I pinched the skin that was poking out. Then I grabbed a handful of it and squeezed. The skin went red and the nip of pain felt weirdly satisfying, like I deserved it. I looked at the mirror in front of me and a deep pang of self loathing coursed through me. I looked down at the pale flesh and wished I looked different. How could I have thought this looked ok? Shame chased after the self loathing to convince me that I was embarrassing and disgusting. The truth, however, was that there was nothing “wrong” with me. My perception of how I looked was in my head. Nothing had changed physically from the moments before when I thought I looked great, or at least acceptable, to this other moment when suddenly I wasn’t.
Have you had this moment? When you suddenly see your body through a lens of criticism. It feels so horrible. This time of year can begin the trigger of shame about our bodies. Festive season excesses, comfort eating through the cold and the prospect of long dark months ahead.
Of course the irony is that these flashes of self loathing can lead us to detach even more from our bodies. The shock of facing this supposed "truth" about ourselves sends us running for distraction and denial. Hello doom scroll and the snack cupboard...
Objective reality has nothing to do with it
I’ve always been naturally slim and whenever I expressed out loud my disgust with my body, I would often be met with objection. “What? How can you think that? You’re so skinny!” But it didn’t matter what people said or what was true. What mattered was how I felt. I felt like my body had let me down and was deeply flawed. It was too big in the wrong places and too small in others. If other people realised the truth, they would find me repulsive and their protestations that I had nothing to worry about only reinforced my belief that it wojuld be catastrophic if they could see the truth. My body wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t good enough. When I look back at photos of the times when I strongly felt this way, I see someone who looks healthy and beautiful in her own unique way. From the place I am now, I want to go back and help her to see what I see. I would love to have that body now that I thought was so vile at the time!
When I hit perimenopause this inner judgement reared back up. As my body changed, I didn't recognise myself and it felt out of my control.
No one on the outside can fix it
Our relationship to how we look is complicated. It’s made up of so many layers of beliefs that we’ve created over a lifetime: The meanings we’ve given to things that have been said and a misplaced emphasis on the external and comparison with others.
At this time of year when your inbox is screaming with exhortations to lose weight, get fit and improve yourself it can be overwhelming. But there is another way, and it doesn’t mean giving up on being the best and most vibrant version of yourself.
It’s not shit or bust
It’s tempting to think it’s all or nothing. I’m thin enough/ fit enough/ clever enough or else I’m not enough at all. Actually it’s so much more than that. It comes down to what you pay attention to and how you respond to the thoughts and feelings that you have. In my journey to uncover my own happiness, I discovered that so many things about my life could be different, even if nothing changed at all.
Maybe for you your "not enough" story isn't about your body. Maybe it's about the contribution you make with the work you do, or the amount of friends you have, or that you don't have a partner, or your family relationships aren't great, or you haven't achieved things in your life...whatever beliefs are holding you back, maybe its time to change them.
3 Shifts that You can Practice Now
So where do you start? Here's a starting point for turning the dial to change your life. Simple ways you can change your perspective that will change your results:
1. Widen the lens
Your life has different components: your work/education, relationships, fun/leisure, personal growth/health. We tend to focus on the area where we perceive we're not enough. The part of your life where it's not quite working. Or else we feel like we constantly have to switch between them to try and keep all the balls in the air.
When we take a step back and consider all of our life, often things can feel very different. Suddenly we realise that there are things that are going well, even small things. When we amplify our awareness of our strengths and successes, we can handle and accept the challenges and our edges with more grace and ease.
2. Lean into your Enough-ness
I am not the things I do or don't do. I'm not what you think of me, I'm not even what I think of me! I am complete and whole exactly as I am...and so are you.
Imagine what it would mean for you if that simple truth was felt deep inside of you? That you have the right to be seen and accepted exactly as you are.
Maybe your mind tells you that's unrealistic. "How can I be enough when I'm so flawed? If people knew all of me then they would see that I'm unlovable and not good enough."
Well, I call bulls**t. You ARE enough, right now without doing anything.
3. Set Intentions not Goals
The most lasting change comes from changing your identity, not just your habits. So rather than trying to just add new things in for you to "do", you need to update your beliefs about who you are.
Who you are is made up of all the actions you take. Who I am now is a result of all of the things I do regularly in my life. So habits play a crucial role in improving your life, but only if they also help you to change how you see yourself.
You want to build a meditation practice in your life because you want to feel calmer, clearer and more able to cope.
Setting a goal looks like deciding you will meditate every day, do a course, join a group...whatever feels like the right first step for you. That goal requires willpower and consistency. If and when you forget or life gets in the way, you can quickly find that habit disappears.
If, however, alongside that habit building you begin to think of yourself as "a meditator" then it creates a subtle but powerful change. Meditation is something to fit into your day but it's also part of how you see yourself. You begin to picture that future "you", who meditates regularly and feels calm and balanced, as if it was already who you are. THAT'S what makes the habit stick when willpower fades.
Join me to create "New Intentions that Don't Bite"
I would love to invite you to an extra special FREE New Intentions session on Thursday 25 January 2024 at 7.30pm. I'll be guiding you through a process I've been using for the last few years to kick off January in a positive way.
Join this session to experience a different way to renew, restore and plan for the year ahead.
No more punishing resolutions that are destined to fail or forgetting the things that matter!
Let’s celebrate and recalibrate together.
You'll leave the session:
✅ Feeling calmer, invigorated and restored
✅ Ready to leave the past behind with compassion and care for all you’ve been through
✅ Uplifted by your intentions for the year ahead with tools to stay connected to your hopes and dreams
What will the session involve?
When you register, you'll be sent a brilliant and simple worksheet to download that you're free to use during the session or afterwards.
I'll be guiding you through some simple practices and discussion to gently look back at the year just gone before helping you to look forward to the year ahead.
There will be guided meditations to support you and these will be available as audio downloads after the session.
This is for you if:
🤔 You're already wondering how you're going to get in the right headspace for the year ahead.
🤯 Last year left you feeling stressed, anxious and depleted
😍 You're ready to try a different approach to "resolutions" that allows you to feel positive instead of overwhelmed
What do people say about this session?
"wow, that was incredible! I feel so much lighter and ready for the year ahead"
"thank you Laura, this was just what i needed. Such a gentle but effective way to let go of the past and look to the year ahead"
"that was great, I loved it! The meditations were so powerful"
I hope to see you there!
You can book your spot here and if you’re part of my membership then you’ll have access to the recording, as well as the rest of the extensive guest expert library, curated practices and a massive library of resources.
>>>> Click here to register >>>
Not a member but like the sound of that? The Be. Membership is for you if you want a supportive place to tackle overwhelm in your life and build a life that’s truly meaningful and happy. It includes weekly support and inspiration, live meditation, monthly guest experts, and a curated library of hundreds of practices and expert masterclasses. You can find out more about the membership and sign up if it feels right for you here.