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Healthy Body Image Team Blogger, Strong Momma Heidi
So far this week:
- I let dirty dishes sit in the sink for a day and a half.
- I feel guilty that my children did not have time to play with their Santa gifts because they had to rush to get ready to go to their dad’s house for a few days.
- I am beginning to resent the enormous lego set I bought for my son because it is sitting unopened on the floor near the tree where he left it as I urged him sternly to put on his hat and mittens when what I really want is to be spending the week with him assembling it.
- I’ve not managed to get out of bed and go to the 5:30 a.m. CrossFit class despite having told myself I would and not having the children this week.
- I ate stale Christmas cookies.
- I threw away the remainder of the Christmas cookies.
- I’ve stayed up late watching movies, which is something I never do.
- I’ve written this list of all of the things that I perceive to be failures in my life over the past 72 hours.
There is nothing harder than letting our guard down or, as my friend and Licenced Family and Behavior Therapist Ashlee Secord puts it, having a hole poked in our hairy pickle.
You’re probably asking yourself what the hell I’m talking about. I had the same reaction the first time I heard Ashlee describe the hairy pickle, and at first I refused to believe I had one. But trust me, we all have one. Your hairy pickle is that tangle of defense mechanisms and pretenses you put up to make sure that you never feel or are perceived to be vulnerable. It looks something like this:
Until just a few weeks ago, the hairs on my pickle were thick. Too thick. They had to be. In a span of 18 months, I lost my brother to cancer, I lost my marriage to reasons I still can’t really wrap my head around, and I went from being with my children every day of their lives to seeing them only 60% of the time. I changed career paths. I lost inspiration to write and blog each week. In my mind, I was failing. And I am not someone who fails. I am a strong woman who is starting her own business, who competes in CrossFit, who considers herself a good mother, a compassionate friend. I am not a failure. And so I went through the motions of life as though everything was fine. As though I was handling it fine. And you know what? People, including my closest friends, believed me. At least they believed me enough to let me be, to not push the issue.
But what I really needed more than anything was that same compassion that I give to my friends from my friends. Unfortunately, just as the hairs on our pickle are good at keeping moments of vulnerability from seeping out into the world around us, they are also very, very good at keeping compassion out.
Ashlee and I run a workshop together about healthy eating habits, and during the hour and a half that they are with us, we take participants through a journey of advertising 101 and why falling for quick weight loss ads and ultimately failing at sustainable weight loss is not their fault, signs and indicators for disordered eating habits, how to take accountability for ourselves and heighten our internal locus of control, and, of course, the hairy pickle.
As women with careers, kids, a dedication to maintaining our health and fitness, we’re constantly working not just at being the best we can at our jobs and in our homes and in our bodies, but also at making sure we always appear the way we want to appear to those around us. In short, we’re terrible at being vulnerable. As Ashlee explains it, we’re driven to protect ourselves from our own greatest insecurities, but when we do, we end up isolating ourselves and often doing more damage to our self than good.
But here’s the thing:
When we’re vulnerable, people show up.
They show up more genuinely than they do when your shield of protection is up and you’re the mom next door who has and can do it all. None of us are that mom, and we all share a common resentment for that mom, so why are we always trying to be her? She doesn’t even exist. And if she does, I can guarantee that she is lonely because there are no gaps in her persona that invite us in to share in her vulnerable moments, to be present with her when things are not perfect, to lift her up, to be her friend. We show up when we are compelled to show compassion to our friends, but that can only happen when they allow their vulnerability to show through.
I did, finally, have to ask for help. My ex and I sold our house very quickly, and although I found a house I absolutely love in a neighborhood I love, I wasn’t able to close on it for 10 days after we had to move out of the old house. I was going to be homeless, and I was going to have my children with me most of that time. And so I caved. I let the hairs on my pickle collapse. I reached out to friends. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. By doing so, I had friends who helped me move everything, who stored my stuff for free, who took me and my children under their roof for 10 days, who showed up when I needed it the most, who showed me the compassion I so desperately needed, and who did not, not even for one second, judge me or consider me a failure.
Perhaps the greatest change I’ve had since shedding some of the hairs on my pickle is the ability to show gratitude for that.
Our hairy pickles develop, says Ashlee, because we’re often pretty bad at showing the same compassion we have for others for ourselves.
Acknowledging that there are circumstances beyond our control, that pain is a part of life and things do not always go as planned is a small step toward self-compassion and a step away from self-criticism. We do not have to take so much personally. You still have value and worth that cannot be taken away from you. When you find that you’re being hard on yourself and can’t seem to shake it, consider how you would treat a friend who was going through the same circumstance. What would you say? How would you comfort them? Can you offer that same gesture to yourself?
It’s hard to show vulnerability to others. It’s even harder to confront it in ourselves and show compassion and forgiveness for it.
So far, the ReclaimFit and Thrive Therapy workshops have only been offered here in the Twin Cities, but because our network is growing, we want to be able to extend these offerings beyond our regional boundaries.
Starting in January, the ReclaimFit workshops will all be offered online, and for a short time, registration is FREE. All you need to attend is a device and an Internet connection. Sign up today to begin your journey to feeling greater self-compassion:
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March: To Be Announced!
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