This weekend, I realized with striking clarity that I am still very much a work in progress, a huge AHA! surfaced and I wanted to share it with you all. I have a sneaking suspicion you may be able to relate.
A friend of mine from my college a cappella group posted a picture on Facebook. Yes, a cappella is beyond awesome and I have seen Pitch Perfect twice. He posted a picture of me from a campus newspaper from around ten years ago. I was playing Dolly in Hello, Dolly! in the big annual musical and he had taken a picture of the old newspaper he found and posted some shots of a run-through. He posted it in celebration, exclaiming how much he had loved it but my initial reaction was utter horror. The picture was not flattering. My face was contorted in a strange way as I was mid-song.
But even more humiliating was my size and seeing it made me want to melt into my seat.
What most of my friends and clients don’t realize is that I too, really struggled with being overweight. At the time that photo was taken, ten years ago, I was fifty pounds larger than I am right now. I don’t readily divulge that to my clients. I tell them about internal struggles with food as an actress but I certainly don’t show them the pictures of Beth at her heaviest.
As soon as I saw it, I wanted the picture down, away from the public eye. I started to panic. Could I untag myself? Does that look vain? What if my clients were to see it and think I’m fat NOW?! I mean, we are getting into serious fear-based-illogical thoughts here. When it came down to it, I realized, I wanted to pretend that girl never existed.
Here’s the funny thing.
When I played Dolly, it was one of the best experiences of my life! I scored the role after four years of hard work in the theater department, and I wasn’t even a musical theater girl! My family still talks about it. Forget the much more reputable gigs I scored down the road, Dolly goes down in history. Nothing has been able to compare. My entire town came with my mother. Dad drove the 3 hours twice, once by himself, and once with his entire extended family. I felt on top of the world, in my first lead in a musical, wearing big, awesome, crazy, sparkly costumes and hats, dancing, getting to SING! It was pure heart expansion. And to be honest, at the time, during college, I wasn’t worried about my body. I was concerned with having fun, with drinking, with friends, late night gatherings in dorm rooms with chicken parmesan sandwiches and with who I was flirting with at the Sports Bar on Thursday nights. It was perhaps one of the only times up until that point in my life where my body wasn’t really something I was concerned with. I felt beautiful. I felt sexy. Too much beer, too much fun and not understanding nutrition led me to balloon up, but I was happy. I was really happy. AND to boot, I got more male attention at that time in my life than I have any other time.
Now, I looked at the remnants from the incredible time in my life like evidence of a crime, and I was horrified at the size of my face. I was illogically afraid of being judged, or people saying “Was that really Beth? She was huuuuge!” and I have to say, I’m ashamed of my reaction. Now, I want to protect that girl from my fear-based reaction. I want to celebrate her.
That younger girl was beautiful. She was fearless and committed. She was flawed and had a lot to learn but she is actually one of my favorite versions of myself. At a point, she wound up wanting different things. She wanted to feel differently in her body. She gave me that signal, and together, we went on a journey to help her get what she wanted. I learned from mistakes. I grew. I tried different things, grew, changed, learned, sat in confusion for a while, grew and now I teach. I coach people how to love themselves, and as a result, lose the excess weight that is holding them down from living their best life. I eventually wound up being where I am now, in a place I wouldn’t change for anything. So, if anything, I owe a lot to her. I owe her a lot of damn respect. And love. I owe her love.
I have spoken about self-love a lot in my profession, and when I saw that picture, my fear caused me to rely on an old habit. That habit is to hide my vulnerability and to put my best face forward; the perfect Beth, the Beth that has it all figured out and rises above all her demons.
Addressing the Demons
However, we rise above our demons by engaging them and questioning their motives, not locking them in the basement. (TWEET THAT SHIT!) When we get underneath the anger, our demons are usually exhausted children crying out for acceptance. It doesn’t help to hide them or pretend they aren’t there but rather, to listen to their pleas.
If you struggle with self-love, which we ALL do—it is part of the human experience and part of our growth—start by saying hello to the demons and the nasty thoughts. They have limited language, and it is our job to translate for them so we can hear the underlying messages. Choose to challenge them, as I did with mine.
In my case, the underlying message was, “Accept all of yourself Beth. Accept the fat Beth. Accept the scared and flawed Beth. Accept the mean and judgmental Beth. Accept all of her.” I’m still working on it.
I write this to let you know that I am a work in progress, just as you are. I write you this to let you know that in order to love ourselves, we must start with what we have the most resistance to loving. It is easy to love the “good parts.” It is time to mine the gifts in the darkness. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
I will start by sharing my vulnerability and encouraging you to do the same. Here’s the pic people. I love that girl.
1) Complete this writing exercise.
What part of yourself would prefer stay hidden?
What part of you causes you to feel shame?
What are the good parts about this part of yourself?
What are the nasty thoughts and self-judgment trying to tell you when you start to translate the language?
2) Share this post with someone who you feel might benefit.
We’re all in this human experience together. Help others grown by leaning into your own growth. Comment below to share your thoughts and spark some conversation.
Rock On and Be Well,