If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that one of my missions in life is to spread body positivity, self-love, and the importance of a healthy mindset. You’ve read about my body image mindset shift after competing, and the ways that I personally soothe my body insecurities. You’ve been so receptive to these that I thought, what better way to expand these ideas than to invite in a new voice on the topic?
This week we are trying something new for BuildingBri.com! Our very first guest blogger, Kelly U, has written a piece for us about breaking the mental health stigma.
So, I wanted to offer you this piece that is very unique and near & dear to my heart from Kelly U because I believe that this girl is changing the world for the better every day.
Her bravery, honesty, and courage inspire me.
Kelly U is an eating disorder conqueror who spreads her message of self-love and body positivity (see why I think she’s the best?) on YouTube as well as various other social medias. Her videos range from tips on how to end your fear of weight gain to overcoming binge eating.
This article is Kelly’s way of breaking the mental health stigma. At the end, she offers us some tips on what to do on bad body image days, what to do when you have food anxieties and fears, and why compassion and love for yourself in those moments are so important.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Kelly or simply just bringing her light into your life, follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and be sure to check out her channel.
Now, without further ado, please enjoy this raw and beautiful piece by Kelly: “I am not struggling, I’m surviving.” Please be sure to comment your thoughts at the end.
xoxo, Stay Great-Full.
I truly thought I would die feeling the way I always felt: addicted to food, hating my body, and truly thinking it was all my fault. It made perfect sense in my struggling. self-hating mind. I was the one binge eating. I was the one unable to maintain a “good weight.” I was failing to meet any of my expectations.
I developed a deep sense of self-loathing at a young age. I never felt like I was enough, and this deep sense of emptiness needed to be filled by food. I obviously had no idea of how empty I felt at the time, but now having pursued recovery and a path to greater mental health, I can see it so clearly.
The patterns I created and the relationship I built with food were so obviously a result of everything I was missing and desperately needed.
I sought help and therapy changed my life. My old self (before opening my mind to the idea that working on my mental health was truly the answer) was terrified of the idea of therapy. It’s extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that you’re struggling. Then, it’s intimidating to think of trying to “fix” yourself. But I needed to remind myself that I am not a failure and I am not broken. I deserve a better life and I have to put in some work to actually get it.
Anxieties and fears with food and my body did not just manifest on their own. I had family issues, I did not feel very loved or wanted in my home growing up. I found it nearly impossible to find anyone who understood me. I felt excluded from all the cool girls in grade school, high school, even college. I turned to food to make me feel better.
I would eat until I couldn’t breathe and immediately hated myself. The food was not able to serve the purpose I was hoping it was. Every single night for basically my entire life. It was a cycle that did nothing but make me hate myself even more. I didn’t realize that
Therapy opened my eyes to the idea of self-love, self-worth and patience and compassion for myself. Most of us are never taught these things growing up. It is actually far more difficult for me to be nice to myself. My automatic mind is to ridicule myself until I get it “right.” But, my past with anorexia, binge eating disorder, body dysmorphia and bulimia have resulted in the complete opposite.
Understand that I will have ups and downs, I will fall hard, but I will never shame myself for doing so.
I have been going to therapy at least once a week for over two years now. And I have finally completed over two full months of eating disorder recovery. Successfully working on my mental health does not mean that I no longer struggle. It does not mean I am completely cured of my disorder. Mostly because these are not even close to my actual goals. All I want is to continuously work with myself. Understand that I will have ups and downs, I will fall hard, but I will never shame myself for doing so. I have now developed ways to love myself through even my darkest moments. Thanks to therapy. Thanks to feeling my feelings. Thanks to finally opening my mind and transforming it into a self-loving one.
Recovery means ultimate compassion and love for yourself through each moment.
I hope you rest easy tonight knowing how wonderful and worthy you are.
A post shared by Kelly U (@_kellyu) on Apr 2, 2017 at 9:12pm PDT
I hope you rest easy tonight knowing how wonderful and worthy you are.
A post shared by Kelly U (@_kellyu) on Apr 2, 2017 at 9:12pm PDT
This article will not be a bunch of self love tips and techniques. It will, however, help you cultivate self love by way of shifting your perspective a bit.
If I had one wish for everyone reading this article, it would be that they could all be just a little easier on themselves. Criticize a little less, breath a little more.
You’re not the only person to be reading this, you know. In fact, more than a dozen other people already have by now.
If you’re wondering why that’s significant, I’ll tell you: you are not alone. The very fact that you clicked on this headline and decided to read these words is because you can relate to it. You feel this way. You feel imperfect and are working towards accepting that.
Every single other person who has read and will read this feels the same way. Not one person here feels like they’ve got it all together.
The truth of the matter is, we’re all striving to be better. To look better. To accept ourselves more without trying to change a thing about us. We all dream of beautifully sculpted legs, chiseled abs, and strong ‘Michelle Obama arms’… and yet we’re all still here, reading this article about accepting our flawed and totally human selves.
If nothing else, take solace in the fact that every single person on the planet occasionally feels insecure.
Do you sink into yourself, wallow in the self-criticism, emphasize and nit-pick every flaw on every inch of your body, and let that feeling carry you throughout the day?
I sure hope not. Because the way you feel about yourself largely impacts the way you treat other people.
When you’re feeling down and discouraged, you are not a light to the world like you normally are. Your energy moves with you, shining through all of your daily interactions. Harboring negative self-beliefs is detrimental to not only your mental health but to your relationships with others.
As my favorite author Brene Brown says “…cultivating self-love is not optional. If I want to practice love with my family and friends, I have to start with me.”
The difference between those who are happy and those who are constantly dissatisfied is that happy people do not stay in those feelings.
Happier people still feel insecure, nervous, even vulnerable at times about their appearance. It’s the thoughts that counter those emotions that make the difference.
For me, it’s simply a reminder that sounds like this:
Remind yourself that even Beyonce has days when she looks in the mirror and feels dissatisfied. Body image is much more about the perceptions you have around the way your body looks and much less about how your body actually looks.
It’s all relative. You will always compare yourself to the best shape that you have had. For me, that means dreaming of days when I was in season and much leaner – days shortly before and after competition. You’re not alone in reminiscing on the body shape you once had, I’m right there with you.
When my mind drifts back to days of 8% body fat and size 2 jeans (the only time in my life I’ve fit in that size!) I can appreciate it now – even get excited about my next season.
But if I’m being 100% with you all, I still found flaws then. I remember looking the mirror at the cellulite that still hung around on my thighs, and the way my limbs were starting to feel “too skinny.” It’s irrational, I know, to criticize myself when I was in such an elite state. And yet, I did it anyway.
Even in my best shape, I still found things to improve upon. I was already making a mental list on the improvements I wanted to make in my off-season. When off-season came, I was making a mental list of all the definition I wanted to see in my body during my next competition season. Crazy, huh?
The take home point here is again the same: Body image is much more about the perceptions you have around the way your body looks and much less about how your body actually looks.
So why waste the beautiful body you have now dreaming about a better one, when you’ll still find flaws in it anyways? That would be silly, and a waste of precious time here living in that body. Accept yourself, flaws and all.
It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of ‘I need to change something now’ and start buying detox teas, fat burners, and hitting 60 minutes of fasted cardio.
Those actions will not serve you in the long run. No matter how hard you try, there is nothing you can do right this very moment to change the way you look once and for all.
What you can do, however, is take a step toward the body you want.
Given, this ‘new’ body will still be imperfect, as I mentioned above. But, if you want to make a change because you believe it will improve your quality of life, then I encourage you to do so.
Let the first change be around altering your self-perception into one of love, acceptance, and ease. From there, all your actions to improve your body will stem from a place of ‘I’m doing this because I love my body’ not ‘I’m doing this because I need to be different.’ See the difference? Love yourself now, and do all things from that place. You can’t go wrong.
The only person you need to impress is yourself. No one is expecting perfection out of you.
However, if it’s the judgment of others that concerns you, think about this: how many times has someone been incredibly nice to you, warm, friendly, maybe even given you a gift or provided you a service, and you 100% wrote them off because they didn’t have the ideal body?
I hope never. You probably have never done such a thing because it didn’t matter to you what they looked like. What mattered was the kindness they showed you.
The people around you are expecting kindness, generosity, intelligence, grace. Compared to those attributes, the perfect body is irrelevant.
Acknowledge your body for the way it keeps you alive. Your heart is beating, blood is pumping into your limbs. You have two eyes to see the beauty of the world around you and two arms to hug the people you love. You have legs that can climb mountains and hands that can paint works of art.
There is so much about your body that is more than how it looks.
Do not forget the amazing, beautiful person you are in the pursuit of ‘the perfect body’. Better yet, forget about the perfect body, and just be you. Be flawed. Be imperfect. By thick or thin, be tall or short, be petite or curvaceous. Be whatever and whoever you want so long as you accept yourself, be kind to your imperfect self, and be kind to those imperfect people around you. It’s all that really matters anyway.
Be kind. Be GreatFull.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get intimidated by other women. It doesn’t matter how great I look, how good I feel, or how hard I try. It seems that there is always someone who is ‘beating me’ in some way – whether it’s with grades, number of friends, abilities, appearance – anything. After a copious amount of trial and error, I’ve finally found the root cause of why I do this to myself over and over – why I hold myself up against everyone else.
I say ‘do this to myself’ because I think it’s of the utmost importance to acknowledge that when I compare myself to others, I am the one in control. I choose to compare myself. Though sometimes it seems I’ve committed the sin before I’m even aware that I’m doing it.
How many times have you done this: you’re scrolling through Instagram and stop on a picture of a perfectly sculpted body. Chiseled abs, defined arms, developed legs, and a flawless smile. Before you’re even consciously aware of it, your mind is racing with comparisons.
“Wow, they look so good. I wish my stomach were that flat. They must work so hard in the gym. I wonder what they’re eating. Maybe I should eat that too. Probably some of it is genetics. What if it’s not? I work really hard – shouldn’t I look like that? I’ll never look like that. That is so far out of my reach.”
Sound familiar? Sometimes I can’t even catch my breath before I’ve complained about a hundred imperfections on my own body and come up with twice as many reasons why I won’t ever look like that girl.
People on Instagram, even me, edit their pictures. I’d venture to say that they take dozens of photos at even more angles to find the best one before they download it into an editing app, turn up the shadows and increase the structure. Some people go so far as to smooth out their skin and add on mascara, eyeliner, and blush into their pictures (I didn’t even know this was possible!) I’m not criticizing these people at all – they look flawless! I’m just letting y’all know that what you see online is not what you get. You know, you try it too, I’m sure. We all do it.
The cause of comparison is rooted in uncertainty… and it’s 100% natural.
Comparison serves as a way to see how we stack up to others. It’s a means of finding out our rank. We want to know if we are average or brilliant. Are we ahead or behind? Unattractive or stunning? Smart or brilliant? Do we have as many friends as most people do? Do we take care of our kids as well as others do?
Comparisons are a way of examining the ladder. For instance, when you think of Bill Gates, you might see that at the top of the wealth ladder. You’d probably place several other celebrities near the top as well.
Then you might think of individuals in your community who are more well-off than you. They’re near the top, though closer to the middle.
Now your mind travels downward. You consider the middle and working class. Then, you think of people close to or on the poverty line. These folks rank further down. You’ve conjured up the idea of someone who doesn’t quite have enough.
Even further, you think of those who are homeless or struggling to find a meal. They are nearing the bottom of the ladder. As you go further down the line, you think of the poorest people you can imagine in third world countries. These people sit at the first step of the ladder.
All of these individuals serve as a mark to see how you’re doing. Are you at the Bill Gates level? Then you know you’re at the top. (P.S. if you are at that level, I’m accepting donations for college tuition! Justkiddingkindof.) Are you between well off and middle class? You’re somewhere near the middle. Are you below that? You probably think many or most people are wealthier than you.
Wherever it is that you rank, that’s how you’ve determined how you measure up.
We do this with all things – money, friends, intelligence, attractiveness. You see best and worse case scenario and put yourself somewhere on that long ladder as a way of seeing how you’re doing compared to others – to find out how you stack up. It’s rooted in uncertainty because you’re not sure how great (or not so great) you are until you place yourself next to someone else doing better or worse than you.
There are two types of social comparisons:
We tend to compare ourselves to people in fields that are important to use. Let’s take, for example, appearance, since most people value the way that they look at least to some extent.
When you compare yourself to someone who looks much better than you, it’s an upward comparison. When you compare to someone who does not look as good as you, it’s a downward comparison.
One of these makes you feel good, and one of these makes you feel shitty. I think you know which is which.
When you compare yourself to someone who is not as good looking as you are, it provides you with a little ego boost. “I’m not doing so bad,” you think, “I look much better than them. I must be pretty attractive.” In turn, you may even surround yourself with people who rank slightly lower than you on the appearance ladder because that enables you to maintain your positive evaluation of yourself.
When you compare yourself to someone who is much more beautiful than you are, it can make you feel bad because it threatens your positive self-image. They are so much further up the ladder than you that you don’t feel motivated or inspired by them, but intimidated and overwhelmed. Setting a goal to look like that person seems like biting off more than you can chew. You don’t believe you’re capable of achieving their level of attractiveness. So, in turn, you start to doubt yourself, feel hopeless and stuck in one place. You think, “I’ll never look like that – no matter how much I diet and workout.”
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
We tend to compare ourselves to others in domains that matter to us. Skills and abilities, grades, work performance, appearance, family life, etc. Coming up short in areas that are important to us can be quite a devasting blow to the ego because they matter so much. This can be especially painful if the domain we are making a comparison in is something we see as part of our identity – for instance, level of beauty or intelligence, being a great player, or talented at something.
If you’ve been told your entire life that you are an amazing writer, and then you compare yourself to someone who is clearly better than you, you begin to question just how great you truly are. It challenges your self-concept and identity, a difficult discord to soothe.
There are 3 strategies to avoid feeling badly, or worse, feeling contempt toward that person, after an upward comparison:
Is it a female that you’re comparing yourself to? Think of her success as success for all the females in the world. She’s on your team! When she performs better than you at work, think of that as a win for all the females at your company. She’s representing your gender so well. You are not competition for each other but on the same side, working on the same goals for women everywhere.
Are you comparing yourself to someone who’s better at a sport than you? Try not to compare yourself to a professional athlete if you’re just starting out. You can’t expect yourself to play like Micheal Jordan if you just picked up a ball a few years ago. Do you know how much struggle and strife he has gone through to be the incredible player that he is? Hours and hours of practice, games, and working with some of the best coaches one could imagine. That comparison is too big of a leap from where you are at this moment. Naturally, that kind of comparison will evoke feelings of inadequacy and defeat.
You can’t expect yourself to play like Micheal Jordan if you just picked up a ball a few years ago. Do you know how much struggle and strife he has gone through to be the incredible player that he is? Hours and hours of practice, games, and working with some of the best coaches one could imagine. That comparison is too big of a leap from where you are at this moment. Naturally, that kind of comparison will evoke feelings of inadequacy and defeat.
On the other hand, if you’re a college ball player, you might compare yourself to the number one drafted player in your sport at a college level. This is a much more attainable goal. You’ve had similar years of experience, and have similar resources. This kind of comparison can motivate you and remind you how close, or better, how possible your goals are.
Seeing someone who is slightly ahead of you on the ladder can actually motivate you, studies show. The right comparison can actually make you feel encouraged, capable, and eager to improve.
When you look at Micheal Jordan, let that serve as a motivator for you because he was once where you are. Whatever you’re struggling with, whatever is challenging you relative to basketball, he’s most likely gone through that too… and come out of it better.
When I see a Pro Bikini Athlete that looks unbelievable, I think about how far she come. She was where I am now. And you know what? She did it. Having achieved an immense amount of success in the fitness industry, she is inspiring, not competition.
Recognize when you’re making a healthy comparison and when you’re holding yourself to too high of a standard.
Most of us succumb to a little thing called the Above Average Effect. We may not think that we are the best at what we do, but we certainly think that we are better than most people doing it.
It sounds something like this:
“I’m not the most beautiful women ever, but I’m more attractive than most women around here.”
“I’m not the wealthiest person, but I am more well off than most people I know.”
“Sure, I don’t have the highest GPA possible, but it’s the highest in my sorority.”
“I’m no Bill Gates but I do have a higher level of success than most of the people I graduated with.”
Sounds familiar, right? I’d venture to say that most people engage in this kind of internal dialogue. Why? Because it feels good! As long as we are better than the average person by our owns standards than we feel okay, maybe even pretty good.
It may seem like you’re lying to yourself a bit. Surely, not everyone can be better than average. There has to be a spectrum. But you know what? I’m a fan of this optimism. And the research agrees with me.
This kind of internal conversation breeds self-esteem and a positive self-image. Those words, when repeated day in and day out will lead to beliefs. Eventually, those beliefs will become significant and strong influencers in our life. They allow us to believe in our capabilities. They remind us that we can do whatever it is that we are trying to do.
Private mental dialogue like that builds us up and makes us feel good about who we are. It assures us that even if we aren’t the best, we are enough. Beliefs like that, about being enough, transform how we view ourselves and what we believe we are capable of.
Our self-efficacy increases with thoughts and beliefs like these. Those with higher levels of self-efficacy tend to get more done and have higher levels of self-esteem, research shows.
It’s a matter of creating a loving, positive, healthy view of ourselves even if we have flaws and aren’t the absolute best we can be just yet.
What if we could love ourselves in spite of our flaws… maybe even more so because of them?
It turns out that comparisons may not be such a bad thing after all, huh? View those who rank below you as a little ego boost (it’s okay, it’s human nature!) and those above you as motivators, inspirations, and proof that it can be done can be advantageous.
When you change the mental framework around your social comparisons, you change the outcome and internal dialogue to a beneficial and useful one. Use comparisons as a tool for creating an overly positive self-image, which in turn leads to higher self-esteem and self-efficacy.
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