How about a LIKE for YOU ;) ;)

Ladies, let’s face it. We rock! We rule! Strong and capable warriors wrapped up in nurturing caregiver packages, we get it done. We get it all done. We are amazing.

Now, if we could just remember this! Although realistically, “How could we?” Messages telling us we are somehow “not-enough” inundate us regularly. Constant communications bombard us to lose ten, freeze off our flab, flatten our tummies and augment ourselves in ways, well in ways too many to address, just to be OK let alone awesome.

In a world where media messages tell us to change who we are to matter, we can feel pressured to have a certain body shape or smoother looks. Striving constantly to uphold a standard of excellence and perfection that is next to impossible, we seem to have lost sight of who it is we are trying so hard to impress. Perhaps this is because of all the suggestions “out there” that we are somehow limited. “Change to conform,” they say. “Weigh less to be more.” “Alter your bodies to be more appealing.” “Tweak your looks to something better, but whatever you do change ladies change!”

These messages tell us, often all too subliminally, that our number one goal should be to kowtow to a societal ideal that is confusing. On one hand, dress size, there is a very small number attached, on the other, breast shape, a very large one. These numbers are actually nothing more than a set-up, but they are nevertheless in place, put there by some faceless, nameless rule-makers out in the world, imaginary rule-makers at that. Ones who cause havoc with our self-esteem and sense of security regularly. These rule-makers are not real. They do not exist. Do not buy in. You do not have to.

Collective standards teach us that we are in some way competing with one another as we follow dictates hypnotically. We may as well be walking off cliffs because we are not truly sure who is leading us, yet still we follow. We get behind the bandwagon with the most clicks or tweets or likes, often even before we have formed our own opinion. In doing so, we set up a model based on fluff and lacking substance, yet its templates are cookie cutter – Marketing 101. We blindly buy in to clever ploys designed to sell products and keep us buying.

dislike

Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself what it is you are really getting when you do this “buying in?” Is it not actually more stress than relief that rings up with your sale? Stress to be … well, whatever it is they tell you is the right way to be for now. Do not get too comfortable with your purchase though people, because whatever it is will surely change fast. So much time gets wasted keeping up that it makes me wonder, “How can we even be who we are supposed to be? Who the heck has time when we are so busy figuring out how to look like everybody else?”

How might you feel if you simply relaxed into being yourself? If you really want to “buy in” to something amazing, buy every inch of you. In doing so, you will be heading towards a much deeper existence than “survival of the fittest.” Consider what it even means to be “fit.” Merriam Webster’s definition of the word includes the following:  “adapted to the environment as to be capable of surviving; acceptable from a particular viewpoint, put into a suitable state; adapted to an end of design; suitable by nature or art; sound physically and mentally.”

So considering key words in this definition, “fitting in” would seem to involve much more than your dress size, breast shape or the flatness of your tummy. If “surviving” involves being acceptable from “a particular viewpoint,” why not decide to start making that acceptable viewpoint your own? Opt to be suitable for you. When you make a decision to fit, to “adapt” into your own beautiful package, to feel “suitable” from your own “viewpoint,” a shift takes place, one of self-acceptance and self-love. Within that framework lies an opportunity to honor all that you already are, exactly as you are. The result:  healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit, healthy world and a life that can then be about so much more than just “fitting in” or “surviving,” but thriving.

How do you get there? It can be difficult to imagine if you have spent years beating yourselves up over what you see as your proprietary flaws, “I wish my body were different. I wish I looked like “her” or “her” or her.” How about putting down the “how you look” baseball bat today and deciding, “This is who I am. This is what I’ve got and as of right now, I am rocking it.” Why not, “Yay Me! I am the prize baby, and by the way, I am so much more than OK with it.”

image

Imagine the difference it would make in your life if right here, right now you began honoring your body as lovely. Think of how good it would feel to stand before the mirror and imagine yourself clicking “like” for you. Never mind how many times a day you click it for others. Try for an attitude of approval for yourself instead of dismay for what you perceive you are not. Consider the shift in your energy today, at this moment, if you accepted yourself, your very own self, the whole shebang, (love handles, tummy, stretch marks, wrinkles, blemishes, whatever, all of it) as being perfect. What would your day be like then? How would it be different if you went out to do your tasks being proud of the person you were in all of your “amazing-ness” instead of frustrated about not looking better while you tried?

I hope you will join in, will come together with all of the rest of us out here trying not to buy in. We need you. We really do. Will you please join us?

Love,

Your Soul Sisters

More Than Just a Paycheck

I just got my end of the week paycheck. Yeehah! Party down! Well, not exactly. Once again, when I was handed the window envelope, my reward for a completed work week, I cringed with disappointment. As I slipped my index finger through the seam to open it, I played a little game with myself. I pretended not to know what the net amount would be and that it might somehow be bigger than I expected. Alas, I had no such luck. I am not in corporate America anymore, so it is what it is, oh well.

i need a raise boss

Every week, when I collect this small check, I find myself pushing against a limiting belief that tells me I am “less than” because of the figure on the pay stub. Each Friday, when I open the envelope, I feel a defensive pit in my gut and it is all I can do not to yell out, “Just so you know, I used to make a lot more,” to anybody standing nearby, especially some of the members who really crack me up because they assume; well they just assume, let’s leave it at that. It is not about needing the money, there is plenty in the bank, but it is about what I tell myself it means that the amount is so small, as if my worth equates to how much I earn. “Not!”.

Gateway raises

As I put the envelope securely away, I know that I will once again check out Indeed.com when I get home in my continued quest to find a great new gig, one where I work to my potential and am compensated accordingly for my skill set, but for now I remember that I am in a “meantime” gig and pat myself on the back for being here and doing the best I can. As I pat, I tell myself to make sure my next position absolutely does not involve a time clock. It’s just such a hit to my self esteem to use one when I arrive at work these days.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s my ego, but even though I’ve trained myself to be grateful for daily opportunities to be of service as I clock in, sometimes it’s hard to mean it. I do thank my Higher Power for putting me where I am because I trust that I can make a difference, but once in awhile I stand still for a minute when I arrive, wondering whether to hold on or let go here. Inevitably I press “IN” and head inside to get lost in the day’s work that will keep me busy, distracted and hopefully helpful until the next too small paycheck. All too often these past few months, I find myself wondering how I have landed at this mediocre job; how I have come to this place where I receive a weekly stipend resembling what I earned when I was sixteen and working at a luncheonette (actually, I got tips back then besides).  photo1

How have I gone backwards? Or have I? For some time now I have been trying not to let the memories of “used to be” get in my way. I will get beyond this, but for now I am remembering how much I loved being part of a big company with their name at the top of my business card. I loved that feeling, five mornings a week, as my heels click clacked across the marble lobbies in Manhattan, then Greenwich, then Boston. The feeling of being “someone going somewhere” with my power shawl draped over my shoulders, and the subtle trace of Chanel 22 in the air following me as I’d purposefully walk towards the bank of elevators.

Together with other freshly pressed riders, all politely trying not to make eye contact in the too small setting, I’d ride up, up, up to one of the lighted numbers above until we arrived at our prospective floors. Floors where the employees, myself included, garnered excellent medical benefits, paid upscale lunches and several weeks of vacation time. I remember feeling like “somebody” back then. Part of other somebody’s riding up in those Otis cars, and even though we had no idea what kind of salaries anyone else was getting, it was understood that in those buildings I commuted to, we were all doing pretty well.

Each day, after arriving at my floor, I’d settle into an ergonomically correct chair at a mahogany desk with matching accessories. I’d cradle the blue and white Acropolis adorned paper cup, the one I got at the coffee shop that had my breakfast order ready simultaneously with me walking in their door, and take a moment to look out onto Avenue of the Americas, Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Avenue or the Charles River, depending on which office I was in. In those moments, I felt as if I mattered, as if I was somebody going somewhere.

Now, I arrive at the back room of a golf shop, where all the stuff is housed that nobody knows what to do with. It is here, at a Formica table top, that the bulk of my work takes place as I procure what is sold to members at a price that will both make them money and provide what they want (almost an impossible task).

The wall behind my desk is in dire need of a paint job and there are several small holes in it desperate for spackle. These are remnants from a shelf that fell down, well before my time, because it wasn’t anchored properly. I know, because I have learned this here the hard way, that a replacement shelf is unlikely to be put up. Actually, there is a maintenance man who handles this type of thing, but along with the shelf there are many things in my work arena that seem “un-maintained.” Once, when a light bulb blew, it took 4 days and a requisition form until it was bright enough to read the invoices on my desk again. Another, after a week of waiting for a replacement filter for the air conditioner, I wound up at Lowes buying it.

. Trust me

This is very different from back in the day, in those offices in the sky. All I had to do was call building administration and although the company was charged heavily, things were fixed immediately. I can’t help but think it is because, back then, I mattered at my job. I mattered. My surroundings reflected it and I got paid a salary commensurate with showing me I did. At least that’s where my head can wander to lately.

The carpet in my “office” now is worn and the only cleaning crew available to vacuum it is whichever staff member is the last to leave at night. That person, often me, gets the honor of running The Shark in an attempt to spit shine the place ever so slightly at the end of the day. If this task does fall to me, I push the machine across the floor as quickly as I can, because God forbid anyone actually sees me. My only thought as I hold the cord out of the way is “Please tell me I have not come to this!”

Occasionally someone will knock on the large picture window, looking in at my mortified self, because they have a tee time crisis. As I shut off the power and unlock the door, I am tempted to tell them, “Don’t get the wrong idea here. I am not an office cleaner. By the way, did you know that I used to share a corner office and made six figures up north? Oh, and by the way, I have been to Europe many times. How about you?” And then I get bummed out at myself because I know better. At least I ought to, since I’ve put in so many 24’s turning to God and working on my spirituality and all. I don’t know why I can’t always remember that my job tasks do not define me, nor do the amount of zeros at the end of a check. I just forget sometimes that God may have me where I am right now for a reason. I wish I could always “know” that as long as I am working with purpose and trying to make a difference, I am a success, no matter what, no matter what. If only I could remember to say “OM” every week before I open my paycheck, perhaps I wouldn’t have these moments.

I do inherently know that my journey right now is not about a paycheck, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t hard every time I open that damn envelope. If only I could remind myself whenever I do even the most menial task, that it is in the doing that I am a success and not because of what I get for it. This being human and having to go to gratitude all the time can be tough stuff, especially when I look backwards on my careers. But, whenever I do, thankfully I am reminded that God has a plan and the reason for my being at this job may not have anything to do with me. It may be about something bigger, some higher purpose, and just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

So, here goes: “Dear God, I promise, I have done my job with dignity thus far and will continue to do so. I will keep praying for guidance to do the best I can each day. Help me to punch the time clock with a purposeful smile and turn to you for messages about why I am here. I pray for humility and gratitude for what I have. Thank you for helping me to find both, even in the midst of yearning for more. Help me to remember that I am no longer a woman who needs corporate America and all of its trappings. Please and thank you! Amen.” There, I feel much better now. And tomorrow, I will once again pray for guidance. As I do, if the answer comes for me to move on, I will do that gracefully. If not, I will punch in and work hard and even run the vacuum as necessary until I punch out again.

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” François de la Rochefoucauld

Think about this quote as it relates to you. As it relates to your children, your spouse, your nieces or nephews, to your students, your neighbors, your friends. Really think about it. Then consider how many are wearing masks of “enough” out there in the world and how hard they are trying to be seen as what they think “we” want them to be. So much so that they may be losing sight of what they already are, deep inside.

I’ve been caught in the mask trap over the years, no doubt, and have watched people I love get caught in it too:“How do I need to look today to be enough to you?” “Should I curl or straighten my hair?” “What do I have to wear to be accepted?” “How much cleavage has to be out to be sexy?” “Do I look okay?” “I can’t go out of the house because I have a zit!” “I don’t look fat do I?” “Are you sure I don’t look FAT?” This last often comes from two of my nieces who happen to be gorgeous and the fact that they are size 0-2 has nothing to do with what makes them gorgeous!

I just don’t “get” how things have gotten so twisted, how plastic surgery became the norm instead of the exception and when the pressure to conform became this great. I wonder sometimes if I’m the only one who thinks so. If not, I really think it’s time to start screaming louder than the media ladies! Sometimes I feel like everyone is screaming already emotionally, but no one is listening.

Is anyone else worried about how much emphasis there is to be perfect today on our teenagers? Actually not just on our teenagers but on all of us? Aren’t you afraid of the desperate need for everyone to cover up any potential “flaw” and disguise uncertainty about looks by tweaking towards what society tells them is enough, is pretty?

I was hit between the eyes with these thoughts last night while watching the news and saw one story on the Miss USA pageant that discussed how this pageant had caused a stir for two reasons.

1. A beautiful entrant is now being touted a heroine for being “brave enough” to be seen in a bikini as a size four (4). No joke. The news reporters congratulated her for being courageous enough to be “au natural” and represent an “average” American woman. As I watched the segment I wanted to cry at the absurdity of what we are as a society. Is this what we have come to? Are we really making a young American woman out to be heroic because she is stepping out onto the stage as “Oh My God,” a size 4? Folks, if this is the case, we’re screwed!

The media creating a story around this contestant feels scary. Is this really helping the average girl out there feel better? What is the message if size 4 is called taking a risk? In the segment clips one after the other long legged, long haired full breasted contestant, without an ounce of body fat among them, appeared on the screen. This thumbnail representation may look like a few young American women I know, but is not the norm or the end all be all for beauty.

In actuality the average American woman today is 5’4” with a waistline of well over 30.” Her dress size is between a 12 and a 14, give or take a little as I averaged these numbers from the web, but hopefully you get my drift.

So, to take a size 4 pageant entrant and focus on her bravery for daring to step out on stage is, in my opinion, total insanity. I ask the media: “Just who was that piece for?” Was it for the REAL average American that would kill to look like that size 4? Was it for your ratings? Who is it supposed to reach or to help? Who are we doing these shows for folks? Seriously. We watch them. Our sisters watch them. Our young daughters and step daughters, granddaughters, nieces and cousins watch them and they all dream of looking like “that” girl.

They wonder what they can do to wake up one day that comfortable in their skin or with a body like that. They wonder how come they can’t get there even though they try. They dislike their large bones or small breasts, thick thighs or thin lips and they don’t stop criticizing themselves long enough to realize that they already are beautiful. They already are perfect and special and unique and unlike any other person in the world because of their exact face or shape or body and their exact special gifts.

If only we could start (even just with little baby steps) to get back to center ladies. The center that knows that we are all lovely in our own way. The center that invites us to embrace that unique beauty and stop wearing the cookie cutter disguises that make us all mirror images of what society has told us is beautiful. If only women would stop buying into the bullshit out there that it seems everyone is buying into, we might actually stand still long enough to see our own and then others’ beauty. If not, we are all set up to fail.

Because, what happens is that older women who are buying in today have daughters who are paying close attention. And these daughters become moms down the road to daughters who will also pay attention. All of these daughters and mothers who are looking for validation around their beauty, their uniqueness, their originality will be screaming, but so loud that nobody can hear them. They are begging to find a way to stand still and graceful and feel enough in the midst of what society tells them is their “not enough-ness,” but don’t even know it because there doesn’t seem to be anyone to guide them.

And it is not just about the ladies although that is my focus with this blog. There are also fathers and sons and brothers affected, either with their own struggles or the struggles around watching their sisters or girlfriends, mothers or wives not believe in their beauty.

How about if we start now? Right here, right now? By not buying in anymore. By standing up and using our voice. By saying that we already are beautiful. We are graceful. We are enough. We are special and unique. Just the way we are! I am and so are you.

If not, as I said, we are screwed. No question. When will there be a pageant with truly “real” and “average” women? Or better yet, when will there be no pageant? When will we say “Hell, no, we don’t need one! We don’t need a crown to tell us we are winners?”

Which brings me to the Second reason for the stir created by the Miss USA pageant:

2. The winner of this years Miss USA pageant is a beautiful woman named Miss Nevada. At least that was where she entered from. As it turns out she had entered the Miss California pageant three times but lost every time. Now I am not really interested in where she is “really” from. What I am interested in is, why it is so important for someone to be labeled “Miss Somebody” that she has to try four times from two different states?

How about being “Miss Yourself?” “Miss Ourselves?” Our very lovely, very original, totally unique selves? When will there be a prize for holding on to that? When will our society figure out that we are all so busy re-creating ourselves to be what will be noticed as beautiful that we lose sight of what beautiful actually is?

The crown of love and talent and self acceptance is already ours for the taking. The gift that lives deep within us and allows us to be free to stand without disguises is real beauty. The sacred loveliness that is each one of us that needs no nipping, no tucking, no starving ourselves to fit into Barbie sized clothes, no brightening or whitening or tanning salons, no colored contact lenses or hair straightening, no acrylic nails with little butterflies on them, no killer heels that hurt like hell when we walk in them.

Are you getting the message yet? Why did Miss Nevada, now Miss USA, formerly vying to be Miss California feel the need to enter a contest under different states four different times? Because she lost 3 times does that take away from her win? Will her crown really make a difference? Interestingly, when asked what the capitol of Nevada is during an interview the other day she had no idea and she is the states pageant representative! So what does it all mean?

When will we stop believing the lies society is telling us? When will we actually begin to stand still in our God given bodies without augmentation or reduction of any kind? At what point can Miss USA be considered beautiful just by being herself and without changing homes in order to lessen the competition. When is our society going to get their heads out of their asses (their non perfect, slightly cellulited asses) and wake up?

When will we be able to accept and embrace what God has given us? When? I hope and pray that each and every one of you begin right now to believe what I believe. That you are now and always will be enough, actually more than enough, no matter what size you wear, the color of your eyes, your height or how much you weigh. I hope you believe that there is a place for every one of you on the stage of loveliness. The stage that is your life and that sadly doesn’t have a dress rehearsal.

Believe in your place and go out and get it. Be it. Own it. Own who you are and how gorgeous you are right there exactly as you are! Absafrigginlutely GORGEOUS! Go be yourself and honor the woman of Grace, dignity and honor that you already are. While you are at it, teach other people how to honor that in you too and tell them to keep their crown because as James Baldwin wrote, “ours has already been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear it.”

With love xoxoxo