In May, I will be participating in my second National Eating Disorder Awareness Walk, an annual fundraiser and day of support for individuals, their families, support systems and anyone who knows anyone with an eating disorder. While I have never suffered from eating disorder specifically, the statistics around eating disorders and poor self-image are enough to inspire me to do something. Today's focus is self-care and inner beauty. This is a post in a series.
When I think about inner beauty and how it is uniquely ours and no one else's I am reminded of Colbie Caillat's song and corresponding music video for "Try". It's not the only recent song with a message of individuality and inner beauty but it is a pretty powerful one. What I love about the video and message behind the song is that it softly encourages us to examine what it is that we do to please other people and their definition of beauty when, at the end of the day, all we need to be is happy with ourselves.
It's a message that is certainly easier said than done. Until recently, the self-love I thought I was practicing was really just different versions of someone else's. My downtime was dictated by the downtime of others, my self-esteem was connected to the self-esteem of those I interacted with most and the frequency at which I operated was entirely dependent on what I thought was expected of me. It was an exhausting and unsatisfying cycle and because I was in this pattern of assuming that everyone else was doing it "right", that I must be doing it wrong. And I was.
Our self-love and self-esteem habits are like a muscle, they must be practiced and encouraged to be improved and mastered. Our inner self is what makes us beautiful to us and fulfills us and gives us the confidence and strength to rise and meet challenges. I'm not a medical professional, these are just things I know. So how do we get there? How can a self-care habit manifest itself in our inner beauty? There are lots of ways but here are some to try;
Focus. First thing in the morning I try to think of one thing out of that day. Some might call this "setting your intentions" but I think of it in even simpler terms. Sometimes this is "I want to take a 20 minute walk at lunchtime", other times it is, "I want to e-mail a new brand to work with" and even still it can be, "I want to come home and sleep for ten hours tonight". All are valid, important and meaningful goals that will satisfy me and make me feel good and that is all that matters at the end of the day. It is also inspiring knowing that each moment that passes throughout the day, I am one step closer to achieving my goal or, in some cases, have time to set a new one.
Meditate. Finding stillness and slowing down the hum of the day is one way to help you refocus. For me, meditation is both a time for me to calm my mind and also provides an opportunity for me to slow things down enough to have that moment when mid-heads-or-tails, you know for yourself what it is you really want or need. I enjoy doing this before bed as I naturally try to find peace with my day.
Process. One thing I am working on is to become better at not letting setbacks derail me. I used to try to ignore problems or crises and just move passed them but lately, acknowledging them (or even the voice in my head telling me, "This thing you're doing is a failure because it isn't seamlessly going the way you want"), looking for solutions and refocusing on a new plan has helped me to cheer myself on a new path instead of being stuck or longing for the old one. Sometimes things don't go the way we want because we're so close to figuring out a new and better way.
Reflect. In a way that fosters the least regret, reflecting on an activity or day is a constructive way to consider alternative methods but most importantly, the victories of any particular event. I used to subconsciously practice reflection in a way that was not healthy or helpful for my development professionally or personally and now I have become much better at celebrating the wins I am responsible for. It has made me much better at appreciating myself and my skills which is especially important in moments of failure.
Appreciate. The idea of making a list of all the people who contribute to my success as a colleague, as a creative and as a human every single day, I would probably feel as anxious as someone at a red carpet award show who is afraid they'll forget someone in their speech. From the person who graciously stops to let you know at an intersection on your ride to work to the stranger who holds the door for your on your way out of the office to all the people in between (your officemate, your sister who texted you out of the blue, your best friend who made reservations for your weekend get-together...), each of these people are relationships that need to be acknowledged and thanked. Your gratitude doesn't need to cost a lot. A simple, "Hey! I think you're really good at your job" or a "thank you", goes a long way and will make you feel nurtured when your relationships have been tended to.
And if you're so inclined, you can give to my fundraising efforts for the 2018 National Eating Disorder Awareness Walk here.