I’m not Superwoman

Self-Nurturing (for me) - means a time-out... by myself... at a coffee shop where I can draw, think, drink coffee and eat cake.  I do this at least once a week.

Self-Nurturing (for me) – means a time-out… by myself… at a coffee shop where I can draw, think, drink coffee and eat cake. I do this at least once a week.

Wow – I’ve been absent from this blog for ages, huh?

I’m sorry.  My life has been a bit like a huge farmyard… with lots and lots of animals, running all over the place!  The chickens eating from the pig trough… the pig is wallowing in the dog food… the turkeys have fallen into the duck pond… the dogs are fighting… the cats are eating the poultry – (you get the picture).

What I’ve been doing (for the past couple of months) – is trying to safely corral all of the animals in their own enclosures.  Within the context of my life, this means that I’ve been busy organising certain “groups” (of what is essentially me) – into slightly more manageable situations.

I guess we all have many different parts – and most of us juggle a number of different roles.

I have quite a variety of different parts-of-me – very basically boil down to this:

  • My role as a mother to two young children.
  • My role as a wife.
  • My role as an educator (my kids are homeschooled).
  • My role as an artist and musician.
  • My role as a writer and blogger.
  • My role as a creative social entrepreneur.
  • My role as a speaker.

All of these roles are sooo multi-dimensional.  It’s almost as though each of these roles have hundreds (if not thousands) of different prongs… like branches on a huge tree!  And to make things a bit more complicated – each of my roles come packaged with a set of dreams, ideas and plans.

  • As a mother, I want my kids to be happy and fulfilled in all the ways that count.
  • As a wife – I want to connect with and support Nick (in soooo many ways)
  • As an educator – I want to instil in Morgan and Joah a LOVE and a passion for learning and knowledge.  I want them to be creators, initiators, problem solvers…
  • As an artist and musician, I want to – I NEED to – create (regularly!).  It’s in my DNA.  I wither when I don’t create.  Something inside of me shrivels and withers when I don’t compose and draw and design.  I have dreams for my art and my music.  Big, crazy dreams!
  • As a writer and blogger – I want to connect with a wider audience.  I want to share stories.  I want folk to *get* what I’m about – and I want to hear their stories and *get* what they’re about too!
  • As a social entrepreneur – I want to make the world a better place.  I don’t just want my life to be about Me & Mine… I want to see a much bigger picture.  I want to be a part of the world’s solutions.  I don’t want to be apathetic.  I don’t want to be irrelevant.  I want to do the stuff that matters.
  • As a business owner, I want my work to generate an income (absolutely!) – but I want more than that, I also want it to make some kind of a positive difference in the lives of others.
  • As a speaker – I want to challenge, encourage and inspire.  And I want to tell stories… and share pictures and songs… and make people laugh… and give them interesting, meaty ideas to think about and ponder…

Anyhoo…

What I’m trying to say:  you can see how it can all get a bit messy?  So many roles… dreams… spaces that I’m trying to fill… so much to think about… so much to manage… so much to DO…

(and don’t even get me started on the part where I need to nurture myself and my body physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally!) – that’s the part that’s always left at the back of the line.  I tell myself that I’ll look after MYSELF – only when everything and everyone else has been sufficiently dealt with.

But, I’m sure you can relate.

Most women I know are exhausted.  Most of us are stretched beyond capacity with a thousand things… a thousand roles… hundreds of expectations and stuff that we feel we’re “supposed to” do…

And here’s the thing…  you don’t *HAVE TO* do anything!  YOU can CHOOSE to let certain things go (or you can choose not to)… and guess what?  There’s only 24 hours in a day – and you’re not Superwoman!

  • You don’t have to take on every project that is offered to you.
  • You don’t have to say “yes” all the time.
  • You don’t have to attend every church meeting, prayer meeting, school meeting, family meeting, book-club meeting, etc.

You don’t *have to* live up to anyone else’s expectations (including your own!) – and especially not if those expectations are going to drain you of energy and leave you feeling as though you’ve been run over by a bus full of rugby players… (and then the bus stopped and reversed over you – just to make sure you were pancake enough).

This blog is a case in point.

Over the past couple of months – I have needed to strongly focus my energy on a number of different things… and this blog just wasn’t on that list.

Of course, in Heather-can-do-it-ALL-Land – I would not have neglected this blog.

But, of course, Heather CAN’T do-it-all.  None of us can.

Predictably, when I neglected the blog… a bunch of catty, niggling little thoughts started popping into my (already overcrowded) brain:

  • “If you don’t update your blog regularly, people will lose interest and they’ll think you’re not serious and they’ll never visit again!”
  • “If you disappear from your blog, people will assume that you’re not trust-worthy in other areas of your life”
  • “If you neglect your blog, people will assume that you’re neglecting Beautiful Life Project”.
  • “People will be disappointed with you”
  • “People will lose faith in you”

And so on…

Interestingly enough – my biggest concerns mostly had to do with these two things:

  1. “What will people say?”
  2. “What will people think?”

Isn’t it crazy how so many of us allow those two little thoughts or concerns to absolutely GOVERN our lives?  Even to the point where we burn ourselves out trying to please everyone… like, all-the-time??

When you take time to really THINK about it – it’s beyond silly.  It is.

Who gives a (*insert rude word of your choice here*) what OTHER PEOPLE say about you?  Or what OTHER PEOPLE think about you?  Why does it matter so much?

Does it matter SO much that you’ll neglect your health and burn yourself out completely – for the sole purpose of trying to please others, or ‘measure up’ – or live up to expectations that others have placed upon your life? (or even more telling:  the expectations that YOU have placed upon your own life!)

Take it from someone who knows:  IT. IS. NOT. WORTH. IT.  (repeat, repeat, repeat!!!).

So.

Now you know why I have neglected this blog.

It’s because I’m not Superwoman.  And, for a season, this blog needed to give way to other important needs.  There ya have it!

And now… (because I am being KIND to myself these days)… I’m going to run a very hot bath… and I’m going to sink into the suds with a good book… and relax the cares of the day away.  Until next time….

heather heart

Before and After photos

Okay.  Let’s start with the “BEFORE” photo.  Here goes:

This is me… March 2010.

And here’s another one:

Me – February 2010…

And another…

Me – April 2008

I have lots of “BEFORE” photos.  Hundreds, in fact.

I have “BEFORE” photos taken when I was fifteen – and ever-so-slightly chubby.  I have “BEFORE” photos taken during my first marriage – when I hated myself the most.  I have “BEFORE” photos taken when I weighed 72 kilograms (158 lbs) – and others taken when I weighed 131 kilograms (288 lbs).

I have a very large collection of “BEFORE” photos – and, regardless of my age, size, weight or state-of-mind when those photos were taken… they all have this one idea in common:  An attempt to shame myself in to action.

There are 2 kinds of “BEFORE” photos:  Self-Portraits and Random-pics-of-Shame.  Self-portraits are – obviously – the photos that you take of yourself… when you’re feeling fat and revolting and when you’re vowing to begin a new diet or exercise routine that will FIX your repugnant, porky, out-of-control self.  Some of us allow a very trusted friend or relative to snap the “BEFORE” photo… usually taken within the privacy of a bedroom… usually requiring that we wear our undies or a swimsuit to reveal the full extent of our shame.

My self-portraits were usually taken by a camera with a timer.  I didn’t want anyone being privy to the horrors that hid beneath my layers of dark, baggy clothing.

Random-pics-of-Shame are the photos that friends and relatives take of you at various parties, functions or events.  They’re those unavoidable photos – sometimes posted on Facebook (and annoyingly tagged) where you decide that you look like a pale sausage (about to burst at the seams) and you are utterly mortified that the world has been exposed to the bloated embarrassment that is… you.

Both of these types of “BEFORE” photos induce a sense of shame and embarrassment and an inner promise to force ourselves to change.

—————————

I used to hide my self-portrait “BEFORE” photos in a very private place – and whenever I was tempted to cheat on my diet – I would use them as my back-up plan.  I would force myself to stare hard at those photos of myself… and I’d tell myself things like this:

“Look at how disgusting you are!  What an embarrassment!  Are you so feeble and weak that you can’t even control what goes in your mouth?  Are you such a loser that you can’t even take yourself to the gym every day?  How does your husband even glance in your direction?  Look at that fat!  And that enormous arse!  And that vile cellulite!  And that pale, pasty, roly-poly tummy!  You are a vile pig!  Gross!  It’s so gross, in fact, I want to puke… right now!”

I always used to shoot my “BEFORE” self-portraits with a plan… a promise… that one day, in the not so distant future, I would be thin enough… and fit enough… and pretty enough… and firm enough… and perfect enough… to warrant an “AFTER” photo.  I would often think about, imagine, and plan my “AFTER” photo.  I planned the new outfit I would wear.  The new hairdo I would treat myself to.  The make-up I’d be wearing…  it would be beautiful.  I would be beautiful – and proud.  And I would never, ever, ever look like the disgusting “BEFORE” photo – ever again!

After 30 solid years of yo-yo dieting…  guess how many “AFTER” photos I have taken – in comparison to my sizeable collection of “BEFORE” photos?

You’re right.

None.  Not one!

Not a single “AFTER” photo.

I could never seem to stick to the super-strict diets that I promised myself I would stick to.  I would fall.  I would fail.  I would break endless promises to myself – thus perpetuating the belief that I was useless.  Hopelessly weak-willed.  An embarrassment.  A failure.

And even when I did lose weight – it was never enough.  I was never good enough… thin enough… deserving enough.

SO… WHAT CHANGED?

These days, things are different.  I don’t feel the same way that I used to (when I look at my “BEFORE” collection of photos).  I don’t pile hatred, abuse and criticism on the person in those images.  In fact, I make a concerted effort to affirm her… and love her… and encourage her… instead.

After all, that person is me.  And if there is anything that I have learned in my 40 years, it’s this:  LOVE is the key – and when it comes to transforming ourselves in to someone happier and healthier…  it simply can’t be done (on a permanent basis) without generous doses of self-love.

Abusing myself… shaming myself… torturing myself… criticising myself… attacking myself… has never worked.  Ever.  In fact, it had the exact opposite effect.  It made the food addiction worse!  It made the lack of self-care worse!  And it obliterated my self-esteem.

AND NOW?

Here’s a photo of me… taken 1 week ago:

Me – September 2012

Sure, I’ve lost some weight… but it’s not ‘about’ the weight.  This post is not about weight-loss… it’s about changing the way I feel about myself… and learning to embrace my beauty… and love myself – exactly as I am – right in this moment.  Even though I have a big bum!  Even though I’m not as fit as I’d like to be!

Sure – there are ways that I’d like to improve my body and my health.  That’s an on-going journey.  I want to be stronger… fitter… healthier – but this time, I’m doing it because I LIKE me… and I feel that I deserve to be treated with respect… not just by other people – but especially by myself.

I have tried the shaming route (on many, many countless occasions).  And I have tried the self-loving route.  I can promise you that the self-loving route works.  And I feel so strongly about this, that I have spent the past 4 years writing a book about my journey to self-love and self-acceptance… and how, literally… it transformed me.

AN UNCONDITIONAL CELEBRATION

I haven’t thrown away my old “BEFORE” photos – instead, I’m creating a very unique art project out of them.  I’m seeing it as taking a whole new perspective on the photos – and on myself and my body.  I’m re-creating the photos… that, in the past, were used as evidence of my ‘failure’ and ‘shame’… and I’m turning them in to creative celebrations of me… and my faithful, long-suffering body… which, in spite of all the abuse and hatred lumped upon it over the years, has faithfully carried me around the world… borne my children… provided me with a means to create art, music and projects like this one… and is the vessel by which I give and receive love.  Let’s just call this project an UNCONDITIONAL CELEBRATION of my beautiful body… the emphasis here being on the word UNCONDITIONAL.

THE “AFTER” PHOTOS

Here are some of my re-vamped “BEFORE” photos… which I have decided to call the “AFTER” photos.   These particular photos were taken about 4 years ago and I have heaped many words of hateful criticism upon them in the past.  Not any more.  This is, instead, a creative, unconditional celebration of my amazing, faithful body.

PS:  I am willing to make this a project that is bigger than “me”…  if you’re brave enough… and if you’d like to see yourself and your body through different eyes… send me your “BEFORE” photos – and I’ll transform them in a similar way and post them on this blog (I can block your face if you choose).  Send your high-res jpegs to:  heather@beautifullifeproject.com

We are more than what we’ve allowed ourselves to believe!  And there is more to life than simply surviving it!

A different take on Dove’s “Evolution” video…

Today I was browsing through Youtube, on the hunt for the links to the 2 Dove Self Esteem Fund videos that I enjoy so much (‘Evolution’ and ‘Onslaught’) to send as links to a friend.  And what should I come across – but a spoof of the Dove ‘Evolution’ video.  To give you some background – here is the Dove video….

And the link to the spoof version is here. (I can’t stomach the idea of embedding it into my blog!).

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Am I “getting it”… or “losing it”?

Like so many people surveyed - would I give up 20 precious years of my life... years spent with my family... in exchange for thinness? I think NOT! (And I'm horrified that so many people said they WOULD!)

I don’t want to have to STRIVE towards self love… or to see it as some kind of goal that I need to achieve… or a duty or a 5-Step-Plan… or even as a list of things that I need to do every day in order force myself to somehow treat myself differently.  Initially, Beautiful Life Project started off that way.  I had lots of plans and practical tips that I thought would really… somehow… fix me – if I stuck to them, the way you stick to a diet.  But, if I’m completely honest, I have to admit that those little tips or steps haven’t made any real, significant change in my life… and especially in comparison to the mammoth change that took place during my involvement with the Tapestry of Dreams project.  I do think that small, practical changes and ideas can be helpful – but I no longer see them as any kind of guaranteed solution – or cure.

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Time to re-define beauty!

Few of us would NOT want to look like the Victoria's Secret angels.

Few of us would NOT want to look like the Victoria's Secret angels.

Movie stars.  Celebrities.  Supermodels.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it hard NOT to compare yourself with these seemingly perfect slenderellas, adorning the covers of the glossies.  They of the Perfect-and-Pert club.  Perfect hair… perfect skin… pert boobs… perfect teeth… perfect figures (not to mention their enviable jobs and their jetsetting lifestyles!)

“Woe is me!” I lament.  “How can I possibly measure up?  Doesn’t my husband stare wistfully at said perfection and yearn for the day when his wife looks a bit more like Angelina Jolie… and a bit less like an ageing hefalump?  What a failure I must be… with my outgrown-roots-in-need-of-dyeing and my saggy, post-children, cooper’s droop breasts… and my dimply, un-tanned thighs… and my skew, not-so-white teeth… oh, how crap I feel!  Oh, boo-woo-hoo!”

If you’ve ever felt this way – if you’ve ever compared yourself with the world’s models, celebs and superstars – and found yourself sorely lacking… do me a favour:  ditch those glossy beauty magazines and turn off that E! Entertainment / Fashion TV!!!

beauty_magazines_make_ugly

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Twisted perceptions exposed!

“So… is your pubic hair the same colour as the hair on your head?”

I blushed bright red and guffawed awkwardly, pretending that I hadn’t heard the question… “Uh… what?”

But Lucrecia was dead serious and wasn’t blushing at all.  She repeated the question.  I shrunk back into my restaurant chair whilst half-whispering my answer… and thought to myself:  “Who is this woman!?”

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Image matters – whether we like it or not…!

Image matters. I have been vehemently rebelling against this idea for most of my life. I get indignant… offended… downright mad… frustrated – when people judge this book by it’s cover – long before the pages inside have been read. I want to chew my arm off in frustration when people make assumptions about me / my life / my family / my work / my marital status / my financial status – and even my sexual orientation (!!?) based upon my external appearance.

For most of my life I’ve been angrily rebelling… trying to tell myself that it doesn’t matter… that if the world wants to judge me by my looks without knowing the full story – then it’s their problem – not mine.

The truth is this: it actually is my problem! And whether I like it or not… and whether I think it’s fair or not (and I don’t think it’s fair)… the fact is: image DOES matter. And what’s more… it will always matter… whether I rant, rave, rebel, complain or whine about it. Image will always matter. The world will always judge you based on your external… long… long before they have a clue about what your internal is all about. It’s just one of those sad but true facts about life.

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