personal growth

The Judgment of Weight

There are two things I will not board a plane without: a new magazine purchased at the airport and a purse filled with snacks. The snacks are self-explanatory in a day and age where one can get stuck on a three or four-hour flight with little more than six peanuts being offered to you! I have this deep fear of being hungry and not being able to do anything about it.  So snacks are a must for this girl.  And a magazine?  Well, it's just a guilty pleasure to pass time reading something I normally wouldn't take the time to do at home.

Last week on my home from Tampa, I was riveted to the Glamour article "The Secret Way People Are Judging You."  In this article they revealed the results of a poll of more than 1,800 women revealing what they thought about women of various weights.

From Glamour's "Skinny Witch vs. Chubby Fairy"

Heavy women were pegged as…

skinny witch vs chubby fairy

  • “lazy” 11 times as often as thin women;
  • “sloppy” nine times;
  • “undisciplined” seven times;
  • “slow” six times as often.

While thin women were seen as…

  • “conceited” or “superficial” about eight times as often as heavy women;
  • “vain” or “self-centered” four times as often;
  • “bitchy,” “mean,” or “controlling” more than twice as often.

Even the “good” labels are unfair. An overweight woman may be five times as likely to be perceived as “giving” as a skinny one.

Absorbing the Results of our Weight Stereotyping

I unfortunately can't say I was entirely shocked by these results.  We live in a world where we make decisions about people within 20 seconds so it can't surprise us that it's most likely dependent upon external factors. I was surprised though that women of all weights hold these stereotypes. In other words, the judgments aren't just one group toward another, but "Plus-size respondents judged other plus-size women as 'sloppy,' and skinny types pegged their thin peers as 'mean.'" We know the judgments are unfair about us but it doesn't stop us from putting those labels on someone else! What is that?

I was also moved by the various interviews of women who have felt those judgments.  There has been quite a bit of research done in what is being called "fat studies" where we see the impact that extra weight (and/or the shame and ostracism of that extra weight) has on someone's ability to be hired, healthy, or seen as attractive. One study showed that overweight women have a harder time getting hired and that when they do, they earn as much as $5,826 less than their normal-weight peers. Painful and completely unfair!

And similarly, this article is one of the first for highlighting the scorn that skinny women face, too.  Amy Farrell, PhD., a professor of women's and gender studies, and author of Fat Shame highlighted that skinny women are often "pushed away as someone who is not sharing in the same struggles as the rest of us. People look at her and say, 'You're not friend material; you're alien.'" As someone who studies female friendship-- that jumped off the page to me! That we think their weight is any way connected to the type of friend they can be? *sigh*

Again, Friendships Can Be Part of the Solution

At the end of the article I was left with this mixed feeling.

On the one hand, I just felt sick.  Feeling the depth of our judgmental culture and wondering if there was really anything that could change us to be more accepting of each other was initially overwhelming.

But on the other hand, I felt slightly hopeful.  Hopeful because we're doing it to ourselves.  And if we're the ones doing it to each other, then it seems like we could own that and start choosing to do it differently?

Personal growth isn't about becoming someone different as much as it's about seeing ourselves as we are and starting to catch ourselves earlier in our judgments. So I can't just tell myself to stop judging, but I can tell myself that it matters to me to catch myself doing it and give myself the choice to create new brain patterns.

I may not be able to stop my first judgment from popping into my head-- assuming that she's stuck-up, vain, insecure, or superficial-- but I can sure own that and choose to follow it up with a stronger thought.  I can remind myself that I know what it feels like to be judged by people who don't know me.  I can remind myself of all my friends who have different body types and appearances who don't fit the stereotypes.  I can remind myself that no one benefits from being judged. And that in actuality, research has proven that few of us are good judges. I can step down from the soap box created by my insecurities.

We don't have the luxury in this world of all feeling overly loved.  Few of us report having all the love and acceptance we need!  We could all do with more friends, more people who cheer us on, more people who accept us as we are, more people who want to get to know us past our appearances.  As women who value friends, we should be leading this charge!

We can choose after our judgments to refuse to believe them.  Instead, we can silently whisper, "I accept you just as you are. I can't wait to see the beautiful person you are," and trust that a little more love in this world will go a long way.

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6/4/2012: A follow up blog: Vulnerability, Weight, Nudity & Judgment

 

 

Are We Competitors? Or, Can We Be Friends?

The moments I love the most in life are when a veil is lifted, reminding me that what I thought was true, wasn't. Just because my feelings told me one thing didn't make it so. Such was the case with Chris.

Christine Bronstein and I both had heard of each other. Numerous times. We both founded women's communities that are rooted in the SF Bay Area so it seemed we were destined to be competitors. Our names appeared simultaneously in articles and we both kept tabs on each other from a distance. Not proud of it, but I'll just come right out and admit that I was jealous of her.

In my jealousy I never wanted her failure, nor did I ever think there wasn't enough room in this city for both of us to succeed.  But, nonetheless, it still put up this silly imaginary wall.  It still triggered my insecurities. It still made me wonder if I was good enough, or if my company was a good enough concept. The belief that we were competitors left me feeling wary of her successes and slightly threatened by her legions of fans. It's nearly impossible to view someone as competition without also stepping into jealousy and judgment.

Competition, Jealousy & Judgment

The spiritual teacher side of me genuinely believes there is no real competition in this world for the things that matter.  That there is enough love, joy, and peace in this world and that as I offer it, I will receive it.  I don't have to push someone down to go up. I don't have to beat someone to feel worthy. I believe there is no one else like me in this world (or like you!) and so I trust that as we live from our authentic places that the world needs both of us doing our things differently. I can cheer for you even as I run beside you.

However, the very-real human side of me still feels threatened sometimes. In part because jealousy never feels good. I often interpret that feeling as me not being good enough or somehow feeling less-than.  And of course, when we feel attacked (even by ourselves!) we defend. We then devalue the other or inflate ourselves to try to feel better. Judgments roll off our tongue. I sometimes fall for the lie that only one of us can win this race and feel "good enough."

(Note: I'm not dissing all competition-- I appreciate what I learned on the basketball court, felt motivated by sales contests that pushed me, and still love talking trash to my sister when we play games. In fact, competition is a strength that many incorporate into their lives in ways that help them excel. Rather, what I'm speaking of is our tendency to see others as opponents when they aren't, feeling as though our self-worth is tied to specific results when it never is, or believing that we have to elbow our way through life to win something that someone else told us mattered.)

Competition is a loaded word, bringing out our desire to win and be chosen, and also stirring up our insecurities and greatest fears.

  • Some of us get married or have kids just so we don't feel "behind."
  • Some of us count money and possessions as mile markers of our success in some race we have assigned meaning.
  • As girls we've been raised to see our appearances as a way of winning attention and yielding our power, so our worth goes up and down with the scale or as we compare ourselves to those around us.
  • Some of us feel threatened if we feel our kids aren't winning their metaphoric races for popularity, achievement, perfect obedience, or any other finish line we imagine, as though it reflects on our race as mothers.
  • Some of us see our claws go up in the workplace, connecting our value to dollars earned, hours put in, and titles bestowed.
  • Some of decide we can't be friends with her because she's beautiful ("so she must be vain") or because she makes too much money ("so she must not have the same values I have") or because any other dozens of reasons we dismiss each other because we might feel threatened or risk rejection.

We all want to feel enough. I get that. I know that feeling.

But I also know it's not in winning the race that we will ever feel enough.  There will just be another race in front of you, another goal you have to reach, another win you will need in order to keep proving yourself.

There's no end until we can hold our worth right where we are today. Rather, it's in calling the race a bluff that we ironically start feeling "enough."

The Gift I Now Have

I now count Chris among my friends. And I couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing in the Bay Area for women through her network: A Band of Wives.  She practices what she preaches-- creating a culture in her community that promotes one other, lifts each other up, and helps give attention and voice to all that we're each trying to do.

Kindness begets kindness. Generosity breaks down imaginary walls of division.  Respecting each other makes us want to help the other succeed. Love overrides fear.

Owning my worth invites me to see it in others, realizing it's not something we win or bestow, rather just something we acknowledge. She has always been enough. And so have I. And seeing it in each other doesn't lessen it in either of us, it actually heightens our awareness of our own.

I'll have to blog sometime about the process, but for now, I can attest that I'd much rather have her as a friend, than as an imaginary competitor.  I shake my head to think what we might have missed out on co-creating had we stayed in the race we thought we were running.

I challenge you today to keep stepping into the personal growth of seeing your worth.  I also invite you to be someone in our GirlFriendCircles.com community that helps affirm that worth in others around you.  As we acknowledge the value of others, we will genuinely feel our own more truly and be able to help them see theirs.

A veil lifted where I can see how amazing she is without it making me feel any less so. And that is a gift I wish on everyone.

ABOW logo

For more reading on this blog about jealousy and competition, click here.

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p.s.  Registration on the "A Band of Wives" site is free and you'll be wowed by the events they host, the groups you can participate in, and the opportunities for partnering with amazing women. It's for women of all ages, as single and married women commit to being supportive "wives" to each other.  I hope to see you at some of their events.

p.s.s.  Speaking of events, if you live in the Bay Area-- I hope you'll come to Sausalito on Thursday night for an "All-Kinds-of-Love Pre-Valentines Bash" hosted by A Band of Wives. I'll be guiding everyone through speed-friending so it's a perfect first event to come to for meeting the fabulous women in that community!  It starts at 6 pm at Wellington's Wine Bar (300 Turney St.).  There are already 70+ RSVP's so come meet up with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Need Are More Women, Fewer Girls.

The contestants on Bachelor I begrudgingly watched The Bachelor last night and shuddered at how quickly girls sized each other up and put each other down. Hoping they'd feel more cool, more amazing, and more chosen in the process.  Ignorant still to the truth that we can only receive what we're willing to give.  Their immaturity served up as entertainment.

Immaturity is sometimes about age-- it simply takes some life experiences before we can have wisdom.

But the difference between a woman and girl isn't in a birth date, but in a state of mind.  I've seen young women love those around them with health and joy, and I've seen older women so practiced over the years in their victim narrative that every event is seen through the filter of perceived rejection. Maturity can go either way.

Undoubtedly, we all behave like girls at time, in different areas of our lives.

  • Maybe it's in your finances-- waiting for someone else to "fix" them, living in denial about the gap between your spending and earning, or mistakenly thinking that buying things improves your worth.
  • Or maybe it's in your romance-- falling for the myth that you need to be chosen by someone to prove your value, repeating patterns you haven't examined, or holding grievances against someone for not living up to your expectations.
  • Or maybe it's your health-- how you're sabotaging what you say is important to you, living with both too much restriction in one area only to not discipline yourself in another, or holding stress/fear around that which we cannot control.
  • Or maybe it's in your spirituality & personal growth-- in your tendency to throw out the metaphoric baby with the bath water, the judgment and cynicism you hold around belief and practices that aren't already yours, or the busy-ness you're not stepping out of to hear your own voice.

But for the purpose of this blog, I want to talk about how I see our immaturity showing up in our friendships.

We are called GIRLfriends, But We Must Still Show up as Women.

We act immature in our friendships when we feel insecure about ourselves.  Which we tend to do more often than most of us care to admit.  Here are some scenarios I repeatedly see:

Fear of Rejection: We go to a ConnectingCircle-- then feel hurt that others didn't follow up with us afterward and conclude either that they are selfish/arrogant/non-committal people OR that we are unlikable/loners/un-interesting. Notice in both cases we are holding attack thoughts toward others or toward ourselves.  We feel rejected.

Girls want others to initiate, choosing to live with the fear of rejection instead of the possibility of connection.  Women know that they have every responsibility to initiate also, choosing to do what they can and not hold the results as an affront to their ultimate worth.

Fear of Not Feeling Good About Ourselves:  With all this language around toxic relationships, we seem to be giving each other more and more permission to cut people out of our lives that don't make us feel good.  The problem with this often is that it's not always because the other person is toxic that we don't feel strong. Sometimes that voice of insecurity can reveal powerful information that indeed we have personal work we want to do. We can feel bad toward someone because they have something we want, something we're jealous about, or something that we think makes us look less than to not have it (i.e. more money, new relationship, a baby, kids she's proud of, career success).

A Girl gets off the phone feeling yucky and mistakenly assumes the other person is the problem she feels bad about herself.  A Woman asks herself how she can cheer for her friends excitement, and use that to help reveal to herself what it says about what she ultimately wants.

Fear of Judgment. On a similar note is our immediate tendency to judge others. Fast and harsh. It comes out in our decision to RSVP for a particular event-- convinced we are good judges of deciding whether we'll like the other people based on a photo! It comes out in meeting each other when we find ourselves judging their behaviors, dress, stories, etc. We have such a hard time just letting people be themselves... and by extension giving ourselves that same gift. Our ego's feel momentarily better about who we are if we can tell ourselves we're better than her.  But that's immaturity at it's height of ignorance.

A Girl judges others so that she feels better.  A Woman accepts others so that she feels better, knowing she can be powerful without devaluing another.

Growing Up.

It's time to grow up.

It's time to show up facing each other as women.  Women who deserve our utmost respect.  Women who have inherent value whether you can immediately see it or not.  Women who know that they will eventually feel about themselves whatever they feel about others.  Women who know that they don't have to be better than thou to be their best.  Women who feel hopeful when they see others succeed.  Women who trust that as they love, so will they be loved.

Unlike age that just happens to you whether you want it or not, maturity comes when invited.  It comes when you hold the possibility that there might be a better way to approach life.  It comes when you admit enough humility to recognize that just because you think something doesn't make it fact.  It comes when you know your own worth enough to not need to see everything as a reaction to you.  It comes when you say that small prayer: "Mature me. Grow me."

We are not competitors.  We are allies. (Even if any of you eventually becomes a contestant on a show where competing to win the affections of one eligible bachelor... even then you need not devalue.)

This 2012, I hope we all hold the courage to grow up.  Facing each other as humans. With dignity. The world needs more Women.

Top Ten Friendship Articles of 2011

In the spirit of celebrating another year lived and shared, I'm doing my first-ever Top Ten list. Here are the most read, popular blog posts from the last year: 1.   The Mistake that Cost me a New Friendship

This post re-proves that we all learn to love from the mistakes of others, mine included. It's a lesson I still hold in my memory bank--how easy it is to not initiate from a place of personal insecurity.

2.  To the Oprah-Haters and Other Women Who Devalue

This posting inspired lots of comments as we all wrestled with our temptation to devalue others, hoping it makes us feel better about ourselves.  I come back to this theme often-- trying to encourage us all to cheer for other women, that we might feel it for ourselves, too!

3.  Today is National Best Friend Day: How to Make a BFF

I share my Frientimacy Triangle with hopes of reminding everyone that Frientimacy (friendship intimacy) has to be developed, not discovered.

4.  5 Stages of a Friendship

We have a lot of language and understanding when it comes to the various stages of dating someone (i.e. the difference between "going on a date" vs. "we're dating"), but we forget that a friendship has stages too!  Here I describe the five--from curiosity to frientimacy-- I think are most helpful.

5.  Admitting We Need Friends

It's easy to be in denial about our need for friends-- too much pain and stigma in whispering the truth sometimes.  But hard to really do anything about it if you don't start with the first step: admitting the need!

6.  Nothing Kills a Potential Friendship Faster

A romantic relationship would never get off the ground if the two of you went out for a date, then ended the evening saying “That was fun… we should do it again next month.” And yet we do that with potential friends all the time!  Give the gift of momentum to your friendships!

7.  Used-to-be-Friends or Still Friends?

This one struck a raw nerve with many of you.  Just because we have had good friends over the years that we could call if we needed to, doesn't mean we have the good friends around us that we really need and want.

8.  Friendship Challenges that Come With Age

This post validates that indeed every decade brings its own challenges to our friend-making career. When I started GirlFriendCircles.com (my women's friendship matching site) three years ago I assumed it would be most popular with those in their 20's and 30's.  Who knew that the women who would love it the most would be our mothers and grandmothers? No matter our age-- we need to keep replenishing our circle of friends!

9.  The Flywheel of Friendship

The toughest part of friendship is that we all crave the BFF who just knows us and makes it easy to connect, but we hate that there is a long road to that comfortableness!  This post will inspire and motivate you to keep putting in the work now.  It does pay-off and get easier!

10.  It's Hard to Maintain Friendships Through Stress & Change

It's so easy to withdraw from people when we're tired and stressed.  These are some of the reasons it's hard for me to engage, and some of the ways I do it because I know it's good for me.

* And a bonus one!  This one was my personal favorite: My Prayer: Who I Want To Be

A huge thanks to all my GirlFriendCircles.com members, readers of my blog, and comment-ers who have shared the journey!

May we continue in 2012 to honor all that is right with friendship, committing ourselves regularly to the practices of healthy personal development and relationship joy.

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I'd be honored to have you share this list on Twitter or Facebook:

Top 10 posts of 2011 from Shasta's Friendship Blog re: personal growth & relationship health by @girlfrndcircles.  http://wp.me/p1n4Bw-7l

How Annoying People Can Grow Me

Call the Holy Spirit your still small voice, your intuition, your wisdom, your highest self, your conscience, your place of peace, or whatever it is that guides you, but don't miss the profundity of this upcoming statement.  Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller book, A Return to Love reminds us that we are not centered on what matters if the actions of others continue to dictate how we feel and show up.

"We're not aligned with the Holy Spirit until people can behave in any way they choose to, and our inner peace isn't shaken."

That's the kind of statement that our heads can agree with, but is simply so hard to practice, isn't it?

In our day-to-day lives, it is far more tempting to fall for the deceptive thought that others determine our mood, that circumstances dictate our peace, and that the behaviors around us require our reaction.  But that would be a victim mindset, a belief that leaves us feeling as though we are at the mercy of others, dependent on their whims. It's a defeating belief to feel we can't find peace until everyone, and everything, is fixed to our liking. Which is why our peace can be so hard to come by if it relies on our bosses, our kids, our romantic partners, our colleagues, our friends, and our in-laws all being in peace first!

Hard to Hold Inner Peace

Applying that statement to my own life, asking myself "where do I sometimes give away my peace because of others?" I found a few whispered answers.

  • Moods of Others: My husband and I work in the same office in our house which can create a fabulous synergy most of the time.... but it also means that we're at risk of stepping under each others black clouds.  Sometimes when our wireless modem takes him offline, I feel the stress that he expresses.  I can't fix it and it only makes matters worse if I try to "inspire" him (apparently it feels controlling and judgmental to him? Who knew?) to react differently.  How to hold my own peace even when he feels anything but that?
  • Judging Others: I've been working consciously the last several months to resist making judgments about others... it's amazing though how automatically those thoughts seem to jump into my head during first impressions or various conversations!  Ugh!  It's far too easy for me to attach a value to the statements and choices of others.  And as I judge them, I subconsciously feel they are judging me which moves me to try to impress them rather than just see them. An inner peace is hard to hold when we're judging and feeling judged!
  • Filtering Their Stories: Our default thinking process is to run the stories of others through our filter of "how does it make me feel?"  So their stories (i.e. their achievements, their break-ups, their stories about their kids, their insecurities) somehow start making us feel something about our lives.  It's so difficult to simply let their story be their story.  I find that I can start to feel intimidated, jealous, sad, fearful, and disappointed even when we're not talking about my life!  It's one thing to enter into their feelings, it's quite another to change how I feel about myself based on something about them! How's a girl to feel peace if every conversation risks her feelings changing?

How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace

Seeing the list above (and I could name so many more!) makes me understand why some people are tempted to go be in solitude in order to connect with their spirituality. Bumping into each other invariably pushes our buttons.  This is true whether we're talking about the people we live with, or the women we're meeting at a ConnectingCircle for the first time.

It's hard to hold our own peace around others.  They either aren't living up to our expectations or desires which disappoints or angers us.  Or they exceed our expectations and standards which triggers our insecurities and fears.  Hard for every person to stand on the little line we have for them, without falling into the ditch on either side! (Not to mention the remote possibility that we're not the best judges of where to draw the line!)

Clearly, we have to learn to hold our own peace and let others do their thing.

But Marianne takes it one step further, inviting us not to just tolerate others, but to be grown by them:

To the ego, a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones.  But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally.

It's a concept I'm holding to.  I've been very mindful in recent months about trying not to attach judgements and values on the decisions of others, which does result in more inner peace.  But to actually show up, across from someone who annoys me or frustrates me, and see it as a way to grow me, expand me, teach me patience and deepen my ability to love?

It reminds me that even if we spend time at a monastery, an ashram, a church, in a sacred text, or on a quiet walk in nature for our spiritual centering-- those are only the classrooms for learning.  It is in our connections with others that we are on the practice field for personal growth. All my prayers are in vain if I'm not showcasing more patience for the people I meet.

So if you're annoying, bring it on!  :)  I have lots of room to grow!

My Prayer: Who I Want To Be

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel greeted in my presence.

Welcomed. Worthy. Accepted. That means when I see you I start with love.  It means I refuse to  wait until my ego can determine your value to me.  Forgive me for my impulse to judge, I want to un-learn that behavior. The truth is that you are human--my sister, my brother-- and that is enough. Your value is exponential and I greet the lessons you will teach me. Thank you.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel abundant in my presence.

hands holding a heart

Abundant in the awareness that you are enough.  More than enough, in fact. Where for a moment, you can find refuge from your inadequacies, insecurities, fears, and judgments.  For I want to see you; the part of you that is innocent, beautiful, perfect, and true. I give you my word that I will seek that in you, knowing that those who seek, find. I desire to be someone who sees your best, even when you can't.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel loved in my presence.

For you are. I believe in a God that loves you.  A God that asked me to do the same.  I regret how frequently I do it imperfectly.  Nonetheless, I will keep trying.  For it's never because you're not worth my love; rather, it's always because my own fears get in my way of expressing it.  I don't bestow upon you your loveability, I only affirm what is already there. You are love-able and loved.  May I remember that truth that you might feel it when I'm around.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel gratitude in my presence.

May my words and actions remind us both that not only are you enough, but so am I.  And so is this world.  There is enough joy for both of us. I can promise you that when I feel lack -- as I sometimes do -- I will own it as my own hunger; refusing to devalue what you have, or who you are.  You deserve all that is yours and I celebrate it.  May I become the person who holds so much gratitude for your life that I invite you to rejoice in it too.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel encouraged in my presence.

Not just applauded, but deeply hopeful. I want to hold enough faith in the universe that I can share it with you at any time.  I want you to be able to look in my eyes and see your best self reflected back at you.  May you feel supported in owning your strength, your beauty, your talent, your power, your love, your goodness.  An encouragement that roots itself in a soil of knowing, and branches out in in vibrant action.

It doesn't matter who you are-- you deserve these things from me.

  • You can be someone I walk by in the grocery store, or someone I commit my life to.  Both can be equally difficult.
  • You can be someone I am drawn to, or someone I feel repelled by.  Either way, how I show up with kindness should not differ.
  • You can be someone who has loved me well, or someone who has hurt me deeply. My interpretation of my experience with you doesn't change your worth.
  • You can be someone I watch only on TV, or someone I know intimately.  Your inherent goodness isn't dependent on my knowing you.

How I respond to you says more about me, than it does about you.  I know that.  I own it. Indeed there is a gap between who I want to be for you and who I am. For that, I am sorry.  Life is not a competition where one of us holds more value than another.  And no one, other than my own ego, has given me permission to go around making judgments about your merit. So when I show up, as humans often do, without being all that I want to be, forgive me.  And just know it's no reflection on you.

My prayer is that I keep growing in love, becoming, expanding, inviting, welcoming.  I trust that as I see my own worth more clearly, I might better show you yours.

My prayer is that the best in me honors the best in you. That I can have God-eyes to see you the way you are.  The way you are meant to be loved.

May it be so. Namaste.