Following the Signs

I’m a big believer in signs. Anytime there’s a big coincidence in my life, I think it means something. Coincidences happen to me a lot, so I take note of them, become more aware of whatever I think they were telling me, meditate on them.

As anyone who reads this blog (or my Facebook updates, or my Instagram updates, or talks to me) knows, I struggle with insecurity, with self-love, with jealousy and everything that goes along with that. I’ve always written about it (for Y E A R S I’ve written about it) and I always end my blogs with all the reasons why those feelings don’t have to control my life, don’t have to be part of who I am. And while I’m writing those blogs, I feel that way. I believe my own words.

“I should love myself because I have worth.”
“My weight doesn’t define me.”
“I control what I give credence to in my life, no one else.”

I leave that blog feeling empowered and strong, but slowly that ebbs away until I’m back where I started.

“I’m too fat to be loved or to be pretty.”
“I don’t have any worth because _______.”
“I have to change myself/fix myself RIGHT NOW.”

In the last few weeks, the following things have happened.

  1. A woman that I look up to more than she can even begin to realize pulled me aside and told me to stop posting negative things about myself online, because not only are the untrue, but by saying them on social media, I’m putting them out into the universe where they don’t belong. She encouraged and built me up without going easy on me. She pushed me to really think about the things I’ve thought about my whole life, but to think past where I’d always stopped before.
  2. A good friend of mine asked me the question, “How much do you weigh?” I told her. She said, “Does that number define who Lindsey is?” No. It doesn’t. “Then it doesn’t matter.” She proceeded to be all sweet and wonderful afterward, too, which is her general state of being–sweet and wonderful.
  3. Another good friend of mine sent me a link to a blog that talked about loving yourself like your life depended on it. This friend also is currently struggling with loving herself. I see her, I see how beautiful she is, what a great mom she is, and it’s like looking in a mirror as I see her struggle through all these untruths about her worth and abilities. I want to make her see the truths that I see about her–she’s beautiful, strong, capable, and loved.
  4. I went out on the lake with my family and friends (who are all basically family, too). I got in a swimsuit in front of people and never once wondered if they were judging me or what they thought. I was surrounded by love and joy and it didn’t even occur to me that I didn’t have a negative self-thought until after it was over. Another person on the boat was feeling insecure, and one of my best friends said, “We’re all friends here, and no one cares what anyone else looks like. Let’s just swim and have fun!” It opened my eyes and filled my heart up that such a simple idea could hold so much power and truth.
  5. I text my best friend a lot. A LOT. I tell her how I’m feeling. I tell her my struggles and my insecurities. And she always answers me with kindness, but with truth. “We aren’t going to look like we did before our babies, and that’s fine.” She speaks the truth of our strength, our beauty, and our ferocity into my life (and she hunts for Pokemon with me).
  6. While literally hanging on my husband in the kitchen, crying because I was so upset over the way I looked, he said, “Look at James. See how he looks at you? Do you think he’s ever had any thought about you except how much he loves you? That’s how I love you. That’s how anyone who matters loves you.” He’s said these kinds of things to me for years, even before James, but I haven’t been able to hear them, and I’m hoping now, I can.

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I have lived in a self deprecating pit my entire life. I dug the pit, I moved all my furniture in, I climbed down, and I burned the ladder that would be the only way out. But thanks to the people in my life who love me, who I love so dearly, I’m building a new ladder and I’m climbing out. And it’s not because I started a new diet, or  because I’ve redefined who I am as a person, or because I’ve changed something huge and radical in my life. It’s because of the people in my life who have flooded me with truth and with love (sometimes tough love, sometimes not). It’s because of all these ‘coincidences’ happening at once and pointing in giant, flashing, neon arrows toward the truth that I want my life to be centered around.

So yeah, I believe in signs. And when there are this many signs pointing to the same thing, the same destination, I make it my business to follow them.

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International Yoga Day

Today is International Yoga Day (according to Facebook), and I wanted to write a little about yoga and what it means and is for me.

I started my yoga journey just over four years ago. When I started doing yoga I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. I was scared I was too fat, not flexible enough, too clumsy, too-everything and not-enough-everything all at once.

Well, instead, yoga opened up a whole new world for me. *cue Jasmine and Aladdin vocals* Yoga taught me that I was enough. That I had worth. That I had a wholly unique and wonderful place in the world. So of course, to expand my personal yoga journey, I went to yoga teacher training (two years ago) at the OM place. If yoga changed my life, YTT flipped my world upside down, shook it around, and remolded my life in the best, most unimaginable ways. I left that six months of training feeling strong, beautiful, empowered. (I also left with some amazing friendships, but that’s a different story for a different day.)

My whole YTT class knew I wanted to have a baby (I’m not good at keeping those kinds of things to myself.) And at the end of my training I found out I was pregnant (HOORAY!). I spent my pregnancy not doing yoga (I’d planned to practice at least an hour each day to help with labor and weight gain), but instead spent my pregnancy eating and sitting and sleeping. 38 weeks later, I had a baby boy, a perfect, beautiful, wonderful baby boy. My sweet Jamesy. I said that I would start yoga again then, that I would get my body back by eating healthy foods, portion control, exercise. I didn’t. I said I was too tired, too busy, too ______. Seven months later, we found out James needed a major surgery–a cranial vault remodeling–and so I forgot about myself entirely. I focused on preparing for his surgery, and then with caring for him. Even months and months after his surgery, this was my MO.

Now my baby is sixteen months old. And I am 40-50 pounds overweight. But I can still do yoga. And I should still do yoga. But I don’t do it. Why? Because the glow of discovering yoga, of discovering myself in teacher training, has faded. Because I’ve never been so heavy, and even all my positive self talk isn’t helping. Because I don’t like the way I look and I feel sad.

What does that have to do with yoga or with International Yoga Day? I’m so glad you asked.

Yoga is more than just asana (poses). SO much more. Yoga is about the breath. Yoga is about compassion–for your self and others. Yoga is about truth. Yoga is about being in the moment, experiencing the moment–that means the good and the bad. Yoga is about BEING and LIVING. Yoga isn’t about getting the perfect handstand (though that’s super cool, and I hope to be able to do it someday), it’s about your personal, inward journey.

I often feel guilty about not liking the way I look right now. I feel guilty about looking in the mirror, looking at photos, and feeling sad. Feeling scared that I’ll never fit back in my favorite clothes or feel comfortable in my own skin again. But yoga is about allowing those emotions. Experiencing them. Honoring what you’re dealing with, what you’re going through, what you’re feeling. And then, once you’ve experienced it, once you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of just being yourself–good, bad, all of it–in those moments, then you can start to change. And just like in yoga, that change should be slow and steady, like ocean waves or the turning of the world.

I’m rambling. I’m all over the place. But I’m also struggling with allowing myself to feel what I feel about my weight. It’s easy to proclaim from your blog soapbox, “THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD DO!” It’s a lot harder to actually do it.

But I love yoga. I fell instantly in love with the asana practice, and then cultivated a deeper, richer love with the rest. With the breath. With the self awareness. With the quiet. With the realization that I can be who I am, what I am, and that’s OK. So I want to take this love, using International Yoga Day as the platform from which I start, and start applying that love to myself. I want to start taking care of my body, of my mind, of my heart. I want to start loving who I am, where I am, what I am. And I want to learn to appreciate that those changes will all take time, and that that wait, that journey, can be just as sweet, if not sweeter, than the final destination.

Happy International Yoga Day, everyone, ❤

Is Skinny Always Better?

What is it that makes being SKINNY better than being not skinny? I mean, I know that being overweight can be detrimental to your health, but so can being underweight. Why is it that when a person, more often than not a woman, gains weight, a lot of people around act as if that person should be embarrassed or ashamed?

I remember in high school, thinking I was so fat, and being sure that’s why the boys I liked didn’t like me. Looking back, they may have liked me, they may not have, but I never knew because I was so worried about my weight that I never even told them how I felt. If it weren’t for the fact that Vince and I started dating because we were such good friends first, I know I could have easily ruined our relationship (and almost have many times since) by obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t SKINNY enough, that I was too fat, too ugly (because of the fatness). Even when we got engaged and married, I thought the whole time, “I hate that I’m so fat for these pictures.” (see below)

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t wish I were skinnier. Hotter. Fitter. Sexier. Before we started trying to have James, I was in the best shape of my life and I didn’t even know it. I just looked in the  mirror every day and thought, “Maybe SOMEday I’ll look good.” And then I had a baby and ate poorly, and now I weigh so much more. Sometimes I just sit and cry, and think, “I’ve lost the years of my life when I can be skinny and enjoy it, so why even bother?” And then I look at my super hot husband, and I’m overrun with guilt, because he’s super hot, and I can’t fit in my pre-pregnancy jeans.

But then he looks at me, and tells me I’m beautiful. And I see in his eyes that he means it, but I can’t reconcile that truth with the truth that I’ve believed my whole life, and that is SKINNY IS PRETTY.

Which leads me to my very long-winded point. Why do we associate being thin with being beautiful? There are an infinite number of body shapes and types, so why do we think to be beautiful, you have to fit in this very limited category of wearing a certain style of clothes in a certain size? Why can’t I believe my husband when he tells me I’m beautiful unless I can fit into a size 4 jeans? Is it just me? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with the way women are treated and perceived?

To be honest, I’m writing this because I’m EXTREMELY emotional today about my weight, about the fact that that number on the scale isn’t going down and my only jeans aren’t going on. But I hope that by writing this, I can start to talk myself out of these long held beliefs that SKINNY IS BETTER, because it isn’t.

 

**disclaimer: I am not saying that people shouldn’t strive to be healthy. Eat healthy foods! Exercise! Get lots of water and lots of sleep. But don’t let your weight dictate your worth. And saying all this is more for me than anyone.

From the Mouths of Babes

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on something–convincing myself that, just because I’m carrying more weight that I would like, doesn’t mean I have less worth, doesn’t mean my husband loves me less, doesn’t mean everyone is constantly judging me. And you know what? It’s been working! I even wore a fitted–that’s right, a FITTED–shirt to teach my Sunday Restorative Yoga class last week (starts at 6! I’d love to see you there! #ShamelessPlug), and I felt OK. I was still aware of the way my stomach bulged, still aware of the fact that my back isn’t toned and smooth, and the fact that that was visible in that shirt, but I didn’t let it totally color the evening. I was able to focus on my teaching and on my students.

This may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it is. Even when I was thin, I was pretty much constantly obsessing over my weight. I would look at photos, and if I could see a roll, something that didn’t look tiny and flat, I was mortified. If I wore clothes that didn’t fit just right, I was so embarrassed to go out. When I got married, I felt so bad for my husband, because I wasn’t toned, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t “good” enough for him (disclaimer: he has, from day one, told me that I was beautiful. I’ve just chosen, for whatever reason, not to listen.), so I started doing yoga and eating right, and I was in really good shape! But I still thought those things, still thought I wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t fit enough. And then I had a baby, and gained weight, and everything changed.

But, as my friend Hannah would say, I’m chasing rabbits. Time to get back to the point, which is the fact that, over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on changing my mindset. It’s taken years and years, but I’ve been trying to convince myself that my worth isn’t determined by my weight/size. And it was working. I was feeling good, feeling confident.

And then a few days ago, a child looked at me and said, “Miss Lindsey, your belly is really fat. Big like when your baby was in it.”

BOOM. All the work I’d done, all the pep talks I’d given myself, the teensy bit of confidence I had built up exploded, turned to dust, and blew away with the smallest, most innocent gust of wind.

I got so upset. I wasn’t upset with the kid. Children just say what they see. And this was the first day that I was with these kids that I’d worn a fairly fitted shirt since James as born, so it makes sense that a child would notice and comment. It would be like if I wore my reading glasses, and a kid said, “You’re wearing glasses!” But even though I wasn’t upset with the kid, I was upset.

Suddenly, I thought, “Do all the adults that have seen me today think this? Are they all judging me? Do they think I’m awful and disgusting and oh, I’m so embarrassed, I should have stayed home, I should have worn something else, I shouldn’t have been foolish enough to think it was OK that I wear this fitted shirt. I only wore it because it’s new, and a friend made it for me, and it’s beautiful, but I shouldn’t have put it on my body in public. How stupid. How stupid…” etc. I spiraled. Quickly. All my work, all my positive self talk was destroyed from one small, innocent, small comment. Suddenly, I was back to being overly aware of every inch of my flawed body.

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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.

All this makes me think, what is it about being thin that has such a hold on so many of us? A few days before this, another child was talking about how James was still a tiny baby, because I call him a giant baby (he’s in the 99th percentile! Such a big boy!). He said, “He’s not a giant baby, he’s a tiny baby, but you all are giants (Vince and me). Someday James will grow up and be a giant, too.” Then he looked at us, and said to Vince, “But you’re skinny. Like me, I’m skinny, too.” He looked at me, and didn’t say anything, but the point was clear. I was not skinny, and that was not good.

Even a child knows that “skinny” is “good,” “not skinny” is “bad.” And that is messed up. 

When I was five years old, I remember worrying if I was thin enough. My mommy and daddy told me I was beautiful all the time, but still I thought, “Am I small enough? Will anyone ever love me?” That’s not OK.

This is where body dysmorphia starts, when we’re too young to know what’s normal and what’s not, and as parents, we need to be aware of this in our children, we need to teach them how to perceive ourselves and others, how to talk about bodies–their own and others–and how to love themselves, regardless of photos they see on Instagram or on television. I mean, even though my parents built me up and loved me and gave me all the encouragement a child could want, I still suffer from body dysmorphia and have my whole life. We have to be aware that our children may be suffering with this, too.

I’ve carried my body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. Never have I not been aware of my “flaws,” of my body shape and size and weight, of my hair cut and color, of my makeup or lack thereof. I’ve never not worried about these things. And I am SICK of it. I’m tired of CONSTANTLY trying to hide my body, because I’m ashamed of it, because I’m OBSESSED and DISAPPOINTED with how I look.

Do I want to be thinner? Yes. I want to be able to fit in my old clothes and comfortably do the yoga poses I could before. And I’m not even sure if that’s because I think it’s healthier, or because to my body-dysmorphic-eyeballs think the photos of me then are more attractive and want that back.

I don’t have a point here, except, talk to your kids. Talk to your spouses. Talk to your friends. We have to help each other not fall into this pit of self hatred and comparison and all around ickiness.

YOU are beautiful.

YOU are wonderful.

YOU are ENOUGH.

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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.
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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.