Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘imperfect’

Suicide Affects Us All

Suicide Strikes

At some point in our lives, given the constantly increasing numbers, we will all experience suicide. It might be a friend, or an acquaintance, but chances are, at some point, it will be someone we know well, and perhaps love. Some of us might even be the ones considering or even attempting suicide.

Admittedly, I’m more aware of it having lost both parents to suicide. I’ve learned to recognize people who are hiding behind self-made walls and masks; who show little or no value for the life they’ve been given. Sometimes I can reach out to them, but more often than not, they’ve created safeguards preventing people like me who see and feel too much from getting too close. They want neither to be pitied nor judged and are unable to see some of us might just want to help them feel wanted and loved.

Freedom to Be Ourselves

Life these days is hard. There’s no pretty way to say it. For some, the daily challenges are overwhelming, and the stories they tell themselves about not being missed become a reality to be escaped at all costs. Many even become the person they believe themselves to be; withdrawn, angry, unpleasant to be around. They use their behavior to discourage others from reaching out or trying to help change their reality.

Others wrap themselves in false gaiety, often with the assistance of alcohol or drugs. They’re the life of the party on the outside, surrounded by smiling faces who are completely clueless about the turmoil the false front hides. Even those closest to them are oblivious to the cost of keeping the mask in place; of the loneliness they’re unable to break free from.

I talk to friends who’ve at one point in their lives contemplated suicide and understand. There were times I, too felt alone and unnecessary. Times when the only reason I’m still alive was my refusal to put my daughters through the pain and trauma I’ve had to live through twice. I remember being angry all the time, stewing over the slightest thing, and feeling abused and put down by everyone around me. Of course, a lot of it was their reaction to my prickliness and unfriendly demeanor.

Recognizing Our Value to Others

Fortunately, both my writing and the dancing were my saving grace. When I was at my angriest and most withdrawn, I had put the dancing on the back burner to involve myself in the girls’ high school activities. Perhaps not my best choice, but it was the right choice for them, if not for me. Shortly after those responsibilities ended, I got my butt back out on a dance floor. After awhile, the fog began to clear and I found my happy; bigger and brighter than it had been before.

Unfortunately, what may work for some of us, doesn’t help for others. There are plenty of writers and people who dance regularly who aren’t able to escape their pain or realize there are many people who want them around, and who would miss them if they were gone. It puts a lot of responsibility on the rest of us to pay attention to the ones who always seem happy, or who drink to excess and have a long drive home, or simply who share the barest snippets of themselves.

They’ll never say, nor admit to needing help, but they’re the ones we need to do our best to include and reassure we love them as they really are, and that they needn’t pretend for us.

Loving Each Other for Who We Are

I recently saw this graphic on Facebook of Eeyore (my favorite of the Winnie the Pooh https://www.facebook.com/cmhagbcharacters, coincidentally). I think this really says it all, and was published on the Canadian Mental Health Group Facebook page.

It speaks directly to what I’m saying. We all have friends who are depressed, and they need to be included anyway, and not expected to pretend everything is fine. They need to know it’s OK to be who they are without need for masks and walls, and that they’ll be accepted as they are all the time.

The biggest problem our society faces right now, and probably why suicide rates are climbing at such a frightening pace, is people think they need to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to be accepted or even liked.

I’ve learned people like, and even love you more if you’re yourself and nothing else. Those who don’t, quite frankly, don’t matter. We all have quirks, idiosyncrasies, broken parts, and imperfections. Rather than believing they make us wrong in some way, we need to realize they’re what make us unique, and even in tune with others. If we aren’t worrying about fitting in and matching some arbitrarily prescribed description of normal, we’ll find others are able to let down their guard and be themselves too. Not only that, the relief we get from not pretending might even lift some of the sadness and depression!

Dropping Our Disguises Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth the Trouble

Learning to open up to my friends was, in all honesty, one of the toughest things I ever did. It went against everything I’d been taught from birth, and left me exposed to the ridicule and abuse I’d experienced most of my life, at least from my distorted recollection. I only saw people teasing and making fun of me, but never noticed when it went in the other direction, or when I was one of the perpetrators. Funny how our memories leave out the important parts, right?

Once I got to the other side, however, it became one of the most rewarding, kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. I have friends who are as imperfect as I am, but who accept themselves as they are. They have challenges with family, jobs, and a million other facets of a life well lived. We all know we have someone to talk to if we need to vent, but also to share successes and joys with. We gather in small groups and large, discussing everything from world events to personal frustrations.

When all is said and done, we feel better for the company and the opportunity to release some of the weight we carry around. What’s good for us is clearly good for those we might tend to overlook. They may not open up the first time or even the tenth, but after awhile, we can show them by our actions and our own sharing that they have a safe place to drop the pretenses and be themselves.

If we have the chance to keep suicide off the table for even one person, shouldn’t we take it?

Gratitude Helps Keep the Gloomies Away

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life the last few years who’ve made me feel accepted and loved for myself.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the acceptance I gained while writing my memoir.
  3. I am grateful to my daughter, Heather, and my oldest friend, Candy who kept me moving forward with the memoir, even when I needed a few long breaks to get further along in my healing process.
  4. I am grateful for the dance community that lets me see we are all broken in some way, but that it isn’t a flaw, but a badge of honor.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, support, butt-kickings, ideas, dreams, goals, baby steps, philanthropy, peace, harmony, health, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

8 Truths About Achieving and Maintaining Your Healthy Body

A Healthy Body Starts With Consistent Healthy Habits

Over the years I’ve joked about being a founding member of the diet of the month club. If you add up all the pounds I’ve lost and re-found over my 6 decades in this human form, I’ve recreated myself at least four times over, and not in a good way. In retrospect, I’ve learned a thing or three about reaching a healthy weight and staying there even as my own journey to get there continues.

Truth 1: Your Healthy Weight is Nobody’s Business But Yours

Body beautiful is not, as the advertising, weight loss, and fitness industries would like us to believe, in the eyes of the beholder. It’s in how you feel about yourself. I’ve seen plenty of size 20’s who love who they are and the shape they’re in more than most size 2’s. We aren’t here to be someone’s artificial conception of beautiful, nor are all bodies created equal. We must work with what we have and learn to do that work with the same love and respect we give to people outside that body—maybe more.

Truth 2: Dieting is the Least Healthy Way to Honor the Body You’re in

I’ve tried so many diets over the years, from the grapefruit diet to protein power to weight watchers, and more. Every time I went off the “diet” I gained back everything I’d lost and then some. Why? Because they weren’t sustainable in the long term. The only thing that’s worked and allowed me to keep most of the weight off has been a combination of Neurogym’s Winning the Game of Weight Loss (WTGOWL) and MyFitnessPal.

I’ve learned having a community which encourages me, retraining my brain to, dare I say it, move more and eat less, and tracking every bite I put in my mouth are the only things I need to follow a healthy regimen. Add in my Fitbit and the exercise-tracking function on MyFitnessPal and my results are easily predictable. A healthy body needs three things; good nutrition, movement, and water. OK four. We also need sufficient sleep. Good nutrition isn’t just about eating 3 squares a day, but more on that later.

Truth 3: Grazing is a Losing Proposition

The first thing I had to learn was to stop keeping food at my desk. In the first place I need to get up and move around every hour or so, and in the second when food is too convenient I eat too much of the things I don’t need in my diet in the first place (raw veggies don’t keep very long in a jar on top of my desk). We also have to find our own baseline, meal-wise.

Some people do quite well on two meals a day. Others need three plus a snack in the afternoon. There are dozens of variations on this theme, but only one thing matters. You have to find what works best for you, not only when you’re releasing extra pounds, but when you’re maintaining your goal weight. The key word here is “sustainable”. What can you live with for the rest of your life without feeling cheated or deprived?

Truth 4: You Must Move it or Lose it

Our bodies are a miracle of engineering. All of the parts are self-sustainable but only if we move around and give everything the space needed to perform optimally. Our hearts need to be pushed to their limits regularly. Our legs need to lift us up and down, flexing the joints and keeping them lubricated. Our lungs need to push air through themselves at different rates so they can flush out the toxins we accumulate by breathing foul air.

Speaking of toxins, those suckers accumulate in our muscles too, and have to be released. There’s no better way to kick the toxins out of our muscles than to challenge them. Make them do something that requires a bit more effort than lifting a pencil or your car keys.

If you’re anything like me (assuming you’re not 25 and still getting away with murder, body-wise) you know when you’ve been sitting too long. Shoulders ache, hips complain, and you hear a bunch of pops and creaks when you get up to go to the bathroom or get something from the kitchen. That’s our bodies reminding us they need to move around regularly. So scrub a floor, or take a hike, or have a dance party in your living room. You can even join a gym and go lift some weights, giving you the added bonus of getting out of the house and away from the kitchen. Your body will love you for it, though the aches and pains it gives you for pushing yourself may feel otherwise at first. You’re making it stronger and more resilient with every pound you press, lift, or squat.

Truth 5: If You Want to Be Healthy, You Must Read Labels

The American food industry is in the business of making us fat. That’s right! They put crap in our food that inhibits our natural triggers telling us we’re full, just for starters. We have to break up with all the additives they put in our food. Sorry folks, this means either you have to start cooking or learn to enjoy all your food in its raw form. Though the latter isn’t without merit, there are some things I, myself prefer cooked. (Don’t try to sneak raw kale into my salad. I will find it, hopefully before I gag on it!)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Processed food is loaded with sodium, sugar, and things with names as long as your arm only a scientist can pronounce. I’m a firm believer in the saying “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it in your body”. If a word has that many letters in it, there’s a good chance it’s a chemical our liver won’t recognize as food anyway. That poor, overworked organ is there to filter out toxins which means anything it doesn’t recognize as real, natural food. When everything we eat comes out of a box, our liver is filtering out more than it’s allowing into our bloodstream, or at least it’s trying to.

Truth 6: Stop Eating When You’re Full

This one is a toughie for me, and especially if I’m out with friends. The plate sits in front of me with food left on it; quite delicious food at that. Though my stomach is giving me that “put one more bite in me and I’ll explode” message, I can’t help picking at the food on the plate as conversation ebbs and flows around me. I know I’m going to feel miserable if I go past the full line on my stomach, but I can’t help myself.

I’ve learned to ask the waitress to take my plate as soon as I feel full, or get a box for the leftovers. Years ago when I was doing Weight Watchers, they suggested we ask for a box as soon as our meal was delivered and immediately put half of whatever is on our plate into the box. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.

I actually find it harder to follow this at home where I have everything I need to get the excess out of my face. Often it’s because I waited too long between meals and fixed myself a larger portion than I actually needed to make up for the excessive gap. I’m still learning that a longer period of time between one meal and the next does not mean my stomach is emptier. It’s a finite space. That space is either full, empty, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t miraculously grow larger when we withhold food for 6 hours instead of 3 or 4. Like my cats, it wants us to believe it’s starving, but it’s all an illusion.

Truth 7: Eating Slowly Makes You Eat Less

It takes our brains about 20 minutes to realize we’ve put food in our stomach. I won’t go into the scientific reasons behind this, but if you’re interested, you can always Google it. That being said, the more slowly we eat, the longer it takes to consume less, and the more likely our brain is to at least try to stop us from overeating.

I don’t necessarily recommend the “chew everything x number of times” method you hear in the old wives’ tales, and from Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory fame. Weight Watchers had good advice for this one too. Put your fork down on the plate between bites. Concentrate on chewing. Savor the food you’re eating rather than simply stuffing it down your throat to silence the whining of your stomach. If all you want to do is fill the space, you can do that with a smoothie or something healthy but tasteless. If you’re taking the trouble to make something you actually like to eat, slow down and enjoy it.

Truth 7: Never Beat Yourself Up Over Imperfect Health Habits

You’re human. You will choose immediate pleasure over good sense some of the time. So what? You’re allowed to be imperfect. In fact, being imperfect is what makes you unique. Embrace that uniqueness. Shrug off the momentary lapse and do better next time. You can’t change what’s already happened anyway, so why dwell on it and make yourself crazy. Life offers us enough crazy-making opportunities without giving them to ourselves.

Truth 8: Love Yourself No Matter What

We always treat ourselves better when we not only love and appreciate the entire package, but tell that beautiful, wonderful, unique face in the mirror so. Complement yourself—often and effusively. My personal favorite is “I’m beautiful, sexy, sassy, and delicious!”. Find something that makes you smile,  look yourself in the eye, and say it at least once a day. You’ll see evidence of the effectiveness of your affirmations in the choices you make.

When you’re happy with yourself, you don’t need comfort foods to make you happy. You’ll choose the salad over the burger, the broccoli over the fries. You’ll carry yourself with confidence and be grateful for the 2,000 crunches that made your gut ache for days. You’ll feel the strength those crunches gave you in the lack of back pain and the ability to get up off the floor without needing a crane. You’ll walk past a mirror and instead of cringing, you’ll smile because you see a strong, confident person standing straight and tall. You may not be perfect even in your own eyes, but knowing you’re doing the right things will be enough.

Gratitude is the Ultimate Motivator

You may have noticed I always end my posts with at least 5 gratitudes. There’s a good reason for it. When I stop and think about my blessings, I lose sight of my flaws, if only for a few minutes. Often, I realize it’s my flaws which led me to my blessings anyway. So here are today’s gratitudes:

  1. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had with the weight loss merry-go-round. They’ve taught me to love and respect this temporary package I occupy.
  2. I am grateful for the people who have overcome obstacles far larger than my own. They show me it’s about attitude more than anything else. Be the ant who moved the rubber tree plant.
  3. I am grateful for the progress I’ve made and continue to make.
  4. I am grateful I finally learned to love and respect my body, no matter what shape it’s in. In loving and respecting it, I can do more with less pain than ever before, even if I do some of it more slowly.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; health, happiness, energy, community, friendship, support, encouragement, inspiration, motivation, love, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your uniquely genuine self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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