Tag Archives: self image

Ten Tips on Feeling Beautiful from The Inside Out

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When you meet someone who is truly beautiful it’s not just the way they look that makes you take notice. Beautiful people glow and radiate self-confidence and inner peace that is hard not to notice. Here are ten tips to creating the most authentic and beautiful version of yourself. Continue reading

Your Body As The Doorway


Your relationship with your body can be the key to help you discover the truth of your being. If you have struggled with your body image, if you have struggled with negative thoughts about your body and yourself, you might be thinking I am crazy:  “What? This body? This body that I think is too fat, too old; too this and not enough that – this body can help me discover the truth of my being? This body can point me in the direction of enlightenment? Are you nuts???”

I will furthermore contend that not only your relationship with your individual body, but in fact society’s objectification of the human body, can, in fact, help you along the path to ultimate freedom. The very media messages that many blame for objectifying women, the very images that are responsible for provoking and contributing to eating disorders and self-hatred in young girls and boys, can be used to help you discover your inherent beauty and value.

Before you say I am complete insane, please take a short journey with me. Join me on a journey as we explore our relationship with our bodies. Watch as our bodies, and indeed ourselves, move from being a subject to an object to a subject to an object to a subject, to the final and ultimate realization that you are both and neither. Your body is both the object and the subject, and yet beyond both. Okay – here we go:

When you are a young child, the relationship with your body is that of subject. For most young children, there is no separation between the body and the body. The mind doesn’t think of the body as separate some how – it doesn’t objectify it. The mind-body organism operates as one, unbroken entity. Imagine a new born, even, before there is the cognitive ability to differentiate between self and other, much less between mind and body.

There comes a point, however, when the mind separates itself from the body and begins to treat the body as an object. This is especially true when there is a struggle with body image and or weight. The exact age that this occurs varies, although it appears to be happening at increasingly young ages.

The mind identifies with the body, meaning that one’s sense of identity becomes dependent and contingent on the existence of the body. The mind also begins to use it as a barometer of self-worth. Consider the recent story my assistant shared about her young daughter:

          Recently, I was having a conversation with a neighbor of mine who I think is attractive, and super nice! My daughter came up just as our conversation about eyelashes was ending. What she heard was my neighbor expressing her desire for eyelash extensions and how they are very expensive etc. I quickly tried to end the conversation and not draw attention to the subject. I even repeated to my neighbor in my daughter’s presence something I learned from your website, " Thank you God for making me just the way that I am"! This is a daily mantra in our house as my daughter is getting closer to the teenage years and has already had some questions about body image. Two hours later, out of the clear blue, my daughter says, " Mommy, do I have short or long eyelashes?" I was noticeably taken aback but quickly replied that everyone is born with the eyelashes that God wants them to have and that hers were just perfect and I did not believe in  too long or too short! She was satisfied with my answer but I was sad for her that she spent the last two hours dwelling on eyelashes which are really meant to protect our eyes right?

Just as this example illustrates, the mind learns to discriminate and judge the body as an object to be analyzed and critiqued. This initial split, this objectification of the body, the mind creating the body as an object to be evaluated, can create an immense amount of pain and suffering.

This first-phase objectification of the body can lead to a whole host of maladies and problems, both physical and mental. As an object, the body is seen as something separate from the mind, something that can either be controlled or cannot be controlled, depending on the particular situation. For example, in conditions such as anorexia, there is the initial belief and experience that the body can be controlled. When this turns to compulsive eating, there is the opposite experience – the body is completely out of control. The body may develop a host of maladies and illnesses. This phase is marked by an underlying pain and agony due to the initial split. The body is seen as an object and as such diminishes the underlying value of the person who is believed to inhabit this body-object.

The first stage of healing, then, is in reclaiming the body as the subject. This is done by recognizing that the body is an expression of the beauty of the universe and that you, whatever your body’s shape, size, health, etc. are inherently beautiful, lovable, and valuable. There is a reclaiming, if you will, a pulling back of the body into the Self. It is a realization that the body was created from the limitless perfection that creates worlds. As such, your body is inherently perfect and beautiful. Your body is not some foreign object to be controlled; rather it is an expression of the underlying cosmos of which you are a most magnificent part. Thus the initial split between the mind and the body begins to heal.

Yet this is only the beginning. As one delves deeper, it is discovered that perhaps the body is an object, but not in the painful and negative sense of the previous phase. As one hones the ability to witness life’s events with detachment, there is the realization that life simply happens – life is a continued series of happenings. According to Advaita philosophy, there is no “doer”, rather all is being done. When the mind remains unattached and uninvolved, the body carries on about its business with amazing finesse and perfection. Food is digested, the immune system protects, the nervous system interprets, all happens effortlessly, easily, without the least bit of intervention on the part of the mind.

You as the witness observe the body operating with this effortless perfection. So in a sense the body once again becomes an object. As the witness you are detached and aloof from both the body and the mind, observing them operate but not becoming involved. In this phase, however, there is no pain based on a sense of objectification because there is no artificial split between Self and body. There is an underlying sense of appreciation and affection for all that is observed, whatever be its nature.

Continuing along on this journey, the body seems to once again appear as a subject. It is discovered that everything is consciousness. The body is consciousness; the mind is consciousness; thoughts are consciousness; the environment is consciousness. Every thing is consciousness. And you are this consciousness. You at your essence are this consciousness. In the words of the ancient rishis – You are That, I am That, This is That, and That is all there is.

Ultimately there is the realization that the body is both subject and object, and yet neither. Everything that you can perceive, anything that you can taste, touch, smell, hear, or see, it is not real – it is an imagining. You are beyond all experience; you are beyond all imagining. You are the unlimited, unbounded potential that gives rise to all experience, to the world of form and phenomenon. Yet you are not this world; you are beyond. In the words of one teacher, there is consciousness-in-movement and consciousness-at-rest. It is all consciousness. That which can be perceived and experienced is consciousness-in-movement and by its very nature is transient and impermanent. There is consciousness-at-rest, which cannot be experienced, but is the potential of all that was, is, and is to come.

Therefore, you realize that you are the ultimate subject and the ultimate object. You are the artist and the artwork. You are the potential that creates the body-mind and everything else in the phenomenal world. Yet you are beyond all experience. Where this ultimately leads is to the infinite unfolding of love for all, for you realize that all is yourself.
   

Ready to begin your journey? Post your intent on how you plan on loving your body and loving your life today.

Just joined the series? Read Sarah Maria’s first blog post of this two-week series here

About the Author

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur. Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today! To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her websites at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com

 

 

Allow Your Beauty to Emerge


You do not become beautiful by trying to be beautiful, but by finding the beauty that is already within you and allowing it to emerge.

 In my experience, almost everyone wants to feel attractive. In modern culture, feelings of self-worth, achievement, and success are often inextricably woven into our physical appearance. This is particularly true for women, but men are hardly immune from the pressure for physical perfection. We live in a culture where so-called physical faults, socially determined imperfections, are considered a sign of failure. Not being physically fit, trim, healthy, and beautiful is not only about the body, it is often tied to our very sense of self-worth as people.

So the desire to be beautiful, the desire to be attractive, is inextricably woven with the desire to be successful, to win approval, and to be loved.  The desire for beauty, the desire for the perfect body then, is the desire to experience ourselves as the glorious, wonderful, lovable beings that we are. Yet there is the gnawing realization that if we seek perfection in the physical world alone, we are doomed to frustration and unhappiness.

Mainstream culture tells us that we can become beautiful if we just try hard enough. If we exercise enough, diet enough, take the right supplements, avoid toxic chemicals, get enough sleep, buy the right products, purchase the right clothes, then we will be attractive.

We can spend our lives running around, literally and figuratively, attempting to become, maintain, or achieve physical beauty, and yet the deeper part of us knows that it is inherently fleeting, temporary and insubstantial. We can stave off the effects of gravity and aging through healthy lifestyle choices, such a proper nutrition and regular exercises. If we want to be more drastic, we can nip, tuck, slice, and dice our bodies into temporary submission. Yet the fact remains that these bodies are inherently temporary, will age of their own accord, and will eventually die. 

But here is the magnificent part – your longing for physical beauty, your longing for love, approval, success – all of it is a longing to experience your true Self. It is your Self calling you home, to your true Source. Inherent in the desire itself is a yearning for something more, for something lasting, for something authentic, and, dare I say, even eternal. Inherent in the desire to be beautiful is a desire for unity, a desire to live with freedom from the incessant divisions that characterize the world of duality. It is a desire to know and experience yourself as that which you truly are, beyond characterizations, beyond judgment, beyond right and wrong, as immutable, unchanging, and ever-present.

So the question remains: how do I become truly beautiful? How do I experience the love, affection, and adoration that we all crave? The answer is not in eating less and exercising more, nor in buying the latest lotions or make-up or hair sprays, not that there is anything wrong with this per se. They simply won’t give you the beauty that you long for – the beauty of your true Self experiencing Itself.

True beauty comes from discovering who you truly are and then allowing it to express itself in action. True beauty comes from connecting with the Source within you and allowing it to emerge and radiate outward, transforming your lives and the lives around you.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj writes: “You are really in search of yourself without knowing it. You are love – longing for the love-worthy, the perfectly lovable. Due to your ignorance you are looking for it in the world of opposites and contradictions. When you find it within, your search will be over.”

The same can be said of beauty, for what is beauty other than that which we look upon with love and consider inherently lovable? Inherent in your desire for beauty is absolutely everything you need to become truly beautiful. For you are already beautiful, only you may not know it. Simply remind yourself that you already are that which you seek, that all beauty resides within you and not without, and you will discover the Ultimate Source that makes everything beautiful. Remain in this and you will discover that everything, both yourself and the world around you, becomes beautiful, lovable, magnificent, and auspicious.

As you discover the truth of who you are, there is no need to fear growing older or changing because you will know that true beauty can never diminish but only increase. When you stake your claim in the material world, the problems are never-ending. It can seem like a fight to keep the body healthy and vital. Yet when you shift your reference point from the physical to the spiritual, to the Source, you realize that everything is happening as it should, in perfect order and harmony. You discover that the only beauty worth having is the beauty of your true Being. 
   

Ready to begin your journey? Post your intent on how you plan on loving your body and loving your life today.

Just joined the series? Read Sarah Maria’s first blog post of this two-week series here

About the Author

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur. Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today! To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her websites at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com

 

 

The Source of Beauty


At your essence, you are beauty. You impart beauty to whatever you perceive, not the other way around.

As already discussed, yours is the power of perception, not what you perceive. As such, you impart reality to whatever you perceive, not the other way around. Most people go through life believing that they receive meaning from the external world. This drives the desire to do and have because they believe that something outside of themselves is going to give them meaning, value, happiness, and abundance. So people end up looking for meaning in this world of form and phenomena, believing that if they meet the right person, if they buy the right house, if they wear the right clothes, if they have the right job, if they have the right body, then their life with be filled with meaning, with peace, with joy, and with satisfaction.

There is the chronic tendency to think that external accomplishments and accolades create meaning, when in fact the opposite is true. As human beings, we subjectively endow everything with meaning. There is no reality external to the reality we create. There is no meaning external to the meaning we create. We assign meaning or lack thereof to everything in our life, not the other way around. This one realization has the power to radically transform your life; it will radically change your relationship to everything and everyone in your life.

In the same way that we search for meaning, we search for beauty. We believe that somehow something external to ourselves is going to make us beautiful, that somehow it will endow us with the beauty, the elegance, the glamour that we desire. There is the wide-spread, dare I say almost ubiquitous belief that beauty is something that we can achieve by doing something, becoming something, and appearing a certain way. It usually involves changing something about who we are so that we can appear some other way. Here is what I mean:

The seemingly infinite supply of cosmetic companies, make-up lines, and rejuvenating lotions all send the same message: “buy this lotion, wear this make-up, wax this, or reduce that, and you will be considered beautiful. You and others will perceive that you are attractive.” Or consider the advertisements for gyms and fitness equipment: “Tone your abs, tighten your butt, strengthen your arms, lose the fat, and get the man or woman of your dreams.” The subtle belief is that there is some external standard of beauty that can and should be achieved.

Inherent in these messages about beauty is the concurrent belief that if you look a certain way, then someone else will perceive that you are beautiful. If you buy the cosmetics, go to the gym, get the new clothes, then other people will think you are attractive as well. Unfortunately, this is also a fallacy. You have no control over how other people perceive you – none whatsoever.

The key to understanding this is realizing that you do not exist as a separate, objective entity. When someone else looks at you – you are occurring in his or her mind, subject to the unique filters and conditions of his or her particular nervous system. In the same way that you assign beauty and meaning to everything you perceive, so the other person assigns meaning and beauty to what they perceive. Whether someone else perceives you or anyone or anything else as beautiful is completely outside of your control.

The truth is that you assign meaning; you create meaning. You determine what is beautiful and what is not. There is no beauty outside to be achieved; you alone have the power and the ability to recognize, determine, and experience beauty. You have this power no matter what you weigh, no matter how you look, no matter what anyone else says. You alone have the power to determine what is beautiful and what is not. You have the ultimate power to decide how you will feel about your body and yourself. Remember, you are the Source of all beauty. You need not become what you already are; you need not chase after that which is already within you. 

 

Ready to begin your journey? Post your intent on how you plan on loving your body and loving your life today.

Just joined the series? Read Sarah Maria’s first blog post of this two-week series here

About the Author

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur. Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today! To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her websites at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com

 

 

Letting Go Of Your Story (Part 3 of 3)


Technique #4: Dialogue with it

If you find yourself very attached to your thoughts, meaning that they are negatively influencing you, sticking around in your awareness, and affecting your well-being, in spite of your best attempts to drop it, disagree with it, and ignore it, you can dialogue with it. Have the attitude of an explorer on a mission, or an investigative journalist researching a story.

Ask yourself:

Why is this thought sticking around? What is it trying to teach me? What is it pointing to that I am not seeing? Begin to dialogue with this Negative Body Thought; you can quite literally have a conversation. It can be helpful to write the conversation down on a piece of paper. Here is an example:

Negative Body Thought: “You are so fat! You are disgusting – I really wish you would get in shape.” [Or, you are so short, you body is so flabby, you have so many wrinkles – pick whatever your particular story-line happens to be.]

Me: “Thank you for your opinion. I notice that you keep repeating yourself over and over again, in spite of my best efforts to ignore you. Is there something in particular that you are wanting? Is there some concern that you are trying to express?”

Negative Body Thought: “Well, now that you put it that way, yes! I am concerned about your health and your well-being; I am concerned about your self-esteem. I am concerned that you are not going to be happy because you are carrying this extra weight around.”

Me: “Hmmm – thanks for sharing. That is very helpful. I now have a much better idea of why you keep irritating me. How about if we strike a deal? I have heard and understand your concerns. I am also more than fully capable of taking care of myself. So I will think about what you have said, see if I need or want to make any changes in my life and behavior, and I promise to consult you if I need your help in the future. Okay?”

Negative Body Thought: “Okay. I guess that is okay. I am still a little worried, though.”

Me: “I know, but you are just going to have to trust that I can take care of myself without your constant and nagging assistance that isn’t really effective anyway.”

Negative Body Thought: “Hmmm – okay – I am here if you need me.”

Although this dialogue process might seem a little odd at first, it is a very powerful tool. Often unwanted thoughts about your body and yourself show up uninvited in an attempt to protect you. When you dialogue with persistent thoughts you can discover what they are trying to accomplish for you, assure your thoughts that you are fully capable, and thereby increase your own confidence and alleviate the persistent and debilitating thought-traffic.

Technique #5: Destroy it

Sometimes you might find that you need to get a little aggressive with your negative thoughts and let them know who is boss. Depending on how long you have been struggling with Negative Body Thoughts, and how much control they have over you, it can sometimes help to get angry. This technique can also work well, simply because it is a concrete method for externalizing the thought and using the body to help eliminate it.

Write down the Negative Body Thoughts that are causing you discomfort, annoyance, and frustration. Physically write them down on a peace of paper. Then, looking at the paper, tell it that you no longer need its presence in your life. Something like:

“You, Negative Body Thoughts, are adversely affecting my well-being. Your existence is an irritant and an anathema and I no longer need you in my life.”

After telling the Negative Body Thoughts how much they have bothered you, hampered your self-esteem, and whatever else you want to say to them, take the piece of paper and rip it into little pieces. Shredding the paper helps to symbolically destroy the negative thoughts, and reduces their hold on your psyche.

Technique #6: Embrace it

When all else fails, embrace the thought. After completing all the various exercises above, you might find the Negative Body Thought still shows up in your awareness. It is still hanging around. However, you might notice a big difference: this thought that you once believed to be true, this thought that influenced your behavior and affected your happiness is now just a thought. It is simply a symbol arising and subsiding within your mind and has no meaning other than the meaning you give it. You can embrace the thought, knowing that it will come and go of its own accord, while you remain undisturbed, unaffected, and unchanged, remaining as the silent witness in the midst of any and all thought-traffic.

Ready to begin your journey? Post your intent on how you plan on loving your body and loving your life today.

Just joined the series? Read Sarah Maria’s first blog post of this two-week series here

About the Author

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur. Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today! To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her websites at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com

 

 

3 Ways to Love Your Body, Love Your Life

How do you feel about your body?  More specifically, how do you feel about your physical appearance?

For many of us, especially me, these are not easy or fun questions to answer.  Most people I know have issues, concerns, or complaints about their body and about how they look.  I often struggle, and have for much of my life, with a negative view and feeling about my own body – thinking it isn’t fit enough, obsessing about certain features and aspects of my appearance that I don’t like, and simply feeling flawed in various ways physically.

While this has ebbed and flowed for me throughout my life – based on certain stages, various injuries, and other factors and obsessions – for the most part, feeling bad about my body and appearance is something I’ve dealt with for a long time.  I continue to struggle with body image issues, even though I pretend I’m "too evolved" to be concerned with such “superficial” insecurities and erroneously think that with all of the personal growth work I’ve done I should be past this by now. 

There’s nothing wrong with us wanting to look our best, take care of ourselves, be fit, and more. However, when I tell the truth about it, so much of my own desire to be “healthy” and to take care of myself physically, has more to do with me not wanting to not get fat, look bad, or be viewed (by myself and others) as unhealthy, ugly, diminished, or flawed.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with “body beautiful.”  Billions of dollars are spent each year by advertisers telling us we don’t look good enough and need improvement.  In return, we spend billions of our own dollars collectively on various products which are supposed to reverse our aging process, re-grow our hair, smooth out our wrinkles, whiten our teeth, help us lose weight, make us look and feel better, and much more.  I’ve spent my own money on these types of products, usually with a sense of embarrassment for doing so, as well as disappointment with the ultimate result (or lack thereof).

While all of this is not that easy for me to admit, especially given the work that I do, I know that I’m not alone and that this is a big issue for many of us.  This isn’t something that only affects teens, celebrities, or women – it’s something that people of all ages, races, genders, backgrounds, professions, and more struggle with.  Many of us, including us men, often don’t admit our body image issues, fearing the judgment of others as well as our own personal shame.

I’ve recently decided to address my own appearance issues directly.  I feel ready to both deal with this honestly and heal it genuinely, although I find myself feeling scared, embarrassed, and vulnerable about it at the same time.

In this process, I’ve come across a powerful new book called Love Your Body, Love Your Life, by an amazing woman named Sarah Maria.  This book has had a profound impact on my own life already (and I just picked it up two weeks ago).  Sarah Maria, a prominent body image expert and spiritual teacher, teaches us that we are not alone in our “Negative Body Obsession” (NBO).  So many of us, especially in our culture, struggle with varying degrees of NBO which negatively impacts our lives, our work, our relationships, and how we feel about ourselves in a significant way.

In reading this book and practicing some of the techniques, however, I’m really starting to see and understand (in a real, not simply theoretical, way) that how we feel about our bodies has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves and our lives.  And, at the same time, NBO is not as much about how we feel about our bodies; it’s about how we feel about ourselves.

What if we could truly love, accept, and appreciate our bodies and how we look, right now?  Imagine what life would be like without NBO?  Sarah Maria calls it “befriending” our body.  So often, we treat our body like an “enemy” we’re trying to beat, conquer, or at least keep at bay.

The key to all of this is not about losing more weight, finding the right workout program, getting the best products, or buying better clothes.  It’s really about us making peace with our bodies, and on a deeper level making peace with ourselves.  Loving our body can give us access to loving ourselves more deeply.  And, paradoxically, how we can really begin to love our body and let go of NBO in a genuine way, is to practice loving ourselves authentically.

While there is no “quick fix” to all of this (as is the case for most important things in life), there are some things we can think about and practice as we enhance our capacity to love our bodies, ourselves, and our lives more genuinely.

1)  Forgive – It’s essential for us to forgive ourselves and to also forgive our body.  In many cases we have done, said, and thought really negative and damaging things to and about our body over the years.  With a sense of healthy remorse and a deep sense of empathy, we can begin to forgive ourselves for how we have treated our body in the past.  At the same time, we can practice forgiving our body for not being “perfect.”

2)  Accept – Making peace with our body and appearance is an important step in our process to love and heal ourselves in a genuine way.  What if we could accept, appreciate, and love our body as it is right now – whether or not we’re at our ideal weight (which most of us aren’t) and even if we don’t love every feature of our body (which most of us don’t).  Acceptance leads to peace, peace leads to healing, and healing leads to love.  Accepting our body and our appearance are fundamental aspects of loving ourselves and our lives.

3)  Get Real – How we truly feel about our body and appearance is something that many of us aren’t comfortable thinking about or talking about with others in an honest, real, and vulnerable way.  However, for us to shift how we feel about our body, our appearance, and our life in a genuine way, we have to be willing to address this at a deeper level than food, exercise, cosmetics, etc.  Body image issues cut to the core of how we feel about ourselves as human beings.  Our issues with our body often reflect the deeper issues we have with ourselves.  When we’re willing to get real about this, like with anything else in life, we have an expanded capacity to learn, grow, and heal.  Getting real about how we truly feel about our body also reminds us that we’re not alone in this, that there’s a lot of support around us, and that there’s nothing “wrong” with us for feeling this way – it’s part of being human.

As you think about and talk about your honest relationship to your body and your appearance, be kind to yourself.  Many of us have a lifetime filled with negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about ourselves physically.  And, as we’re able to forgive ourselves, accept ourselves, and get real about this, we give ourselves access to transforming our relationship to our body and our life in a profound and positive way!

How do you feel about your body?  How can you start to love your body in a more healthy and authentic way? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.

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