Feeling Myself: On Touch + Body Image

Feeling Myself: On Touch + Body Image

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Jessica Rabbit once famously said, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” Self-talk isn’t inherently good or bad, positive or negative – it’s all information. It’s how we view that self-talk that determines if it’s on Team Positive or Team Negative.

And for many of us, our self-appointed negative self-talk flares up the biggest when it comes to talking about our BODIES. 

My thighs are _____.

My hips are _____.

My arms are _____.

My skin is _____.

Pick your body part and pick your adjective, and I’m sure you’ve got at least one area you tend to beat up and call mean names on the regular.

But just like our self-talk, none of our body parts are inherently good or bad – we just name them that way. And way too often, we lump them into the bad category instead of the good.

Seeing a reflection you’d prefer looked different, or noticing your clothes fit differently than usual, can instantly morph your response from neutral sensations to negatively charged emotions.

And what do we do when those emotions bubble up?

We distract ourselves and immediately blame our bodies for merely existing.

My body must be the problem. 

My thighs are _____.

My hips are _____.

My arms are _____.

My skin is _____.

None of our parts are inherently good or bad - we just name them that way. Click To Tweet

So often we don’t bat a lash at being mean to ourselves – not because we’re inadequate, but because we’re removed.

When we feel things we don’t want to feel, we try to distract ourselves. Scared? Procrastinate the day away. Uncomfortable? Check every app on your phone (twice). Angry? Play the blame game and point out everything wrong with someone else.

When we distract, we dissociate. But something else happens, too.

When we dissociate from whatever’s happening instead of facing it head-on, we don’t learn how to navigate the full spectrum of our human experience. And what’s more, we start to shut down OTHER sensations, too. We don’t just become removed from the things we don’t like, we start to numb out to the things we do, too, because what affects one aspect of our lives usually affects the rest of it, too. It’s no different with our bodies.

We detach, place blame, and dissociate – instead of trying to figure out where those pent-up emotions are actually coming from.

 

Just like Ghost Worries hijack your thoughts and make you forget the reality of your situation, body-related negative self-talk steals your sensations and makes you forget what your body actually feels like.

 

The pattern is simple, and mirrors the kinds of patterns we’re often prone to when a relationship on the rocks. See the thing. Notice the fault. Blame the Other. Withdraw attachment. Withdraw kindness. Withdraw touch.

But instead of the Other being a partner, the Other is our body.

~

Touch is vital. As U.C. Berkely explains, touch “activates feelings of reward and compassion. reinforces cooperation, and cultivates a sense of safety and trust.” 

If you apply that logic to touch between two humans…it might behoove you to stop and consider if the same is true with self-inflicted touch.

The second you dissociate from the actual feel of your body, the second you start to dissociate from your body itself. And when you dissociate from your body for too long, you become afraid (or at least resentful) of it. This thing you call your body seems entirely out of your control.

Your skin becomes something to pick at and prod.

Your muscles become bulk.

Your rolls become flab.

Your fat becomes forbidden.

The only time you touch your body is when you’re zeroing in to fix something.

Some relationship.

The solution is simple:

like Beyoncé and Nicki, you must literally start feeling yourself.

(cue music)

No, I don’t mean in the sexual sense (but hey, if you’d like to discuss that, listen to two episodes about sex education on the WANTcast here or here). I mean actually TOUCH yourself.

Your arms. Your legs. Your stomach. Your hips.

Feel what your body feels like.

Sound awkward? It might be at first. But it’s a weird yet effective trick I always come back to when I’m really feeling low about my bod. And I find the longer I go without putting TOUCH into practice, the quicker I slip into old body-loathing tendencies and self-talk.

It takes a matter of minutes, doesn’t involve spending money, and doesn’t require you to recite a mantra or do anything too hippie-dippie. It’s as easy as applying lotion after you get out of the shower or giving yourself a mini massage. There is NOTHING fancy about this practice, but it’s powerful beyond belief.

Take the time to actually feel what your skin feels like in your hands, the way your muscles curve and your thighs dimple (yes, everyone’s do). Notice the micro-dips in your collarbone as you press in, or the soft area under your armpits that is so often shielded from the sun. Get curious about your lines and shapes – ALL of your lines and shapes.

How does this thing I call My Body fit together?

How does my back hold me upright?

How does the weight I put on my feet each day affect their sensitivity?

How does the constant texting and typing my hands do affect them from the inside out?

How do my hips center my whole body?

When we notice how our skin feels, we become a creature to admire instead of an object to critique Click To Tweet

Touch is healing, and not just when it comes from another person. Touch can be healing in our relationship with our Self – an aspect of healing that is way too often overlooked.

If you want to take it up a notch, try using creams or oils with your favorite scents. Learn about acupressure points. Maybe even turn it into a journaling exercise by taking a 10-minute ‘touch break’ in your day to explore what the skin you’re in feels like and take notes. The best part is that you don’t need anything fancy to put this self-love-building practice into place. When we can notice the way our skin feels, relieve a tight muscle, feel the way each part of our body miraculously fits together, we become a human to admire instead of a object to critique.


 

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Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

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That voice in your head is an asshole.

Don’t let your thoughts bully you around.

Inner monologue? More like inner bitch. Don’t give her the power.

“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go screw itself and F off.

Tell me again how is this supposed to be helping?

 


For what I’m guessing is some sort of evolutionary advantage, we’re programmed to interpret the world in very black and white terms. There can be no middle ground when it comes to right and wrong, and when we disagree with something, we typically villainize it rather than try to understand where it comes from (or what the real solution should be).

Good Versus Evil. Us Against Them. It’s a formula that’s easy to understand and easy to master. It’s primal.

So it’s only natural that with this sort of mentality, we’d choose sides with our self-talk and try to bully one of them into submission.

Brené Brown says to give your inner voice a name – she calls hers Gremlin. For some people, providing that separation is useful, and allows them to distance themselves from the harsh, usually-untrue things their inner voice likes to say.

 

I, however, have never been able to separate my inner voice from myself.
Because the thing is, it’s all a part of who I am.

 

Maybe my brain is playing tricks on my heart, maybe my inner voice is misguided at times, but at the end of the day – it’s all just me, telling myself what to believe.

Some people might say to snap out of it – to tell your inner critic to shut up. And hey, that might work for some people. But it NEVER works for me. Identifying my negative self-talk as someone other than myself – an ass, a bitch, a bully – only puts me on the defensive and gives me yet another thing about myself to dislike (on top of whatever it is I’m negative self-talking about). 

Empowerment, for the record, is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Yet I cannot see how throwing insults at insults does anything to make us feel anything but more aggressive and afraid. They’re just harsh words to combat harsh thoughts. Abuse masked as “empowerment.” Which, to me, is anything but empowering.

Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your 'true' self, why not try to understand what it's actually trying to tell you? Click To Tweet

Instead of fighting against what is, why not try fighting for what could be? Instead of taking sides, why not confront the perceived enemy? Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your “true” self, why not try to understand what it’s actually trying to tell you?

Calling a very real part of who you are a “bitch” just reinforces and strengthens those negative-talk muscles that have been trained over the years to come to your defense in their negative-talk way – and focuses on the problem, not the solution. Berating a part of who you are is not the answer. Tapping into a new reserve of power to retrain that voice – that voice that so longs to be helpful – IS.

Next time you’re tempted to call your inner voice a harsh name, sideline the smack-talk and reframe it as something MORE.

Here are a few ideas of what your negative self-talk really is all about. Could it be that your negative self talk is…

1) An invitation to explore?

2) An opportunity to rise?

3) A clue to an imbalance?

4) A way to practice moving forward through fear?

5) A wound to be nurtured?

6) A signal for help?

7) A cautionary tale of what it looks like to not be self-actualized?

8) A sign of neglect?

9) A cry for attention?

10) A distraction from the truth?

11) A language that’s been inherited and internalized?

12) A sign of burnout?

13) A call to action?

14) An empathetic pathway?

15) A clue as to what needs some extra love?

When I first started working on WANT, I would get pitches from people with books or websites with names like “Bitch On The Inside,” “Mental Mean Girl,” or “#StopHatingYourself Life Coaching.” We’re so aligned, they would say. We’re all about empowering women.

I respectfully declined every single one of these pitches.

Again, to each her own. I guess I can understand how some people need a metaphorical smack upside the head to catapult change into motion…

…But I don’t think that’s what makes the change LAST.

Because here’s the clincher: the quicker we are to call our inner monologue a bitch, the quicker we are to find fault outside ourselves. The quicker we are to clique up and take sides and tell our friends to “get over it” or “snap out of it” when they’re feeling down on themselves, the easier it is to do it to ourselves. Life becomes arduous and unfair. It’s a negativity loop that goes on and on and on – all in the name of self-love.


Teaching yourself a new language, whether it’s Spanish or Self- Respect, is a process. Sometimes it’s as simple as going word by word. Phrase by phrase.

 

Today, pledge to stop calling your inner voice a “mean girl” or your “inner bitch.” Your mind and heart are smart, and they’re most likely just trying to protect you from disappointment, shield you from loneliness, or numb that Ghost Worry pain that’s predicting what other people might “find out” about you so that when they do “find it out” it won’t hurt as bad.

Your inner voice is just used to using this warped defense mechanism – a defense mechanism you don’t need.

It’s not You vs. Your Mind.

Not Good vs. Evil.

They’re all on the same side.

It's not You vs. Your Mind. They're all on the same side. Click To Tweet


WANT Yourself:

Think back to the times when your negative self-talk starts to act up. What is it usually trying to tell you? What does it signal? How can you reframe your most common self-critiques…without resorting to name-calling? Tell me in the comments below.

And know someone who needs this? Share it with them today to help them shift their negative self-talk.

 

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Let It Go: The Most Productive Formula For Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Let It Go: The Most Productive Formula For Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Shift Of Power Tips + Tools Work

Doesn’t it sound sexy to say what you’re “leaving behind” in the new year? To make a list of what you’re going to stop doing in 2020?

I know it does. I’ve done that before: written down the things I’m leaving behind, burned them in a fireplace, the whole dramatic deal.

But it’s not that simple. We‘re all human – living not just our high highs and low lows but a whole full spectrum of experience every day. Change is never as easy as leaving something behind and never looking back. Even amongst the most “enlightened” of us, it’s very likely we’ll inevitably be confronted with or fall back into an old pattern we thought we were done with. Best case scenario, we learn to mindfully navigate the situation and pattern differently each time around. But even so – it’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of deal. Practice makes progress, not perfect.

What’s more likely is what happens to 80% of us: we take that one step back and shame ourselves into submission. When we live in extremes, we don’t leave room for the in-betweens, the lessons learned in those tougher moments. We tell ourselves we’re “so bad,” we messed up, we’re a failure, we can’t do this, and so on and so forth blah blah blah. The moment we create ultimatums in our minds is the moment we set ourselves up for shame and self-doubt in the long run.

In my own work and life, I talk a lot about LETTING GO instead of LEAVING BEHIND. Feels more like accountability to me. Controlling what you can and only what *you* can. Recognizing that something can (and probably will) pop back into your life but you get to choose whether you pick it up or not.

When I coach people to let go of something – a thought, a feeling, a belief, a situation, a person – I always try to frame it so that they’re letting go of it in order to make space for something else SPECIFIC.

Because the thing is: the second you STOP, QUIT, or LEAVE BEHIND…what’s gonna fill that space? If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’re going to end up right back where you began with what you’re fighting against…at the most basic level, if only because it’s familiar.

Try this way more productive formula throughout the year, but especially now as you reflect and project in Resolution Mode:

I am letting go of ((how something affects you or why you do what you do)), so I can ((what that thing holds you back from doing)).

Examples…

    • INSTEAD OF “I will stop putting others before myself.”
    • TRY “I will let go of my need to please others, so I can make room for myself.”
    • INSTEAD OF “I am leaving behind toxic people.”
    • TRY “I am letting go of excusing bad behavior at my own expense, so I can live out MY journey exactly as it’s intended to unfold.”
    • INSTEAD OF “I will quit negative self-talk.”
    • TRY “I am letting go of my limiting beliefs, so that I can feel confident and grounded.”

Notice this formula doesn’t say you will always do or feel or be that thing you say you’ve been held back from doing/feeling/being. Just like there’s no ultimatums for the negatives, there’s no ultimatums for the positives. The point is to make space and define what you want that space to hold. Not to always make room for yourself, or live out your own journey, or feel confident and grounded, or whatever you created space for. But to state clearly: this is what I want, this is what I’m willing to fight for.

Burn your regrets in the fireplace if you want. Make a dramatic statement if it feels good. But make sure you do this, too. Just know that you’re a person in progress – and your life will be one long loop of letting things go and picking things up along the way. You might not get to choose what enters your world, but you sure as hell can choose what you do with it.


WANT Yourself: 
Now you: What are you letting go of, and what are you making space for?

 

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How To Listen To Your Body.

How To Listen To Your Body.

Body

Q: Katie, how do I listen to my body?

 

A:

To listen to your body, you must get INTO your body.

Like slipping on the noise-proof earbuds you got last Christmas.

From the outside it’s wires and plastic – from the inside, a cacophony. Only you can hear the music, does that make it any less real?

Slip inside your skin and drop into your heart instead of your brain. Why has it taken so long for you to try them out?

To listen to your body, you must get INTO your body. Click To Tweet

To listen to your body, to really listen, you MUST interact with it first.

Whether you run or box or bike or bridge-pose, you must feel the way your body moves, and navigate it in space, over and over and over again.

You must take a step, then another, then another, then realize you’re walking. You must twist, you must bend, you must use the range of motion biology handed you and if you’re unable to you must simply breathe.

Feel the rise and fall of your chest, over and over. See how far it can expand and how it melts when you push the air out. Feel the wonder that is the jigsaw puzzle of your Personhood.

 

To listen to your body, to TRULY listen, you must acknowledge its nuance. You must notice the way your joints glide, the way your shoulders tighten, the way you do that thing with your wrists every time you feel anxious. You must listen with your limbs, your lungs, your organs, your nails. You must listen with the things that cannot hear but can work together to decode the tiniest sighs of joy and biggest cries for help and all the other stuff in between.


So no, you can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about how the plate you ate made you mentally feel.
You can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about your perfect form or precise protocols or even by measuring the sweat pools under your gym machine of choice.

Nope – to listen to your body, you must be IN your body first. When we move our muscles, we manage our mindset. When we workout our bodies, we work out our roadblocks.

We ask how to listen. It’s no wonder we’re met with silence.

Because you can’t truly hear your body’s voice without acknowledging where that voice is coming from.

Gym Face: Skin Shame In The Fitness Industry

Gym Face: Skin Shame In The Fitness Industry

Body Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

There aren’t many more powerful places to shift people’s perceptions of their physicality than in the gym. It’s part of the reason fitness was so appealing to me when I first got started. I could give a shit about how many lunges you can do or if you can do them at all. I give lots of shits about your self-image.

As a leader in the space, it’s part of my job to model to you what’s called “good form.” Sure, this means I can show you how to do that proper lunge I don’t give a shit about. But more importantly, it also means I carry myself in a way I hope you’ll carry yourself too. With pride, empathy, and awareness – right down to the skin you’re in.

~

When I started teaching fitness classes, I was ashamed of my skin. I saw the people I admired in the industry in ads, on television, in magazines, and on social media, and I felt as if I didn’t look the part. I didn’t feel like I had the ideal body, the coolest clothes…and I most certainly did NOT have that silky-smooth skin I thought everyone else had.

And so I not only doubled down on my product use, I wore makeup to class to cover up my perceived flaws. Spoiler, wearing makeup while you sweat is a recipe for clogged pores and very unhappy skin. So obviously, it just got worse. Not to mention, I was a broke 20something to begin with, and trying to fix my insecurities just made me broker. I felt shame around my skin, I felt shame around the bank account I mismanaged in order to try and pay for the products I used to un-shame myself from my skin. There are a lot of myths around being “someone from Los Angeles”…but I can tell you the stereotype of aspirational skincare is very real. Not only could I not keep up with the facials, peels, and products I believed I needed, but I felt like a fitness industry failure for not looking like the perfect version of health.

It wasn’t until I read Adina Grigore’s book, Skin Cleanse, that I realized that the perfect skin is the skin you’re in. I’d been overloading my system with SO many products over the years and had been wearing so much foundation and concealer to literally mask my insecurities, that I didn’t even know what my skin’s natural M.O. was.

The second I stopped piling on the products and stopped wearing makeup to teach is the second I really truly found my voice and stepped up my game in the fitness world. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’d like to think it had something to do with the fact that I wasn’t covering anything up anymore, literally and figuratively.

 

The perfect skin is the skin you’re in. Click To Tweet

 

I often think about the rise of body positivity in the fitness industry. Yes, it’s FAR from perfect, but it’s gotten so much better than when I started teaching over a decade ago. Body positivity is the norm not the exception, and the idea of working out for happiness, energy, and mental health is becoming way more mainstream. 

But just like anything we spend our dollars on, fitness is an industry. An industry that all too often banks on us feeling bad in order to sell us feeling good.

I wonder, with the skincare industry being as huge as it is, and apps like FaceTune and Photoshop being as accessible and easy to use as they are…will the shape of our skin be the thing the industry banks on in order to keep us coming back?

Will “Perfect Skin” become the new “Perfect Body”?

Is Skin Positivity one of the final sneaky Body Positivity frontiers out there – too subtle to be addressed but obvious enough to make us feel badly about ourselves on the regular?

I don’t have control over an entire industry, but I have control over what I do on my own platforms, literal and figurative. I no longer wear any makeup to teach my classes or to workout on my own. I’m older now, so I’ve got a few fine lines and eye circles and hyperpigmentation.

But if I’m not accepting of myself, in the skin I’m in, how can I ever expect anyone else to be? I’m not in love with my skin all of the time, but I’m too committed to modeling “good form” to let it distract me.

If you’d have told teenage-me I’d willingly get in front of hundreds of people a week with a spotlight on my naked face, I would have shuddered. If you’d have told 14 year-old me I’d be spotlighted on The Cut (bare-faced, in a VIDEO) talking about my skin, I would have straight-up laughed in your face. But I’m so grateful to know my classes and managers don’t care, and so grateful to know there are highly visible pop-culture publications just as dedicated as I am to busting open the myth that the way your skin looks is some sort of indication of how fit you are.


Skin Shame and Skincare Privilege is a real thing – but I’m here to tell you that you do NOT need to spend a ton of money or have airbrushed-flawless skin to glow from the inside out.
Take off the foundation. Let your pores breathe as deep as you breathe during a breathless push or a spinal twist. Model good form. Let’s break the skin shame together.

 

Success Beyond Your 30s, Big Little Lies, and More: August Roundup

Success Beyond Your 30s, Big Little Lies, and More: August Roundup

Body

I’ve been trying to find ways to use my voice to amplify others’ beyond simply a social media post – because not all of us are on social, and what’s more, social media moves so fast that it’s likely you’ll miss something.

And so this monthly roundup, combined with our new WANTcast strategy of replacing most of the sponsor spots with a do-good organization we want to highlight, is a way to do that. It’s a way to share other voices, opinions, and perspectives that can help you in some way, whether it’s questioning the status quo, opening your eyes to new viewpoints, introducing you to incredible visionaries, or becoming more proactive in your day to day life. (To get these delivered straight to your inbox, fill out the form below)

 

AUGUST ROUND-UP: THE (GOOD) WORD ON THE STREET


I don’t know about you (actually, I do, because you’ve told me!), but I lived most of life believing I needed to be a prodigy or wunderkind in order to truly make a lasting impact – or at least make anything remotely worthwhile. I even wrote about it when I turned 30. This article from Forbes about how female entrepreneurs actually get BETTER with age is so encouraging, to the past, present, and future versions of myself.

Fitness is a way to get us comfortable with the uncomfortable – and process our emotions. If you’ve watched Big Little Lies and noticed the running motif, you’ll love this analysis by Voxh/t to Natalia Petrzela for this one

I LOVE this article on the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics blog about sports, the female form, Magan Rapinoe, and finding the joy in the bodies we have.

Legends interviewing legends! The luminous Ashley C. Ford interviews Missy Elliott in Marie Claire about her newest album, and it’s a masterpiece.

Bethany C. Meyers shares about their non-binary journey on Shape. This was one of my favorite personal essays of the summer. Bravo, Bethany.

Speaking of my favorites…I was STANDING UP AND CHEERING as I read this article by Shauna Harrison asking people to stop asking their fitness instructors for nutrition advice (and explaining why). 

Want a long but worthwhile read? This piece on “athleisure, barre, and kale” on The Guardian is it. It might make you feel some uncomfortable reactions, but it’s a think-piece that will, well, get you thinking about how we as women get “trapped at the intersection of capitalism and patriarchy,” and the makings of the “ideal woman” on social media – namely, Instagram.

I’ve been catching up on Red Table Talk – have you been watching? Jada Pinkett Smith sits down with her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris and daughter Willow Smith, and together they discuss (many times with the help of guests) some of the toughest topics: infidelity, interracial adoption, porn, polyamory, motherhood, and so much more. This episode unpacking white privilege and prejudice is a MUST-watch.



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