We are so glad to have Sarah Anderson write a guest blog post for Love Average! Sarah Anderson, founder of Beautiful Health Within, is an Emotional Eating Expert, Coach & Writer. She provides food therapy to emotional eaters all over the country to stop dieting and achieve freedom from food addiction. Visit www.beautifulhealthwithin.com to learn more.
THE IMPERFECT POSE
I am a recovering perfectionist. Once upon a time and not so long ago, every day was a constant struggle to be the best at whatever I put my mind to. If I couldn’t be the best, I didn’t want to do it. There was simply no point. I was actually proud of my perfectionism – thinking it was what gave me the drive to be successful.
And then I started practicing Yoga. I was fortunate enough to have one-on-one sessions with a private instructor, Kara. Kara is this sweet, patient, giving woman and I am a thunderstorm. I had never been very flexible and trying to perfect those poses seemed damned near impossible. As you can imagine, those Yoga sessions made me seriously frustrated. There were days when I would lash out at sweet, patient, giving Kara, angry at her for making me attempt these insane poses that clearly no normal person could ever actually accomplish - furious that she was setting me up for failure.
Though I wasn’t flexible, I’ve always been strong – sturdy is actually more exact. During every balancing pose, the perfection demon in my brain would scold me over and over, “You better not fall over. It’s ridiculous that this is so hard for you. Just muscle it.” But, you can’t muscle tree-pose. Pigeon was even worse. Through excruciatingly deep pain that seemed to reach into the pit of my soul, the perfection demon would scream, “Just push harder! You’re pathetic and weak. You can’t even get your leg to a 45 degree angle, how will you ever get it to 90 degrees? What’s wrong with you?!” Harsh words, I know. Perfectionism is no fun. I had good days and bad days in my war with Yoga, but one question always surfaced – am I doing this right?
I remember saying to Kara, “I don’t care if it hurts, just tell me if I’m doing it right.” Then one day she blew my mind, “There is no right way. You do the pose the way your body is built to do the pose.”
No right way? Unfathomable! This whole time, I’ve been working my butt off to be the best yogi ever and now I find out there isn’t even a competition!
It’s taken a lot of years for that mindset, no right way, to sink in. It’s not even all the way in yet, but I’m getting there. I still have trouble sometimes when I go to a Yoga class and see all those flexible people – you know, those ones that have no problem with standing split or turning their bridge into wheel. The ones that make Yoga look like dancing through a field of daisies while it usually feels to me like mining for coal. Yoga can definitely feel like a competition then. But that’s why Yoga is a perfect practice in imperfection – when I hear that perfection demon whispering in my ear, I remind myself that the only right way to do Yoga is to do it to the best of my ability. I still suck at tree pose, and that’s ok.
You see, I have to keep refocusing on no right way because my experience with Yoga is a reflection of life. To truly accept ourselves, we must understand that there is no right way to be – there is no perfect formula. Again, I used to be proud to be called a perfectionist, but the reality of it is, perfectionism didn’t help me to be successful. It did just the opposite – it exhausted me and made me feel worthless. I could not try if there was the slightest chance of failure.
Perfectionism is a symptom of self-judgment and unjust comparison to others – these are ways that we show a lack of compassion toward ourselves. We get so wrapped up in how we should be, that we forget to appreciate who we are. It’s easy to get lost in the shoulds in life – I should be thinner, I should get up earlier, I should make more money. But as my therapist says, “Don’t should on yourself.” That lack of compassion depletes us and makes it nearly impossible to be compassionate to others – we cannot give what we do not have.
Whenever I notice that I’m comparing myself to others or beating myself up for not being good enough, I remember my mantra of non-judgment: I am exactly the way I am supposed to be to achieve my purpose. That means I am the right amount of THIN, the right amount of SMART, the right amount of CREATIVE, the right amount of FUNNY for what I am meant to offer the world right now in this moment– even if I don’t know what that offering or purpose is supposed to be.
When we insist on being perfect according to the world’s standards, we don’t allow our own individuality with all our quirks and gifts and yes, even flaws, to shine through. That doesn’t mean that we mustn’t improve ourselves. Self-improvement is growth. Every living thing must continue to grow or it will die. Growth is an act of self-LOVE, not a sentence handed down because we are unworthy. Self-improvement is not a punishment for imperfection. It is a reward – it is the acceptance of a soul that is lovely and vibrant and undeniably needed for the world to turn. The only way to be truly perfect is to be exactly and unabashedly who you are.
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Even Jessica Alba, who was has been labelled as one of the world's sexiest women, experiences body dissatisfaction. If you're anything like me, you might be rolling you eyes right about now, but I do think this sheds a lot of light on the type of society that we live in. Regardless of shape, size or how beautiful the world may perceive us, girls and young women are taught to never be satisfied with what they look like, with the bodies they have. It is also important to note that it is very clear that genes play a huge factor is determining the types of bodies we have!
Alba told UK fitness magazine this month that “I have cellulite and stretch marks — and I have a muffin top.” While we may not see these things (thanks to Photoshop, makeup, etc.) I am sure she isn't perfect...in fact no woman is perfect! We are told by society that we should feel bad about ourselves if we aren't perfect, yet perfection is a myth. It's definitely difficult for celebrities and actresses to avoid the extra pressure they get for keeping in shape or getting back to their pre-baby bodies. Alba reportedly wore two girdles following the birth of her second child and said that it was "brutal" and "sweaty, but worth it." Obviously in the world of celebrities being almost unable to breathe is worth getting back to being skinny for their jobs. Is it, though?
Genes also play a definite factor in how fast baby weight is lost. Just look at the celebrities who take more time than "others" to get rid of the extra pounds after giving birth. Jessica Simpson and Hilary Duff are a few examples of celebrities who took time and slowly lost the weight by exercising and eating balanced. Those celebrities who lose the weight quite fast put a lot of pressure on Average women who have given birth. These Average women will compare themselves to celebrities which enevitably leads to body dissatisfaction!
I find it somewhat contradicting when Alba wrote on her blog that "Before having Honor and Haven, I was super-critical of my looks and worried more about inevitable changes to my body. I couldn't even say the word 'sexy' to describe myself without feeling funny and awkward." She added that she now feels more comfortable in her body when she explains that "Becoming a mom has definitely made me feel more confident and secure than I ever did in my 20s. Even though I can't ever get down to my pre-baby weight before having Honor, my jeans don't zip up the same way, and things just hang differently (all moms know how that goes!), I feel completely comfortable in my skin and my idea of perfection has changed." But has it really? After she had her last child she was wearing two girdles to "fix" her body! She concluded by saying that "Through motherhood I really came into my own and, for me, feeling sexy is all about this type of comfort, confidence, and true happiness." Okay I can understand this. Maybe she is learning that all these things do not solely come from the way we look. I guess all of us experience days where we feel amazing and days where we just feel like crap.
What do you think? Do typically "skinny" and "beautiful" girls experience the same level of body image pressure than other Average women?
A lot of what we see in the media is extremely Photoshopped! Everything from wrinkles, to hair, to curves, it's all "perfected" by Photoshop software.
Recently, a Japanese website took an image of a man dressed as a woman and challenge a professional Photoshop artist to improve the photograph. While the artist felt he was unable to "fix" the image, many others on the internet wanted to try their hand at manipulating the image. Check out some of these attempts here.
Pretty good huh? If Photoshop artists are this great, it is no wonder so many girls and women suffer from body dissatisfaction. The images of women represented in the media are so far from life like, it's not even funny. As an amateur photographer, I love using Photoshop to alter lighting and remove the odd pimple or two from pictures but I believe that changing images entirely is wrong. Photographers need to find the beauty in all of their subjects and the media/advertising world needs to stop manipulating those images!
Just look up "Photoshop Fails" to see the many people who feel the need to alter their own images and unfortunately are called out and made fun of because of it. But do you really blame them? How can we teach young girls to love themselves and their bodies if they are competing with a computer manipulated image? Here are some images of "Photoshop Fails."
Please note that I am not posting these to make fun of the people in the pictures, but rather I am trying to make a point about how much our society is affected by what they see in the media. Be aware that making fun of these pictures is a form of bullying and it is hurtful. There are even mistakes are made in the professional advertising world when images are edited. The pressure is so high to be perfect that girls feel the need to do this, it's just not right.
What do you think about Photoshop? Have you ever used it to alter your own pictures?
Have you seen the latest Lady Gaga video that has hit the internet? If you haven't, check out the video at the end of this blog post. Lady Gaga is video taped doing the Abramovic Method with performance artist Marina Abramovic. The goal of this method is to heighten physical and mental awareness in the moment. It sure looks weird, but we already know that Gaga likes to break the barriers of what society considers normal and likes to challenge us to be ourselves and be different.
I am really glad that Lady Gaga did this video because although it seems a bit odd, it showed the world that she looks like an Average girl underneath all her clothes! Those boobs are definitely real, am I right? What I'd like to rant about is the way the media is talking about this story! I turned on TMZ today and heard the comments from the guys about her nice boobs and how she is completely hairless, "like completely", as stated with stupid grins on their faces. TMZ is notorious for being sexist and just plain old rude yet we keep watching television programs like these for "entertainment" purposes (if you continued watching you would witness a clip of Kate Upton walking down the runway to a guy's voice..."Boinga Boinga Boinga"). It's such a shame that the media takes advantage of what girls enjoy (celebrities!) and turns it into something sexist and rude. The media feeds into our very own perceptions of our body image which is such a problem because the media judges women and holds them up to unrealistic standards. Hence the excitement from the round table over Gaga's hairlessness.
While I think it's every girl's right to wear their hair however they want...on their head or otherwise...I think it's important to point out that these fashions are determined by the media. I can just see it now, "hey, how can we think of another way to make women hate their bodies? I know, let's promote wax and razors by telling them it's disgusting to have ANY body hair"! Yes, the media has created insecurity among women about what is natural so that they can make money! They also have made it so that men desire what they see in the media, which is mostly hairless women. Talk about being forced! The practice of removing hair, specifically pubic hair, is clearly linked to the trend in pornography. While I'm not going to talk too much about all my issues with pornography and the issue I have with infantilizing women (that's for another post), I do think it's important to point out how ridiculous it is for men to gawk at a hairless celebrity. Like are they really surprised? Have you seen half of her costumes?
Anyways, I think it's important for Average girls to know that hair on the body is normal, even if it isn't accepted by society. Does that mean that I don't partake in hair removal practices? Nope, it's what I've been socialized to believe is right and my own ideas of outer beauty have been shaped by what I've learned. I do however understand why I think the way I do and I think being informed about why we do what we do is key to becoming satisfied with the bodies we've got! We've been taught that in order to be considered beautiful and feminine, we cannot have hair on our bodies (including our underarms, legs, arms and pubic area!). Removing hair has become a normal part of being female in society...it takes work, self governing and discipline to be a woman today and to be a man...well it takes a significantly less amount of work. We are taught to be the object of a man's attention and desire...and in order to be considered worthy of this attention, today we have to be hairless. Psht.
What do you think about this? What do you think life would be like without the "hairless" expectation? What would you do with all that spare time and money? What is the longest you've gone without shaving or waxing?
You Go Girls! After many complaints to retailer Children's Place regarding a sexist girls t-shirt, the company pulled the shirt from its shelves!
The shirt was titled "Best Subjects" and items checked off included Shopping, Music and Dancing; however Math was also listed but not checked off. At the bottom of the shirt it read: "Well, Nobody's Perfect."
This implied that girls are not good at math. Psht. Not cool Children's Place!
Children's Place tweeted that “We take feedback from our customers seriously. We pulled the tshirt from our stores and express apologies to anyone we may have offended.” The company also noted that “There are countless women… who excel in math, including our very own CEO.”
It seems we have a lot of smart women did the math when it came to deciding that this shirt was definitely 100% sexist and 0% feminist. Groups like Miss Representation called upon Average girls and women to speak up against the message this company was sending to young girls.
Miss Representation uses the hashtag #NotBuyingIt to call out sexism in the media and do they ever! I am an avid follower of their twitter and facebook accounts and it seems like every time someone spots something sexist...a few days later after Miss Representation calls girls into action...the products are taken off the shelves, replaced or modified to provide a more equal message. Now that is power in numbers! Whoever said girls can't do math?
Check out the Miss Representation website to see the latest on how you can help take action against harmful media messages!
It seems every once in awhile this debate sparks up again...is it okay for young girls to wear teeny, tiny bikini's? After thinking about this in depth, I still don't have a firm answer.
While I think every girl should be able to wear what she wants without fear of criticism (your body, your choice!) I do worry about what impression wearing one would give off. No, I'm not talking about how others will judge their bodies...I'm worried about the message the actual bikini is sending to them!
Our culture is shaped by dominant ideology about what is okay to wear, what is feminine, what is masculine...etc. What message are we sending to young girls? That they need to be sexy! Sexy = Landing a Man....and we are learning and teaching this so young! The sexualization of girls only reinforces the idea that women's bodies equal their worth and this should not be the message we are sending.
When talking to your daughter about bathing suits, if you are not allowing her to wear a bikini quite yet, make sure you tell her that it is not about what her body looks like or how revealing the suit may be. It' such a slippery slope because all girls should be allowed to wear what they want and wear what makes them feel good, however we have to remember WHY girls think these things make them feel and look good. As an adult, you have the ability to understand all of these factors but as a child you may not.
My advice is to not ever make a child feel shameful for either wearing or wanting to wear a bikini! Sometimes a simple compromise on bathing suit style and talking to her about making these decisions when she is older may help! Help your daughter love her body in any bathing suit style by focusing on teaching her about why her body is actually important (to walk, play, grow)...
I guess you could say is my problem is not with girls wearing bikini's...it's with the fact that they play a part in socializing them and setting them up for future body dissatisfaction and sexualization! What do you think?
Sarah Rubin is an avid Love Average reader who wanted to share her recovery story with all of our amazing followers! Sarah tells us her tale of surviving anorexia...thank you for being such an inspiration!
I never thought that I would see the day when I could walk up to a mirror and say ‘Sarah, you are beautiful.’ It has taken 26 years and I still have to work on it as part of my daily mantras. Like every girl and woman on this planet, I have constantly struggled with body image. I have spent many days staring emptily at my image, poking at my stomach, pulling at my hair, piling on makeup, in hopes that someday I would be perfect.
My thoughts eventually turned to obsessions; obsessions that almost claimed my life. In 2010 I was admitted into an eating disorder facility/ hospital for a horrible disease that had taken over my life; anorexia nervosa. For those who are not familiar, anorexia nervosa is a terrible disease in which a person refuses to eat and starves themselves. My disease also involved another component, obsessive exercising.
I would be at the gym for hours, and even stayed in the gym after fainting twice and exercised during a hurricane. I found myself saying, “If only I was 5 pounds thinner.” Five pounds became ten; ten became twenty; twenty became forty. I had never been so terrified and lonely in my entire life. I was so underweight that I could not function.
Eventually I had to make a decision; either to live or die. I made the hardest decision of my life and got on a plane and flew across the county to receive the best medical assistance I could. The message was finally clear; it was time to fight. It took three months of intensive weight restoration and therapy in order to mend some of the damage I had created. I am actively at a healthy weight and still fighting for recovery daily. Things are not perfect; but then again, perfectionism is not reality.
When I returned from the rehabilitation center, I realized that I had survived for a reason. I had always had a great talent as an environmental educator, so I decided that I would use my newly acquired optimism to serve the local youth and communities. I became the head of the education department at a small museum in a rural town in Maryland. My primary job was to act as a wildlife educator; someone who teaches the local public about local ecology and wildlife preservation. Within my time at the center, I have created daily environmental educational programming, summer academies for local high school children, and after school programming for fourth and fifth graders, where eighty percent of the families represented within the school district are below poverty level. During the summer of 2013, I have created partnerships with state and national parks, local museums, and resorts. With dedicated interns working by my side, my center and I have been able to make contact with thousands of visitors who are visiting Maryland’s eastern shore. My work does not stop there. I plan on offering several after school academies in the fall of 2013 and hope to receive funding for a traveling vehicle so that I can bring animals to students who cannot afford to visit my museum.
Overall, my life is fantastic. Throughout my programs I encourage children and their families to connect not only with nature but with themselves. I offer marine biology camps at my museum, where students have the opportunity to challenge themselves and do what they love. While I may not be a size 0 anymore, and I may have split ends and a pouch on my stomach, I am wonderful and I inspire young men and women to follow their dreams. I will continue to fight because all children should have a chance to love themselves and the world around them; all children are perfect just the way they are.
By Emily Lauren Dick, Average Girl: A Guide to Loving Your Body