New Years, 2012 to 2013

Knowing what you don’t want, need or enjoy is just as important as knowing what you do. In fact, healthy boundaries often start with knowing what we refuse to tolerate.

The same can be said for our resolutions or intentions. A few years ago, I shared 11 body image practices to pitch. Today, I’m sharing five perspectives and practices to release in 2013.

1. Ditch this belief: Self-care is selfish or a time suck. Self-care is the foundation of healthy relationships — both with yourself and others — and a healthy life. Jennifer Louden puts it perfectly in her excellent book The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life

Self-care is essential for our survival; it is essential as the basis for healthy, authentic relationships; it is essential if we honestly want to nurture the people we care about. Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of.  And they feel renewed too, instead of guilty. We have something precious to give others when we have been comforting and caring for ourselves and building up self-love.

2. Ditch this belief: Only thin people can be confident. I spent so much time telling myself that I couldn’t be confident because the scale and my clothing size dictated that I couldn’t — or shouldn’t. (This may be why.) Contributor Nadine Thornhill explored this topic beautifully on Already Pretty. She talks specifically about the idea that feeling sexy is reserved for the skinny. In a nutshell, that’s a lie. Everyone deserves to feel confident, sexy, beautiful. Nadine writes:

Sexy isn’t about achieving a certain weight or having a specific type of body. It’s about you embracing your sexuality. It’s your body. You’re allowed to feel good about it if you want. You have every right to experience physical pleasure if that’s what you choose. You deserve to experience touch and intimacy if it makes you happy. You are totally allowed to be naked and flaunt what you’ve got in front of your partner(s). Because you own that shizz…literally. Your body belongs to you. So if you want to be sexy, you go right ahead and be hella sexy right now!

3. Pitch this practice: Dieting, whether to get healthy or lose weight. Our society views dieting as an act that’ll add so much to our lives: better health, beauty, success, love, you name it.

This reminds me of those annoying cereal commercials about all the amazing things you’ll “gain” when you eat their low-fat, low-cal, low-whatever product. But what we don’t hear is: We lose. No, not weight. (People usually gain weight on diets.) But other things. Like compassion and acceptance and freedom. And if we do gain anything, it’s shame, judgement and oppression.

As I recently wrote in my resolutions post, “Consider changing your food mentality from calorie counts and low-fat labels to nourishment and enjoyment: What nutrients are you eating? How do different foods make you feel? What gives you energy? What always gives you a stomach ache? What foods do you love to eat because of their taste?”

4. Pitch this practice: Bashing yourself after making a mistake or “failure.” Sometimes, I am gentle and understanding with myself; other times, most times, I am not. One mistake, one imperfect action, and I’m useless, weak and an idiot.

Maybe you feel the same. Maybe you think this way after emotionally overeating, getting into a fight with a friend, getting stressed out over something seemingly small.

I personally know how hard it is to overcome a stubborn cycle of self-criticism. But I keep trying. For starters, I try to remember that I haven’t committed a crime against humanity. If someone made the same mistake or had the same issue, I’d support them. I wouldn’t think they were weak in any way.

I talk to someone who supports me and loves me unconditionally — and gives me a reality check. That’s usually Brian or my mom. And I remember that nothing good comes from these harsh words.

5. Pitch this practice: Anything that’s simply too small for you. I’ve talked about this idea before, but I think it’s especially helpful when thinking about what we’d like this year to look like. I came across this phrase in Susannah Conway‘s book This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the HeartIn it, she shares an excerpt from David Whyte’s 2007 poem “Sweet Darkness”:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

This is an interesting and important way of looking at anything that doesn’t nourish, honor or respect you, whether that’s a person or practice. These are the examples I gave in an earlier post:

Is it the acquaintance who always talks calorie counts and criticizes other people’s weight? Is it your book collection, which looks more like a who’s who of dieting gurus?

Is it the gym you go to which feels cliquey and hyperfocuses on looks? Is it the flavorless microwavable meals you’ve been eating?

Is it your closet which houses scores of ill-fitting clothes? Is it your self-care routine which barely exists?

Consider what perspectives and practices you’d like to pitch in 2013. Then consider the various ways you’ll go about ditching these unhelpful beliefs or behaviors.

What beliefs and practices are you ready to pitch? How will you work to ditch them?