Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Experiment

Nazis. Spiders. Public speaking. The season finale of Downton Abbey…
The list of things that are universally hated by the general public could go on and on.

But there is one thing that I am discovering is at the top of the list for many women (maybe men too, but never having been a man, I can't say for sure). It's one of those dark, hidden, often subconscious (or at least rarely spoken of) hatreds that seem to span generations, social classes, and ethnicity. It's one of those things that we are expected to think ill of, speak poorly of, be dissatisfied with. In fact, I have never, to my knowledge, met a woman who could honestly say that she loved this enemy of the female sex.

Our bodies.

Having grown up in Orange County, daughter to a woman who actually taught aerobics at Jane Fonda's studio in Hollywood (In the 80's. With leg warmers. Seriously, it didn't get any cooler than that), grand-daughter to Miss Guatemala (no, I'm not kidding), I'd say I'm prone to worrying about my image-- specifically my body. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it plagues me, haunts me. Constantly.

I didn't have a name for it until I watched a video clip on the media's impact on women in our society. It spoke of the shame and guilt that most women feel over their bodies when they compare themselves to the photoshopped, half-starved images in the media. I had never really thought of my dark, often subconscious thoughts and feeling about my body as being shame, but I realized that's exactly it: I feel ashamed of how I look, ashamed my shape, ashamed of my habits, ashamed of the way that my clothes fit… of so many little things throughout the day involving my body.

A few conversations I have had recently showed me that I am not alone. Beautiful, confident, successful women confessing that they too feel hopelessly trapped in the guilt, shame, and the belief that their worth is unwillingly connected to their reflection in the mirror. And those friends of mine that are mothers to beautiful, innocent little girls were terrified that they would pass along their bondage and false beliefs to their daughters.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I simply do not have to live this way; that it was time to take action. Although it was a simple realization, I knew that the process of finding freedom from the shame, guilt, and hatred I feel towards my own body would take time, intentionality, and honestly an act of God. I mean, what am I up against here: A lifetime of messages, both internal and external, telling me that my very worth and value come from a number on a scale, a size on a label. A constant barrage of images of what and who I should be, how I should look, eat, exercise.

These are not easy things to erase.

Yet, at the same time, they are all a house of cards-- hollow, empty lies keeping me from deeper life, from real, meaningful love, significance, worth, and freedom.

And so I begin my experiment to see if I can truly love my body-- if I can learn to see it as a beautiful creation from an extravagant, loving Creator. This body of mine is not so one-dimensional that its worth can be found in a dress size-- it is full of intricacies, mysteries & complexities that science still cannot explain. In all sincerity, it is an incredible work, and I have the privilege to live in it, care for it, and call it my own.

So here is a fly-over map of my experiment (details to follow), and I would love, love, love for you to join me in any part of it:

  • A New Mindset: Begin changing the way I think about my body by replacing negative thoughts with truth
    • Wake up at least a few minutes earlier every morning to spend time with my Creator everyday, focusing on Him, and not myself
    • Spend 5 minutes every night reflecting on where I saw my Creator at work, and where I could have responded differently to my circumstances
    • Take a break from Pinterest (where I tend to find images & messages that tell me I am not enough as I am)
  • Focus on Health: This is not a diet, this is not a weight-loss plan… but I have been given a wonderful gift in my body, and I want to care for it well
    • Fast from sugar for 30 days to help break unhealthy habits of eating when I don't need to
    • Exercise 5x's a week-- even if it's just for 10 minutes, even if it's a short walk. Some sort of exercise.
    • Finish all the fruits & veggies in our farm box every week
  • Think Less About My Appearance
    • Put away the scale
    • No clothes shopping, browsing, window shopping, wish-listing, etc.
    • Limit myself for one month to a few staple articles of clothing
  • Find the Real Culprit: While I don't need to feel guilt over my body, there is a real crime in the fact that I worry about my weight, while 20,000 children die of starvation every day
    • Spend one month living on half of our usual food budget, sending the extra money to organizations that feed the hungry
    • Spend that month praying everyday as a family for the hungry, and learning about how we can live more responsibly in light of world hunger
  • Share: There is something so very freeing about bringing things to light, to realizing that we are not alone in our fear, insecurities and shame
    • I am going to do my very, very best to blog about my thoughts, progress and experiments every week
    • Start having conversations with others, learning about their struggles, successes, and root issues
    • Invite others into the process, whether it be participating in the experience or simply praying for me & cheering me on
Some of these steps might seem small to you, and maybe they are. I want to be realistic with what I can do as a working mama of two, and while I want to challenge myself, I don't want to set any goals that will fizzle out and lead to more guilt. These are the areas that seemed to be the roots of many of my issues with my body, but it is different for every person. Also, I am going to be taking on these experiments step-by-step, not all at once in order to focus on them and do them well.

I invite you to join in the conversation, and any part of the experiment...

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