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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: self-esteem

06 Jan

Is it okay to not love your body?

Ideas to Consider 6 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

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{image credit: identity photogr@phy

I keep a digital post-it on my desk-top with interesting articles I come across and topics that I want to be sure to blog about when I have the time.

This post caught my attention way back in March, a couple days after my son was born, and since then the URL has been staring back at me each time I open my laptop. While the delay is certainly due to not being able to remember what it was about in my post-partum haze, it’s also due to the fact that the piece left me feeling conflicted.

First, I’ll tell you that on the whole, I love the post. Be warned that the author, Elyse Anders, is passionate about this topic and expresses that through the liberal use of expletives to show you just how much she believes what she’s saying. She’s a talented writer and got me thinking (for nine months apparently), so my hat goes off to her. But back to the post itself…

Elyse suggests that people should get off her freaking back about loving her body so much and mind their own damn business(es). She tells us she doesn’t like her body…

I don’t love my body. My body is awful. I will never love my body. I never have. And I’m 35 and maybe you think that’s too old to have real hang ups about my body. But I do. And I always will. And maybe you think that because I’ve lost a bunch of weight I should feel great about my body. But I don’t. And I won’t.

…and makes a fairly compelling case for why that should be A-OK to do so, pointing out the double-standards inherent in this instance on women embracing their bodies:

The problem is someone else telling me how to feel. The problem is being told that there is a standard of beauty, and I should ignore it. I should ignore it despite the fact that everyone is still holding me to it. I should ignore it and create my own. As long as it makes me feel pseudo-good, and makes other people feel okay with how I pretend to feel about me.

Really, just to read the post. I can’t copy and paste the whole thing for you. I’m not you’re assistant over here!

Okay, so you read it now, right?

So here’s the thing, I agree with Elyse on most of her points. We live in a world where women (and men) face impossible demands at every turn. Run six miles before dropping your kid off at school in your four-inch heels  with your perfectly blown out hair and don’t forget the holiday pot-luck at work! You did make that Pinterest recipe, didn’t you? So the idea that not only are we supposed to appear perfect, but we’re also supposed to appear as though we don’t care? It simply saddles us with more potentially impossible demands.

We don’t all love our bodies, and I get downright tired of hearing people say that we all should. In fact, some of us have been engaged in decades-long battles with our physical selves, for which there are all sorts of reasons. We’ve internalized the critical messages of our family. We’ve been the victim of sexual abuse. Our bodies have let us down when we needed them the most. To offer a blanket directive to love and adore our bodies doesn’t seem to adequately acknowledge the complexity of these relationships.

It can feel a little Pollyanna-ish, to be honest. And perhaps most importantly, I don’t know that it’s totally necessary. Hear me out…

If my goal in working with people was to change their feelings about their bodies from hatred to love, I could be stuck in my chair for a lifetime, and meanwhile, they’d be miserable. It would be like me trying to get my friend Lisa to like peanut butter when the stuff repulses her.

Instead, my goal is to help someone develop a sense of body neutrality. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have any feelings about their bodies — that’s just unrealistic. Rather, it means they have whatever feelings they are going to have about their bodies and they can still choose to make decisions about their bodies in a values-directed and educated way. For example, they can hate their belly with a vengeance but choose not to punish themselves with a ridiculous diet because they a.) know that it won’t work and b.) have more important things to do with their time and energy.

So I agree with Elyse that loving one’s body isn’t necessary, and it’s not helpful to others to put that expectation upon us. Where I start to bite my lip is here:

Stop telling women that we should find ourselves beautiful and that we should love ourselves when you are standing right there, judging us on how our knees look in short skirts and how prominent our boobs are in a sweater and how much makeup we are or are not wearing.

While we’re all part of the machine of culture, I find myself thinking of the many “body-love advocates” out there who are so often proclaiming to others to embrace their imperfections. These aren’t, on the whole, brazen hypocrites. They are people who who have found a true and deep appreciation for their own bodies and know that love is possible. I wonder if it can feel to some like that annoying friend who just got married and keeps telling you that true love is waiting for you! You just have to get out off your couch. But Prince Charming is out there!

It can be hard to swallow. And you may want to punch her in the face. But that doesn’t mean she’s judging your singledom, at least not intentionally.

The other thing I found myself thinking about is the fact that there’s a difference, to me, between love and gratitude. It may be a subtle distinction, but I think it’s important. I don’t have to love every line, every sag, every bulge, every soft spot. But I can still appreciate my body on the whole. I can wish to the heavens that my legs were more svelte while also feeling grateful that they allow me to dance until 2 a.m. with my girlfriends. If we don’t have a sense of our bodies playing a role in helping us to do the things we love and be the people we want to be, we won’t be motivated to take care of them.

I don’t think it’s a particularly helpful goal to set out to love your body (if you do, that’s great!), but I do think it’s worth aiming for neutrality and gratitude.

So what about you? Do you think we should try to love our bodies? And what place (or responsibility) do we have in the body-love of others?

 

01 Oct

How often do you eat with your family?

Ideas to Consider 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

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{image credit :: kelsey garrity riley}

Creamy beef lasagne with buttery garlic bread or tofu and broccoli skewers with brown rice? We more often think about the food served at home as being an important predictor of an individual’s relationship with food and self. But the content of the plate is not the only — or necessarily the most – important  factor to consider.

Family meals might be a case of the how being more crucial than the what.

New analyses, coupled with common wisdom, tell us that family meals are protective for youth. Specifically, girls with families that dine together more frequently have lowered risk of depression, substance use, and eating disorders.

The research hasn’t gone specific enough to tell us exactly what the minimum number of meals together might be to garner these impressive effects, but experts in this area tend to suggest five or more meals is a good standard. It also hasn’t been able to tell us exactly why these meals are so important, but there are a number of theories.

For one, family meals offer a time for a family to connect. Families that eat together have more opportunity for communication, allowing parents to get clued in on what their kids are experiencing. That knowledge can be invaluable in addressing issues early. And being aware of and connected can likely prevent young people from seeking out connection in all the wrong places. Plus, kids whose parents take a keen interest in their lives tend to have improved self-esteem. The most important people in their worlds think they and their lives are important – and that’s a big deal.

But what’s interesting is that family meals seem to provide a unique benefit. It’s not just the amount of time — sitting around on the couch doesn’t seem to have the same effect. My take on this is that breaking bread with one another is an intimate and sacred ritual. Preparing and sharing meals is an act of love. It brings people together in an important way that other activities simply can’t.

So if you want to feel better and resolve your eating issues, you just have to schedule some family dinners, right? Of course it’s not that simple, especially for those of us for whom meals with family more closely resemble a scene from Twelve Angry Men than a Stouffers’ commercial.

If getting your family to the dinner table five times a week seems impossible or disastrous, consider how you can create family meals that work for you. That might mean scheduling just one time per week where you come together to order pizza. Or it might be mean creating your own version of “family” — a person or group of people who support you and with whom you would enjoy splitting some crab rangoon.

Do you share meals with family? What are they like for you?

 

03 Jul

Learning to Enjoy Your Own Company

Guest Post 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

It’s so easy to become stuck in the belief that someone else is the source of your comfort and happiness. Anne-Sophie Reinhardt. body image expert and author, believes you can be your own partner. Read on to find out how.

Warmer weather is here for most of us– a time that screams “couples,” “togetherness,” “dating,” and pretty much anything but enjoying your very own company.

Yet, whether you’re single or in a satisfying relationship, it’s crucial to feel comfortable when you’re on your own, spending time with just yourself.

The truth is nobody can and will make you happy if you’re not at peace being on your own.

I’m speaking from painful experience. When I got married at the age of 22 after, get ready for it, six short weeks of knowing my husband, I was miserable. I hated my life, the world and, most of all, myself.

Yet, I believed that now that I had that special someone in my life, everything would change. It had to, right? After all, I was not alone anymore. So, I’d surely be living in a blissful state of sunshine, self-love and butterflies.

Three years later, I’m going through a divorce and I’ve learned my lesson. Before you can have a deep and lasting relationship with anybody, you have to accept, appreciate and love yourself first.

So, let’s take this season as an opportunity to give ourselves the gift of learning to appreciate our own company.

Have a date night with yourself. Most people think that going out to dinner alone or going to the movies by yourself is a sign of living a sad life. I strongly disagree. Taking yourself out for a date can be a very special time if you realize that you’re not alone but you’re with yourself. Remember, you’re an actual person too. So, get dressed up, choose a fancy restaurant, a fun rom-com and treat yourself as you would a date.

Sit in silence, even if it hurts.  Do you have a hard time sitting in stillness because your inner voice is tormenting you? Try to do it anyway. Sit in silence for 10 minutes and then journal about your feelings if you like. The more often you choose to sit in silence and focus on your breathing or meditate, whatever you want to call it, the more comfortable you’ll feel. You’ll realize that your thoughts are just ramblings, little lies going through your mind. They can’t hurt you if you won’t let them. Place your attention on your breath over and over again and see how your entire being relaxes.

Take a trip by yourself. I love to travel on my own. It never fails to uplift me, challenge me and increase my self-efficacy. I learn something new about myself every single time, whether I travel across the pond or just around the corner from my hometown. Traveling on your own may be scary at first and you probably think that you can’t ever do it, but yes, you can. Give it a try. Jump into it with both feet and you’ll see how much fun you can have with yourself. You’ll actually get to do what you want to do, see what you want to see and pause when you want to pause. Pretty awesome, right?

Get down to the nitty gritty of being yourself. What is it you actually like? Do have any idea or have you just always done what other people told you to do? If you’re up for it, light a candle and incense and do some self-reflection. Start with easy questions like what your favorite color really is and then go into the harder ones like what you want your life to be about.

Face your reflection. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you love yourself. Say this out loud as often as you need to. This can bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. You may even want to have some tissues ready. This is a powerful exercise and will deepen your level of self-love and self-acceptance. Try to do it every morning and look yourself in the eyes. One day, you will end up meaning the words you’re saying.

Enjoying your company, loving the time you spend with yourself gives your life and your relationships a whole new level of intimacy and depth. The more you practice it, the deeper your relationship with yourself gets.

So, starting today, pay attention to your needs and desires by spending time with yourself.

anne-sophie

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a body image expert, self-love advocate and the author of Love Your Body The Way It Is. Join her newsletter and receive your free 3-part video series helping you to break free from your obsession with food and your body.

16 Apr

Media Literacy: Three Tips to Preserving Your Self-Esteem on Social Media

Ideas to Consider 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

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{via flickr creative commons: toodlepip}

We ll know the obvious question to be asked following news of a friend’s recent break-up. No, not “How are you holding up?” or even, “Rocky Road or Peanut Butter Chip?”

It’s, “Did you de-friend him yet?”

While some of us are gluttons for punishment, many new members to the Lonely Hearts Club recognize that they just don’t want to be faced daily with updates about their lost lover’s latest escapades. Photos of him with his hot new girlfriend drinking pina coladas in Riviera Maya? Hardly a self-esteem booster.

So we de-friend him. But what about all our other happily coupled Facebook friends? Are we ready to be faced with over-exposed photos of newly placed diamond rings or our cousin gushing about the romantic anniversary dinner her partner cooked up last night?

For some, social media like Facebook and Instagram can become a minefield of social comparison traps.

For the record, social comparison is a 100% normal human process. The theory, established in the 1950s by a psychologist named Leon Festinger, says that it’s a natural drive to try to establish accurate self-evaluations. To do this, we compare ourselves to others, either in an upward or downwards pattern.

Facebook and the like create the perfect platform for such comparison. We sometimes use our newsfeeds to help boost our own sense of achievement (“Look at all these bums taking the weekend off. I’m such a hard worker!”), while at other times it becomes a source of embarrassment or even shame (“Everyone has plans for Valentine’s Day except for me. Even my grandma!”).

Facebook doesn’t cause the problem in and of itself, but some of us are particularly vulnerable to such comparisons. If our self-esteem is already rocky, being faced with daily “reminders” of our inadequacies can be too much for our fragile sense of self to bear.

Technology doesn’t have to be all bad. If we can learn how to take in the information thrown at us on social media sites, we can sometimes preserve our self-esteem while still getting to partake in all of the great qualities of these sites — like an increased sense of connection and an exposure to new and interesting information.

Here are three tips to doing just that:

1. Remember that people post their greatest hits, not their blooper reel. While some friends do share their trials and tribulations with their whole Facebook networks, most of us avoid posting things that are truly embarrassing or distressing. Instead, we share our vacation photos, our successes at work, and our kids’ “adorable” (to us…) antics. We choose the photo that makes us look best, not the one with the crappy lighting where we look like we need a brow wax and to see the colorist. Keep in mind that the friend posting that photo likely chose between 20 similar ones. She didn’t look that great in the other 19.

2. Go ahead and hide that status. If you’re not ready to commit to the de-friend, it may be useful to utilize the hide function for those certain friends’ statuses. You know who they are. The ones that seem to have an endless supply of money, time, and joy. If it’s too much to revel in their constant paradise, you don’t have to. Hide their statuses and rest assured that if you feel up to commenting on their latest trip to Maui, you can visit their page.

3. Limit your online time. Facebook is a time-suck, no doubt. It’s easy to find yourself scrolling through hours of status updates with a blank stare and drool running down your mouth while simultaneously muttering about how much you hate this site. That might be your cue that it’s time to re-enter this other, pretty amazing world. It’s called reality. As much as the virtual world tries to imitate it, it’s not the same as actually living life. If you feel addicted (no joke, “facebook addiction” googled more often than “cigarette addiction”), try setting a daily time limit for yourself.

 

How do you manage to keep your social comparison and self-esteem in check when it comes to social media?

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