Oftentimes, the way of the Empowered Woman is upside down from the rest of the world.
The world says collect enough money and you will be happy.
Empowerment says find deep gratitude for what you have, and you will live abundantly.
The world says find the perfect relationship and you will be happy.
Empowerment says fall crazy in love with your own path, life and best self, then good relationships will come.
The world says sculpt the perfect body and you will be happy.
Empowerment says to practice love, acceptance and deeply honor the body you have now, and you will begin to care for and see it differently.
When I first started working out, I was surprised how drawn to fitness I was. I was just coming off 17 years as a smoker, had recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and was about to get a divorce. My self-worth was in the pit and I was desperately seeking answers. I had no idea who I was and what made me happy.
I still believed all three of the lies listed above. If I could just get enough money, the right guy, and six-pack abs, I would be happy. I am so glad it didn't go that way.
About the time I got divorced in '03, I decided to become a personal trainer and leave my pretty-good-paying corporate job. Self-employment gave me the professional freedom I longed for, but just starting out was not going to require me to open any new bank accounts.
I also realized shortly after that period of time, that there was no way I was going to find the right guy until I healed some junk I'd been carrying around for a long time. The broken me attracted some sketchy characters. So, no rescue from Prince Charming.
And, it turns out, I really like to eat. So, although dieting always sounded appealing on Sunday night, by Monday afternoon I was eating something I judged to be bad, and had given up on sculpted abs yet again. I was going to have to learn to live with this body.
Then came fitness.
Turns out my body could do some awesome stuff like run slow, long distances and lift weights.
I could make my way through a Hatha Yoga class and actually hold some of the poses.
I could do a plank.
I learned that my body loved to walk, and when I walked it gave my mind the boost it needed to start seeing things more clearly.
I also got to see amazing stuff just from walking. Metro Parks, Red Mountains, canyons.
I love that body. I am grateful for what it can do.
If I had been a good dieter, I believe I may have gotten that six-pack I believed would fulfill me, but I would also be a slave to the scale. I would get on it every morning and ask it, "Am I worth anything today? Am I good or am I a failure? Can I eat today? How much do I need to work out today?" No, thank you. I prefer to love myself at any weight.
Freedom isn't found in money or other people or our bodies. True freedom and peace of mind comes from knowing who we are, and that we are formed from worth and love. It's what we're made of. It's what lines each cell of our body. Muscle cell, fat cell, skin cell. All lined with worthiness and love.
Thinking this way takes practice and commitment. It's tempting when we overhear someone talking about their new diet/fast/cleanse/juice/pinkdrink/supplement. Let it go. Take care of yourself, lift weights, do yoga, walk or run because you're awesome and you want to see cool stuff!
We empowered women are on a different path. One rooted in truth, that doesn't demand any kind of performance or perfection to know we are already, at any weight, good enough.
Self-loathing is hard to define.
For me, one of the biggest issues is I hid it, so no one knew I felt that way. But inside, guilt and shame were running my life, and all my decisions. No matter how hard I tried to WILL myself to change, that darkness inside me would trip me up again and again.
When I thought I was a terrible person, it was hard to care what I ate, what I smoked, whether I exercised. Guilt kept winning. Shame kept winning.
I hated that battle and did everything in my power to hide it. I worked harder than everyone else. I didn't have boundaries so I could people please continually for small doses of counterfeit worth. Like a beggar, I went around looking for approval handouts everywhere I went.
It sucked. And I stayed stuck like that for decades.
Do you know what the magic secret was? I'll tell you first what it wasn't. It wasn't a new diet. It wasn't harder exercises. It wasn't changing the voice in my head (I couldn't if I tried). It wasn't getting a new job, boss, husband, kids, house, body, bank account, or any of that.
ALL I DID was tell someone the truth, who I trusted would listen and respond only in love and acceptance, which they did. Because guilt was a liar. And shame was a liar. I wasn't a terrible person. I was a sensitive human.
When I told my story for the first time, I shook and cried and could barely talk. It had been bottled up for so long, getting more and more twisted as time went on. But I told it anyway.
And every time I did, I felt more and more FREEDOM from the self-loathing and the old, tired lies that I'd never be good enough. Turns out I already was good enough. I'd just been through some shit, translated it poorly, and then clung to it as my identity.
Not anymore, friends! I'm free now, no longer weighted down by guilt, shame or the false beliefs about WHO I AM. The TRUTH set me free.