In high school I was underweight, in modeling I had to work hard not to be overweight, as a pregnant woman I was underweight, as a mom I wanted to lose weight and as a Crossfitter I wanted to gain weight. For most of my adult life, I’ve had the ability to change my weight, but no matter what the scale read, I continued to be unhappy with my body. A few years ago, I began to take a closer look at these patterns and realized that there was clearly something much bigger than weight driving these negative feelings about myself. And what I learned is that it’s not what you think.
First, I’ll tell you what it is not. It is not society telling me I’m fat or thin or imperfect or need to change. It is not magazines. It is not Facebook. It is not other girls, men, women or family and friends. Magazines, fashion shows, and high standards of beauty are not creating our bad feelings about our body. Instead, they are just reflecting to us opportunities to discover how we really feel about ourselves.
It all comes down to our negative beliefs.
As I spent more time looking at my ongoing body-hating behavior, I started to notice an underlying pattern: it didn’t matter what I weighed, what I wore, how good my skin looked or what the scale said – nothing was able to combat my negative belief that said, “I’m not good enough.” In fact, as I looked more deeply at my life, I found that that belief colored everything I did, whatever I weighed, and all that I accomplished. Imagine that anything that you set out to achieve was met with a little voice in the back of your head that repeated over and over, “not good enough, not good enough…” Pretty soon, that idea is going to feel like your truth. Pretty soon, you’re going to experience that left, right and center in your world because that belief has become the glasses through which you view the world.
And that’s how it was for me. Upon realizing this pattern, my initial thought was, “it’s from being in the modeling industry! It’s from reading fashion magazines growing up! It’s from being around the pretty girls at school!” But as I looked further into my past, I began to see that this belief had plagued me much longer than I had been reading fashion magazine or even watching TV. Instead, it all began when I was much younger – around the age of two.
I am a VERY sensitive person. So sensitive, in fact, that I can feel the unspoken emotions of others without even trying. At two years old, my parent’s marriage was failing. My father was absent most of the time and my mother was overworked. Without having the words to explain this, I knew it. I sensed the turmoil, I sensed my mother’s distraction, and I sensed that something was going on that was making my life not feel great. As a young child, I tried to fix this by following the rules and being the best that I could be, but I was not successful and as a couple they still struggled, eventually coming to a divorce. At such a young age, my perception was that I wasn’t good enough to prevent that catastrophe from happening. And since our experiences form the basis for our beliefs, I came to believe that I wasn’t good enough.
Cut to high school where all the girls wanted to have my body type, my long, skinny legs, my speed and my height. All I could feel was that I wasn’t good enough to fit in with them. As a model, I wasn’t good enough at counting calories to keep my weight where it needed to be. As a pregnant woman, I was endangering the life of my child by not being good enough at gaining the right amount of weight. In my mind, I wasn’t even good enough as a pregnant woman!
You get the picture.
To shift this, I didn’t cut myself off from society. I didn’t stop reading fashion magazines or pull back from television or work out fiendishly or step to the outskirts of society. That seemed like more work than I wanted to do.
Instead, I focused on changing the “I’m not good enough” belief. After all, your environment reflects what you believe within. For example, if you believe that you’re not safe in the world, everything you experience will go through the negative belief filter of “not safe” until you change that filter.
So, I started paying closer attention to my daily experiences to find where my negative beliefs of “I’m not good enough” was playing a role. I found it in some odd places! I saw that I often didn’t speak up about the little things, because I wasn’t sure I was right (after all, if I’m not good enough – how can I be sure I’m right?). For example, when someone cut in front of me in line at the grocery store, I never said anything because, what if I didn’t have it right? What if I didn’t realize that the line went a different direction? It’s crazy how much dialogue went on in my head, all caused by my belief that I wasn’t good enough!
Finding those hidden areas where my negative belief of “I’m not good enough” was controlling my thoughts allowed me to begin to see it as something outside of me – an untruth. Rather than thinking “I’m not good enough” is my reality, I began to realize it was just that untruth showing up again. With each realization, I felt stronger and more sure of making different decisions and of viewing myself more positively. In other words, the more I realized that “I’m not good enough” was not true, the better I naturally felt about my body, my weight, my clothes and my skin and myself overall!
Had I tried to feel better about my body by changing my environment (eliminating TV, magazines, and even mainstream culture), I don’t believe I would have had the same success. It’s kind of like quitting smoking. If you remove yourself from all smokers and are never around cigarettes again, it seems much easier to quit. However, once you’re sitting next to a smoker, the desire to smoke will show up again since the underlying cause of the smoking (i.e. the negative belief) was never addressed. As we have probably all learned the hard way, we can’t control our environment! We can’t just eliminate all of the images and ideas we don’t like – that’s really… impossible. So, wouldn’t it be better instead to shift the underlying beliefs that led you to want to smoke in the first place?
Realizing this about myself became the foundation for my work with others. I now help people find those negative beliefs within so they can work to have small experiences to change that belief. So, rather than looking outside yourself for why things in your life are the way they are – can you find an underlying belief that may be secretly directing your days? That’s your starting point!