Last week we did some serious emotional rebooting when we applied the strategy of mindful awareness to the most common thoughts that make women miserable. If you missed it, please check out the intro so you can understand the basics, then read the post on using mindfulness to improve your emotions. This week we’re focusing on understanding how mindfulness can help us with physical comfort and acceptance.
Here's the main message of today:
All the time and energy you spend wishing you looked different (and trying to make yourself so) is sucking precious minutes away from the life you have been given.
In other words: Every minute you spend regretting your physical self is a minute of your precious, valuable life wasted.
Easier said than done, right!? Of course! Remember, like anything this is a practice. It's not about perfection. I think you'd have to be the Dahlai Lama (reincarnated as a woman) to never wish you could feel more attractive and physically confident than you do.
But, just hang with me for a bit here....
While you're wishing you could look/be different:
Your mind is totally in another place....therefore;
You are not present.... because;
You're waiting for another day when you are finally who you wish you were (missing your own life!).... and so;
You're blind to the self you actually are right now (ouch! stop ignoring yourself!)
The practice of Mindfulness argues that we spend most of our waking minutes in another mental place than the present. And with cell-phones and other media at our fingertips we are definitely far less present than ever just by the fact that we're scrolling and staring at something other than what's around us.
Remember in the previous posts we learned how our brains get stuck in the past and the future? This type of thought process is so automatic we don’t even register it. Yet it’s the reason we get totally absorbed in our negative thoughts, which can lead to even more bad thoughts, decisions, or feelings.
Mindfulness is about staying as present in the here-and-now as possible. Without getting sucked away into another imaginary time that's fraught and loaded. It’s also about raising awareness of our own thought patterns so that we can better adjust them, and therefore live a happier, more fulfilled and joyful life.
So let's talk about how you feel about your body and looks.
How many thoughts go through your mind each day about your physical self? For women, it is constant. We chase the next wrinkle cream, spend billions a year on makeup and cosmetic procedures, and spill buckets of sweat on the elliptical 6 days a week…. Our negative feelings about our bodies and aging faces weigh us down with loads of emotional baggage.
It's the same mind games that lead women to eat three spoonfuls of their ice cream then dump it in the trash, never having enjoyed any part of it; or to eat three pints of ice cream and drown in guilt and regret later. Our thoughts about ourselves are so all over the place that our behaviors are, too. How can we know if we are hungry or full when the choice of either is too emotionally loaded? We've shut off the ability to even make a fair and even-keeled assessment of even the most basic desire/need (hunger) in the present moment.
Media and culture has done an excellent job pounding this message home everywhere we look. The thin girl dancing happily in her svelte white jeans while eating her bowl of airy cereal; the smooth-faced cover girls of magazines with all age, expression lines, and wear completely erased…
It’s no wonder we are stuck in a mindset of physical scarcity.
I believe in taking care of one’s self -- I'm certainly not advocating that you ditch all forms of physical self care. When done for the right reasons it's a critical part of loving yourself. What I’m talking about are the fear-based thoughts that drive our negative feelings about how we look.
Let's replace those old thought about ourselves with a new thought pattern:
Mindfulness delivers the message “I am enough as I am.”
Woah, radical, right?
Mindfulness encourages us to counter our negative self-talk with the mantra: “I have one self. I have one body. I arrive in the present exactly how I am. And that is enough in all that it is."
What would your life be like if you stopped wishing you looked some other way first before you could start fully loving and accepting yourself. And this is exactly where women struggle. We think “if I could just lose those last five pounds then I'd feel more attractive” “If only I didn’t have these wrinkles on the side of my mouth, I’d have more confidence." We focus on the physical to negate the fact that how we feel about ourselves actually comes from within.
But the good news is.... how you feel about yourself from within is actually MORE in your control than the constant effort you make to change what's on the outside.
I encourage you to pay attention to how many thoughts fly through your head that suggest you aren’t enough as you are.
These thoughts often begin with:
"If only I had less (desired physical change)... then (emotional result you promise yourself)."
"If only I looked (desired physical change)..... then.... (emotional result you promise yourself)"
"If only my _____ were more _____, then.... (emotional result you promise yourself."
"Ugh! My _____ looks so bad! (insert emotional result, shame, embarrassment, low confidence and esteem)."
Do you see where I'm going with this?
What if you chose acceptance now? What if you chose happiness now? Now is happening right now. Focusing on acceptance now provides us with an invitation to stop beating ourselves up about the past and projecting into the future, and instead to consider how much time and energy we are all losing letting our minds wander into our own shame for not being perfect.
So what do we do about it?
We bring awareness. Beginning today, I want you to notice when your mind wanders to your flaws (see suggested thought patterns to notice above). Notice how primed you are to look for your own imperfections. Note when you are dissecting yourselves. Notice when you are pressuring yourself to be different at every turn.
So, when do you find yourself sending those thoughts your own way? Try to simply quiet them. You can literally think or say out loud, “hush…” to interrupt the thought.
Then follow with, “I am enough as I am.” Imagine your entire physical self enveloped in the warm hug of mental and emotional acceptance. When your mind tries to fly to the future (ie: the next thing you have to do to look better/fix something/hide a flaw) simply re-adjust. Return to your centered mind of “I am enough as I am.”
You can even get really specific. The more the better. Send love to all your critical spots. "I am enough as I am. I accept myself today, with my wrinkles, the cellulite on my rear, the nose of unusual shape, the scar from my pregnancy, my untamed hair. I am whole right now as I arrive into this moment.
How do you feel when you try that out? Could ditching your bullying self-talk and gaining acceptance unblock your life and allow for more joy and freedom?
Think of all the energy, both mental and physical, we spend trying to change ourselves. Think of all the money we spend, thinking the more dollars we throw at a problem the better we will feel about it. For women, we are often trying to erase ourselves. But by bringing mindful awareness to the value of our own physical existence, and by sending love to ourselves in the here and now, we can begin the process of an amazing healing transformation.
Women who have experienced all forms of physical, mental, and emotional trauma have benefited immensely from the mindful shift of “I am enough as I am.”
After all, exactly who you are is all that you have.
And who you are as you are deserves to be honored, loved, nurtured, and treated kindly. Because “it” is YOU.
Next week, I’ll be finishing up the series with a post on how mindfulness can help re-shape the mental state with which women approach their life. We'll get real about how making mindful shifts in your mental awareness can help you tap into your true capabilities, let go of limitations, and empower yourself to enter into your full potential.
If these challenges seem familiar to you and you feel stuck, I can help! I work with clients in person in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, or online in greater Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Give me a call at 860-339-6515 or click here for your complimentary consultation.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, and call (860) 339-6515 to schedule your free initial consultation.