Banishing Should – Take two

The dress and cardigan are from Top Vintage. You can find the cardigan here and the dress here.

Last week I asked you to focus on four steps. First, I asked you to notice when you use should or shouldn’t. Second, to think about why you feel you should or shouldn’t do something. Third, to try to remember who first told you that you should or shouldn’t do it. Fourth, to focus on how you feel when you tell yourself you should or shouldn’t do it. I’d really like to know how you did so please let me know through the comments below or email. I know a lot of you signed up to receive the worksheet, so I’d also love to know what you thought. Did using the worksheet help? There will be another worksheet sent out this week to those of you who signed up. (For any of you who didn’t sign up last week there will be another option to sign up at the bottom of this post.)

This week we’re going to work on an important but sometimes difficult step — removing “should” from things you can’t control. I know many of us struggle with using “should” when we are discussing past events such as “I should have gone to the gym” or “I should have invited her to the party.” Using “should” for past events is brilliant. It both shames you for having done or not done something but it also assumes you have super human power to go back in time and fix the situation. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell to you this but you don’t actually have that power. Using “should” for past events really only serves to cause guilt because there isn’t anything you can do to undo what you shouldn’t have done. This week’s first step is going to be to stop using should for events that have already happened. If you’re feeling brave you can start replacing “I should have invited her to the party” with “next time I have a party I think I will invite her.” Looking forward to what you can change is much much more useful that looking back at what you’ve already done and wished you hadn’t.

Step two is something that I still struggle with. I try to be understanding and open to other people’s lives but sometimes I really like a good, judgmental gossip with friends. During theses bitch fests we often say “She should not have gone on a second date with him!” Or “he should never wear those jeans again.” I am aware that this is wrong on so many levels but I’m not perfect. This week you and I are going to try to recognize when we’re using should about other people and then (the harder bit) not use it. Now I’m not taking away anyone’s bitchy card so feel free to say “Why do you think she’s still with him?” Or “she could do so much better.” But try to avoid should whenever discussing other people. It makes you feel more important than others and more judgmental. Asking “Why doesn’t she break up with him?” gives those around you the option to say “She doesn’t want to” or “she really bloody loves him” or even “she wants to but she’s scared. I wonder how we can help?” Not using should in these situations gives others the options to disagree without feeling like you’re just going to should all over them.

Now I’m a big fan of putting things off so I obviously decided to save this weeks hardest step for last. Step three is to stop using should when talking about things you can not change. This often comes in the phrase “I should be able to lift that much weight” or “I should be able to party till 2 AM like everyone else.” It’s the “should” we put on ourselves when we want to do something that we know we physically or emotionally can’t. I was a great one for using it after my hip replacement. I felt I should be healing faster, running sooner, stretching easier. In my head I knew I couldn’t do those things yet but I wanted to be able to. This is when I refused to accept my limitations and instead decided shaming myself would be a better option. Accepting you can’t do something when you really cannot is awful. It’s almost easier to accept you can’t do the things you can do but don’t want to. This step is going to suck but please, please try this week to look out for the times you are using should because you don’t want to accept you can’t do something. When it happens remember that you are the only person who knows if you can or can’t do something and if you can’t that is OK because there are so many things you can do that others can’t.

Finally, I want to end this week by saying “be kind to yourself.” You are not perfect but you are pretty damn awesome. No matter who you are there are people in this world who would have less joy in their lives if you weren’t around. As always if you have any wobbles or questions please get in touch through the website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you’d like this week’s worksheet to help you keep track of there steps please sign up here. The next installment of banishing should will be here roughly the same time but if you want to make sure you don’t miss it please subscribe here or to the Facebook page. Good luck this week, my little ducklings, I believe in you.

The dress and cardigan are from Top Vintage. You can find the cardigan here and the dress here.

Banishing Should

The bikini is from Simply Be. You can get the top here and the bottom here.

I am starting a 3 part series about something that matters a great deal to me — removing the word should (or shouldn’t) from your vocabulary. Should is a guilty word. It shames us.  Should is a word that we often use to prevent ourselves from doing things we want or forcing ourselves to do things we don’t want to. Should guilts us into doing things rather than motivating us. I’m going to be sending out a worksheet with each blog post from the series to help you keep track of the steps and to help you move forward to removing should from your vocabulary. If you’d like to receive the worksheets please signup below.

 

We often use should when we have assigned a moral value to something that doesn’t need one. We decide that eating cake is bad and dressing a certain way is good for no real reason. We say “I’m being bad, I shouldn’t have a second helping of dinner.” For a long time I thought I shouldn’t wear a bikini without ever giving thought to why. There are hundreds of articles out there explaining to us why women of a certain age, or skin tone, or size shouldn’t wear certain items. Very few of us take the time to think about the motivation behind the should. Once I stopped to realise there was no God of bikinis who was declaring them unwearable for fat girls I was able to give myself permission to wear them. The first step I’m going to ask you to take this week is to start noticing when you use the word should and when you do I want to to ask yourself why. See if there is a good reason such as you actually shouldn’t eat sugar out of the sugar bowl as you are diabetic or if it’s some unknown authority making the rules.

See if you can remember when you first heard that you shouldn’t wear a certain kind of clothes or eat a certain food. Try to remember who said it and what was their motivation? Does the statement involving should motivate you? Thinking about how you should go to the gym isn’t usually inspiring. As you’re going through your week and noticing when you use should take some time to think about how it makes you feel. When you tell yourself you should go to bed at a certain time how do you feel? Do you want to conform or rebel? Do you feel guilt or defiance? Think about how the statement with should affects your mood. If you feel you should go to the gym at lunchtime and then don’t does it put you in a negative space? How long does the feeling last?

It’s very important when starting to break a habit to notice the habit first. Don’t worry about changing your vocabulary yet, unless it comes naturally. Spend this week working on four steps. First, notice when you use should or shouldn’t. Second, think about why you feel you should or shouldn’t do something. Third, try to remember who first told you that you should or shouldn’t do the thing. Fourth, focus on how you feel when you tell yourself you should or shouldn’t do the thing. It may seem scary at first but it’s important that you don’t place judgment on yourself for using should. If you’d like to download the worksheet to help you keep track of this week’s steps please join the email list here.

The bikini is from Simply Be. You can get the top here and the bottom here.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

I am a very smart woman. I am very, very good at coming up with excuses. I have spent many years coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t do yoga. I’m not the only one who has come up with reasons. There’s a whole host of people out there who have reasons why I shouldn’t do yoga and they happily tell me. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t do yoga because I’m too fat, because I’ve had a hip replacement, because I’m not flexible enough, because I don’t have good balance, because I’m too old. There have also been subtle messages that I shouldn’t do yoga such as the fact that it’s nearly impossible to buy cute, comfortable yoga clothes above an xl or the fact that most yoga advertisements feature petite women and never any plus size women. Also, walking into a yoga studio can be really intimidating. It’s intimidating for anyone who hasn’t tried yoga before it is especially terrifying for those of us who carry extra weight. There are definitely things that studios can do to make the atmosphere more welcoming for those of us who are fat.

I was lucky that when I posted on Facebook that I wanted to try yoga someone contacted me and invited me to an open day. Once I agreed online I couldn’t really back out. For me this was helpful as I was terrified of going but once something is on Facebook it has to happen. It’s sort of the law. When I arrived at the studio I was met by a large group of people. An open day can be helpful in creating a more comfortable environment, especially if you can ensure there are people of different sizes and shapes there. Walking into Hot Yoga Sheffield was fantastic as the building was filled with people with quite diverse body shapes. I didn’t feel like I was sticking out in any way and as a fat person I tend to want to fade in to the background in new and uncomfortable situations.

I took a few minutes to adjust and then asked to see the woman who’d invited me on Facebook. I’ll be forever grateful that she was so warm and welcoming. Sally seemed truly happy to be able to show me around the studio and was a big part of the reason I joined. The studio suited my requirements. There were changing rooms that had the privacy I sometimes like when getting my kit off around thinner women. There were couches in a quiet room, which made getting shoes on and off easier. There were also several different levels of classes from a warm 60 minute beginner to a hot 90 minute intense session. They’ve also got a brilliant little vegan cafe in the back with snacks and a fridge stocked with locally made juices. It may seem silly to a super fit person but the idea that they didn’t want fat me to just scoot off after class was a big deal. They didn’t seem embarrassed by me, which meant I felt able to let my guard down a little.

After a tour of the studio and a chat with Sally a terrifying thing happened — they had a spot in a beginners class and they encouraged me to give it a go. This scared the bejesus out of me. I walked into the warm room of around 40 people and saw they were all different sizes, shapes, and levels of sweaty. A lot of them looked nervous too! I found a mat in the corner and said a quick Hail Mary. We were encouraged to sit or lie on our mats before we started. The room felt wonderful! I love to sweat and I love the heat so I was really hoping hot yoga would work for me. I was still terrified about the yoga bit but sat down to give it a go.

The teacher, Rosie, greeted us and started by taking us though Sun Salutation A. (That’s right, I can now talk fancy yoga phrases.) We went through it quite quickly and then broke the steps down through the rest of the class. At one point I was struggling with a move and out of nowhere (and right before I nearly burst into tears feeling like I was too fat to do yoga) Rosie appeared with a brick and changed everything. That brick made me feel like I was accomplishing the pose, like I wasn’t a failure. She also said things like “if you’re struggling with this move you can try an alternative.” She truly made me feel like I deserved to be there as much as anyone else. We finished the class by putting all the poses together again to do another sun salutation and I nearly cried again as I was able to do the whole thing, but this time with happiness (luckily I was sweating a hell of a lot and was able to hide it). When we lay down at the end of class to breathe and relax, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

When I came out of the class I was on a high. I was so proud of myself. I also hadn’t considered how great the endorphins would feel. I happily signed up for the one month introduction special (this is still available if anyone wants to give it a go, it’s £32 for an unlimited month at both studios). It’s now been a month since my very first class at Hot Yoga Sheffield and I’ve been going twice a week. I wish I could go more as the studio is such a welcoming place to be. I’ve even done a private family class with Mr Westwood and the kids as the physical and mental health benefits are brilliant for anyone. I have definitely noticed my balance is getting better, as well as my strength, but the biggest change has been my mental health. The combination of the heat and yoga has been brilliant for my body and brain.

There is a growing body positive movement with in the yoga community. There are some inspirational women out there like Jessamyn Stanley and some great websites like curvyyoga.com, which helped reassure me I wasn’t the only one struggling with downward dog. There also a long way to go to making plus size women feel comfortable walking into a yoga studio. If you’d like to try a class at Hot Yoga Sheffield but you’re nervous to go alone please get in touch. I’m happy to join you in your first class as I know how terrifying it can be. If you’re not in Sheffield and would like to try hot yoga I would take some time to look online and see if you can find out the vibe of the studio before going. Having welcoming ambassadors like Sally, and understanding teachers like Rosie, are the reason I’m still at it. I’m well aware how a bad experience can put you totally off a type of exercise. If you’re not sure send me a message and I’ll see if I can find recommendations for somewhere in your area.

I HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY COMPENSATION FROM HOT YOGA SHEFFIELD AND ALL THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.

Learning to speak, again

I remember being 12 years old sitting in the car with my mum outside a store called Caldor. My mum had something she wanted to return but she was having severe anxiety about it. I didn’t quite understand at the time so I offered to return the item for her. It went smoothly and I didn’t think about that moment until recently. It brought back other memories. I remember having to ask for prices for things in shops or extra condiments at restaurants. I was often my mum’s voice. I don’t know that I ever fully understood my mum’s anxiety until I was in my 20s.

In my mid 20s I was a stay at home mum trying to take care of my kids. Somewhere between super hot teenage girl and overweight and exhausted mum I stopped thinking about what I needed or what would make me happy. I’m not sure what happened. Somewhere along the line while I was becoming a mum I stopped becoming me. I know the transition started from a good place. I suddenly had creatures I was in charge of and they became my priority. I was so focused on their needs that I stopped thinking about my own. I also started obsessing about inconveniencing others. I was both desperate to make sure my kids were happy and healthy and also not in anyone else’s way. Somewhere (read – media, society, patriarchy) I had been convinced that the best mums were invisible and as I struggled to find an identity beyond mum I felt all of me was supposed to be invisible. I stopped asking for what I needed and sank into the background.

When I was 29, having spent 8 years defining myself by those around me, I came up with the crazy idea to go back to university. I decided I wanted to find my identity. I won’t lie to you, it was terrifying. I was in classes with kids who were closer in age to my child than to me. They all seemed to cool and clever. Early on in the process I decided there would be no competition. I was going to be fatter, slower, and older. Basically I decided I had nothing to lose. I started to speak up. I started tho raise my hand and ask questions. It was scary but I knew that in order to pass my classes and not waste a tonne of money I needed to stand up for myself. As I started to stand up for myself at university I also started to stand up for myself in other scenarios. I stopped apologizing for a full five minutes before I returned things. I started asking for the specific thing I wanted in shops and at restaurants. I also stopped trying to hide. 18 months into my 3 year university course I found roller derby, which filled me with even more confidence.

Dress and cardigan are from Top Vintage. Dress is Miss Candyflloss and can be found here and cardigan is by Hearts & Roses and can be found here.

As I started to speak for myself I learned some important lessons. 1. No one is offended when you ask for mayonnaise for your fries. 2. The woman at the service desk at Marks & Spencer does not care that I am returning an item. 3. Everyone in the quiet car on the train is grateful when I ask the knobhead to put in headphones or turn his music off. 4. Having a little flutter in my belly before I speak up for myself does not make me weak. 5. I deserve to be visible and I will not be silenced just because someone has decided I’m not longer who they want to sleep with. The last lesson took me a long time to learn but is probably the most important rule. I deserve to be seen and heard. I am worthy. It has nothing to do with wether I am (or not) the physical ideal. This is the lesson we need to continue to tell ourselves and each other. We find excuses why we don’t deserve to be visible — I’m too fat, I’m too tall, I’m just a mum, I’m just a girl. It’s time for us to make ourselves more visible, to make ourselves heard. It’s time that we teach the next generation that they have every right to stand up for their beliefs and if they are scared that we will stand next to them shoulder to shoulder until they can feel worthy of visibility because everyone deserves to be heard and no one should have to live without mayo on their fries.

Getting unstuck

Sometimes we’re stuck in a situation that we can’t leave immediately. It sounds easy to leave a party when the host fat shames you, but it becomes much harder when you came with a friend who doesn’t recognize what’s happened and wants to stay. It sounds like an easy decision to leave a company when your boss is bullying you, but when you’re already living out of your overdraft it’s a much harder decision. During these times it’s hard to trust that things are going to work out and hearing advice to “stay positive and be patient” can be frustrating. I have been in a situation where I wanted to flee, and I wanted to share a few concrete steps that helped me cope until I was able to leave.

Changing plans may seem a bit of a cop-out but was a huge help to me when I was trying to leave a difficult situation. I had originally planned to stay in the job I had for two years. When things became difficult, I struggled. I kept thinking I would have to stay for that long, because that was ‘the plan.’

Then I changed plans. I started looking for way to leave early. Changing my plans made staying less awful. Once I changed my plans, I found it helpful to make new ones, both short- and long-term. I spent some time deciding how and when I could leave, as well as deciding where I wanted to be in a year’s time. Having an idea of where I wanted to go helped me figure out the steps I needed to get there.

I find this step especially important when it comes to financial goals. Often we can’t leave a situation because of finances, so figuring out exactly what we need in order to walk away is essential. Working towards that goal can also help distract us from a difficult situation. Watching savings grow and ticking things off our lists gives us a boost, especially when it means getting closer to leaving the situation we’re stuck in.

Being in a situation that we can’t immediately leave can often make us feel lonely or cause us to isolate ourselves. Finding a support group of friends and family wherever you can takes away some of the burden you may be carrying. Having people to whom you can vent is essential to coping. On a particularly rough day at work a text from a friend, a rant in a Facebook group, or a quick chat with a work friend in the bathroom can keep you going.
Building a supportive network is absolutely essential if you’re trying to escape a relationship. Maintaining allies when you are trying to away from a negative relationship means that when you are feeling weak you have someone to turn to. I firmly believe that an online community can offer just as much support as a friend you see face to face. Try to make time to meet someone for coffee once a week or take fifteen minutes to pop onto a Facebook group.

If you are struggling with isolating yourself or finding allies you can look towards groups online on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, and if you’d like to find allies that you can meet face-to-face, consider picking up a hobby like a knitting group or game night. When you’re stuck in a social situation you can’t get out of, and you don’t have an ally there, reach out and text someone who isn’t there, or go to your social media of choice. Just because you’re physically somewhere without an ally doesn’t mean you can’t remove yourself emotionally and connect with an ally who is somewhere else.

Everything I’m wearing is from Top Vintage. You can find the dress here, the cardigan here, and the hair flower here.

Setting aside quiet time can also be helpful. When I have been stuck in a relationship or job I hated I have found that taking fifteen minutes helps me keep my cool. I take some time every day to sit quietly (in a bath, on the couch, in a coffee shop), shut off anything I am listening to, and focus on my breathing. I don’t think what I do is officially ‘meditating,’ but it’s the same concept, I think. I just try to slow everything down and allow myself to feel whatever emotions come up. Sometimes I cry (which is why I prefer the bath), sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I just sit and breathe. Those fifteen minutes feel restorative. They take me out of myself a bit and somehow I hurt less.

I also sometimes use that time to remind myself that I am not defined by my environment. It may be obvious to some people, but I forget that I am not what surrounds me. Take time every day to remember that you are not defined by your bad job, abusive partner, unkind friend, or even loud, scary social event. I know going through something you can’t immediately get out of is hard but you are still yourself. When it all gets on top of me I take time to remember I am still the loving, kind, strong, sexy, hilarious, clever human that I have always been, and that I have a 100% success rate for getting through awful situations. You do too, so keep fighting. You’ve got this.

What are your best coping skills? How do you get through an awful situation? Please let me know in the comments below, through email, or to the social media platform of your choice.

 

Technical Difficulties

Hi folks, I’m so sorry for the raido silence. Those of you who follow me on social media will already know but I had a troubling incident with my MacBook Pro and some juice. My computer is now with the specialist and I have found a replacement to get me through the next three weeks. I will be resuming posts early next week. Thank you everyone who asked if I was ok. I really appreciate each and every one of you who reads my posts and I’m grateful you noticed I had been absent last week. I have a lot of exciting projects in the works for the blog  over the next couple months. Please subscribe so you don’t miss any posts.

Pushing Boundaries

I often talk to people about the things that I’ve done in my life, things I’ve said, worn, ate, or even the adventures I’ve had. The most common response I hear is “I wish I could do that.” My standard response is always “Why can’t you?” I get a variety of answers but usually they boil down to fear. People are scared to take big leaps and try something totally different, which is why pushing your boundaries is such an important skill. It means that you might not quit your job and backpack around Uganda as your first adventure, but maybe you will take a weeklong trip by yourself to somewhere a bit exciting and a bit scary. It means you don’t just rock a bikini after years of turtlenecks, but you might wear a shorter skirt than usual or a crop top. Pushing boundaries is about working up to the big things while doing something that’s not your comfortable norm.

To begin pushing your boundaries it’s important to identify what your end goal is and where your comfort zone is. If you really want to spend a month on another continent alone think about what the appeal is and begin to make the goal specific and write it down somewhere. If you have decided that you really want to wear a bikini on your next holiday that try to figure out what you would be comfortable wearing now. It’s so important to make your goal specific so you know where you’re going and it’s also important to figure out where you’re starting from. It’s nearly impossible to get from A to B if you don’t know what they are! I decided I really wanted to wear a two piece outfit when I wasn’t at the beach. I had seen some 1940s sets that I yearned to wear. I had become mostly comfortable with bikinis so I knew that was my starting point and when I saw the two piece set from Trashy Diva that I’m wearing in these photos I knew it had to be my goal.

Once you know your starting point and destination you can begin to create your road map. It’s important to come up with steps that lead you from your starting point to your goal. The number of steps and the time they take will depend on you. If you’ve never left your hometown and want to spend two months alone on another continent in a place they don’t speak your language you are going to have some extra steps, which will require more time. I was only moving from bikinis to a two piece outfit so I had only a few steps and it all happened quite quickly. Deciding on your steps may make you nervous or even anxious and that’s ok. Write them down anyway. You’ll be working up to them so they will become less scary. Spend some time with your steps until you have a roadmap that is a little scary, a little exciting, and totally accomplishable.

Once you have your roadmap you are going to need to start doing the steps. Just thinking about this may make your heart race. Try to give yourself a timeline and plan out when you’ll be doing the steps. I  tend to move at a pace slightly faster than I am comfortable to keep me motivated but you may want to work slowly and pace yourself or super quickly to get it all over with. Before you do each step there will be worry and fear. That is totally normal! It’s important to think about what is intimidating with each step. Why does it make you scared? What is the worst case scenario if you take the step? What is the best? When I finally wore the two piece outfit I was worried people would laugh or stare. I took some time to understand why that would be upsetting and why it would matter to me. I wore the two piece and as you can see I slayed in it. No one seemed to care, except Mr Westwood who really loved the outfit on me. I won’t say I felt 100% confident the first time I wore it but it’s a work in progress.

This set is from Trashy Diva and is still available. The top is here and the skirt is here.

As you go through your steps be kind to yourself. What you’re doing is hard and you should give yourself a pat on the back for giving it a go.When things get difficult picture yourself at your goal feeling happy and content, knowing that you got there. Use that image to spurn you on and if you have any questions or concerns please get in touch. On my darkest days pushing through my body positive goals I looked at Elizabeth’s instagram account and watched her smash her boundaries and share her fears. It was a huge help. We all need each other to help us so don’t be afraid to reach out, let people know what you’re doing, and ask for support.

Making friends with myself

I have a friend who is one of the most generous, kind, and hilarious people I know, but for the first year we knew one another we hated each other. We were in law school together, training to be barristers, and I don’t if we hated each other because of all the competition, because we had such different personalities, or if we just couldn’t see the other’s value while we were on the course. After the course finished we ended up on a work trip together, and realized that we got on really well.  Since then, we’ve developed a deep friendship. She brings joy to my life constantly and is there to support me in the worst times.

I have had a similar relationship with my body. I spent over three decades fighting against my body and didn’t stop to think why. I never took the time to focus on how much stronger I am when I work with my body instead of against it. I didn’t have a hallelujah moment with my body the same way I did with my friend, though. My new relationship with my body took time and understanding from both of us but now I see my body for its strengths. I see how it can help me live a better life for longer. I don’t treat my body like a temple–I treat it like a friend. I see its flaws and love it anyway. I compliment it, I take care of it, and sometimes I give it treats. Since I changed my attitude toward my body it has rewarded me with some of the most amazing experiences.

The journey from enemy to friend with my body took years. It started when I began running in my early thirties. There was no dramatic shift but I started to pay attention to what my body was telling me. If my body wanted hydration or fuel than I drank or ate. If my body needed a rest day then I took a rest day and didn’t shame my body by calling it lazy. At the same time, I began to notice that if I believed my body could do something, then it usually could. I would believe my body could finish an 8 mile run and it could. I think we all get that it’s easier to accomplish something when someone believes you can and I found it worked the same with my body. I began to focus on my body’s positives. I realised how strong I was, and though I still wanted to be a skinny girl at this point, I began to see the beauty in my large, strong body.

I’m wearing the Harley dress from Pinup Girl in a 2x. They no longer have the stripe pattern available but they do have other colours and patterns available here.

I also started to compliment my body. It may seem silly but to someone who hated their body for so long this was revolutionary to me. My thoughts would go something along the lines of “I may be a fat cow but my calves are really shapely and I like them.” It’s amazing how looking toward the positive can snowball and lead you to see more and more positives. I used to really struggle with receiving compliments but as I started to give them to myself it became easier to accept them from other people. Now if someone tells me I look great in a dress I often respond with something like “Thanks, it makes my butt look amazing!” Not only do I believe the compliments from others, but I also add in one of my own. I’ve noticed this has also motivated me to give genuine compliments more often to others. I like to believe this will create a positive environment where we can focus on our own and others positives more.

Have you ever tried noticing your positives and giving yourself a compliment? I know it’s not easy but I’m going to challenge you to give yourself a compliment every day this week and see how you feel at the end. I’d love to hear how you get on with this challenge. Please get in touch in the comment section below, through email, Instagram, or Facebook.

Judgement Day

I recently watched the movie Embrace. It’s tagged as a body positive movie. It’s so, so much more than that. If you haven’t seen the movie go watch it now. (Go on, I’ll wait.) When I was watching the movie so many things resonated with me but one sentence really changed the entire way I think about myself and others. There is a line in the movie, which I am going to badly paraphrase as “if you stop judging yourself you will also stop judging others.” It’s amazing that as I have stopped judging myself I have also stopped judging others so harshly. I also found it started to work in the reverse, as I stopped judging others I stopped judging myself. I have now started a positive cycle in my life, which has resulted in less judgement for everyone including myself.

It’s really easy to say “stop judging yourself and others.” It’s really bloody hard to do. I wanted to set out some concrete steps to help you stop the judgment. The first step may seem obvious but you’ll need to start noticing when you’re judging yourself. Maybe you want to try on an outfit but your brain says “you won’t look good in that” or maybe you’ve decided to try a new hairstyle but before you even leave the house your brain tells you “that style doesn’t suit your face shape” or maybe you’re about to order a dessert and your brain tells you “you really don’t need any more calories, do you?” These thoughts occur so many times throughout the day that we often don’t notice them. So, step one is to notice when they are happening.

The second step is to step back and observe. It may sound crazy but right now you are just going to watch yourself judge yourself. To make this a little more difficult it’s important not to judge yourself for judging yourself. That’s right folk, we’re going completely meta today. Spend a day (or a week) noticing when you judge yourself and step back to observe as if you were someone else. Once you’ve got the hang of observing the judgement try step three – figuring out where the judgement is coming from. I know that I used to judge myself and anyone else for having a muffin top. When I was a teenager it was pointed out to me as something that was ugly and wrong. I had to take some time to understand that I was judging muffin tops because of what I was told. You might be judging something about yourself because of something you read or heard. Try to figure out where the specific judgement has come from.

This dress is from Pinup Couture. The dress is no longer available but they do have a skirt here and trousers here in the same print.

Once you know where the judgment has come from you can start to evaluate whether it’s a valid judgement. That’s right–it’s step four, reevaluate! I took some time to think about muffin tops. Why did I judge myself and other for having them? I haven’t always had an hourglass figure. Sometimes jeans hit me in a spot I deemed less than ideal. It’s didn’t make me any less sexy. My body wasn’t wrong, and the jeans often fit everywhere else. Also, I really like muffins, especially the tops. When I realised muffin tops weren’t inherently bad and I didn’t have an especially good reason to be judgemental of them I was able to stop judging myself when I had one (this did not happen overnight! This took much time and patience). Once I stopped judging myself when I had a muffin top I naturally stopped judging other people. The less I judged myself for the less I judged others. The less I judged others the less I judged myself. A positive cycle was born!

Take some time this week to notice when you’re judging yourself and see if you can follow the steps to less judgement. If you have any particular struggles please let me know though the comment section, email, or direct message on social media and hopefully together we can get you on the path to less judgement.

 

Losing weight

We are surrounded by messages about weight loss. These messages push us to shed physical weight off our bodies, but I haven’t seen many ads that focus on losing other types of weight.  These losses can be even more important. Shedding unwanted ideas and thoughts can change the rest of your life.  Shedding self doubt or self hatred can propel you forward to places you never dreamed of going. Shedding unwanted people in your life can be uplifting and freeing. Shedding a negative environment gives a freedom that doesn’t seem to come by losing five pounds of fat from your body, yet the ads we see and the message we receive seems to be that as long as you have lost enough of yourself you will feel better.

In September I will be 40 years old. I spent many years with a fear of numbers. I was scared of my age, scared of my measurements, scared of how little money I made. As I creep closer to 40 I find I am shedding that fear. When I stopped to think about my life I realised that I was often the happiest when I was making the least amount of money and when I weighed more physically. I also realised that my teens were unbearable, my 20s were mediocre, and my 30s were the best decade so far. Following on this path means that my 40s should be amazing. There’s no reason that this larger number should scare me. The media has told me that going into my 40s means I will start to creak when I get up on the morning, that everything will sag a bit and get a bit squishy, that I’ll be tired, and that my fun youthful times are over.


I say bollocks to that! I had my first hip replacement when I was 2 years old. I have always creaked. I had my first child at 21 years old. I have been sagging and tired for nearly half my life! Now that I’m coming into my 40s I have gained so much knowledge about myself and the world around me. I’m comfortable in my own skin, my kids can pretty much take care of themselves, and Mr Westwood and I earn enough to live comfortably and travel. My life is heading in the right direction even if society tells me my numbers are wrong, so I’m going to party in September like it’s 1999, except this time I’ll wear what I want, eat what I want, say what I want, and dance like the whole bloody room is paying to watch me. I’ve mostly shed my fear of numbers and it feels better than losing any amount of physical weight could have.

Being stuck in a negative environment can be claustrophobic. I’ve seen weight loss ads that talk about being stuck in your own body. I’ve never really felt stuck in my body but I have felt stuck in an environment that made me feel so small and unappreciated that I struggled to breathe some days. A negative environment such as a job or a team or even a class can be draining. For me it combines my fear of numbers and toxic people. Staying positive in a negative environment can be downright impossible. In an effort to protect ourselves we often start using negative behaviors like eating our feelings and sleeping to avoid reality. Getting up to go to a job you hate is like putting 100 pounds on your back to go for a run. It feels heavy and weighs us down and can often make us sick. I know a lot of us have felt that Sunday dread knowing that we have to go somewhere that is sucking the life force out of us and turning us into something we’re not. Deciding to walk away can be liberating. I know that not all of us can walk out and I will talk about coping strategies in a few weeks but as we’re talking about shedding weight I want to say that walking out of a toxic environment can change your perspective on everything. Removing that weight from a Sunday and instead taking that time to go for a walk, see friends, or just watch a good movie without the dread hanging over can be joyous. It feels uplifting to know you have removed the weight of that environment and are able to go back to being yourself.  

This dress is no longer available from Trashy Diva, however they do have a similar style here.

It amazes me how much society focuses on losing the physical weight but doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on losing emotional and mental weights that hold us back from living our lives. What’s one weight you could shed this week to start moving forward with your life? Please let me know in the comments below, through email, facebook, or instagram. I love hearing your stories and hearing about your journeys to self acceptance.