Squash It

I have distinct and gory memories of the torturous routine of getting ready for school when I was in 7th grade. It would go something like this:

Me: “Mom, I have nothing to wear! Nothing looks good on me” (Yelling from my upstairs bedroom into the downstairs kitchen in sheer frustration)

My Mom: “Honey, you have a full closet of clothes.” As she ran upstairs and picked out something from my closet and held it up to me, “How about this? This looks great on you!”

Me: “No, I can’t wear that. My thighs are too fat.”

My Mom: “Alright, what about this one?” (She picks out another great outfit and holds it up for me to see)

Me: “NO! I look awful in that too!” (I’m now crying, yelling, and throwing myself against my bed to express my anger)

At this point of the exchange, my emotions were usually so high I could hardly listen or make a logical decision. It was during this time that my mom introduced me to a very important method I still use to this day. I call it the “squashing method”™.

My mom would then walk over to my closet. She’d pull out a total of three (different from before) outfit options and set them on my bed. She’d then calmly say, “You’ve worn all three of these outfits in the last month. They look great and fit you well. In ten minutes, you’ll be downstairs, ready to go, in one of these three outfits." 

She would then leave.

I’d carry on for a few more minutes crying and hating my thighs. Then I’d realize my ten minutes was almost up. I’d get dressed, head downstairs, and sit at the breakfast table.

Mom: “Great outfit choice. Now, you have important things to do at school today. What’s on your agenda?”

Whoa. Game changer.

My mom was teaching me to squash it™ - to end the negative self-banter.

I still practice this today and encourage you to do the same. When those inevitable moments arise; the ones that have you battling a body part you hate or referring to your endless list of “flaws”, try the squashing method:

(1) Give yourself three minutes. Take those three minutes to feel the emotions – allow them be there and accept them. Eventually, you may be able to get this down to 30 seconds, like me.

(2) Next, take two or three deep, cleansing breaths. (I’m talking the deep belly yoga breaths here)

(3) Follow that with one important and positive thing you have to do today – say it out loud. Then, I often close with a statement of gratitude such as: “thank you for my healthy body. I’m going to use it for good today." 

You are shifting your perspective from negative thoughts to forward-moving productive ones.

This takes practice. I’m not promising overnight transformation. But, I am promising a step in the right direction. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for any negative thoughts you’ve had in the past and commit your energy towards your healthy body, positive energy, and productive day!

Ready to give it a go? Try it and let me know how it goes!

Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Imagine this: you wake up to a blaring alarm, only to realize it’s been going off for forty minutes and you slept right through. Your heart starts to beat; you panic and jump out of bed. Your mind begins to race: “where are my shoes? What am I going to wear today? Where is my work bag? Crap! I don’t have time to grab a Starbucks!” You run around your apartment, grabbing essentials for your day and trying to hurry. You know you have to skip your morning shower, throw your hair back, and dress yourself in the first thing you see. As you dash to the mirror to take one last look at yourself before running out the door, you think: “Man. I look horrible, I wish I would have gotten out of bed 20 minutes earlier- it’s going to be a long day.” As you make your way to your car, you are double checking your purse and bag to ensure you have your laptop, cell phone, and work filed. You jump in your car, turn the key, and realize you forgot your blackberry. You bolt back in the house, grab the item, and run to the car. By the time you make it to the office, your fifteen minutes late and so overwhelmed, you could cry. You walk in, drop all of your things at your desk, just to see an email that you have a meeting in ten minutes you forgot about and need to prepare for. You rush, gather all the notes possible, and walk into the meeting feeling disheveled and “thrown together”. You sit at the table, organize your notes and pad of paper, still wishing you had that coffee, you take a deep breath and prepare to present your notes at the meeting. Just when you think it’s going to go horribly, your colleague walks by and says, “You look great today- did you do something different with your hair?” You turn to your colleague and laugh, “Are you serious? Uh, no I didn’t- but thanks.” 

If you’re anything like me, as soon as your co-worker says something like this to you, your immediate reaction is, “What the heck? How could he/she possibly think that today? Today of all days!” These “off days” happen to everyone. Where is the beauty in these “off days”? Why is it we make ourselves feel so unworthy of attention on days such as these?

I believe it comes in all shapes and sizes, colors, and places. As much as I believe in this statement, I have my “off” days. Those days where I put on the first outfit I saw but don’t feel great in it. Or my bad hair day is taking over and it’s secretly bugging me as I’m trying to work. Personal appearance means a lot in our culture today. So, why is it when sometimes we don’t feel good about ourselves, others think we look great?

I believe there’s something to be said about those days when you aren’t “trying”; those days, such as this one for example, where you don’t try too hard and are just being yourself. I think it’s when you are being yourself, not worrying about being some gorgeous person, that others are able to see you as most beautiful. This story is proof that there are people among us that see beauty in its raw form; when our faces aren’t full of makeup and we aren’t dressed to the nines. It’s when we are in these raw forms that others can see the real us; just being us and trying for nothing more.

 What would happen to the definition of beauty if more people thought this way? Can you imagine if our society looked at beauty like this all of the time? If more people felt as though others were most beautiful when represented in their most raw form, we would absolutely change the definition of beauty; we would make it about real beauty; beauty that is in its best form: rare and genuine. 

Maybe “off days” where you are running fifteen minutes late, with little makeup, and an un-planned outfit are the best days we can have. They teach us we can be beautiful in the raw. They teach us what beauty is about. They teach us that others see that beauty and, in my opinion, these are the best lessons we can learn.

Women Can Be Anything They Want To Be

When I consider women who have broken stereotypes throughout history, many powerful and strong women come to mind: women like Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah Winfrey, and Mary Kay Ash. These women have given something in themselves that changed our culture and country forever. These women had the courage and strength to be the first to stand up for what they believed in. They gave hope and strength to other women who have followed in their steps. They empowered themselves and acted as the change they wanted to see. I am honored to say that I am one of those women who gained strength and courage from them. I worked to break a stereotype I believe in; I was one of the first to model un-airbrushed, un-retouched in a national campaign to break the stereotypes of what our culture sees as beautiful.

Dove had launched their national Campaign for Real Beauty. After interviewing women across the country, they chose six women to represent the brand in a global movement to make more women feel great about themselves. We were flown to New York City, participated in two photo shoots, and prepared to be seen in women’s magazines across the country. Little did we know, we’d soon make a bigger splash than any of us had ever expected.

I can still remember the first time I realized I wasn’t just another face in an advertising campaign. The six Dove girls were launching our leg of the Campaign for Real Beauty in New York City. We were there to unveil our billboard and “meet and greet” fans who wanted to come see what the campaign was all about. Up to this point, I hadn’t felt the full effect of what I was doing. I truly thought I’d be in Cosmopolitan for a month, buy every copy I could find, and continue with my life as is. The unveiling changed my whole perspective; it changed the journey of the campaign. A few minutes into the Dove girls meet and greet, a woman approached us and told us a heart wrenching story. She hugged each of us with tears rolling down her face, and said “thank you.” We were all a bit stunned as she continued telling us her story. She told us of her daughter who was a resident at an eating disorder treatment center. Her establishment did not allow the women to see pictures, magazines, or television shows. The mother took our picture and Xeroxed copies to take with her on her next visit to her daughter. She distributed them through the cafeteria, common areas, and bedrooms. On her next visit a few days later, the girls had taped our images all over the hospital. When the mother asked her daughter why they did this, she responded “if they can do it, so can we.” It hit us; we weren’t going to be in Cosmopolitan for just one month, we were making a mark in pop culture forever.

As the journey of the campaign continued, more and more people wrote to us and spoke with us of their personal struggles with body image and self-esteem. More and more, we heard stories of inspiration, hope, and empowerment. Women were stopping us to thank us and shake our hand for what we had done. There seemed to be a common theme and opinion among the women we spoke with; “it’s about time we saw real women in the media.”

The impact I had started bit me like a bug. I was so proud to be part of a movement that empowered women to feel great about themselves. I hated how the media made women feel about themselves. I hated that women were asked to strive to be something they were not; fake manipulated images. I decided to do something about it. I stood tall and proud and told women everywhere, “you’re beautiful the way you are.” I didn’t want it to stop there. I was crashing through stereotypes left and right. I was a woman who stood in my underwear for the world, flaws and all, to see. I didn’t back down when the media talked about my large thighs or cellulite. I stood my ground; I believed I was good enough too. If I could believe it, I thought I could encourage other women to believe it too. I, like many women, became sick of seeing airbrushed and manipulated pictures everywhere I looked. I didn’t look like them; they weren’t like me; I couldn’t relate to them. More importantly, I didn’t want to relate; I was and still am happy just the way I am. I was ready to say to the media, “Enough is enough. We’re good enough too.”

When I think back on the women in history who have made ground-breaking changes; I think of how they gave something of themselves for women everywhere. They stood firm when people made fun and scorned them. They didn’t back down because they truly believed they were good enough too. I have broken stereotypes and created change and yet at the end of the day, I am just another woman on the incredible list of others who is simply doing something I believe in; being the change I want to see.