The last two weeks I tried a little experiment on myself; going makeup free every single day. I was surprised to find out that at the end of it, I felt more confident without makeup and that was an exciting realization for me.
You see, it hasn’t always been like this.
Four years ago I was deeply insecure. Weighing 35 lbs more than I do today, I used to use food as a coping mechanism for anything I was going through at the time. Sad? Food. Bored? Food. Having fun? Food. Not to mention I also had really bad acne all over my forehead and had to cover it with layers of concealer and liquid foundation which was creating more acne. This was such a departure from the confident girl I had always been growing up.
I remember when Perry and I were dating and he would bring his camera along on our dates for fun. Whenever he asked to take a photo of me, I would cringe inside because I hated having my picture taken. I felt so awkward in my body. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I didn’t know how to hide my double chin. I wore baggy clothes that would coverup parts of my body that I didn’t like. And because I was an emotional eater, I’d get stuck in a cycle of emotional cues leading to eating, and eating leading to emotional cues. It was rough you guys.
There was no single solution that pulled me out of that dark place that I used to be in. Instead, it’s been a long series of events that have occurred in my life over the last several years but I want to dive into them for anyone who may find themselves or a loved one struggling in the same way.
After I had Ella, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (now I think it was postpartum anxiety but that’s beside the point). It lead me down a path of self improvement and introspection where I was forced to deal with a lot of the underlying issues that had actually been going on for years. And by saying I was “forced” to deal with them… I wasn’t actually forced. I just knew that if I didn’t deal with them, my life was going to spiral.
I knew I couldn’t be a good wife, mom and human if I didn’t pull myself together.
I knew I needed to get gritty. I knew I needed to change.
But, where was I supposed to start? Thankfully after doing a bit of research, I taught myself Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and developed new ways of coping with stressful situations.
Now when I feel anxious or insecure about something, I write down gratitude lists, because I know they have an immediate impact on my mood and perspective. I take walks to the park in my neighborhood and swing on the swing set because it makes me feel like a spunky little girl again. I pray and read my bible because it grounds me and reminds me that I am apart of something bigger than myself. Overall, I think the most important thing for anyone looking to break an unhealthy coping mechanism is to find a healthy way to redirect negative energy. If this topic is something that interests you, also look into “equanimity” which is a Buddhist phrase for watching your emotions come and go from an outside perspective. We don’t have a good word for this in the english dictionary, but plenty of ancient cultures have held onto this idea. It’s the understanding that you are not what you feel. Sometimes we feel for no reason at all.
Mayhem occurs when we live a life lead by impulsive emotions.
Whenever I start feeling anxious, I use equanimity as a type of mantra to get me back on track.
As I developed new coping mechanisms to deal with whatever life happened to be throwing at me, I began to realize that I was slowly shedding my extra weight. I wasn’t on a diet. I wasn’t working out. In fact, I was eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. But as my inner world was moving towards health, harmony and balance, so was my outer world. I slipped back into my bodies natural weight after I had Ella, which just so happens to be the same weight as when I was in high school; a time when I had zero awareness of my body (a good thing in my opinion!). Perhaps putting too much focus on our bodies can make us overly aware of our insecurities, which then creates negative energy, which in my case lead to emotional eating.
Honestly, I’m shocked that I eventually escaped this cycle. At one point I felt like it consumed me and I was never going to find my way out. This went on for years. I had the same conversations with my support system (Perry and my mom) over and over and over. Somehow, here I am, and I can honestly say that getting out of that cycle has transformed my life in more ways than I can count.
Now I walk into a room with the same confidence I had when I was in high school. I can go to any party, restaurant or grocery store without feeling anxiety over losing control of my eating habits. I don’t have to waste any of my energy counting calories, researching diets or working out for weight loss. Now if I workout, I do it because I know it’s good for my heart. And as I mentioned earlier, I no longer have to hide behind layers of makeup in order to feel confident.
I know where my power comes from.
It comes from my ability create. From my passion for learning. From my upbringing and strength that’s been exhibited before me. It comes from loss that has made me stronger. It comes from my faith in a God that loves unconditionally. Where does your strength come from? Write it down and let it boldly move you forward today.
Now when Perry pulls out his camera and asks to take a picture of me now, I no longer fold into my insecurities. Instead I smile, laugh, twirl and flip my hair. Not because this comes naturally to me (lol, not at all), but because it’s a choice I’ve made.
Because loving who I am becoming is Way more fun than haNGING ONTO WHATEVER I’M NOT.
If you are struggling with unhealthy coping mechanisms, I just want you to know that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. If I could go back a few years, I’d tell myself to stop spending money on gimmicky products that offered shortcuts to my problems. If you’re like me and emotional eating is your vice; you don’t need another diet. You don’t need an abs cruncher, fancy scale, expensive workout shoes or a Vitamix. There is the ONLY thing you need to find in order to get yourself out is this: EMOTIONAL HEALTH.
And I know. That can really suck to hear. It’s so much easier to make excuses instead of believing the tools are in our own hands.
“I don't have the time… I don’t have the money… My family is the same way… My friends don’t understand… My kids take up all of my energy…”
It’s time to be done with the excuses. Trust me. I spent four years of my life believing them and it only made me more miserable. Remember, your journey towards emotional health will look different than anyone else's, which means there is no one size fits all solution to this. Don’t fall for the short cuts. Don’t fall for the scams.
Dig your heels in the sand and tell yourself, I’ve had enough of this. I am sick of letting _____ have power over my life. I’m going to get gritty and do this freaking hard and freaking important inner-work, even if it’s the last thing I do.
If you’re ready to start working on yourself but you don’t know where to start, repeat these four simple steps.
Reach for self improvement books. Learn how to deal with any childhood wounds you may have. Find some role models you look up to and read every piece of literature they have to offer. Listen to podcasts that challenge you. Journal about what you are going through. Write about the person you want to become. Keep a small notebook that contains an ongoing gratitude list. And then when you wake up the next day, do it all over again. This is what I had to do month after month in order to get out of my funk and I am so stinking grateful I did the work because it has absolutely transformed my life.
If you have any questions about my experience I discussed in this post, please feel free to reach out to me. I completely remember the helplessness I felt at certain points and I’d love to be a resource for anyone who may be struggling with something similar. I’m here for you. I believe in you. YOU can do this.