. I have really fucking strong legs because they hold up this weight, but the weight causes me a lot of pain. Funny, but painful story: One time, John and I were hiking Kennesaw Mountain and when I jumped off a rock, my BELLY SLAPPED THE TOPS OF MY THIGHS. Like slapped so hard, John looked around thinking someone had fallen somewhere. I screamed from the sharp pain then started laughing and told John what happened.

I don’t want to be super skinny and know I will likely never be thin. I want to be able to do the activities I love without feeling so heavy and weighed down.

I want to be out of debt so the money I make is mine to do the things I want to do and so I can also help others. I am so tired of giving my money to these huge banks and credit card companies because I couldn’t afford what I wanted and had to borrow money from them. I am not a victim to them by any means. I am just tired of depending on them.

I want to be creative and smart and know how to market myself because I want to work for myself and be my own boss. I am tired of working for someone else and putting all of my efforts towards something I don’t ever really reap the benefits of. My last boss called us admins her “factory.” Cogs in the machine. I am tired of being the factory for someone else.

I keep getting myself stuck in the “I don’t know how” phase of each of these goals. I know the statistics to regarding weight loss, getting out of debt, and working for myself, and they all say failure is all but guaranteed. I want to stop seeing failure as a sign I shouldn’t bother trying. That there are no lessons to be learned in failure. That there is no success in failure when successful people fail more than anyone.

Being alive means there is a 100% chance of failure at some point, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t try. To not try is a failure in its own right.

I want to write down my daily steps in the direction of grace and compassion and accomplishments, not charge myself a fee for every negative thought because those charges will only feed further into the debt I feel myself in throughout every aspect of my life.

And if some days I don’t do anything at all because I couldn’t even get out of bed, I will write down, “I’m still here and that’s the most important gift of all.”

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.

Beautiful You

Day 3 – Beautiful You – Consider How You Feel About Yourself

Self-compassion, beautiful you, rubyetc_, rosie molinary

Sorry this post is a little late. I spent most of the day in bed then the rest on the couch.

I typically consider myself lucky with my endometriosis because I don’t have the debilitating pain many others with it suffer from. While my pain hasn’t been debilitating by any means, I haven’t felt so lucky this week. Mostly tired and uncomfortable with an ache in my lower back, pelvis (mostly on my left side), and pain while bearing down to pee (on my left side). That is where the endometriosis largely resided when I had my diagnostic surgical procedure in January 2014 and it seems things have not changed.

But anyway.

In the Day 3 entry, Rosie writes that “the Beautiful You journey is meant to help [me] enhance [my] self-awareness while boosting [my] self-esteem and sense of body satisfaction.” The question today is to help me understand where I’ve been and where I currently am so I can better understand where I want to go. You can’t get where you’re going til you know where you’ve been, right?


Today’s Question: In your “Beautiful You” journal, answer these questions. How do you feel about yourself? Why is that the case? What will a healthy sense of self and a healthy life give to you?

I feel like I constantly sell myself short. Anytime I set goals for myself, I immediately think, How long til I give up on this one?

I have an awful, life-long habit of biting my nails. It is a compulsion. I also bite the skin on my fingers – top, sides, back. I think the longest I have ever gone without biting my nails is a month, for the belly dance show in March 2011 that I mentioned in the post prior to this one.

My hands are rough, my nails are ragged, and I am embarrassed when anyone looks at my hands.

I have tried manicures. I have lotions. Nothing helps. There is just something soothing about biting my nails and the skin on my fingers.

When I drove 200 miles a week to work at my last job, all I did the entire drive to and from work was chew on my fingers and nails. If not them, the inside of my bottom lip or cheek.

Whenever I set a goal to stop biting my nails, it lasts about a day before I am making up for lost time.

The same thing happens when I makes goals to exercise, drink water, eat healthy, or other self-care goals. I immediately lose all desire to get off the couch; I drink everything but water; I dive headfirst into the bowl of leftover Halloween candy even though I feel sick and don’t even want any of it because of all of the sugar.

I sabotage myself constantly. I think of things I’d love to do then immediately decide it’s too hard. I look up jobs I might like to apply for then think there’s no way I can do that kind of work. I want to learn how to apply makeup and do different things with my hair besides just put it in a ponytail, but decide I don’t feel like doing it. I want to pay off my credit card debt and save money, but then wind up spending $100 on clothes I will probably donate within the next 6 months because I didn’t really love them and didn’t have the energy to return them.

I have a college degree and nearly two decades of admin experience and yet I am still doing entry-level work and making under $40K a year. I don’t even really like doing admin work. I like talking to people, proofreading and editing, and doing some data entry, but that’s about it.

I am nearing 40 years old and I feel like I am still in my early 20s. Not physically as my body lets me know daily that we are moving into middle age, but mentally and emotionally. I do not feel like I have my shit together and I don’t feel like I know how to.

I don’t know even know what having my shit together looks like. Is it having my debt paid off? Buying a house? Looking and being a more desirable, sexier partner to John? Having a job that pays more than $15/hour? Being well-traveled? Well-read? Knowing how invest the little bit of money I have? Knowing what shoes goes with what dress and how to do the perfect smokey eye? Being able to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes?

I feel like I was given no real sense of direction growing up except, “Okay, Amy, anything your family does or says to do, do the exact opposite.” Really, all that means is, don’t live and decide with fear as a motivator.

I felt like I couldn’t just enjoy what I enjoyed growing up. Everything was up for criticism. The fear I grew up in told me I had to earn that joy by being perfect and if I couldn’t be perfect, there was no point in even trying.

I have had more “day 1” days than I can count. I cannot tell you how many times I have just said, “Oh, fuck it. I will just start over on Monday.” Whether that is with a diet, exercise program, journaling, not biting my nails, or whatever, I am forever chasing after a blank slate. Just let me start over again, I will get it right this time.

This is exhausting and defeating. I am a pretty hopeful person and not averse to taking risks these days, but this constant self-sabotage and need for perfectionism has been brutal for me.

I am the only person holding me back. I am the one selling myself short.

What would a healthy sense of self and healthy life give me? So much.

I could set goals and be okay with myself if I veered off course from time to time because life is not linear. I could stop this back and forth of being super harsh and super enabling towards myself and my bad habits and have some grace for myself. I could have days where I eat lots of fruits and veggies and drink my water then spend the next day eating cake and drinking soda and realize this is just life and I am allowed to do both.

I could fucking relax for once.

Maybe even enjoy the things I enjoy without looking for a way to monetize them or legitimatize them. It really is okay to spend my time writing things no one will ever see or dancing or singing in the shower and not being exactly on rhythm or key. I could go for a walk or go cycling and not worry about whether I met some step goal or burned some exact amount of calories. I could bake cookies just because I want a goddamn cookie. I could sit and watch television all day long and not feel like being lazy is a bad thing.

I could finally just do things for the sake of doing them and not overanalyze them to the point I don’t even want to bother, I feel like shit, and I think I’m the worst person in the world and wasting my precious life. All of that overanalyzing is the actual waste.

Maybe I could even learn how to eat just one piece of candy and not eat way past the point of enjoying the candy because now I’ve got to eat them so they’re gone and they’re no longer around to tempt me because I can’t control myself and eat just one piece of candy.

Maybe I could stop thinking that the most important thing in the world is how much money I have, whether I am out of debt or not, and stop comparing myself to everyone else my age and where they are and what they have financially.

And maybe, most importantly of all, I can understand that I will veer towards the extremes at times but I can have the compassion to guide myself back to the middle.

I often feel like I don’t know what healthy means. I didn’t see it growing up. Not in physical health. Not in financial responsibility. Not in relationships. When I think of all of the work I have done on myself since I was a teenager and all of the work John and I have put into our marriage, I think healthy might just mean a willingness to show up and do the work. To see every conflict as a growth opportunity. To address fears and work through them anyway.

I just want to show up for myself. I have shown up for everyone else in my life. I want to show up for myself and give myself the same grace and compassion I have given so many others. I mostly want to be able to relax and enjoy my life too.

If I can do all of this, if this is a healthy life and sense of self, it will be the most rewarding thing I have ever done.