#NotSorry: 5 Things I No Longer Apologize For

You may have noticed that women apologize a lot. A whole lot. While it’s appropriate to say, “Sorry!” when we’ve, say, stepped on another’s toe, apologizing for being ourselves hurts us and, by way of example, others.

A few years ago, the ever-sparkly Natalie Hartford published a blog post called 5 Things I’ll Never Apologize For, which basically says, “This is who I am. Deal with it!” (Woot!)

I’ve thought of her post many times since, particularly upon realizing I’m no longer apologetic for aspects of myself that once left me guilt-ridden.

Here are five of those things:

1. For not being a night owl.

I think I’m genetically predisposed to turn into a mushy-headed pumpkin by 9pm. (I don’t even know what that is. Anyway…) I used to feel dorky for wanting to eat dinner at 5pm or donning PJs when “hipper” friends were taking pre-going out naps. Not anymore.

Proof that turning in early can be sweeter.

Proof that turning in early can be sweeter.

If I stay out late, I know I’ll pay the price the next day; feeling groggy and not on top of my game. My work and relationships are too important to do so regularly.

Nurturing what makes us feel healthiest and most alive—especially when it isn’t the norm—shows strength and self-respect.

2. For being passionate and outspoken.

I sometimes think I was born an activist. As a kid, I campaigned for endangered animals, protested for planet-friendlier school lunch dishes and co-organized events to raise awareness about child abuse. Then there was my first walk-out. (How dare my piano teacher deny me M&Ms for neglecting my homework expressing my artistry through improvisation?)

By my early 20s, I’d lost some of that confidence and occasionally felt I was on an annoying “high horse.” Does everything have to be a world-altering mission? No. But it’s important to me to feel that I’m contributing to positive change, or at least trying.

Writing and speaking have helped me see that using my voice and passion for greater good is my happy place, and washed away concerns over what others might think. (And, wouldn’t you know? Most folks don’t shun me anyway.) Now, rather than feel crushed by injustices I see, I find peace in knowing I can do something. And I’m not afraid to speak up.

You know you're in your happy place when someone walks in on you taking blog-prep-selfies and you keep on shooting. ;)

You know you’re in your happy place when someone walks in on you taking blog-prep-selfies and you keep on shooting. 😉

Meeting my awesome husband also helped. Early on in our relationship, he caught me apologizing for babbling on and on enthusiastically sharing. “It’s the best part of my day,” he said. *swoon* (Yep, I married right.)

We all deserve to nurture our passions, and what makes us feel obscure or alone at times could actually be what makes our lives extraordinary. People who truly care about us will embrace them.

3. For not having perfectly groomed appendages.

Does anyone else fight the urge to yelp, “Hurry up! I’m bored!” when having your nails done? Ugh. Now that I meditate, I could probably handle it. Regardless, nail treatments feel like a waste of precious time and money I could be investing elsewhere.

When I first moved to LA, I often had gels added to my nails, fearing that others would judge my “imperfections.” Now, I embrace my imperfect, guitar-playing, typing-fanatical hands.

photo-165

Dear Nails: Thank you for showing the world how much I value typing and strumming over aesthetics, and for putting up with my bashing. I promise not to have you ground down and covered up again. Sincerely, Me

What we see as “flaws” are often quirks that reflect who we are. Not sweating over them is a huge relief.

4. For not caring much about fashion —at least not enough to appear totally put together very often.

Looking back on my life, I see a direct correlation between how much time and energy I put into my appearance and insecurity. That’s not to say these are linked for all women, of course.

One sign you're not putting much thought into your wardrobe… #whoops

One sign you’re not putting much thought into your wardrobe… #whoops

I admire women who consistently look like they’ve just stepped out of a style mag, but I’m so not one of them. While I enjoy dressing up for special occasions, I prefer spending my time and energy elsewhere. As long as I’m clean and comfy, I’m a-okay.

When we fixate on our looks, what we need to change almost surely lies deeper than our hairstyle or wardrobe.

**If you’re a low-maintanence gal, too, this Elite Daily article is a must-read: The Science of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

5. For taking up space.

Last year my friend Sheri, I and another friend were standing and chatting in an open hotel lobby. When a group of people walked our direction, I apologized and stepped aside, giving them ample (if not necessary) room to pass.

“You don’t need to apologize for taking up space,” Sheri said without hesitation. “We have a right to be here.”

Woah. (See why I adore her?) In the following weeks, I noticed that I had a tendency to offer up my space to others in this way; it was a dangling thread of insecurity I hadn’t yet clipped.

Owning the space we stand in is empowering, and it’s never too late to grow.  

Why stay small?

Because why not?

Whether we say the words or not, feeling regretful for who we authentically are can hold us back in all sorts of ways.

As Natalie shared in her post, she dresses provocatively, cusses regularly and speaks her mind–without regret. Is she judged for these traits on occasion? Probably. But they’re also three of the reasons I, and many others, love her. It would break our hearts if she held back. We should have that same compassion for ourselves. Don’t you think?

What have you stopped apologizing for? Do you relate to any on my list? I’d love to hear from you! ♥

Body Image Mirrors: What Does Yours Reflect?

“Beauty is not caused. It is.” — Emily Dickinson

If only we all saw it in ourselves…

The first few times I spoke publicly about my eating disorder, I shared photographs of my former emaciated self. Most people gasped at the sunken in cheeks, sharp bones and skin that looked too small for its skeleton. Others, sadly, were impressed.

One day, after speaking at a university in Minnesota, I received an email from a woman who’d attended. “I looked at that picture and all I could think was, I wish I could be that thin. Why don’t I have that discipline?” she wrote. The words threw a brick at my heart and opened my eyes.

Based on the woman’s email, I figured she was A) anorexic and body dysmorphic B) affected by another eating disorder or C) generally healthy physically, but riddled with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors—a state far more common than diagnosable eating disorders, and no less worthy of addressing. I didn’t need to know which; my reaction would’ve been the same regardless.

I wrote back, apologizing, offering support and reiterating some of what I’d shared in my talk. I thanked her for showing me how irresponsible I’d been, and meant it. Even if masses of people were horrified by the photographs, sharing them wasn’t worth it if even one used it as a measure of her self-worth. Needless to say, I’ve been much more cautious about sharing them since.

Whether we realize it or not, we are role models and example-setters. Our attitudes and behaviors regarding food, eating and our bodies can empower or hurt others—even when our intentions are good.

Positive body image reflects empowering light on others.

Remarkable things happen when we accept ourselves and stop trying to whittle ourselves away or morph into people or shapes we’re not. We stop judging others’ shapes and sizes. We see people, not body parts or competition. We see fuel and enjoyment on our plates, rather than numbers or damage. We eat healthfully and exercise because it feels good, not for calorie burn or scale shifts. And photographs of skinny models don’t motivate us or fill us with envy; they simply make us sad.

Study after study has shown that unhealthy attitudes and behaviors regarding food, weight and appearance negatively influences our peers and loved ones. Research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders in 2011 revealed that peer and parental fixation on appearance and weight control significantly increase teen women’s likelihood of binging and purging. Children of dieting parents often develop poor body image and self esteem, struggle with weight control and hold increased risks for anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, obesity and depression during youth and adulthood.

But fear not. There’s good news. 🙂 Many steps can be taken to improve our own food and body-related attitudes while safeguarding our loved ones from these complications.

8 Ways to Boost Body Image in Others

1. Make self-acceptance a priority. Perhaps it’s obvious, but the best way to inspire positive body image is by example. For more on this topic, and tips on boosting your own body image, feel free to visit my post, Body Image Myths: Exploring Myths & Walking the Walk.

2. If you’e not feeling it, fake it. Reversing poor body image seldom happens simply or quickly. But talking about body parts you loathe can give those thoughts power and negatively influence listening ears. If you have thoughts about your “huge thighs” or “imperfect” skin, keep them private. Why does Coca Cola continue to advertise when we’re well aware of their products? The power of suggestion. It works—sometimes too well.

3. Don’t diet. Dieting, including following rigid lifestyle plans geared toward weight loss, wreaks havoc on our bodies and minds. It also inspires similar problems and complexes in our peers and loved ones. Poor body image, self esteem, eating disorders and obesity run rampant in children of dieting parents. They may be small, but they’re highly absorbent sponges.

4. Make healthy lifestyle habits a family affair. Forcing kids to eat healthy foods seldom works. Even if only one member of your clan has a weight or dietary problem, involve the entire family in physical activity and healthy eating—and make it fun. Enjoyment is a huge factor in developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles longterm.

5. Don’t comment on others’ weight. If a friend has shed excess pounds and looks great, tell her she looks healthy and happy—not thin “and what’s your secret?” Celebrating weight loss places emphasis on body size. What if she lost weight through starving? Would you celebrate that? Our loved ones need to know that we care about who and how they are, not their pant size.

6. Talk positively about food and your body. Rather than discuss your weight or physical “flaws,” talk about the strength of your body, gratitude for your health or how great you feel when you self-nourish with healthy foods. Describe desserts as “decadent,” not ‘damaging.” Viewing foods in terms of calories, carbs and grams can zap pleasure and perpetuate negativity. Save numbers for your accountant, and away from your plates.

7. Give body image-boosting gifts. Affirmation cards, empowering books and films, massages and even counseling sessions make wonderful, uplifting gifts. Rather than a gym or weight loss center membership, sign you and a friend up for fabulous dance classes or hiking events. Instead of fitness-geared magazines, give MORE, Oprah magazine or others that promote inner/outer beauty. Or give a gift related to a friend’s passion. Happiness breeds inner-beauty, outer-beauty and self-acceptance.

8. Set loved ones straight. If you catch friends or family members dissing their bodies or partaking in harmful weight or diet-related behaviors, call them out. Tell them you won’t allow them to bash or hurt themselves around you, that you love them too much. And ask what you can do to support positive changes. It’s not always easy, but it’s worthwhile.

What do you do to set a positive body image example for others? Any challenges or success stories to share?