Below is part two of my interview with body image expert and author Rosie Molinary. Rosie wrote the fabulous book Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance.
Here, Rosie provides insight into what helped her build a positive body image and fulfilling life. She also emphasizes the importance of looking within and offers several suggestions for boosting our body image.
If you haven’t already, check out part one of our interview on radical self-acceptance.
Q: You include a variety of valuable tips in your book. Which one or two tips would you say had the biggest impact on your own body image?
A: I think the tip that has had the most profound impact on my life – and my self-acceptance – is Day 32: Celebrate Your Birth Day. Every year on my birthday, I write a list of things I want to accomplish, try, enjoy before my next birthday. The number of items on the list corresponds with how old I’ve turned (so 37 things to do before I turn 38 is the list I wrote just weeks ago on my birthday!).
I started this tradition in my mid-twenties when my self-care was really suffering and I was a constantly sick but very professionally satisfied high school teacher and coach. The thing is I had a bit of revolving door experience with the local emergency room – I was that sickly – and the emergency room doctor who I kept seeing finally said to me, “I am willing to keep seeing you here if you are willing to keep landing yourself here.”
His words made me realize that sickness wasn’t happening to me, I was evoking sickness in my self because of the way I worked so hard and so compulsively and didn’t rest or eat right or nurture myself in any way.
I lived in fear of letting my students down and so I worked incredibly hard to not do that. But I worked so hard that it was not sustainable and, in fact, was debilitating.
I realized that I was going to get to the age of retirement never having done anything but teach (which is amazing but life was meant to be more broad than that).
There was another realization that hit me at that time. My parents gave me an incredible gift as a girl by staying in this country after my father retired from the US Military (as opposed to moving back to Puerto Rico where all their family was) so that I could be educated here (I was in 2nd grade when my father retired).
That said, there were not resources in my family for me to be able to try many other things.
All of a sudden, I realized that I was an adult and it was up to me whether or not I tried those things, gave myself those opportunities. So I conceived the list as a way to dabble in experiences that might become hobbies for me as well as to encourage self-care while trying to live the life I imagined.
I learned how to horseback ride, how to swim, started running and cycling, tried yoga and Pilates, planted a vegetable garden, got certified in first aid and CPR, learned how to change a bike tire, tried surfing and tennis, took cooking lessons, tried watercolor painting and pottery, visited Germany, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Scotland, worked with leatherback turtles, and the lists go on.
Over time, the list broadened my understanding of myself. The list is how I live my life—it is a realization of the possibility that exists in everything, most especially, me.
I am not static. I am vital and ever-changing. Understanding that has given me a peace about both my physical and emotional way of being in this world.
Q: If someone has been struggling with a deeply ingrained poor body image for years, how do you recommend they work on improving it?
A: I have so many recommendations in the book, but if I had to give a Cliff Notes version of what I think the most important first steps are for someone, here is what I would recommend:
Start right now by making a list of things that your body has given you, the joys it has granted you. Your body – this body that you are moving in right now – has given you so much. Acknowledge those things.
For the next week, think of three great things your body offered you in your day. The sensation of a hug from your child, a kiss from your partner, the exhilaration of a post run high, the satisfaction of moving through a space and getting it cleaned or organized, the sight of a startling sunset.
By doing this, you realize how much more meaning your body has outside of being something to look at, how much more it offers.
Also, become really disciplined about what you say – even in your mind – about your body. Would you say those things to a child?
Then don’t say them to yourself. When you find yourself criticizing, notice it and consider what led you to go there, and then reframe your words.
Finally, become immersed in something that makes you feel your entire worth. Do something that allows you to give your gifts to the world in a way that elicits your passion. By seeing what you have to tangibly offer, you build the best kind of esteem.
Q: Many people, especially moms, don’t think they have the time for self-care — and think they don’t deserve it. They think it’s selfish and they should be focused on others. What would you like these readers to know?
A: I thought this even when I wasn’t a mother. I worked the way that I did as a teacher because I loved my students, yes, but also because I believed that it was selfish for me to do anything but care for my students.
When I got so sick that I had to be out of school for weeks in order to recover, I realized that I had actually done them a greater disservice.
By working the way that I did, I burned out before the school year was done, and I couldn’t be with them for part of the journey. If I had dialed it back just a little bit, I could have sustained myself and, thus, them, for the whole year without a mandatory respite period in the middle.
I know what it is like to want to give something your all. I also know that we are not one-dimensional and we cannot define ourselves in a satisfying and sustaining way through just one role.
In fact, we cannot sustain any role unless we are sustaining the most important role in our lives: our role as our individual self.
Oftentimes, we aren’t even aware of what our individual self needs because we are so busy attending to other things.
We don’t know whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert, how much sleep we need, whether we like to work with sound in the background or in silence, when we do our best work, etc. because we rationed out our lives to so many others.
So, if there is one thing I can impress upon women who give until they may give out, it would be to go within, learn your answers, and act with that information in mind, move from that place.
One of the goals of the Beautiful You journey is that women will really have done that by the time they are done with the book.
When you act from a self-supporting center, you are acting from your truest self and thus becoming your best self which, ironically, isn’t just good for you. It is good for everyone around you.
Thank you, Rosie!
How have you looked within and discovered your individual needs? What are your favorite body image builders? What part of Rosie’s interview resonated with you most?
P.S., Please consider participating in this month’s Self-Discovery Series. I’m hosting, and the word is “creativity.” Check out my post for the details.