For the last year I have been working on getting a strong Ophelia's Place presence in Arizona. With that comes a lot of education and awareness. Many times the people I encounter don't even know we are allowed to think a different way about our bodies. It’s easy to believe that the messages we are being bombarded with about calories, carbs, weight loss, health are not only the way to live, but the only way to be healthy and it's a necessary evil to existing. I believed this too.
Before I went into treatment I thought what I did was a normal part of life. In a way, I am grateful I got so sick because it opened my eyes to a new way of living. This new way of living connected my body image and food obsessions to past traumas, to media manipulations, to my emotions and my deeper life experiences. It taught me that my relationship to food and my hatred of my body had nothing to do with my actual appearance but my inability to maneuver the pains and the emotional stressors of life.
Fast-forward 13 years and I am finally grasping how to live the fullest life. The fullest lives mean feeling and moving through the darkest of emotions and moments, and figuring out how to be brave enough to feel the grief and carry it with us.
I'm always frustrated by people talking about our not-so-glamorous moments as something to get over: maybe once I get over this (depression, a death, a lost relationship, a traumatic event) then I can be better or do better.
Maybe we need to start shifting our focus. Maybe life is happening in these moments. Maybe that's where character is built, maybe that's where relationships are strengthened, maybe that's where we allow the other brave ones to meet us, and maybe that's where we meet others, maybe that's where our purpose comes from, maybe, just maybe we are experiencing tragedy because we are taking risks and embracing vulnerability.
So much of this I have learned from Brene Brown. Her writing has put words to what I have been experiencing for years. Brene Brown is a shame researcher and she is brilliant. She has completely changed my relationship with myself, my body, my kids, my spouse, my family, my friends.
You may be reading this and wondering what does shame or emotion have to do with me always wanting to lose a few pounds? And my answer is: everything. I can't explain exactly why all of these issues manifest as body image, all I know is they most certainly do. Shame has been the number one emotion, and the most consistent experience of all of my events and encounters and coffee dates and markets where our shirts are sold. The shoppers at the markets have been so eye opening to me. I can feel their anxiety over the thought of putting on a shirt that says everybody is beautiful. My guess is that each person would gladly put everyone else is that category. But the shirt says EVERYBODY and that includes them too. And with that anxiety about thinking that they too just might beautiful I can also feel a relief, an actual exhale when they see the necklace that says “I am enough”.
Maybe you aren't quite ready to recognize your beauty, but can you start with being enough, as you are today? And if you aren't quite ready for that I hope as you browse our website or attend an event or see a product at a market that the seed has been planted.
The moral of the story? Dig deeper: we may think life begins when we lose 10 pounds, or find a diet that "works" or we beat ourselves up at the gym enough but all of those things are surface. To paraphrase Brene Brown, until we start to get curious, when will things actually change?
Will the scale be able to define us, will we ever feel good enough? From my own experience the scale's decreasing numbers didn't help a damn thing in my life. It wasn't until I got to the root of my shame that that changed. Beauty doesn't happen from the outward in, It happens from our deepest wounds or most painful parts.
About the author: Holli Zehring shared her vision for what is now Ophelia’s Place many years ago, after her first round of treatment for an eating disorder. She has influenced and supports the groups that the non-profit now runs. She is currently working to grow an “Ophelia’s Place West.” Along with chasing her passion for changing the culture around health, beauty, and body image, as well as sharing her journey with mental illness, she is married to psychiatry resident and works hard to raise two kids. She further fills her cup with great books, friends, restaurants, and dabbles in fashion and thrifting.