Celebrating Vulnerability and Links I LOVE

vulnerable adj. vul·ner·a·ble: easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally; open to attack, harm, or damage – Merriam Webster

There’s something missing from this definition. Vulnerability doesn’t merely leave us more easily hurt but wide open to greater love, sensitivity, awareness and compassion. Without it, I’m not sure we’d ever grow.

The past few years have been a near crash course in the V-word for me—from blogging my heart out to launching my show. In addition to being “where good girls go for sexual empowerment,” Girl Boner® Radio is where I go to stand strong in my beliefs, explore controversial issues and speak from my heart, sans script or the editing manuscripts and articles require. Last week it was filmed for the first time, providing more chances to explore Vulnerable City with my tribe of giddy butterflies. (I love them so.)

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Today I want to highlight some stellar reads from the blog-o-sophere—all of which serve as proof that vulnerability is a near superpower, and equal parts magnifying glass and compass if we embrace it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! If you do, check out their blogs and follow them on Twitter.

Three Posts That Rocked My World

Why the Lingerie World Gets on My Tits via Neon Moon—an empowering, world-shifting lingerie company y’all must check out! Here, Hayat Rachi shares the personal experiences that inspired the revolutionary brand.

Neon Moon quote

The Expedition of No Return by KM Huber—my friend and fabulous zen blogger shares how she’s discovered “life anew” after learning she was at high risk for quadriplegia and having surgery that challenged her values. She’s a miracle.

KM Huber

Why We Hate Photos of Ourselves by Alexandra Rosas (via Purple Clover)—a gifted friend I met through BlogHer shares how she learned to embrace photos of herself after her mother’s passing. It’s rich with valuable insight.

Alexandra Rosas

What have times of vulnerability taught you? What rewards have you gained in the process? What did you think of these posts? I love hearing from you! ♥

A Middle-Age Sex Chat and Intimacy After Illness (Special Offer!)

Hi, all!

I hope you’re having a splendiferous week. This is a quickie post, as I’m on my way to #BlogHer15. (So stoked!)

You know what else I’m stoked about? Yesterday’s Girl Boner® Radio episode, featuring spectacular guests, mega-fun girl talk and a phenomenal offer for listeners from a sex educator.

I chatted with friend and fellow blogger, Chloe Jeffreys, who’s also an experienced labor and delivery nurse, about estrogen decline, libido boosters and intimacy during middle-age. She’s equal parts know-how, zest and candor—you’ll love her!

ChloeJeffies

Chloe Jeffries

Resident expert Dr. Megan Fleming weighed in on a reader’s concerns about dealing with her guy’s lower-than-hers libido, and Natalie Hatches invites listeners to take her awesome Intimacy After Illness e-course. She’s offering it at a huge discount for Girl Boner® fans, and offering some groovy extras! (Learn more below.)

To stream the episode, click one of these links:

iTunes   Stitcher Radio   AugustMcLaughlin.com

To register for Love Chat with Nat’s 8 Week Transformational E-Course on Intimacy After Illness: A Holistic Approach, go to: www.lovechatwithnat.com/go/8weekcourse and use the code girlboner for $200 off the usual price ($497) until Monday 7/20. After Monday, use the code to save $5o.

You’ll also receive:
A gift bag from Ana Ono Intimates
3 – One hour educational sessions with Love Chat with Nat – $525 value
One year complimentary membership to Love Chat with Nat’s Love Goddess Program – $228 value
Weekly check-in during the E-Course to answer questions
Unlimited Email Support for 30 days after E-Course

This is such an awesome deal! I hope it finds the folks who most need it. ♥ If you’ve listened to the episode, I’d love to hear what you think! Could you relate to any of the topics? Which suggestion seemed most helpful?

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received

This week marks the start of my relationship advice column for The Good Men Project. I can’t tell you all how stoked I am for the opportunity. If you’re new to GMP, a diverse community of thought leaders who explore men’s evolving roles in modern times, I hope you’ll check them out. To read my first weekly segment, answering a question on finding bliss and “the one,” visit this link.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of the worst advice I’ve ever received. Most has been well-intended, some I had the wherewithal to ignore and some came from the person closest to me: myself.

authenticity quote

1. Darken your eyebrows.

When I was a teen and first entering the modeling world, I took advice from all industry pros to heart. Much of it was good (don’t pay anyone to model, don’t sign anything your agent hasn’t read and approved), darkening my eyebrows with brownish pencil made me look like I had furry worms crawling on my forehead.

Lesson learned: Don’t wear makeup 50+ shades darker than your face, and anything that makes you look like a creepy-crawler magnet. Aim to look like you.

2. Die your hair platinum blonde.

See explanation #1. When a stylist remarked, “You’d make a great platinum blonde,” I raced off to a salon and left two hours later with Barbie-esque hair. For about two weeks I loved it, relishing the attention. (People stare at you when your head glows.) But then roots appeared, making my naturally light hair appear dishwater-brown by comparison. Meanwhile, I felt like a faker. The frantic upkeep made me and my bank account crazy.

Lesson learned: Don’t color your hair vastly different colors than your natural shade, unless want to rock hot pink or rainbow stripes.

3. Don’t break up with a guy until after Valentine’s Day (or other holidays).

Strategic, right? *quivers* I gave this to myself and took it, multiple times, in my early twenties. Not keen on hurting a guy I planned to break up with more than necessary, I also wanted to make sure I had a date for those holidays. *moment of silence to commemorate personal growth* (If any of you guys are reading this, I’m so so sorry.)

Lesson learned: Staying in a wrong-for-you relationship is lonely, especially on holidays. Pretending you’re invested in a relationship hurts everyone.

4. Create fake identities to have conversations with yourself on others’ blog.

Eek! I’m so glad I didn’t take this. An acquaintance/internet genius suggested I do this when only my parents and 1.5 strangers read my blog. In doing so, he claimed, I’d intrigue people into clicking my (actual) name and visiting my blog.

Lesson learned: Being an industry professional doesn’t make someone an expert on you or your work. Also? Authenticity is everything.

5. Don’t quit.

I’ve heard this many times from well-intended folks—including when I’d decided to leave my first marriage, to trade financial stability in Miami for countless unknowns in LA, and to stop working on a novel to focus on non-fiction. In all of these cases, my instincts told me to leap. With one minor delay (clinging on to the novel for a bit), I did so. These leaps were some of my most empowering and important.

Lesson learned: There’s a big difference between giving up and moving forward. Staying in a relationship or venture because it seems safest or right to others can mean saying NO to our dreams—including those we haven’t yet conjured.

*****

I now realize this list could’ve gone on and on, as could the list of awesome advice I’ve received. For now, I’ll leave you with these five and open the floor to you. What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received? Did you take it? Do you relate to any of mine? I love hearing from you! ♥

Body Image Language, Changes and High Heels: A Chat with Dr. Megan

There’s little I love more than exploring empowering topics with kick-ass folks who have not only learned to embrace their bodies and selves, but pay it forward by inspiring the same in others.

The other week on Girl Boner® Radio, I had such chats with two fabulous ladies: Emily Nolan of My Kind of Life, who moved past a decade of disordered eating and now inspires women worldwide with her activism, and sex and relationship expert Dr. Megan Fleming, who’s been featured on the OWN Network, Anderson Cooper, Cosmo Radio and more. She’s also Girl Boner®’s current relationship expert, answering listeners’ questions with warmth, wit and grace.

Dr. Megan was kind enough to answer a few follow-up questions for this post. I love that she not only speaks as an experienced clinician, but as a real woman who knows these trials (and how to move past them) herself.

To stream the episode on cultivating “belly-out” self-confidence,  click one of these links:

My website        iTunes      Stitcher Radio

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Body Image Language, Changes and High Heels:

An After-Chat with Dr. Megan Fleming

August: Why is the language we use about our bodies so important? 

Dr. Megan: It’s simple. What we focus on expands. What we resist persists. If you choose to focus on your belly or butt and how you want them to be smaller, it will feel very different than if you practice saying with warmth and loving energy, “I love my belly, I love my butt!” Or as Madonna so aptly put in her song 4 Minutes, “If you thought it, it better be what you want.”

We invite energy that’s constricting or expanding with our thoughts. Constricting energy is stress and not healthy for you or your body. Accept your body as it is in this moment. Know that as you pair loving, expansive energy with positive thoughts and small behavioral changes, you will be inviting and creating more of what you most desire.

August: I loved what you shared in our interview about deciding what you want to be known and respected for—your appearance, or your work (helping people)—and that you chose the latter. What does such a decision require work-wise? Is simply deciding enough?

Dr. Megan: Wow…great question. I don’t think there’s a simple or one-size-fits-all answer, except that we first need to know what we truly want, then envision and invite it. Then we need to make a commitment to move toward that picture through our thoughts and actions. We should all slow down and ask ourselves what we really desire. We have to give ourselves permission to cultivate the answer and really show up in our lives, staying fully present and, with the best of ourselves, take action on behalf of that vision.

August: Height and how our legs appear are sensitive areas for many women. How can we tell if we’re wearing heels for our own enjoyment or something negative, like insecurity? 

Dr. Megan: Love… To me, the question we all need to ask ourselves is who are we wearing the high heels for? Yourself and how it makes you feel? Or to be noticed, get attention or impact how we imagine others might feel about us? If it’s for you, is it to feel as though you’re enough? Or because they make you feel sexy and you pick shoes that are high but also comfortable? I’m not sure how anyone feels sexy in shoes that feel like sticking your feet into a torture chamber. Honestly, some of the most exclusive brands feel that way to me. It’s not worth it to me, but I think it’s a question every woman must honestly ask herself to make her own decisions.

Maybe you love the sexiness and choose on special occasions to suck up a little torture (wearing comfortable shoes to and from the event that you carry in your bag) or maybe you decide to go #HeelFree. Learning to love yourself and your body without any accessories—shoes, bags, clothes, etc.—is something I wish every woman everywhere could experience.

We are enough. We were born enough and whole. I think it’s time we reclaim our sexy wholeness exactly as we are!

****

See why I adore Dr. Megan? For more of her brilliance, follow her on Facebook (Facebook.com/DrMeganFleming) and Twitter (@MeganFlemingPhD).

To learn diet don’ts that can damage your sex life and body image, check out my blog post on LIVESTRONG.com.

What struck you most about Dr. Megan’s thoughts? What’s helped improved your body image?Any questions about sex or relationships you’d like answered on Girl Boner® Radio? I love hearing from you! ♥

Nicole’s Story: Healing From Depression and PTSD

“It’s normal for survivors of sexual violence to experience feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear. If these feelings become severe, last more than a few weeks, or interrupt your day-to-day life, it might be a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

One of my favorite things about Girl Boner® is interacting with women whose stories and insight offer so much inspiration. While prepping for my latest episode, on depression, PTSD and empowerment, I polled folks on Facebook: If they’d struggled with these issues, what has most helped them cope or thrive? How has the experience influenced their intimate relationships?

One woman’s responses were so poignant, I wrote back and decided to feature her thoughts in the episode and here on my blog. Thank you, Nicole, for your openness and bravery! Read on to learn how this survivor of sexual trauma is finding her way from intense darkness to light.

To listen to the full episode, which also features an interview with award-winning filmmaker Jill Morley, expert tips from Dr. Megan Fleming and a bit about my own experience with depression, use the links down below. I hadn’t realized it until today, but this marks my 75th segment. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to explore these vital topics with truly awesome women. ♥

August: How long have you been dealing with depression and PTSD?

Nicole: I’ve been dealing with depression off and on for a big chunk of my life, and PTSD related to sexual and relationship trauma for the last seven years.

August: I’m so sorry. I know how challenging that all can be. Have you sought therapy?

Nicole: Off and on for about a decade dealing mostly with depression, and immediately after three traumatic events that all occurred in the span of a year.

August: Has it helped?

Nicole: Talk therapy helped me label what I went through as rape. It was, and still is, difficult for me to use that term, “rape,” because there was no fighting involved.

Instead of fighting, I froze. I knew each of the guys really well. One boyfriend, and two friends. I said, “no,” and, “stop,” and, “I won’t unless you use a condom,” but they kept going disregarding what I said, and I immediately froze. If it were not for therapy, I’d still be talking about them as my “worst sex ever” stories.

rape quote

My new therapist is helping me deal with my PTSD and anxiety that bubbles up in ways I only realize a couple days later what triggered it and why. Sometimes I don’t know why I feel anxious at all. I get so angry at my anxiety.

August: A recent guest, Rachel Thompson, talked about that—not realizing PTSD was triggering symptoms for awhile. What would you say has helped the most?

Nicole: I went to group therapy for abused women, and that, more than anything, helped right away. Hearing the stories of women who went through what seemed like a hell I’ve never experienced, then saying that the psychological abuse was far worse for them than any physical abuse, because only the physical was acknowledged/validated by others. So we validated each others experiences. It was powerful.

August: Sounds like it, and it’s inspiring. What about in your daily life? What habits or tools have you found helpful?

Nicole: A few things:

1) Meditation/Mindfulness. At least 10-20 minutes a day of meditating, which I also call upon when I realize my feelings are overwhelming me. At this point, it’s usually long after I’m in the middle of being upset.

2) Telling myself, “Of course I feel ____________ !”

“It’s natural for me to feel ____________.”

“It’s Ok for me to feel ____________.”

And when I think … “It’s not ‘OK’ to feel this way. I don’t want to feel this way, so how can it be OK?” I then repeat the three statements above about not feeling it’s OK. “Of course I feel like it’s not OK,” etc.

Sky breathing quote 2

3) When it’s nice outside during my therapy session, we go for a walk during that hour.  Movement while talking about my anxiety and PTSD, and about anything that triggers me, has helped me tremendously. Walking while talking about things helped my body process my emotions faster, often leaving me feeling good about myself just for doing some exercise that day.

August: How has this all influenced your intimate life?

Nicole: My husband is so sensitive to my past experiences, and I’ve told him about all of them. When they’re brought up directly he’s there to hold me, or just listen.

In the bedroom, he’s sometimes a little too quick to just stop whatever he’s doing (which is a thin line for both of us to walk, and I feel bad about it being so confusing).

My husband also has his own issues—also about control; I’ve learned that sexual trauma often creates or increases control issues. Our separate issues tend to leave us triggering one another pretty often.

We both want to work on ourselves to be better people for ourselves and each other…and now for our little one on the way. We’re both working very hard at resolving our issues, and we’re seeing a lot of progress six months into counseling, but we still have a long way to go.

I feel so fortunate to have a partner who is willing look honestly at himself, and to work through our problems and do what we need to, in order to be healthy as individuals and as a family.

August: Beautiful. How is your pregnancy going?

Nicole: Being pregnant with my entire body changing is not a helpful piece to this puzzle, but it’s important for me to work on myself now more than ever. I’m hoping to teach my baby boy to grow up a strong feminist, and believing in and fighting for equal rights for everyone.

*****

How beautifully brave and amazing is this woman? Yes, that was rhetorical—but please do join me in cheering Nicole on and sending the best possible thoughts.

**For more on this topic, listen to the latest on Girl Boner® Radio: Depression, PTSD & Empowerment on my homepage, iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

If you need help and aren’t sure where to turn, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE(4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org, or contact the Nationwide 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Can you relate to Nicole’s experiences? If you’ve struggled with depression or PTSD, what’s most helped you cope and heal? I love hearing from you! ♥

“OMG, I LOVE HIM!” The Epiphany That Changed My Life

When I moved to Atwater Village nearly ten years ago, I had two goals:

♥ Retrieve my foster dog Zoe (long story), and adopt her

♥ Work on myself and my career

Little did I know then that the kind and handsome neighbor who showed me around when I first visited the property would turn out to be the love of my life.

Unlike previous guys I’d dated who’d wooed me with grandiose charm, Mike treated me with kindness, warmth and respect. The difference was so striking, I had no idea he was interested in me romantically for months.

That’s not to say you can’t be kind and genuine yet grandiose, of course. But in my experience, “over the top” inevitably turned out to be superficial. A game. A tactic.

Mike didn’t have any tactics. He simply wanted to get to know me, and I him. He’d hoped more would happen, I’d later learn, but didn’t press. We were fast friends.

A couple of months after meeting, we serendipitously decided to go for a run at Griffith Park at the same time. I plunked down on his front steps to tie my shoes. As he sat down next to me, a surprising sensation filled me—a heated, shimmery glow I could’ve sworn streamed from my every pore, making my newfound secret obvious to the world:

Oh my god. I love him!!!!!! 

Holy epiphany! How had I missed it?

It took some time for me to realized I hadn’t missed it. Rather, I’d been experiencing it. Relishing it. Evolving within the journey.

I now know I was experiencing healthy attachment, which Dr. Wendy O’Connor poignantly described in my “dating a sociopath” series.

It was exciting, trust me, but in a comfortable way, versus fireworks from a stranger, equal parts ooh la la and risk.

I’d not only fallen in love, but with my best pal, my adventure partner, the guy who made me feel just right, quirks and all, as I am. The guy who made me laugh and extended kindness to everyone he met, never seeing anyone as “less than.”

Shortly after that landmark run at the park, we were dating. A year later, we were wed on the steps we met on—also the place I’d had my “I love him!” epiphany.

P wedding!

Days later, we learned that Zoe needed surgery that would require ample funds and followup home care, and faced a decision:

Honeymoon or Zoe-moon?

I looked at Mike and saw no hesitation in his eyes. Of course we’d choose Zoe. If I’d had any doubt that I’d married right, that moment would have washed it away.

Zoe surgery love

This weekend, we’ll celebrate seven years of marriage. We’ve had our bumps—what couple hasn’t?—but they’ve only ended up strengthening us. Mike’s character, heart and presence are some of my life’s greatest gifts.

Knowing that all couples who choose to can now share marital adventures as well makes our anniversary that much more special.

As chance would have it, a painting we purchased at an auction months ago arrived today. We hadn’t realized until opening it (I blame the champagne!) that it’s called Couple in the Park. That’s precisely how our relationship feels to me—a grand, colorful adventure, full of play and growth and learning, one I plan to cherish for many years to come.

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That’s my love story. What’s yours? ♥

Risky Business: Common Pitfalls of High Heel Shoes #HeelFree

“I cannot tell you how bad your feet will get in the future if you don’t bother helping yourself now, and if you’re already in pain and decide not to do anything about it, I guarantee things will only get worse with time. This is not to scare you, but to emphasize how important your feet are and teach you to look at your feet in a different way than you may have before.”

Dr. Sara Johnson, chiropractic physician

Dr. Johnson’s message summarizes much of what I’ve been pondering since my #HeelFree campaign began: the importance of foot care and how seldom we, as a culture, tend to consider it.

The average woman in the U.S. spends around $25,000 on shoes in her lifetime. If she gets bimonthly pedicures, she’ll spend about $1,345 per year on prettying up her toes. Time and money invested in protecting her feet from damage? Not shockingly, I couldn’t find a study on that. I’m guessing very little. Chance she’ll suffer to some degree as a result? Pretty darn high.

Why all of this is the case became pretty obvious as I delved into my personal history and the history of heels overall. In short, we’re all taught that high heels are sexy, attractive and practically essential in certain situations. As a result, we tend to feel more confident wearing them.

Here’s a little secret: Our legs don’t need to be elongated, clenched or upheld at a particular angle to be beautiful and perfect as they are. No “buts” about it. 

No one seems to say that, so I’m not going to stop saying it. (You should’ve seen the clerk’s face at the grocery store just now…)

As I’ve mentioned, my goal is not to shun anyone who wears or makes high heels, but to encourage more women to think about these factors. With knowledge, we can make our own informed decisions. Part of that knowledge is understanding the risks.

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Common Risks of High Heels (2″ or higher)

♦ Your feet contain 25% of your bones. (WOAH, right?) Stress or misalignment of any of these bones or the surrounding tendons, ligaments or muscles can affect the rest of your body.

♦ So it’s no wonder that high heels are the leading cause of foot pain and injury in women.

♦ Because heels change the way you walk, placing added strain on various bones, they commonly cause knee, back and hip pain as well. They may also up your risk for osteoarthritis of the knee—a type more common in women than men.

♦ Over time, high heels can shorten the muscles in your back and calves, causing more pain plus, potentially, stiffness and muscle spasms.

♦ Frequent wearing can shorten your Achilles tendon, which could contribute to tendinitis, shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

♦ Along with pain comes inflammation, the root cause of many diseases. High heels can also make pain and inflammation from other causes throughout your body worse.

♦ Pain and inflammation tend to have emotional consequences, too, so heels can cause heightened stress, anxiety, depressive moods and mental fatigue.

♦ Pressure from high heels on the nerves in your feet can trigger numbness and pain in your toes.

♦ High heel-wearing negatively affects your walk even when you remove them and go barefoot, shows research. This is because of heels shorten leg muscle fibers, increasing strain on your calves.

♦ Up to one-third of high heel wearers suffer permanent residual problems.

♦ Two such problems are bunions and hammertoes, especially if you wear particularly tall or pointy heels or if either condition runs in your family.

♦ One-third of women who wear high heels at least three times per week have reportedly fallen while wearing them—complications of which are on the rise. High heel-related injuries, including broken bones, doubled between 2002 and 2012.

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Image credit: The Washington Post

And yet, almost no one suggests not wearing them.

I find it interesting that virtually no articles on high heel risks suggest giving them up as a viable way to prevent or minimize these problems. Most simply suggest cutting back on how often you wear them and lowering the height—I’m guessing because they realize that for many women, giving them up is simply not perceivable. Or maybe my friend Scott was right: they’re concerned about losing profit. (Heels bring them loads of business.)

No one should tell us what to wear, of course, but shouldn’t they at least mention that bypassing heels is not only an option, but the surest way to prevent high heel side effects? Otherwise, it’s a bit like saying, “It’s okay to wear pants so tight you can barely breathe, just don’t wear them daily” for less abdominal angst, or, “Look both ways when you cross the street, most of the time,” for lower risks of falling or getting hit by a car.

Trust me, I’m glad there’s plenty of information out there for high heel fans to wear them more safely. I just wish women were encouraged to consider comfortable, health-promoting shoes without any sense that doing so might end their world, style- or confidence- wise.

Many women who switch to lower shoes do so because they’ve already experienced problems or can’t wear heels for health reasons. Huge kudos for that. Many women keep on wearing heels anyway. But there’s also this little thing called prevention. I’m a fan.

We really can feel confident without heels. It may take effort for some of us (it has for me), but it’s worthy. There’s serious strength in feeling strong and authentic as we are, no shape/height/weight altering devices required. As a bonus, the less we rely on high heels, the lower our risks become for crippling our feet and bodies over time.

To learn more about high heel risks, click the hyperlinks throughout this post.

More related links:

Standing with Confidence: Body Image, Height and High Heels – a post I wrote for the National Eating Disorders Association

Why I Won’t Wear High Heels Ever Again, via XOXO Jane

Science Weighs in on High Heels, via the New York Times

How to Cultivate “Belly Out” Self-Confidence, on Girl Boner® Radio

Were you aware of these risks? Which have you experienced? If you wear heels, what do you love about them? What are your favorite flats? I love hearing from you! ♥

PS Check out my new #HeelFree Pinterest board for resources and links to gorgeous, comfy heel alternatives. :)

Eye Candy and Power Tools? The Sexist History of High Heels

Did you know that privileged men were the first to wear high heels? Way back in the 17th century, heels provided a beneficial lift while riding horses. Gradually, privileged women followed suit, both genders wearing them to convey prestige and power.

This all changed in the next century, when men and women’s dress began to reflect social class and profession.

And here’s the clincher, IMO:

Because men were considered the more intellectual and capable sex, they gave up heels for practical shoes they could do work that smart and powerful folks do (such as business and politics). Women’s perceived inadequacies made walking well less important. To ensure that they stayed as lovely to look at as possible—their main skill set other than childbirth—high heels became more decorative.

Men’s shoes became comfortable, reliable and supportive, while women’s remained decorative, unstable and painful. Because who cares if decorations can walk well or get hurt?

I wish I were kidding. (Learn more herehere, here and here.)

While women have more opportunities, choices and respect nowadays, it’s still complicated…

Stilettos, the most hazardous heels, appeared in the 1950s, when the fashion industry made the wartime pinup-girl look a trend. Women did everything from housecleaning to posing for erotic photos in the steep shoes. Meanwhile, they were seldom allowed positions of power or leadership.

heels sexist

The heels trend diminished a bunch during the 60s and 70s (I LOVE YOU, HIPPIES!), but not for long.

In the 1980s, as women began readily climbing the corporate ladder, people feared that such work would strip away their desirability—by, you know, doing all that “man stuff.” Particularly tall stilettos were marketed as a solution, a way to stay sexually appealing while moving forward professionally.

skyscraper shoes

By 2000, high heels were called a woman’s “power tools.” Her sex appeal was popularly considered her main source of professional strength, one she could use to manipulate people, giving “working your way to the top” a whole new meaning.

High heels are still associated with prestige and sexiness, regardless of well-known risks they raise for pain, bunions, fractures, bone deterioration and more. Related injuries have nearly doubled in the last decade, which speaks of their popularity and women’s determination to wear and embrace them, but more so of the media and fashion industry’s power of persuasion. (If comfortable, supportive shoes were all the rage, we’d be wearing them by the masses.)

Does any of this make wearing high heels wrong? Or anti-feminist?

Of course not. Feminism is about equality. We should all have the freedom to dress and express ourselves as we choose.

If you feel empowered by high heels and love wearing them, go for it. (If you do, consider these doctor recommended tips.) No one should be shamed for wearing any particular type of apparel.

I think it’s important, however, to put thought into what we find strengthening and why. The more informed we are, the better choices we can make for ourselves. And the better choices we make for ourselves, the better role models we become for others.

HeelFree

My latest #HeelFree faves. Wearing flatter shoes with a dress felt freeing.

I also feel there’s a fine line between putting a bandaid on insecurity and empowerment. A few months ago, I probably would’ve told you I wore heels at important events because they helped me feel empowered—more capable, attractive and confident. Now I realize they gave me a false sense of security and worked against me in numerous ways, from foot pain and poor body control to a lack of authenticity.

Why did I feel the need to stand taller? To have my calf muscles clenched? To make my legs look any different than they naturally are? (I explored these questions in my first #HeelFree post, available here.) Why do any of us?

In short, because of societal messages. We’re taught that high heels are a near prerequisite to sexiness, confidence and success. They’re considered a way up in the world, literally and figuratively, as they have been since their invention.

But times have changed. We don’t need to rely on our society’s idea of “sexiness” in order to have the careers, respect and lives we desire. I plan to live as long and as happily as possible, and I just don’t think that footwear that causes irreparable damage and makes walking comfortably difficult facilitates that—at least not for me.

I’ve also noticed in my years of work with folks with eating disorders and related issues that poor body image often goes hand-in-hand with high-heel wearing; it’s another common means of changing our outsides to aid inner wounds. But again, that’s a bandaid, not a solution.

If you can relate, I hope you’ll prioritize greater self-love and acceptance—regardless of your shoe choices. If there are any “power tools” worth having, it’s these.

If we wish to change the harsh pressures placed on women to appear a certain shape, size and height, we have to start with ourselves—by not holding ourselves up to those standards and by valuing what matters most. Whether you’re joining me in going #HeelFree or not, I hope you’ll consider taking whatever positive steps you can.

If you’re obsessive passionate like me, you’ll blab about it in the process. ;) If not, you can still help better the world.

As a reminder, I’m posting #HeelFree photos and links on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to join the conversation!

What surprised you about high heels’ history? If you wear them regularly, how do they make you feel? Have you embraced your legs and height as they are? I’d love to hear your thoughts! ♥

#HeelFree Campaign: Going a Year Without High Heels

How do you feel about high heels? Does the thought of ex-naying them from your wardrobe for a year sound daunting?

If not, kudos! I admire you, just as I admire the women who were turned away from the Cannes Film Festival for wearing dressy flats instead of heels.

That news angered me, but I was in also awe of those women for arriving to a world-renowned upscale event in flats. FLATS! I’m embarrassed to admit that for me, that would have taken courage.

HeelFree

A bit of personal history:

Until age 16, I felt pretty neutral about height, mine included. My parents’ heights vary by about a foot, and my siblings and I all fall about midway between. While I’m considered tallish, there was never any emphasis on one height range being superior to another.

I’m grateful for that, particularly considering my other insecurities. I deemed my naturally thin, small-framed body chubby from about ages 5 to 25. It’s called body dysmorphia, and it’s no fun.

During my sophomore year of high school, I started modeling—a shift that stunned, delighted and terrified me. When my agents didn’t mentioned my perceived extra pounds, I wondered for the first time if I’d imagined them. Maybe I was just fine, attractive even, as I was.

That all changed after my first editorial photo shoot. At the end of a long, gratifying workday, the photographer looked me in the eyes and said, “You could be working in Paris….if you lost 10 or 15 pounds.”

In effort to soften the blow, numerous industry professionals and fellow models assured me it was because of my height.

“It’s not that you’re fat,” one said. “It’s just that shorter girls have to appear taller, like an optical illusion.”

Another explained that to give that “hanger” look—as though the apparel hung on a clothes hanger, versus a human—I had to look as long and lean as possible. I couldn’t change my height, she said, but I could alter my weight. Proportionately, it would all work out.

Only it didn’t.

With my insecurities about my weight seemingly validated, I began shedding pounds and my already vulnerable sense of self. Not only was I indeed overweight (by industry standards), but displeasingly short? Both words seemed like F-grades on the exam called Life. So I traded normal meals for restriction and my loafers for heels.

Fifteen pounds and hundreds of steps in heels later, I landed a prestigious contract with a modeling agency in New York City, where I wore heels so frequently, I felt as though I was walking uphill without them.

A few years later, the photographer’s prediction proved true. While living and working in Paris, I nearly died of anorexia. It took nearly a decade, but I’m now fully past the eating disorder and the dysmorphic self-perceptions.

Healing from an eating disorder is often a live-or-die situation. I chose life, which required dealing with demons I’d carried for decades. That process brought me to a place of body- and self- embracement I wish more women experienced. I prize authenticity more than almost anything, and have virtually no negative thoughts about my body or aesthetics. If I fixate on anything, it’s my passions.

So why did the thought of not wearing heels for a year make my palms sweat?

Is this an old wound I’ve overlooked? Lingering insecurity that fell through the cracks? I plan to find out…

I haven’t worn heels as often in recent years, partly because I primarily work from home. But whenever I attend an important event, be it a glamorous night out or a public appearance, I’ve considered them essential. Do I place my sense of self-worth in my height or footwear? No. But I do feel more attractive and, in some ways, empowered by them. To be honest, they feel like a crutch (which is ironic, seeing as wearing them raises my risk for needing crutches…). I’ve also suffered some harsh side effects of the tall, angular shoes, which I’ll explore in another post.

My discomfort at the thought of going heel-less made me so uncomfortable, that I’ve launched a campaign. Whether this will remain my own personal venture or one shared by many, I don’t know. What I do know is that the experience is already strengthening me. I haven’t worn heels since this idea struck me a few weeks ago.

My mission: 

Until June 1, 2016, I will not wear high heels. Instead, I’ll choose comfortable, supportive flats, clogs, athletic shoes and boots. Throughout the year, I’ll post updates on my experience and research here on my blog and on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter), using the hashtag #HeelFree.

Will I wear heels again thereafter? No idea. At the moment, I suspect so. But a lot can happen in a year.

My goals:

I’m doing this in honor of the women who were turned away from Cannes for wearing flats. It’s part social-experiment, part person-growth challenge—one that I hope will benefit others.

One thing my journey has taught me is that the most uncomfortable steps we can take often prove to be the most empowering. We can’t know the rewards, or how deeply (or not) an insecurity is holding is back until we face it, head on. So, off I go!

IMPORTANT NOTE:

I am NOT doing this to shun women who wear heels, or suggesting that everyone should give them upI realize that there are ways to more safely work heels into one’s lifestyle (wearing certain brands/types, lowering the frequency, etc.). I also recognize that some women are criticized for wearing heels for various reasons; I’ll explore that, too, as part of this series—while sticking to my #HeelFree mission. This is simply my journey, which I hope others will learn from. 

If you’d like to support my #HeelFree mission, here are some ways:

  • Join in! If you wear heels routinely, give them up along with me. Post about your experience using the hashtag and including a link to this post and/or tagging me. Feel free to use the above image.
  • Join the conversation online by sharing thoughts and images related to #HeelFree. (Post a photo of your feet in your favorite comfy flats, for example.)
  • Read, comment on and share #HeelFree posts, from me and/or other folks.
  • Send us happy vibes! Those always count. :)

How do you feel about heels? If you wear them regularly, could you give them up for a year? Will you? What’s your footwear/height story? I love hearing from you! 

6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Predators

When I think of personal safety, two things pop to mind: The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, and the creepy man on the subway who followed me home. If only I’d read de Becker’s book back then.

I was working as a model in NYC when, after a long photo shoot that ended at dusk, I hopped on the subway. When I felt a man staring at me then looked up and confirmed he was, I did what I typically did in such cases: darted my eyes away. Then I settled further into the crowd around me so I could keep daydreaming, sans creepy-stare.

Several train transfers and blocks of walking later, I arrived at my apartment building. As I stepped onto the elevator, commotion erupted behind me. I turned to see the creepy guy who’d been staring inches behind me—being yanked back by the building’s security guard. I was okay physically, but shaken and terrified.

Years later, when I read The Gift of Fear, this experience echoed repeatedly. I saw all of the signs, in neon. I’d felt the guy staring, noticed my fear and, sadly, ignored it. Nowadays, I would have looked at him guy straight on, observed his build, approximate age and ethnicity. I’d have maintained awareness of him, rather than vanished into daydreams. I’d have noticed him trailing behind me, called out his description if need be and gone straight to an authority—to whom I could’ve described him fully—and sought safe accompaniment home.

This is only one of many experiences in which I ignored my instincts. I doubt any woman could read The Gift of Fear without nodding repeatedly.

As de Becker points out, humans are the only species that ignores instinctual fear. While animals dart away in light of perceived danger, we, especially women, often convince ourselves to stay around it. So cultured to be polite, we feel we should be “nice” to the guy who’s giving us the creeps. Good girls don’t shun others, we’re taught, unless they cause us obvious harm. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather prevent harm in the first place.

self-defense quote

Being victimized by abuse of any kind is never our fault. Ever.

Predators prey. They stalk, seek out our vulnerabilities and, in the case of sociopaths, are highly skilled at donning sheep’s clothing. But we can learn ways to keep ourselves safe, note the red flags and prevent the worst-case-scenarios.

1.  Trust your instincts.

During my series on dating a sociopath on my blog and show these past two weeks, I’ve heard from many women (and some men) who’ve been stalked, harassed and confined by the controls of an abusive partner. Numerous described the fear they felt upon meeting the person. Some only recognized it in hindsight, or mistook it for magnetism. These women, like so many of others, learned the hard way that our instincts are always to be trusted.

That gut feeling is there for a reason—you don’t even need to know the reason in order to listen or respond. Dr. Wendy O’Connor, the marriage and family therapist I interviewed in this episode, described trusting your gut as the most important red flag.

“So often people get a swirl of emotions, elations, or a deep dark feeling or the famous ‘creeped out feeling,'” she said. “Regardless if it’s positive or negative to the extreme, pay attention to it!”

Dr. Megan quote GB 5-26

2. Practice self-awareness.

As we hone in to stay better in-tune with that inner voice/gut feeling, we should also prioritize becoming more aware of our overall emotions, wants and needs. Doing so requires minimizing distraction—i.e., putting the cell phone and iPod away when we’re out in public alone, for example, and stepping into and exploring any difficult emotions that arise, rather than avoiding them.

If you sense that something is off—publicly or within a relationship—don’t write it off, suggests Dr. Wendy, thinking, ‘Am I crazy?’ Instead, respect and observe those feelings. They’re sharper than you may realize, and could help save you from harm.

3. Don’t mistake obsessive behavior for love or admiration.

Contrary to what many fairytales suggest, a healthy, loving person does not attack us with love and attention. They don’t repeatedly show up uninvited, bombard us with gifts and attention when they barely know us or facilitate constant contact (such as perpetual texts or phone calls). They respect us and our privacy.

If you’re in a relationship and something feels off, look for themes and patterns.

“Do they track your every moment or isolate you from loved ones? This isn’t normal, love or admiration. This is stalking.” – Dr. Wendy O’Connor

4. Take precautions online.

It’s easy to feel somewhat anonymous and safe while posting on social media, and I personally love sharing about my life. But without appropriate boundaries, we open ourselves up to all kinds of risk.

Here are some simple steps to minimize them:

  • Don’t give others a GPS on your whereabouts. Turn your location settings OFF on Facebook and other networks.
  • Avoid posting “checkins” and other social media that reveal your current location.
  • When going through break up, especially if the person is troubled or abusive, reset all of your passwords—including your email, social media and bank account passwords.
  • Save all texts, emails and voice messages from anyone who’s threatening or abusive, in case you need to report them.
  • Don’t post your email address publicly on your blog or website. Instead, use a contact form.
  • Consider blocking or un-friending anyone creepy.
  • If someone reaches out to you, and your gut says YIKES, don’t feel obligated to respond. (Harmful folks often see any attention as positive, even if the attention is negative—i.e., “I don’t want to go out with you.”)
  • Tell others about anything alarming. Tell a friend, a family member, your employer, a therapist—not only for support, but so others have a record as well. This can help if/when you report happenings.

5. Take a self-defense class.

Self-defense classes are empowering. We all deserve to feel safe and secure, and to protect ourselves if need be.

I personally recommend IMPACT, if you have access—though any class that teaches self-defense is worth it. Ideally, the class will teach ways to prevent the need for traditional self-defense tactics, and make both prevention and defense so automatic, it’s muscle memory. This is vital, because once adrenaline kicks in, you’re probably not going to be thinking clearly enough to locate and use your mace can, for example. And holding your keys between your fingers as a “knife,” as many women do, won’t cut it. (No pun intended!)

6. Seek support.

Even if you feel whatever’s happening is “nothing,” feel incapable of getting out of an abusive relationship, or even that you don’t really want to get out but know on some level that you should, professional support is a primo idea. You have nothing to lose by trying, and possibly far more than you realize by not.

Dr. Wendy suggests working with a licensed professional for feedback and to come up with a good game plan, then staying connected with them for a period of time. Meanwhile, don’t hold back.

Often people will lie to their therapist about the most basic things,” she said. “Develop trust with your therapist and talk about your resistance, lack of insecurity, talk about secrets and your desire to learn how to open up to another. Any good professional will be non-judgemental, caring and trusting.”

Helpful resources:

National Center for Victims of Crime Hotline: 1-800-851-3240

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

U.K. National Stalking Helpline: 808-802-0300

Safety and Protection Resources, via Gavin de Becker and Associates

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker

Related links:

From “Soul Mate” to Soul Sucker: My Relationship with a Sociopath

In “Love” with a Narcissist/Sociopath: Althea’s Story

I Dated a Sociopath, Part I on Girl Boner Radio: True Stories of Hurt and Healing

I Dated a Sociopath, Part II on Girl Boner Radio: Hope and Healing

The Borderline and Narcissist Love Relationship by Dr. Wendy O’Connor

Does Real Love Exist on the Internet? by Dr. Wendy O’Connor

wendy2014-2

Huge thanks to all of you who’ve followed along with my ‘dating a sociopath’ series. Due to its popularity, I’ll revisit it occasionally as time goes on—so stay tuned!

What steps do you take to ensure your personal safety? Which step will you prioritize? When has trusting or not trusting your instincts affected your safety? I love hearing from you! ♥

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