Posts tagged with ‘body image and self esteem’

20 apr

What Your Body Tells You: Objective Feedback vs. Critical Condemnation

SarahMariaCan you tell the difference between the objective feedback your body offers versus the critical condemnation of your mind?

Your body’s objective feedback can help you make lifestyle choices that promote your health and well-being, whereas the critical condemnation of your mind creates nothing but suffering.

Our bodies are incredible messengers, powerful gifts on the journey through life. We can use the constant feedback that our bodies give us to help us make changes and adaptations to promote our health. If we listen to the criticism of our minds, however, it will sabotage us. The negative mental messages can eclipse the body’s natural intelligence and feedback, which will prevent us from making the healthy choices we want to make.

The mind opines, while the body illuminates. The mind makes you mistakenly believe that your body means something about who you are as a person, your self-worth and your value. It levels judgment and criticism. It makes you believe that you are somehow not good enough, that something is wrong with you and your body.

Here are some examples to elucidate the point:

Objective Feedback vs. Critical Condemnation

“I am holding weight in my abdomen – I can tell I have been under a lot of stress.”
versus “My stomach is flabby and disgusting – I am out of shape and need to do more sit-ups.”

“I haven’t been able to exercise recently and can tell that my legs are weak.”
versus “My cellulite is disgusting and I cringe when I look in the mirror.”

“I notice that when I eat sugar regularly it leads to weight gain and is addictive.”
versus “Why can’t I control myself? I am so weak.”

“I can tell that my arms are becoming weak – it would be good for me to increase my upper-body strength.”
versus “My arms are flabby, weak, and I don’t even want to look at them.”

“It has been too long without a haircut.”
versus “My hair is flat, dull, and disgusting.”

The key is to use your body for valuable, useful feedback, and to disregard the worthless messages of criticism that come from mental conditioning.

Critical condemnation is when you use your body and appearance to:

* Determine your self-worth

* Use it as a reflection of your “success” or “failure”

* Use it as a reflection of your “strength” or “weakness”

* Use it as a reflection of being “good” or “bad”

Here are three helpful steps to help you use your body’s messages for objective feedback, while dropping the mind’s critical condemnation:

1. Become increasingly aware of the difference between the body’s messages and the mind’s messages

2. Separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” – use the objective feedback and drop the self-judgment, criticism, and condemnation

3. Make lifestyle choices based on the feedback, not the condemnation

A key tool to help you learn to differentiate between your body’s messages and your mind’s messages is meditation.

A regular meditation practice is essential to help you break free from the critical mind-chatter that can sabotage your best intentions.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Visit BreakFreeBeauty.com to learn more.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Sarah Maria on April 20th, 2011 in Health | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

28 feb

Recognize the Beauty Within

SarahMariaRecently a woman contacted me who is studying journalism in her third year at university in England. She is writing a paper on facial disfiguration and asked if I could answer some questions as a body-image expert. Below are the answers to her questions. These answers will be helpful for whatever struggles you might be encountering in your life. Please enjoy.

Know this: whatever your physical appearance, you are beautiful. You can consider this to be a nice idea, but I guarantee it is the absolute truth. If you believe yourself to have imperfections, whatever form they take, please use the questions and answers below to help you let go of those false ideas and beliefs that prevent you from experiencing the beauty that you are. Because the experience of that beauty is the only beauty worth having.

Question: What exactly does your role as a Body-Image Coach mean? i.e. In general terms what is it that you do?

Being a body-image coach simply means that I facilitate people’s coming to love and accept their bodies and themselves. In a very real sense, I do nothing. I simply facilitate the natural process that is taking place within people. Within each individual is an intrinsic knowing, an intrinsic wisdom, that can best be described as love. This love longs to express itself, to our own selves, as well as to others. Unfortunately, very few people know how to access this natural love and allow it to unfold. As a body-image coach, I simply facilitate this unfolding. I help people connect with this beauty, perfection, love, and wisdom that is already inside of themselves, seeking expression. So perhaps the best word to describe my role is simply that of facilitator.

Question: What are your views on our societies obsession with being ‘beautiful’? How would you classify being beautiful?

My view is that everything in life is a gift, including that which seems horrible, awful, and incomprehensible. The only key factor is the individual – are you, meaning the individual, willing and able to view everything that you experience as a gift? This certainly does not mean that everything is enjoyable, or that pain or suffering should be endorsed or allowed, but it does mean that in each moment, you have a choice. A Course in Miracles states that every moment is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. Another way to say this same thing is “in every moment, you can make a choice between seeing life as a gift or a curse.”

So how is this relevant to society’s obsession with being beautiful? If you suffer from negative feelings about yourself and your appearance, it is easy to blame society. And yes, societies views on beauty are unequivocally limited, deficient, and utterly misleading. As an individual, however, you can use society’s limited perception of beauty to your advantage. You can use it to help you discover and experience your own inherent beauty and perfection.

Here is an example of how this might work:

1. Let’s say you have internalized the mainstream culture’s messages about beauty. You believe that you do not fit this standard, and are thus deficient your lacking in some way. Simply notice this.

2. Then realize that this is complete and utter nonsense. Realize that you were born absolutely perfect, inherently beautiful, and you will remain that way forever. Beauty is not something that you achieve because you look a certain way. Beauty is an attribute of your existence. You were born with it, and it always remains.

3. Whenever you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, feeling like you are not beautiful enough, remind yourself that this is an illusion. This is simply the result of growing up in a society that cannot recognize beauty and is completely deluded regarding the whole topic.

4. Every time you remind yourself of this truth, and let go of the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that keep you from this truth, the closer you will come to seeing and experience the beauty that is always there. True beauty is nothing that you achieve; it is simply something that you learn to see.

Being beautiful is simply being you. It is being you in all your dimensions, in all your aspects, in the very rawness of your humanity. Some days you might be well put-together; other days you might be falling apart. Some days you might radiate health, other days you might be beset by illness. Both are equally beautiful. It is only the mind that divides, saying one is beautiful and the other is not. In reality, there is only one beauty, and you are that.

Question: Do you feel that it is unhealthy for young women to be growing up in an environment where such an emphasis is placed on image and looks?

This depends. Would it be nice if we lived in a culture that honored everyone’s uniqueness and intrinsic beauty? Absolutely. The only way to create this society, however, is to start with each individual. Learn to recognize beauty within yourself; learn to recognize beauty within everyone and everything else. It is only by changing each individual, one-by-one, that a new society will be created that is simply an expression of these individuals steeped in beauty.

In the meantime, since we do live in a society that has a distorted view of beauty, take complete responsibility for transforming yourself. If you are a parent, raise your children so that they know what true beauty is. Teach them to see the beauty in everyone and everything. As an individual, whatever your condition in life, commit unwaveringly to knowing and experiencing your inherent beauty. As you come to know your own beauty, you will become a beacon of beauty that radiates beauty ceaselessly, slowly transforming the culture into one that is more supportive.

Question: I have read on your website that you once struggled with body loathing. How did you get through this tough time? What advice would you offer to others in this situation?

My struggle with body loathing, and the healing process, was a process. It did not happen overnight. But it did happen. And this is the most important thing for people to hear. Freedom from body-loathing, freedom from self-hatred, freedom from suffering and un-lovability, is completely possible. It only requires a willingness for it to end. It might sound odd, but this willingness usually grows over time.

The most important things is helping me to heal were professional help, yoga, and meditation. I, myself, suffered for way too long without seeking professional help. This is why I work as a body-image coach, to help people who are struggling. There are also many competent therapists and healers. The most important thing is to seek qualified professional help as soon as possible.

Equally important is learning to listen to your true self. By the time people have reached adolescence, most people have forgotten how to listen to their own intuitive guidance. Each person has a reservoir of wisdom inside of themselves. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to and follow this guidance.

Two great ways to learn how to access your inner-intelligence are through yoga and meditation. Yoga can help you to become aware of and in tune with your body. Your body has an incomprehensible amount of intelligence if you simply learn how to listen to it. Yoga can help you create a collaborative relationship with your body.

Meditation is also a critical component of healing. I cannot stress the benefits of meditation enough. Simply practicing meditation on a regular basis helps to cleanse the mind of the negative delusions and beliefs that plague so many people. If you are caught in a pattern of disliking your body and yourself, you are living with painful illusions. Meditation will begin to uproot the lies you are living with and help you begin to see and experience your inherent beauty and perfection.

Question: Obviously for people suffering from facial disfigurements and birthmarks it is not so easy to physically change their appearance. How would your five-step process to love your body and your life help them?

Changing your physical appearance is not an essential part of accepting and making peace with your body and yourself. As a matter of fact, changing your appearance can sometimes be a hindrance to this process of acceptance. This is not always the case, but it certainly can be.

The five-step process outlined in Love Your Body, Love Your Life, is a process designed to help people move from disliking their bodies and themselves, whatever the reason may be, to acceptance, and then to love. My work is not about helping people change their appearance per se. For people who want to lose weight or improve their health, this may very well come about as a by-product of loving and accepting themselves, but it is not the point of the work. The point of the work is to help people love and accept what is, and from that place of love and acceptance, anything is possible.

Question: Do you think that young women suffering from facial disfigurations would be more accepting of themselves if there was more awareness of this issue, and people with the condition were being seen in the media, for example in ad campaigns?

If by more awareness you mean that there was more awareness of what true beauty is then, yes, I do think that more awareness would result in people accepting themselves more. The key is that people become aware of what beauty is.

Beauty is not something you achieve because you look a certain way, have certain facial features, appear blemish free, whatever ideas people have about beauty. Beauty is not what you think it is. Beauty is an attribute of existence itself. You were born beautiful. Whether you were born with facial disfigurations or born as a soon-to-be super model simply does not matter. I know this runs contrary to everything people have been taught to believe. This is what I mean about needing more awareness about what is truly beautiful. Every single person is beautiful because it is an essential attribute of existence, and a rose is no more beautiful than a tulip, then a daisy. All are unique; each one is beautiful.

If our media, advertisements, etc. begin to reflect a more true definition of beauty I think this could have a positive effect on everyone’s ideas about beauty. If ad campaigns show that beauty comes in all shapes, forms, and conditions, there will be more awareness and people will begin to cultivate eyes that can see true beauty.

Question: If these girls were considering surgical cosmetic treatment to effectively change what they looked like what would you say to them? i.e. Do you feel that your methods of coaching would be more beneficial?

This completely depends. I don’t have anything against cosmetic surgery per se. If people have a disfiguration that they really want changed, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, most of the time, changing the external appearance will not improve self-esteem and self-acceptance in and of itself. So I would recommend that if someone has a history of struggling with negative feelings about their bodies and themselves that they engage in internal exploration and healing, regardless of whether or not they decide to get surgery. Whether or not they have cosmetic treatment, the internal exploration will help them throughout their entire lives.

After you seek professional help with a qualified therapist or comparable professional, then you can decide whether or not you want to proceed with the treatment. This will increase the chances that you feel good with whatever decision you make.

Question: What advice would you offer to loved ones and friends who are trying to help someone who suffers from low self-esteem regarding their looks?

The very best thing you can do is to let someone know that they do not need to live with the low-self esteem and disliking their looks. Let them know that it is possible to feel great in and about themselves. You can let them know how much you love and care about them. Then encourage them to find professional help. There are many great resources available, and good professional help and guidance can make a huge difference in their life.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. Visit: www.sarahmaria.com, www.breakfreebeauty.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Sarah Maria on February 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

03 dec

Author Interview: Body Image Expert Sarah Maria on Love Your Body, Love Your Life

SarahMariaPart I: Excerpts from an interview with Sarah Maria on her new book Love Your Body, Love Your Life: 5 Steps to End Negative Body Obsession and Start Living Happily and Confidently.

Question: I’ve heard many people say that disliking your body is just a normal part of being a woman [or a man in today’s culture]. What do you think about such a statement?

This is a very important question that I address specifically in Love Your Body, Love Your Life. Yes, many people, probably most people, say that disliking your body is a normal part of being a woman. If by “normal” they mean that the majority of women, 80-90%, dislike their bodies, then yes, it is “normal”. The vast majority of women in this culture at this time do dislike their bodies.

But to think that this is normal as in “natural, necessary, a normal function of being alive” is ridiculous. This belief is part of the problem. Since it is so ubiquitous, many women have come to accept that it is just part of being a woman. This is ludicrous! It is settling for what happens to be the situation for many, instead of envisioning the possibilities that are available for all. It is accepting mediocrity instead of creating grandeur. It is maintaining the status quo instead of envisioning the truth.

Disliking your body is only normal in that most women experience it. It is in no way natural, and in no way necessary. You have the ability in each and every moment to love your body and love your life. Negative Body Obsession is a modern cultural epidemic. It has not always existed, and it need not always exist. It is in no way a natural part of being alive and can therefore be completely eradicated from your psyche and experience.

Question: What led you to write Love Your Body, Love Your Life?

I decided to write this book because I experienced first-hand the intense pain, suffering, and agony that can accompany Negative Body Obsession, eating disorders, and low se lf-esteem. I also know that freedom from this hell is completely possible. I want this book to reach people who are struggling with any and all of the above. There is hope.

I also wrote this book to help people think critically about concepts such as beauty, as well as the beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that so many people take for granted. Beauty is a socially-constructed phenomenon. Different body types, different looks, and different sizes are considered beautiful at different times in history. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, curvy and voluptuous was considered stunning. In this culture in this century, thin and muscularly toned is considered sexy. When people recognize that there is no inherent truth in these concepts of beauty, that it is in fact a cultural preference that changes overtime, it helps to dissolve this illusion that how they look is somehow tied to their value and self-worth as an individual.

For many people struggling with a negative body image, they believe that how they look is somehow related to their self-worth as individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. When people realize that it is a cultural phenomenon, they can begin to free themselves from the whims and preferences of other people and the world around them, and instead discover and experience their own inherent and unique beauty.

Question: In Love Your Body, Love Your Life, you teach readers how to break free from Negative Body Obsession or NBO. What exactly is NBO?

Negative Body Obsession, or NBO, is the negative rumination about one’s physical appearance. It is the entire delusional thought-construct that causes people to believe that something is wrong with their bodies and themselves. It encompasses thoughts such as “I am too fat”; “I would be more attractive if I lost weight”; “I looked so much better when I was younger”; “I need to purchase anti-wrinkle cream – I look so old!”; “No woman will find me attractive without my hair”; “The cellulite on the back of my thighs is hideous”.

These are just examples – only you know your particular negative body thoughts. Negative Body Obsession is essentially the condition of having negative thoughts and beliefs about your body and yourself.

It is important to know that NBO exists on a broad spectrum. You might have an occasional negative body thought that affects your mood and well-being, or you might live with a near-constant barrage of negative body thoughts on a daily basis. No matter whether your condition is mild or severe, complete freedom is possible. Many people think that it is a “normal” part of everyday life, and therefore it is considered acceptable on some level. In reality, there is nothing normal about it, and if it affects you, if even just a little bit, you are not living with all the freedom that is possible.

Question: The media plays a role in fostering body dissatisfaction. In your book, you write “when you master the art of talking back, you can reclaim your control and become an influencer of the media, instead of being a victim influenced by the media.” What are the ways we can talk back?

There are many ways to talk back. In fact, you can probably think of many powerful ways to talk back to the media. I outline a specific exercise in Love Your Body, Love Your Life but the key theme underlying any talking back to the media, or any other “influencer of your thought life”, is by refusing to participate in the process of “internalization.”

The problem with the media occurs when you allow it to influence you, when you allow the messages to be internalized. The problem occurs when you look at a picture in a magazine, or on the television screen, and then take that image to have something to do with you, to be some reflection on you and your body. The fact is that the image has nothing to do with you at all. The problem occurs when you look at the picture and then look at yourself in the mirror and conclude that your life would be better if you looked like that image, or that you would be more attractive if you looked like that image, or that the person in the image is somehow better than you, whatever your particular story is. The fact of the matter is that the photo is in no way a commentary on you.

So the best thing to do with talking back is to tell the media, the magazine, the movie, whatever, that you are not going to allow it to influence you. Remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you, that it is in no way a reflection of you. Tell this to whatever you sense is influencing you. Tell the media that it has no power over you at all. You can choose what you allow to influence you.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, begin to love your body today! For more, visit: www.sarahmaria.com, www.breakfreebeauty.com.

Posted by Sarah Maria on December 3rd, 2009 in General | No comments Read related posts in , , , ,