Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your Life Raft

Today, I thought I'd bring back a little post I first wrote 4 years ago by plumping it up, by revisiting it, by remembering it.. Today, I spoke to a group of women about eating disorders. We got on the very broad topic of 'this world in which we live.' It's a difficult place for people...especially for women. We throw around these terms: "society," "the media," "the diet industry," etc. And none of these things cause eating disorders. Eating disorders are mental illnesses. Yet, there are a lot of things out there that perpetuate the idea that it's all about the way you look. That it's all about what you wear, what size you are, how much you weigh... That it's all about your appearance.

Well I have news for you: there is a lot more to you than that. A LOT. And I hear you - I know you're being told left and right that there isn't. So it's hard to know what to think. I get that. And that's why: Appreciating Yourself is Your Life Raft in the Waters of Criticism.

That was the title of my 4-year-old post.

It’s easy to get swept up in the swirl of the world. You go to school or work and you see and hear things that make you feel inadequate. There are a lot of things out there that influence us, whether we like it or not. And in a lot of ways, it can be a good thing. Many of us have friends with whom we have a great time, family about whom we love and care, and things we enjoy doing, watching, or reading. And that’s okay. 

But when you already feel a certain way and suddenly you can feel that something around you is pulling you to feel another way, you need to stop and think for a minute. A minute is all it takes. You’ve heard the advice: “Go with your first instinct.” Well, in this case, you usually should. If something you see or hear or read makes you second guess how you FEEL about yourself, it’s best to examine it. 

Don’t get me wrong—it’s great when we see or hear or read something that makes us question our thoughts or our knowledge about something. It’s good to be open to other opinions, possibilities, and viewpoints. We can learn a lot by paying attention to the world around us. Just don’t let something make you feel like less of a person if you didn’t feel that way before.

If your peers are telling you something negative (that you’re fat, ugly, etc.) or worse—if your friends (which is questionable to say the least) are saying things that make you feel bad about the way you look—don’t let them bring you down to a place where you want to change to please them. Working to please others or to make others like you is no way to live and is, frankly, a recipe for disaster. At the end of the day, all you have is YOU.

Not all criticism is constructive.

Appreciating yourself is your life raft in the waters of criticism.
For girls and women, especially, life can become a competition. You want to be pretty, you want to be smart, you want to be thin. You want to make sure you are as good as everyone around you. Sometimes it can feel hard to measure up. Sometimes the people you’re trying to measure up against TELL you that you aren’t good enough in some way. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not thin enough. Your clothes aren’t nice enough. Your job isn't good enough. Your grades aren't good enough.Your haircut isn’t cute enough. The list can be never-ending.

You’ll never be able to please everyone. And you’ll never be able to hold yourself above the water if you let other people pull you under. And drowning is a horrible way to die.

Really, it’s all about survival. You can’t let people--or things you see, hear, or read--get the better of you. If you read in a magazine that being a certain size makes you somehow less appealing to the world at large, but you felt okay about your size before you read it, listen to your first instinct—that you are fine the way you are. Don’t buy into the negative pull. If your friends, school peers, co-workers, and/or family say something that makes you feel negatively about yourself, just remember that what they say doesn’t determine what you are. And for everyone who says something that makes you feel bad, there may be just as many people who see you as great in a lot ways.

If you see an ad on TV and it makes you wonder if you should try to change yourself in some way, don’t let something you see for two minutes on TV influence you into thinking you’d be better off looking different. You have your own mind; use it.

Appreciating yourself is your life raft in the waters of criticism.

You write your own story. You can change anything you want or choose not to change. And you can add a new chapter whenever you feel like it. You don’t need something external telling you what and how to change. All throughout your life, people are going to offer their opinions whether you like it or not. Sometimes a person’s opinion will help you…and sometimes it will hurt you. It’s up to you to learn the difference. In fact, there are a lot of things out there in the world that can help us…and there are just as many things that can hinder us. A minute of thought can make a world of difference when it comes to deciding whether or not to think negatively about yourself.

When it comes right down to it, no one else anywhere is YOU. You are the only you. There’s no one out there like you. So you can’t go wrong looking the way you do. You can’t go wrong being what you are. You are you and that is the way you were meant to be. It’s okay and natural to feel unsure about the way you look sometimes, or to feel unsure about the things you think or do, but if you’re feeling good about yourself, don’t ever let anyone make you think differently. When you give in to a negative thought about yourself, you’re relinquishing a little piece of yourself. If you continue to do that, pretty soon you’ll have surrendered a lot of pieces. You’ll be weaker and more unsure than ever.

Appreciating yourself is your life raft in the waters of criticism.

It can get pretty difficult dealing with lots of things and people around you, especially if they are undermining your confidence in yourself. But you know what? It takes a very strong person to make it through and come out on top—to come out feeling okay. To come out knowing you are great just the way you are. To come out better because you know this.

Don’t give up on yourself. You have all the power.

How great is that?

YOU have all the power.
And you are beautiful - outside, inside, and everywhere in between. Just as you are.

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