Sharing is healing

Last time, I blogged about not letting insecurities paralyze me into closing off to real life. It’s still hard, and I’ll be the first to admit I do not say ‘yes!’ to everything, immediately, always. But the realization that I can decide against my initial response is incredible; it creates so many possibilities!

One thing I also mentioned last time, was how saying more yes doesn’t just create fun opportunities and possibilities, it also helps establish deeper connections to others. I’d like to elaborate on this a little.

When my friend asked me what I’d do if he told me he wasn’t feeling too brilliant and how feeling like that held him back from socializing with me, he turned my answer around. If I would come see him in that case, why do I not let someone else do that for me?

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Sharing my ‘not-best self’ is very confronting, but my guess is that anyone feels that way. One thing I learned over the past one/two years though, is that sharing isn’t just caring, sharing is also healing (Sounds so much better in Dutch though, doesn’t it Joosje?)

Where my first response is to turn inwards when I am not feeling brilliantly, doing the opposite (opening up about it) might be exactly what could help fix things. Over the past year or so, I got a lot better at sharing my struggles, but I mostly got a lot better at sharing my pást struggles. I did not realize I still had trouble in sharing what’s going on ‘in the now’ until my friend pointed out what I am really doing.

My friend got a little angry with me about this. He told me how unfair it is that I close off whenever I am feeling down, rather than to share it. Even though that might sound a bit harsh, he has a really valid point. It is not just through sharing good times that we create a deeper bond with others; it is through sharing our struggles. Our scars make us living beings, but it is our struggles that make us human. And beyond that; it is the sharing of those struggles that makes us connect with other human beings.

Not letting someone into your life when things are ‘a little less than perfect’ is compromising the (potential) relationship you (could) have with someone.

Hello, valid point!

Sharing our struggles with others makes us realize how human such struggles are; we all have them. It puts them into perspective; we are not alone. However unfair it seems that we, humans, are the only ones who seem to (mentally) struggle, it is a beautiful gift simultaneously, because it is exactly those struggles that enables us to connect with others.

Excerpt from a song by Train;

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Sharing struggles, opening up and being vulnerable is not a weakness, it’s a strength. It doesn’t make us less perfect; it makes us better. It makes us better people, it makes us better friends and it makes us better in that it helps heal us.  As I said, sharing is caring, but sharing is also healing.

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Moving beyond self-doubt

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a thinker. An over-analyzer. It keeps me from doing a lot of things I could or even should be doing (meeting friends, meeting deadlines). This is why I decided that my word of the year 2014 would be ‘yes!’, as in, to say ‘yes’ to things more often rather than thinking in my regular ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

If the past month of doing so made me realize anything, it’s that doing the things I would normally dodge or cancel actually makes me feel a lot better. It’s the breaking out of my comfort zone (which, ironically, isn’t all that comfortable to start with) that creates moments that are completely worthwhile. Setting aside my doubts, anxiety and mostly my insecurity creates a space of actually ‘living’ rather than just thinking about living.

What usually kept (or, still keeps) me from going ahead and doing those things is my insecurity. As someone who overthinks everything, I create a lot of obstacles in my head that block options. Whereas someone else might experience that as difficult, for me it can feel paralyzing. Instead of breaking out, I close off to the possibilities and lock myself in self-doubt.

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Over-analysers often tend to be perfectionists as well. If we didn’t care so much about how things turned out, we wouldn’t give them so much thinking time. It’s this perfectionism that often keeps me from socializing. When I don’t feel like I’m in ‘a good place right now’, I’d rather not meet up with friends. I want them to experience my happy me, rather than weighing them down with my less-happy me. A friend of mine confronted me with this recently, by asking me what I’d do if he told me the same thing. What if he told me he wasn’t in his happy place, and that’s why he didn’t want to see me. Would I be okay with that, or would it make me want to see him even more, to help move past the negativity?

Ummm, d’oh! I’d book the first train ticket to come see him!

So why is it that I react so differently when it concerns me? Why do I not allow others to help me move past that negativity? They do not even have to know they are it; I know from experience that going ahead and saying ‘yes’ to things that make me háve to break out of my self-doubt and step into ‘real life’ are already enough to break out of the negative space.

I know everybody goes through hard times. I know nobody feels perfect all the time.

It is extremely silly to accept that as a ‘no problem!’-thing from others, yet allowing it become the main reason to lock myself away from enjoying life and all the amazing people in it when it concerns myself.

If I do not expect others to be 100% happy all the time, why do I expect myself to be so? And how did I let that translate into the silly notion that others expect that of me as well?

The thing is: they don’t. Nobody (well, except myself) expects me to be 100% perfect. Ever. Because, deep down, we all know better than that. We all know that nobody ever is. Realizing this is one thing. Acting on it is another. Moving past that self-doubt, those insecurities and that self-made pressure is not easy, but so far, it’s been worth it. Saying ‘yes’ to things has opened so many opportunities not just for fun things, but also for deeper connection. But more on that next time.

One thing I’d like to share now, though, is a realization I had: My paralyzing over-analysing is not a ‘given fact’. Yes, it is part of me, a big part of me, even. But, it’s not like I cannot work on it and go against it, if I put in the effort to do so. Being aware of this habit is the first step into moving past it. It’s not like I broke the habit and changed my persona in the past month, nor do I expect I ever will. But I did realize that, even though it might be my first response to let myself overthink and freeze up, I can decide to make a different choice and go against that initial response. And that is quite a liberating realization!

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While serving food those who needed it, in my ‘other hometown’ across the globe, I realized the irony but especially the beauty of that moment. Me, serving food to the needy. Me not being one of the needy, as I just had a lovely dinner with new and a little less new friends.

That exact moment made me realize that the past nine weeks of travel made me re-find my stable self after those chaotic years. I think I am now able to say, I am okay.  I realized that to heal, sometimes you need to dig deep. Dig deep in yourself. Yet sometimes, healing requires you to break out. Break out and get away from everything you think you are.

And apparently, sometimes, it takes both.

Either way, healing takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy, a lot of tears, a lot of trying over and, albeit reluctantly, it indeed also takes a lot of support.

I am not jinxing this, nor am I making any crazy promises or predictions. I just want to say; I am thankful. For everything (yes, everything!) and everyone in my life, I am thankful.

Happy (late) new year you all!

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Namaste :)

 

Finding body-peace

As I mentioned before, this blog seems to be slowly dying. And I’m sort of okay with that. Though the chaos in my head will never vanish, – I have accepted it is a part of who I am -, it is no longer what controls me. Chaos is a part of me, I am not a prisoner of my chaos.

Also, in recovery, I have come a long way over the past two / 2,5 years. I do not by any means consider myself recovered. I still struggle with body-image, still binge and still let how I judge my body influence how I feel and how I act too much too often. However, I can put things into perspective again. Pick up right where I left within a matter of minutes. Be spontaneous (again? was I ever before??). Laugh, dance, flirt, travel and LIVE again. And in the end, I believe all of this has made me a more complete and understanding person.

I still have a few posts in mind that I might or might not be writing in the coming future though, and today is the day I want to talk to you about (struggling with) body image. Call it what you want, right now, I’ll stick to body-peace, because acceptance sounds like something external and love sounds like something a little too overwhelming. So, peace it is. And I kinda like the sound of it. Plus, peace, in my mind, is something mutual. I am at peace with my body, but (quite miraculously after all I’ve put it through), my body is at peace with me again as well.

First of all, my picture post was partially meant as a reminder how eating disorders (or food addictions, I know you’re reading!) are about bodies. I never developed this because I wanted to lose weight. I didn’t like my sickly, skinny body. But ironically, my recovery (for a large part, anyway) wás about my body. In matter of months to  a year I doubled in weight (no, not kidding), none of my clothes fitted me anymore (I even outgrew my shoes!), my body started doing things that belonged to puberty (which had been ten years!), and everybody commented on my change in appearance. I immensely struggled with this, and I’d like to show some things that helped me along the way.

Basically, it comes down to this: Touch it. Rub it. Watch it. Dress it. Love it. Let it be loved. Lemme break it down for ya:

  • Touch : Schedule some quality bathroom time. Take a long shower or a hot bath. Wash your hair, use some really nice soapy product. Feel that soft skin, untangle your hair, let the tears flow away with that hot shower water.  Let the water cleanse physically and emotionally.
  • Rub : After getting out of the shower or your bath tub, take time to lavish yourself in crème or lotion. Gently rub every inch of your body, without judging it. Almost like a mantra : Now I am putting lotion on my legs, lotion on my bum, lotion on my tummy, lotion on my boobs, lotion on my arms, now I lotion my shoulders, my neck, lotion my face, etc. Comb your hair, spray your favourite perfume. Just take the time to feel your body without being judgmental.
  • Watch : You can already do this while showering and while lotioning. See your body for what it is, not for what it could be, should be or has been. If, like me, your body changed rapidly, it is not at all weird that your body feels foreign. Sometimes passing a mirror or a shop window would literally make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight. That was me?! And then I got two mirrors for in my home, both in spots I’d normally just pass. So not in the bathroom or closet door, but in my hallway and in my kitchen. Why? Because now I was confronted with my reflection more often, and more off-guard. I literally made myself get used to the confrontation, and after a while, it didn’t shock me anymore.  I would notice how different clothing made me feel and look different. I noticed some days I didn’t look all that bad. Sometimes, at night in pitch black darkness, my reflection caught a little outside-city-light and I’d notice my contours in the mirror as I’d sneak through the house naked for a midnight bathroom stop. I would see myself in all different kinds of light, literally as well as figuratively. That soft golden hour light, that harsh artificial lighting, gloomy grey day light or bright and sunny daylight. All and all, I got used to seeing myself, started to accept that reflection as mý reflection again.
  • Love : As I just mentioned, I think being gentle with yourself and non-judgemental are the first big steps. Letting your body be without focussing on what it coulda/shoulda/woulda been is not easy. Not to mention to stop comparing yourself to people you pass on the streets, on TV or in magazines. But taking it a step further, is to actively appreciate and, dare I say, love it. Now, I am not saying I am now the queen of body love (or even acceptance), but what I mean is this: When you have a ‘good day’ (which does NOT equal a ‘skinny day’ !! ), say it. Out loud. To yourself. To your reflection. When you catch yourself in the mirror and realize you don’t look all that bad today. When you catch a glimpse of your tummy/legs/arms when taking a shower and you kinda like that wet and soft skin, when you put on your new dress or check your freshly done hair/make up, tell yourself that, – damn girl! -, you look fine! You don’t have to always feel comfortable or great, but just make sure you actively state it when you do!
  • Be loved : Ooooooooo lord am I going here? Briefly! Yes. I am not saying external validation is what body love should be about. Stop comparing, stop the deadlines, stop the start-overs, stop judging. Be okay with being okay. We all know people will always have opinions, and even though they mean well most of the time, a LOT of people will be commenting on your new look as you slowly get back to a healthy weight. As I explained, most of those comments aren’t even about your new weight, but about the life and fire and stars and brightness that is coming to life in your eyes again. But there is more to letting others love your body. It is getting vulnerable, honest, naked. It is accepting someone else doing the same. It’s dead scary and exhilarating at the same time. Having someone else not run away screaming, and making myself not do so either for that matter!, was a bigger relief than I would have liked to admit. But now, I sort of see how helpful it is to have someone else confirm the fact that this (new) body is fine the way it is. That it doesn’t have to look like it did when I was 18 anymore. Because I’m not. We all change, and that is totally okay.

I think this was already a lot to take in, so I’m leaving it at this for now. But please do comment with additional tips and tricks you have found useful in this journey of self(re)acceptance. Some of the best stuff happens right below in the conversations flowing from this comment box, so share away!

Love, Sooz

Beauty

I know this is still a campaign from a large, commercial company. But I love their view on beauty and advertising, not just this one, but their entire real beauty campaign.

Please watch this

(There is a longer version here, which is definately worth watching; http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=litXW91UauE. After, you can also find an interview with the artist himself)

Tell me, what did watching this video do to you?

Fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. A little  girl and a white horse.
(Unfortunately, this tale does not involve a prince who rode the white horse, but alas).

The girl had stood to admire the horse, when it shared with her its secret.

You see, this white horse might have been awfully pretty in the girls’ eyes. But where the horse was from, he was just another white horse. In the land of white horses, the white horse felt plain, self-conscious and not at all special. The girl could not believe her eyes! How could a creature this amazing think itself to be plain! Didn’t the horse see how elegant and magnificent it were?

The horse nodded. He did see all those things now. But it wasn’t until after the horse had tried to change everything about the way he looked, that he would realize how what the girl said was true.

‘When I was a young horse, I did silly things’, the beautiful horse admitted with his head down. ‘I did silly things to stand out from the other white horses.

I wanted to feel special. So I prayed and I prayed to be given wings’.

The horse was shocked that one day, indeed, he awoke with wings.

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The horse paraded around town. Horses from everywhere came to touch his wings and stare at him in awe. The horse felt wonderfully special. Finally, he thought. But only after a few days the attention wore off. The other horses went back to their day to day business and the horse, too, had to continue his doings. At night, the horse continued to pray. Oh, couldn’t he be granted greater wings? Wings that, whenever and wherever, would never fail to amaze people, however often they would see him?

Only few mornings after, he was stunned to find his wings to have grown.

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Now they were of size to -for sure!- be undeniable. The horse went out again to strut around. Indeed, the response of his fellow white horses did not let him down. He, again, felt like the most special horse the land of white horses had ever known.

Until again, after a few days business returned to usual. And the white horse found himself awake at night again, his mind fluttered with images of wings larger than life. When he finally fell asleep, his prayers had again resumed. Oh, could he be given wings that would be larger than he could possibly imagine?

Later that week, the horse awoke painfully so. When he turned his head, he found, attached to his back, wings so large, they took up all of his sleeping space. The horse carefully arose, and hurried into town.

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Everyone agreed; The horses’ new wings were the grantest and greatest wings anyone could have ever imagined. But with every step the horse took, he felt more and more self-conscious. The horses no longer just stared at him in awe, but they started to ask questions. Could he now run faster than any other horse? Could he now fly?

After a few days of practice the horse was sad to find out he could not. His new wings were too large to be of any help. They were heavy and painful on his back, they were uncomfortable to rest in his small sleeping space, and they were impractical in his day to day doings. Even playing with his friends and family had now become practically impossible due to the size of his wings.

The other horses ridiculed him. The horse stood out so much, yet he had no special powers over the others. The horse could do no special tricks. After only a few days, the horse silently cried himself to sleep. Oh how he longed to go back to his normal self, so he could enjoy the company of his close loves again.

After a few uncomfortable nights of solitary tears, the horse awoke feeling like a heavy weight had lifted from his shoulders. Or, were he to say, back. The horse was extatic to see that the large wings on his back had miraculously disappeared. He galloped into town, jumping and dancing and wiggling about. ‘Freedom!’, he felt. Freedom! He may now no longer stood out from the rest, but he did feel at peace with what, where and who he was.

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The horse looked at the girl, who stood next to him in disbelief. ‘It is not having wings that makes you more special. It is not having wings that makes you feel free’. He took a deep breath. ‘Feeling special or being free is not physically visible. Feeling special and feeling free comes from within’, he whispered. ‘We are exactly what, where and who we are supposed to be’.

When the horse gently nudged his soft nose onto the little girls’ cheeck, she woke to find herself in her bed, with the friendly face of her mother hovering over her head. ‘It is time to wake up, beautiful girl’, she smiled at her. And it was the first time the girl felt her mothers’ words to be true deep within.

*Original white horse picture by photographer Cornelie Tollens. Wings and words by me.

A Positive Month; Day 17

As I told you before, my morning routine involves getting jiggy with the happy mood. And since you already practiced being a rockstar singer, I think this one will fit right in;

17.       Dance like nobody’s watching (even if they are!)

So, dancing. I know quite a few of you have a tough relationship with dancing. It’s part of a ‘past you’ that you miss and long for. Part of a ‘future you’ that you long for just as much, but are frustrated over because you don’t see it happening anymore or any time soon. I am aware it might therefor be a heavy subject. But it’s not.

I am not asking you to dance as you used to, as you would like to still do. I am not asking you to perform, to nail a routine, to perfectly perform a move. I’m just asking you to shake off the giddies, the emotions; to shake off the pressure. It can mean shaking your ass to sir Mix-a-Lot, or do the ice-ice baby. You can try to see if you remember the moves to a Spice Girls song or the Macarena. You can turn up the radio to the latest Usher or David Guetta. Bump along to some DnB or hardrock song. You can do this at home, on the go somewhere with your iPod on, or in a club partying it off with friends. Just move, shake, let go.

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I love dancing. I suck at it, let me get that straight. I have no moves whatsoever. But I love going to a club and just having random fun on the dancefloor, with the crappiest moves but the biggest smile on my face. When everyone is drunk, I blend in perfectly. My moves then reach their level, yet I am just high on happiness. I don’t mind looking like a complete fool, as long as I’m enjoying myself. And tonight, I’m breaking it down with you!

PS; Is it the quality of the video, is it me, or are the butts in Sir Mix-a-Lots clip not really all that round ‘n juicy?

*Picture is not taken by me, but(t) of me (it’s old, 2008 or 2009!). Please don’t use the image for own purposes though. It’s not your butt after all!

A Positive Month; Day 4

Do you remember those days where you and your girlfriends would sit outside school and gossip about the boys in your class? Or daydream about that guy from your favourite TV-show? (Who was your imaginary boyfriend-actor?). And you would giggle about all the possibilities that existed in your minds, everything that, maybe, one day, you could do when you would meet. Or remember that one time someone did something utterly embaressing and you couldn’t help yourself from bursting into laughter, or when you said something silly that sent a bunch of people into a giggle fit? Just reminisce on those silly moments, and soon you’ll find yourself doing just that again;

4. Giggle like a schoolgirl

Because it’s so much fun!

Just to get you in the mood for giggles;