Thursday, January 17, 2019

Projecting my body esteem fears affects my relationships

I had an experience, an eye-opening one. 

It had been a week into the new year on a Sunday afternoon. I gathered my family around to have a meeting and, of course, I had prepared snacks. It was a spread from nachos to mini-sized oranges and everything in between. 

I shout to my 16-year-old son, "Hey! You have to come try these nachos, I nailed it!". 

He comes into the room, shoulders a bit hunched and replies in a quiet voice, "Ummm... I'm on a strict eating plan and would rather choose to not try the nachos".

I stared at him and replied, "Come again?"

He said, "I'm trying Keto and want to give it my best effort so am choosing not to partake of the nachos."

A million things ran through my head, but the first to come out was, "When did you start this?"

He said, "January 1st."

I said, "And I'm just hearing about it?"

He said, "I thought you wouldn't let me do it or try to talk me out of it, so I just started it with my friend."

I think what I am most proud of is that I talk with my children, and I feel, they are open to talking to me. Many friends parents have text me to see what is going on with their own kids because they know that my kid talks to me. So I have held some pride in that. So this statement from one of my closest friends, who happens to be my son, floored me - that he did not trust me on this subject to share it with me.

Have you ever felt extremely happy in one moment and then desperate sadness in the next? Because that is what this felt like. Falling from a tall building and landing harshly on the ground defeated.

I have talked and talked with my children about body image, diets, and inner self-reflection, as well as, kindness, flexibility, and understanding that I want them to have with themselves as they navigate their journey in life. I have not hidden my journey with them.

Instantly I feared for his reasoning since the only scope I have to go off of is mine, I was scared he was spiraling into a hole of negativity and shame and I hadn't even noticed or caught on. There were so many things I wanted to discuss at the same time it was difficult to gather all of my thoughts. I was afraid for him, but only because, I knew how diets and my reasoning for being on them affected me and I didn't want him to start down that path, as if his body esteem depends solely on me. I also was saddened that he felt the need to keep this from me to spare my feelings.

I knew my next response was important so I asked, "Why did you want to try/start Keto?" and then I held my breath waiting.

He said something to the following, "I want to be at peak performance when I go into my Senior year of football. I noticed at the end of the season that I was getting tired quicker, feeling sick at times, and my strength wasn't where it could be. I thought if I could learn to fuel my body to up its performance I could benefit from that going into my Senior year. I'm not eating at certain times, I'm not restricting myself but choosing on my own to eat what the plan allows-knowing at any time I am free to deviate.  I read all about the foods and the reasoning behind it and I wanted to see how it affects my body for the next 30 days and how my running and lifting are affected, because of what I am eating. I am keeping track of my weight so I know what that is when I feel I am at peak performance. This has nothing to do with changing my body shape, I am really fine with how I look and so are the ladies if you know what I mean (he then winks at me and laughs), I just want to see what my body is capable of. Mom, I've listened to you I know I have to always check in with my body and I want to do this." Obviously, he had thought about this and knew what he wanted to say. 

So he was doing this not out of shame for his body but in a way to work with it. 

I could breathe again. 

So my next response was something like this, "First, no matter how hard you feel it is to talk to me about certain things, you still talk with me-I may surprise you. That is what I most disappointed about, not that you are going on a 'diet' but that you felt like you couldn't tell me. Second, I want to support you, let me know what foods I need to keep stocked in the house and I'll put it on my grocery list. I love you bud, this is your journey, not mine and I wish you the best of luck with it! I would like updates on your performance stats!"

He's kept his end of the bargain so far and I have kept mine.

I'm thankful for moments like this, where I am able to check in with myself - where my kids teach me important lessons. If my son felt like he had to keep that hidden from me then that reflects more on me than him. I need to work on sharing my message without people feeling like they will get a harsh judgment from me if their journey is different than mine. 

My journey and my experiences are mine alone. People may understand them and need to hear what I'm saying, but also, their body, their experiences, their fears are not mine and I will not judge your experiences and your journey based off my fears... or I will at least do my best to try not doing that... my insecurities and fears have a way of affecting everything - luckily my growth does as well.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Being measured...Show up, be active, take action


I found this and thought to myself... this couldn't be more appropriate to how I'm feeling about this new year.

I want to do and be the things that I admire.

I want to show up for people. I want to take action. I want to be active.

And that is my theme this year.

I want to give more time to the things that matter... and to me, that means relationships (including the one I have with myself and body).

I want to "be measured by things I can control, by who I am and who I am trying to become."

I can control so many things in my life, and I yet, more than I'd like to admit, I fixate on the things that I can't. It's funny how human beings do that.

Isn't it?

So to start, I want to continue to show up for me, healing on the inside and taking care of myself so that I can be available to others.

Self-care is continuing on my Instagram page @rachelleshappy and sharing #mybodyesteemjourney. Connecting with people that have gone through the same struggles, holding hands, and swimming through the muck together.

Self-care is traveling more with my husband and kids, exploring, re-inventing, understanding.

Self-care is staying at home and vegging out while catching up on movies or series or reading a really good book, all alone.

Self-care is being present, collecting small moments of joy and connecting them to feel encompassed fully by life.

Show up, be active, take action.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Be an original

I was watching something a friend had posted about her journey to health and something she said hit me pretty hard, this isn't verbatim but you'll get the idea, "I can't wait to see what life I will be able to live with all this weight I am losing and the new body I will have"...

I see this with renewed eyes, with educated eyes, with eyes that understand that message and now want to shout to everyone trying to convey it that it is.not.true!

Why couldn't she live a life she wanted in the body she had before her diet? Well she could, only she didn't believe she could, because society tells us we can't do things based on what we look like, and everywhere we turn we see a solution on how to be more like the standard of beauty and health portrayed by the media so we can find "happiness". This isn't special to her, dare I say, this is more than norm than the exception.

I don't want to stand on a soapbox, but you CAN live a full and happy life with ANY... body. It's true. You can! And if you dig to find them, there are people out there proving it!

Don't waste your time being depressed and worried about what other people's opinions are about what you look like.  Don't be so consumed with the idea of what they might think that you try and change who you are because of it.

I understand hating yourself... I understand because you don't fit the mold, that you feel ugly and unlovable...but it isn't true! If you start working on what's broken on the inside that continues to feed those ideas you can ACTUALLY find peace within yourself.

The more you connect and accept truly and wholly with who you are, the more you will find joy in it. That doesn't mean you don't progress, that doesn't mean you don't continue to strive to be better in all that you do, that doesn't mean you stop learning... it just means you stay on a path that feels authentic to you, and only you, whatever that may be. I have been to many funerals and not ONE that I have attended said, "The best thing about Jane Doe is that she was skinny/beautiful" in fact, their appearance hasn't been brought up... no, because the outward appearance doesn't leave a legacy -  your actions, the way you treat people, what kind of character you developed, who you were in a relationship - that matters, that's your legacy and what makes YOU, you.

"Be an original so you don't die a copy..."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Hurt causes hurt

I was listening to Brene Brown, she was on the podcast On Being and it is February 8th episode entitled, "Brene Brown - Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart"... and all I know is something she said gave me pause - it resonated deep inside my soul and gave me the goosebumps of truth. Here is what I heard:

"It is so much easier for people to cause pain than to feel their own pain".


With my journey this translates to, "It is so much easier for people to think bad of others than to deal with and feel the bad they see in themselves".

Image came from here
Isn't this sooooo true!? Think... think hard... is there a time when you were hating on someone else that you weren't feeling pain within yourself?

I tried and tried but couldn't hit on anytime where I wasn't feeling pain first. It didn't necessarily come from that person, but when I was not loving myself inside and hating what I was seeing, I would then see other people and, in my mind, judge and criticize them to feel better about myself. Not to their face, of course, I was too shame-filled to be brave enough to do that, but I did judge and criticize in my mind.

I couldn't handle the pain that came from comparing myself to others, the thwarted image of what I SHOULD look like, and then never able to achieve it.  I would push down those feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness and out (but in) would come this mean girl side of me.

I judged and I negatively spoke about peoples success as if they didn't have a right to be there. For example, I'd be searching on social media and see someone that would be promoting a business with a cute picture of them or someone promoting their new "gains" or someone talking about a new opportunity that came their way and I would instantly roll my eyes instead of feeling excited or happy for them. I was too focused on what I wasn't doing or getting or looking like, so broken inside, that I coped the only way I felt I could, the only way I knew how.

In my recovery, I realize that when I go to a place of gossip, judgment, and negativity that I need to look inside and see where I am hurting! Just knowing my behavior and recognizing my pattern helps me use the tools I have gained to stop that behavior and fix what really needs fixing.

Let me tell you though... it's hard work! In fact, I "relapsed" (if you can call it that) a few weeks ago... I learned that even though I know and am aware of doing this, it doesn't stop me from occasionally going back to old habits, but I recognize it quickly and am able to get me back on the right track.

This has brought up many conversations with my children. When someone hurts you physically, mentally, or emotionally it isn't usually about you, it's almost always about them and what's going on around them or to them that is causing them pain on the inside. "Misery loves company", they want you to feel like them or worse than them, because for some reason, for a brief moment, it does make them feel better. The reason I know this is because I've experienced it. What comes after though, is more shame, more guilt, and more misery.

Being happy with me first - healing me from the inside, helps me to be genuinely happy for others. I can appreciate the way they look, how hard they have worked, be excited for their success in body, mind, spirit, and career. It helps me feel REAL joy in my life. It's really hard to explain, but I truly wish it for everyone, including myself, because I don't ever want to go back to where I was before I started this journey.

This probably isn't much of a major breakthrough for a lot of people, but I thought I'd share anyway, in case, it spoke to anyone else, because it really resonated with me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Smartphones, communication, and empowerment

I got home from work and checked on my kids, conversed if I could, figured out what I wanted to do for dinner, started it, and then I plopped down on my couch and started looking though people's insta stories. I love them, I'll admit it. Two people had referred to this conversation that was going on with the hashtag #savethekids, so I decided to go check it out.

Here's the base... a teacher asked a question to their middle school students, or Junior High I guess, "What my parents don't know about social media is..." the answeres were anonymous and some of them scary. Believe me when I say, if the answers don't scare you then you live in a bubble that I'd like to be a part of. Either way, this starts up a conversation, that as far as I can tell, is lead by an awesome insta guy named with the handle @collinkartchner ... he also did a series of stories where he talked about body image and comparing, my SIL shared it with me and it was a fantastic watch and conversation. With this particular #savethekids conversation they have some very valid points. Should elementary kids and junior high kids have smart phones? Should they be allowed in school? When is the appropriate age for a child to get a smart phone? Parents need to be the example of moderation with the smartphones...etc.

As I began to read the comments on his story such as, "I told some friends that I wasn't going to give my kids a smart phone and they laughed, well whose laughing now", "When my kids come home I'm taking their smartphone away #savethekids", "When I put my smartphone down I got better grades, smartphones have ruined mylife", "every parent needs to take their kids smartphones so that my child doesn't feel left out" and it goes on and on. I caught myself starting to feel guilt and some shame for allowing my kids to have a smartphone and knowing that I will continue to do so. Luckily for me, I pulled out of feeling that way. I have been having this type of conversation with many people who are close to me and I know where I stand on this issue. My kids get good grades, they are good kids, and we are all on this learning curve of how best to make smartphones work for us and not against us.

First off, no matter what I say, however you parent your child, if you are consistently trying with all that you have and arming yourself with all the tools and knowledge that you can... then you are winning and you will get no judgement from me. My opinion shouldn't change what you feel is right in your heart, just as your opinion won't change mine. I will listen and maybe it will actually make me go back to the drawing board, but I will continue to leave my parenting decisions up to my Father in Heaven, myself, and my husband.

So let's dig into this. Should elementary kids and junior high kids have smart phones? I believe that is soley up to you as the parent and what you feel is best for your individual child. You can't parent each child exactly the same because they are each unique. Their desires are different, which means your discipline tactics will effect them differently. My son LOVES hanging out with his friends, and to this day, that is the one thing that I can take away, for a time, that will help me in teaching him a lesson of consequence and right from wrong. With my daughter, it is her phone or her latest Netflix binge. Take that away, for a time, and she usually learns her lesson (no kid is perfect). You see, because taking friends away from my first child worked, I tried it on my second child...and they stayed home happy as a peach, could care less that they weren't hanging out with friends. Own individual desires.

Making sure they have boudaries and once those boundaries are crossed you implement consequences, now THAT is necessary. Granted, they are kids, human and therefore flawed, so they continue to test the boundaries.  We are consistent and vigilant in letting them know when they have crossed the line (admittedly, and thankfully, my husband is a very consistent person, me not as much, we when I say "we", in this case, I mean "him"... if he tells them to do something and gives them the consequence, if it isn't done then he will follow through with the consequence if the child chooses not to complete what was asked of them. Once or twice of proving that and my kids don't ever doubt that what we say is what we mean-which then allows them the choice, knowing a consequence will follow, they choose whether they want the good one or bad one).

Should smart phones be allowed in school? Nope. It's unneccesary. I don't know what the solution is to this, because after school I want to make sure they both have their phones so I can get in contact with them (I work outside of the home and this gives me peace of mind), but I can't think of a good reason for kids to have them on during school hours.

When is the appropriate age for your child to get a smart phone? Again, that is up to you as a parent and it is different for each child. Some children come out of the womb mature and logical and act years above their age in responsibility, other children just don't. Only YOU know your child and what they will be able to handle.

Here's my answer the smartphone panic... Communication. It has been taught for ages but is still neglected. Open communication with your child, even if sometimes what they have to say is something you'd rather not hear or may even scare you! Do it anyway. Take as many opportunities as you can to listen to them, like REALLY listen to them. Know them well enough to know when they are telling you the top layer of what is really going on inside, to test your reaction. So many times I would say just enough to see how my parent or spouse would react to something, if it seemed like it was going in a direction in which I would be punished, shamed, or made to feel what was going on in my mind was not normal, I would stop the conversation and divert it to something safer. I didn't trust I could say anything. I would hide the me on the inside and put on my shell of what made that person feel comfortable. Try not to do that. Listen to them, ask questions that are or could be uncomfortable for them our yourself, let them help to come up with solutions.  Let them know their feelings are normal, their curiosity is NORMAL. Give them support and tools to grow and progress and overcome. Kids are curious... pay attention to the questions they are asking. Ask them direct questions. Help them continue to talk. Be okay with the quiet in between, silence can be so powerful, don't try to push your opinion on them when they stop talking, and don't try to save them when they are saying something difficult to hear because it makes you feel something that you may not want to feel. I try to tell my kids, over and over again, in a mantra if possible, that there is NOTHING they can do that will make me love them any less. I will ALWAYS love them... but it is inevitable that they will disappoint me at some point...and we can both be okay with that!

My job is to help them through choices they make that may or already have brought about difficult consequences. We learn the tough lessons now... when I am here to help... so that they are prepared for life outside of mine and my husbands protection. Which includes dealing with a smartphone.

I have also made it known to my kids that when they open themselves up to tell me something they know they have done wrong, that I may not always react the correct way, but to be patient with me as we learn together.  They know, regardless of my reaction, that because they have chosen to be vulnerable and honest that things won't automatically be taken away from them. We discuss first and come up with a solution together. They know this, and I feel because they know that, it keeps the door open for them to talk to me about things that they know were wrong but they chose to do it anyway. Or just feelings they may be having about being inadequate or not good enough...I don't tell them NOT to feel that way, I listen and we talk about what we can do to help it. My goal is to assist them, so in my mind, I don't have the luxury to be ignorant or niave to what's out there.  For this smart phone conversation, if I take away their smart phone how does that solve access to the internet, media, or social media when I'm not around or don't know about it?

New flash: This is the world we live in, it is not going away... for now. :)

If they are curious, they will investigate. Just because I have taken it away or restricted it from them when they are around me, that doesn't mean they won't find other means to sate their curiosity!? This isn't new, kids are creative and intelligent, especially if they are curious about it! Just because my friends and myself didn't have smart phones, that didn't keep us from getting into trouble or stopped us looking at things I wasn't suppose to, it just meant we got it in different ways than our kids are getting it. We just didn't have up-to-the-minute access to knowing what everybody else has done or are doing like our kids do today!

What do we do? We teach our children right from wrong. We educated them on how consequences can affect them and their lives and we stay open to what they have to tell us and we give them plenty of opportunity to feel comfortable doing so and empower them to choose the harder right.

For example, when my son was about 6 or 7, I found out my son was at a friends house and through some kind of search for a game and an older brothers search history they came across photos that made him "feel something" on the computer. He knew it wasn't right because we had talked about it openly as a family, he knew what it was. He didn't tell me right away. He went to that friends again and this time they sought it out. Then he came home and my sister, by divine design, walked in on him just opening up the page as he was quickly trying to close it again. She came and told me. That is when I had a choice to decide how I was going to react to this. You guys... I was scared out of my mind! I wanted to go in there and shake him, take away the computer priveleges and wrap him in bubble wrap. But instead, I reached out to my Father in Heaven, asked him to help me out, and went to my son.

He was crying, his face was streaked with tears and dirt from his hands wiping them away, he was scared and you could see his shame right on his face. I grabbed him and hugged him. He said, "I'm sorry", I said, "I can see that". I then had a discussion with him. I asked him questions like, Why? How did it make you feel? Do you feel like doing it again? Do you understand why this isn't a good choice? I let him know that he was normal. Those pictures are made to make you feel that way. I let him know the people in the photos are real, they have a family. I educated him on what path this COULD lead him down. We watched a video of someone's dark consequences that started out innocent like him, and then I did something that I have kept to from that day forward, which changed something in me and my parenting from that day forward...I let him choose.

Here is how it went,  I said, "Now this is where you get to make a choice. Do you want to invite that and possibly those consequences that we just watched into your life? You get to choose, but I get to know your choice. Also, if you choose that you don't want to go down that road and you feel like it's too hard not to look, then we can get you the tools to help with that. Either way, you choose, there is a right choice and wrong choice, but you have the power to choose." Now, I don't know if that is the right way or wrong way to handle that, however, it is what gave me peace in my heart. Conclusion: he told me he didn't like how he was feeling and never wanted to feel that way again. We moved forward that day with my son knowing he could trust me and that we were on the same team. I also understood I needed to be more vigilant in educating myself, as well as, my children.

This is exactly the approach I take for smart phones. Education. Empowering them with the ability to choose for themselves after being educated. Not restriction. That just isn't how I do it and it works for us. I make sure to keep up on all social media apps, I participate in them, I get all the updates on them. I educate myself on how children are hiding apps, how to get messages they have deleted, and what is the next best app. I'm not perfect, but I try and I leave the rest in my Father in Heaven's hands and mother's intuition.

I educate my kids on consequences. Ask my daughter how many stories and videos she has had to watch on predators that can get to you on FB, insta, snap, and games, to name a few, and what has happened to people who have let them in. I, in great detail and to my daughters embarrassment, describe what those predators want and can do to her not just mentally and emotionally, but physically. I show them snap websites dedicated to pictures that were hacked from servers that people thought "disappeared". They are aware that EVERYTHING they send CAN be retrieved from a server, even years later. Anything put on the internet is stored and saved somewhere.

Then they are empowered with choice because they know what follows the choices available to them.

Restricting them or keeping them away from it isn't what works for us (meaning my family). Remember that friend that couldn't eat candy at their home so when they came over to your house to play, all they did was eat your candy!? When I was young we were too poor to afford a computer or game console, I was probably 7 turning 8. Guess what I did? Everytime I went over to my friends that had an Atari, all I wanted to do was play Atari. Everytime I went over to my friends that had an apple computer (one of the first made I think) I wanted to play Family Fued for HOURS. Those friends would get bored with it and beg me to do other things, which I would, but the minute I could get them to play the Atari or Family Fued again, that's what I would want to do. I craved it because I didn't have it. My kids' friends that don't have smartphones? Always asking to use my kids phones. (We have talked about them not allowing a friend to use their smartphone if there parent isn't allowing it.)

The worst thing I can think of is to send my children out into the world unprepared with the bombardment that comes when they finally are able to choose for themselves to have a smart phone. I want them to learn while they are under my roof so we can monitor it together. Heck, I'm still learning how to moderate myself! My kids are required to turn in their phones at night where they charge and are ready for them the next day. I have access to get on their phones where I can, and do, look at text, snaps, DM's, photos, etc... they know that at any time I can ask for their phone they have to give it to me.

We keep trying to incorporate practices that will help us all. Things such as:

*If you are with someone and there is a sliver of chance that there might be a conversation that will involve your participation, put the phone away. There is nothing on the phone that needs your immediate attention. Are any of us in my family perfect at that... no... but we are aware and will remind, "catch", each other not applying the practice.

*If you are having a difficult time putting the phone away because you keep reaching for it... put it in another room where you have to physically get up and get it to look at it.

*I know a neighbor who has an app on their phone that monitors everything their kids do on phones or tablets and can instantly turn things off once that child has used the allotted amount of screen time for the day. I think that's fabulous! Help them be aware of time on their device.

That is the key, keeping trying, keep learning, and pray daily to get extra help and intuition from above. Help them while you have the power to, while they live under your roof. Prepare them for when they live out there in a world that will and can overpower them with information and things that are pleasurable, but addicting.  If they haven't been given the tools necessary to combat everything thrown at them, they will fall to the addicting nature of what is accessible on a smartphone, whether they are 10 or 40.

Be the educated parent for each individual child and then do what you feel is right when it comes to smart phones. Join the conversation, tell me what you do, but leave judgement behind for other parents and their kids.  We are all fighting to do our very best to bring about children that are good humans. Do some parents totally suck? Heck yes... but I believe that the majority of parents are doing the best they can with what they know.

That's my two cents.

Whatever you do to protect your child you will have me cheering you on! :) Now let's all go to dinner and group hug!

Other things to read