What is a real Woman?

Am I a real Woman?

“Real women have curves.” You hear this from many different places. As “plus size” women do we try to over compensate by declaring ourselves better for having curves? Are we fighting against what has made us feel rejected for so long?

By saying real women have curves we are enacting the same “us, them” attitude that has gotten us into this mess in the first place.

Real women come in all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, races, talents, likes, dislikes. In fact, I would really like to take out the word “Real” all together. It implies that the opposite is somehow fake in some way. I have many friends without curves and I’m pretty sure they are real and I’m pretty sure they are “real” women.

Am I being too serious? Can’t we joke? Yeah, I mean believe it or not I am a jokester. But, as a society we have taken appearance and telling people what is or is not good wayyyyyyy beyond where it needs to go. But this is a serious issue in society and people do end up with eating disorders as a result of societal judgements. What role could humor serve though? Could making this issue more lighthearted among friends relieve some of the tense energy around it? I would say…maybe…and know your crowd.

I joke around with my friends all of the time in fact. We joke about our bodies, and everything really. But, to make wide-spread judgements and campaigns about what a real woman is or is not isn’t too funny to me.

So don’t worry  anymore, get out there. Be a woman. Do your thing. Owning your “woman-ness” has nothing to do with curves or not.

Appearances

I breathed in and out.

My breath an expression of a thousand moments of intimacy exchanged between us.

Of a thousand moments within myself.

A relief passes over me and through me as if letting go…or hanging on.

You draw conclusions from what you see and from what you hear.

Which will make the most impact?

Will it be the silent moments in between words unsaid?

I worry about people’s thoughts of me still. (Sometimes)

Not that they will appear to know me through their first impressions…

but that they will fail to know me through their judgements.

Will we both miss out, then, on this experience like coming to a river and failing to feel the water between our toes?

Will you know my heart?

Will my soul speak to you in the moments that it speaks its truth?

Will my truth ring loudly in your ears?

What do you see beyond my outward manifestation?

Do you see me…Do you see who I am?

I am still here.

Taking a leap while still having fear and not having all of the answers.

Taking a leap while still having fear and not having all of the answers.

I want to admit something…I love having answers. I have always loved this. Is love the right word? I have always been drawn to pondering to wondering to asking the questions. My parents tell me as a child one of my favorite sayings was, “but why?” Still to this day that remains with me. And now as an adult, I understand that we can never know the entirety of any answer. Be it all the viewpoints in a disagreement, or the the way the human liver works. I think as I “relax” into adulthood, I have come to realize that this constant need to intellectually know has held me back at times. Be it, in my career or in my personal growth and facing my eating disorder. I have felt so often the need to get a perfect answer. My need to have the perfect answer to things has also, at times, translated into wanting to “be perfect.” What is this drive for perfectionism? It is a roadblock to happiness that’s what it is.

My need for perfectionism could be seen in my early days of counting every calorie down to the very last one, or weighing myself 6 times a day to see if I had gained or lost any weight. I also sometimes found myself stuck in my work at school because it would never be perfect enough or “complete enough.” This need to perfect something takes away the joy and the awe for actually experiencing it. To deconstruct every detail takes away from the wholeness of the thing itself. I was slowly breaking myself into pieces. I was reducing myself to how well I “followed a diet.” Thinking about this now I actually get tears in my eyes.

I was and am so much more than how I do one particular thing. I feel my heart beating now and I know my capacity to love. I know that the moments I sit in love with my family and friends, that I am realizing my true self. As I type these words, I feel deep gratitude that instead of being stuck in this place of self criticism, I have somewhat been freed.

However, recently, I have been wanting to take on new endeavors. I have not felt “ready” to do so. Many deep loving friends have encouraged me and think I am crazy for believing I am not ready. One of the things I have come to know is that people may never be truly 100% ready when a challenge arrises, but there is a transition point that comes when one takes the leap and when one begins to fly. There is a middle point, when the fear is palpable, but despite it the answers arise.

I have encouraged many people to follow their dreams. It is easy for me to see the potential in someone else, and tell them about it with great enthusiasm. However, when it comes to myself, I am less inclined to do so. Perhaps, I am just afraid of failure.

I write this on my blog about having an eating disorder because, one’s relationship to food and body image highlights but one area of someone’s life. When I let go of my need to “diet” I let go of something very real. Slowly, other things I wanted to do have crawled in. And, so without having the all the answers or the “perfect” set of wings, I must try to fly.

I’m on this path: pondering self-compassion, empathy, and trust.

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Sometimes people are feeling negative in life, and that’s ok. That is normal and natural. Sometimes people do not trust other people. Again, normal and natural. I have gone through any number of stages of the above emotions. Recently, through a lot of self discovery and realizing some things I was avoiding, I realized I was avoiding facing that there were things I did not like about myself. There were parts of myself, I did not trust. I realized, if I could not trust me, the only real lens through which I see the world, how could I trust or like anything or anyone fully? Were my experience and relationships with my loved ones dulled by my own feelings of inadequacies? I think so. The details of what I mean by this are varied, complex and interwoven. I write in my post http://amermaidnameded.com/2014/04/10/on-forgiveness/  about a sense of grief I felt when facing difficult emotions. One of the things I was grieving was coming to terms with the fact that I was not perfect, that I make mistakes, and yes (sigh) that I have caused others pain. Through facing this, a shift came. Once I had enough self-compassion to allow for mistakes in myself and understand where they came from, my ability to trust my world around me also changed. I don’t exactly want to say it increased, per se.  I still know people can be mean, and have pain and make mistakes, but in the same way that my expectations of perfection from myself have changed, so have my expectations of others. I am now more able to simply enjoy getting to know someone. 

I recently read something related to the idea that the way people see the world has a lot to do with the way people see the themselves. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons I enjoy doing small acts of kindness. I can experience and see the difference they make. If I can see myself as an agent of good for others, I am also reestablishing, in my mind and heart, that good truly exists in the world. It’s completely ok to enjoy feeling good about doing good, by the way. It is one of the beautiful things that makes us human. It is what brings us together. It is empathy. There is another saying about in order to love someone else, you must first love yourself. I have mixed feelings on this. As I think loving oneself if often so much harder than loving someone else. If this saying was 100% true, then there would be a lot of unloved people out there, because I see a lot of people having a hard time with self-love these days. In addition, it is sometimes the unconditional love of someone else that drags us out of the dark and into the light. This is the power of love. However, I have experienced the profound effect self-love can have on the love for someone else. I have seen how loving myself has deepened many of my relationships, and for that I am truly grateful. I think a lot of what I am talking about in this post can vary from person to person. However, the need to ask these types of questions to ourselves seems to be something we all share.

Side note: I also think when reading quotes or someone else’s words, it can be interesting to really ponder them. Try them on like a hat. How does that quote feel to you? So often we take other people’s words as fact or think because they seem deep or profound that they must also be true for us(the reader), but a deeper experience can be had if we jump into them and explore them through our own personal lens. Trust yourself. 

 

 

Yea! I have been nominated for the Liebster Award.

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Who doesn’t like to be nominated for an award? Well, I can tell you that I do. I thought it was absolutely touching to be nominated for the Liebster award. When I first started blogging, I had no idea people would even read my blog. I wanted a way to share my voice, and I found it. I am honored to be nominated by: http://loveyouandthem.com. This blogger is an amazingly inspirational individual and has many many great posts to read and share. I thank you so much for nominating me.

What is the Liebster Award? Having no idea how to do many things on WordPress, including figure out how many followers people have, I had to research what a Liebster Award is. So, what is it? The Liebster Award is something given to new bloggers, kind of like a pass on the love type of thing. Someone nominates you and you nominate others. Great? I think so. Apparently, “Liebster” means “dearest” in German. I didn’t verify this, it is just what I read. Anyways, I love things that give me an opportunity to tell others that I think they are great in a formalized way.

Here are the rules:

List 11 facts about myself
Answer the 11 questions put forward to the person who nominated me
Ask 11 new questions to some bloggers, that have 200 or less followers themselves
Go to their blog and inform them that they have been nominated

List 11 facts about myself.

1. I love to listen to spanish guitar music. It reminds me of the time I was in Spain and walked the streets listening to the music. Spanish guitar music plays a story that can be heard in the heart. I also like blues and jazz music for the same reason.

2. I love candlelight. Add music, cooking, loved ones, candlelight, and an ocean breeze and you have found my perfect evening.

3. I feel most at peace by the water. Which, is where the title of my blog came from.

4. I broke my collarbone running and tripping over a suitcase when I was 2 years old and I still remember it.

5. I played basketball for 8 years of my life and miss it. I would like to get back into playing.

6. I love learning. I would goto school for the rest of my life if education was free(it’s not).

7. I dream of living for a year in a villa in tuscany. Thus, why I love the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

8. I’m 5’8″ tall.

9. I would like to take up Crew.

10. I would love to lead retreats one day that bring people together in a meaningful and lasting way.

11. My hair was so blond when I was born that it was actually white.

Answer the 11 questions put forward to the person who nominated me

Ask 11 new questions to some bloggers, that have 200 or less followers themselves
Go to their blog and inform them that they have been nominated
Facts about me:

My Questions:

1. Are you a morning or an evening person?This is a tough question. I would say, both. I love the mornings because it offers the promise of a new day. However, I like getting enough sleep and feeling refreshed in the morning. I like evenings because there is a magic to them. I love staring up at the stars and the moon and having interesting conversations at night. Night feels like a time when anything is possible.

2. Which country would you love to visit? Any country, but I would love to visit Ireland.

3. What language would you love to learn? I know some spanish. Hablo un poco espanol. I would like to be fluent in this language , but I would also like to learn Italian and French, which are the languages of my ancestors.

4. If you could go back to your 13 year old self what would you say? Embrace who you are. Let go of all the expectations. Have fun, be young. Learn to love your body now. Stop dieting. Learn more about who you are, what you like, and your strengths.

5. Hands for feet or feet for hands? Feet for hands, I think. I can pick up many things with my feet. I can actually also write with them. Yes, I’ve tried this.

6. If you could change your career path would you? I am changing it now. I am forging a new path. It is not easy, but I am determined.

7. Snow, Sun or Rain? Sun and Rain.

8. Heels for the rest of your life or bare feet?Bare Feet for sure. I really hardly ever wear heels.

9. If you could invent a make up what would it be? A makeup that us hydrating and healing for the skin, and that does not contain any harsh or toxic chemicals. But, mostly, I would tell people their own natural beauty is where its at.

10. Favourite smell? The Beach.

11. If you were the opposite sex for the day what would you do? Walk around all day with my shirt off.

 

Questions for the Liebster Awardees I nominate:

 

1. Why do you blog?

2. Have you always enjoyed writing, or is this a new hobby for you?

3. What inspires you most?

4. Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter?

5. Favorite activity?

6. Do you like speaking in public?

7. Briefly describe a difficult situation and how you overcame it.

8. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

9. Roses or some other flower?

10. Favorite thing about yourself?

11. What was the first CD/Album or song you ever bought?

My nominations for a Liebster Award:

Note I have chosen these individuals because I have been inspired by them in any number of ways. However, one of the reasons is that all of these writers have an authentic individual voice. I have been touched by the honesty with which they are write.

1. https://www.graceonthemoon.com

2. http://healthylifecounseling.wordpress.com

3. http://kagendo.wordpress.com

-The Loin Cloth Diaries

4. http://kelleyjhung.com

-JetHag

5. http://girlintrainingheels.wordpress.com

6. http://maziefay.wordpress.com

-extraordinary beauty

 

I look forward to learning more about all of you!

 

 

 

Remembering playing “dress-up” and the constant quest for the perfect plus-size princess dress

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I drew this photo. I have to admit, that I hesitated to post it, feeling a little self-conscious about it in a mixed variety of ways. However, here it is, my representation of a Plus-Size Princess. I can remember being a young child and I looooved to play dress up. I would watch the princess movies and dream about whirling around in my ball gown. I had a “dress-up” trunk with various items in it and when friends would come over we would all pretend to be our favorite princess. Good times.

What I also remember however, is being concerned about the size of my body and how I looked in the dress. Meaning, was I small enough? I “developed” faster than most of my friends and I was always naturally a bigger girl growing up. I remember that as time went on, I grew, and realized I no longer fit into the princess dresses, while my friends still did. As a child, I was also taller than most children as well. This was just my natural genetic makeup. But, perhaps, in my child brain it registered that I was different from everyone else. I was also teased about being bigger so this probably didn’t help.

As an adult, I still love pretty clothing. I have also been an athlete most of my life and do not mind sweating or getting dirty. I like being outside and hiking or gardening, but enjoy coming home and getting “dressed up” from time to time.

My weight has fluctuated over the years depending on whatever “diet” or workout routine I was doing. I have felt what it feels like to shop in “regular” stores and what it feels like to shop in “plus-size” stores. Being able to shop where all of my friends shop, is a wonderful feeling. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. Of course it is a nice feeling. I want to feel included and be able to pick out cute clothes I actually want to wear. Now, I go shopping with friends, and occasionally places will have stuff I can wear, but finding something too often feels like a treasure hunt hoping to find gold buried under the sand. Sometimes, I will look at the accessories. Because, no matter your size, you can wear a necklace! Wooooow what a nice consolation prize. As I type this, I realize that I feel a bit angry about this. I do not think I blame the stores necessarily, because they have a right to carry any size they want. However, in a world with so many ladies that are a size 14 and above, you would think they would want to cater to this population? Maybe not, and I am sure there are many reasons for this that I honestly know anything about.

For so many women, shopping is a challenging and emotional task. Myself included. I get the message, every time I shop, that I don’t fit in. That my body is different , and the only way I will find something to wear is to go to a specialty store.

I will say, that I have deep gratitude that these stores exist and that in the last few years, they have come a long way to make beautiful stylish clothing. I will even say some designers have amazing plus-size clothing. But, these clothes are still in a separate section called plus-size or the “women’s” section. I have always found this title interesting. Because aren’t we all women, no matter what size you are? But, anyways I’ll save that topic for another day.

Now, if you are plus-size like me, you might be thinking, that you are grateful that there are separate stores and separate areas for plus-size women like us. I agree in many ways. Very often, these stores offer shoppers a judgemental free experience. (From what I’ve seen) In fact, woman get the message to “embrace your curves.” Who doesn’t love that? In addition, you get to shop with other plus size ladies and not worry about feeling body comparison to other “non plus size women” or any judgement.

However, what if we were all just women shopping without all of the judgement and comparison? What a novel idea. ooo the days of hand-made clothes…I don’t remember them, but I dream about them. What if my friend being small and petite was great, and my larger body was great too? Different, but both great. You might say, but your body is great. I might say thank you, I would agree with that now. But, is that really what society tells us? Well, the good news is society is made up of people, so with every person that is accepting of all body types and stops negative body talk, that’s one small piece of society changing.

Sometimes, I feel like this country’s culture tells us that the definition of femininity or a woman’s desirability is based on how petite or slim she is. Being larger is usually avoided at all costs(or so I’ve tried). I got the idea for this post, when I went out to dinner and music with friends. I had a hard time finding anything I wanted to wear that evening. Then, I realized it was because I was basing what I wanted to look like for the evening on how my friends would look or even how I used to look. Changing my clothes was not going to change my body. Well, since I am on a quest to accept myself and my body, and reject any form of negative body talk, I decided to put on a dress that was my favorite color blue. I had on cute shoes, and a jazzy necklace. I thought my hair looked great and I was off. I felt pretty good about my appearance that evening. I have come to realize that most days, I actually do not have a problem with my appearance. Most days, I think I am an attractive beautiful woman. I feel great saying this too. However, the voice that still enters my head is what will everyone else think of me? Yes, THAT voice. That voice searching for acceptance and belonging. That voice that wants to dress up and play princess with all the other girls. I actually believe that voice is normal. Of course we want people to like us. We want friends, we want to be loved, we want to belong. This need is as natural as the need to take a breath. From the time of conception, we need each other for survival, so how can this not be part of who we are as humans?

However, I will say that if this voice is so loud, as it has been for me, that it keeps you from embracing the crap out of life, then this voice needs to quiet down. The truth is, real relationships and real friendships come when you are authentically yourself. They come when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and say HERE I AM! THIS IS ME!!! Another thing, assuming I know what others are thinking, is just mind reading. How am I supposed to know what people are really thinking, and they are probably wrapped up in their own stuff in their mind to be wasting a lot of energy thinking about how I look at any particular moment. But, sometimes, yes people do judge. So what? Often, these judgements are fleeting and if they are really that judgemental, they probably aren’t someone you want to form a close bond with anyways.

So, back to my princess dress analogy. I think part of the problem is growing up, all of the representations of women in princess cartoons and even dolls, all basically look the same and have unrealistic body appearances. But, these are the figures girls grow up seeing and internalize, “I want to look like that!” I could be wrong, but that was my own personal experience. Sure, there are also numerous other influences like older family members and friends. This is why I am so passionate about never saying anything around my nieces that might sound like negative body talk. Children listen to everything we say and watch everything we do. Sure, no one’s perfect and we all make mistakes, but I really try my best to be positive about myself. I want them to have role models that they grow up seeing and think wow! look at how confident my aunt is at any size or look! a woman’s sole sense of self does not have to rely on appearance!

I think the natural Barbie which has sparked some controversy lately is a good first step. Some say it is still unrealistic. Some people would like to see a plus-size Barbie. However, other people think that this states, “obesity is ok.” And people are concerned this sends the wrong message because they point to the health problems associated with obesity. My opinion is not totally solidified on this except to say having dolls or TV characters that have unreasonable representations is probably not the best way to go as a society if we want to boost self-esteem and self acceptance. I think having woman of all shapes, sizes, skin color etc. is good, because this offers a more realistic depiction. I think not showing dolls that are on the larger side, might be sending the message that,  “it’s shameful or not ok to be larger.” I think this reflects society’s “fear of fat.” I can say, as a plus-size woman, I exercise almost every day and I feel better mentally and physically than I did at a much lower weight. Might, gaining weight cause health concerns for some people? Sure, it might. But, I can tell you that shaming people into weight loss is absolutely not the way to go, and could have contributed to their weight gain in the first place. I can also tell you that constantly obsessing about weight and food to look a certain way is also not healthy. I have the feeling that having dolls or TV characters that are plus size, would not lead to a sudden increase in people seeking to gain a ton of weight. I find it perplexing that we have gotten this deep into body image distortions that we can even spend this much time talking about what dolls should look like. How did that even happen? How did we get this disconnected from our bodies, that they have become our worst enemies?

In the end, it really is all about balance and putting the brakes on some of the extremely critical thoughts and comments we have playing over and over in our conversations and through the media. Once I begin to accept  and trust that my body had a wisdom all of its own, the fight for weight loss became more of an exploration of the myself, and I have made some pretty exciting discoveries. Perhaps, I have even found the perfect plus-size princess dress.

I fought the urge to weigh myself today, and won.

I fought the urge to weigh myself today, and won.

There have been times in my life, that I have weighed myself many many times in a day. There have been times in my life, when the number on the scale has shaped my mood for the rest of the day. During these times, I have been robbed of full authentic living. I have been robbed of fully embracing my day and my experiences because that number plays on repeat in my brain. Weight fluctuates greatly throughout the day. Weight loss and gain can be any number of things. But despite knowing this fact, I still so often clung to that number as if it was all I had. Now, I am at a place in my life where I have to consciously chose not to obsessively weigh myself. I am doing so many self-care activities and I feel really good about them. I may however, weigh myself once in a while, just to see where I am at. I had an instant last week, where I did weigh myself, and I noticed it changed my mood slightly for that day. I will not claim to be free of all worry surrounding weight, since I am on a journey. However, often making the choice not to weigh myself, means I avoid exposing myself to the possibility of negative self talk that I work so hard to avoid. Maybe, one day, I will be able to see a number on a scale and have no feelings about it, but that is not now. That is not where I am at yet. I have made tremendous progress towards this goal, but I am still strengthening my mental muscles of self acceptance and love. It is different now, however. I might experience certain judgmental thoughts, but now I have a whole arsenal of loving, kind, and productive thoughts to replace the negative degrading ones. I really want to give myself the best shot I can at this thing. Today, I feel pretty great about myself and I’m going to do everything I can to support these positive feelings!