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Happy New Year!As we move into the final hours of 2010, I thought it would be appropriate to do a “best of” post for “The Healing Project.”

I started this blog in February 2010 and have made 50 posts to date. Regular weekly posts will resume next week (and will continue at least through February 2011 – most likely longer).

Which Posts Were Tops?

I have designated the following posts as the “Top 10 Posts of 2010.” This designation was made based upon several criteria:  post popularity, comments and feedback from others (either directly on the blog or to me personally), and my personal feelings about which posts were my best of the year.   The posts are listed from most recent to least recent and a post summary is included.  To read a post in its entirety, click on the post title.

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Stack of booksIn addition to “You Can Heal Your Life,” the main text for “The Healing Project,” I’ve mentioned a number of other books in my posts. I thought it might be helpful to compile a reading list to help guide my readers through their own personal healing projects.

The books on this list are all part of my personal library and I feel comfortable recommending them to others. For each book, I have included a brief summary (mostly from Amazon.com descriptions) and a link to access more information or purchase the book.

I have done my best to categorize the books by their primary subject matter.  Some of the books might logically belong in more than one category, of course, but I only placed each book into one section for the sake of clarity. 

I welcome suggestions from readers for other books to add to the Reading List. If you would like to send me your recommendations, please complete the comment form at the bottom of this page or below any of my blog posts.

Our Sister Blog, “Body Image Rehab”

I started “The Healing Project” in February 2010 to chronicle my journey to heal my life in one year through working through the concepts and exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life” and related texts.  As I’ve been deepening both my self-awareness and my focus on healing, I’ve noticed that body image issues are still highly prevalent in my life. To address these issues and to finally learn to love and accept my body, I have started a second blog, Body Image Rehab.

Woman by Ocean with Arms OutstretchedThe focus of “Body Image Rehab” is on healing my feelings toward and perceptions of my body. As with “The Healing Project,” I have targeted a time frame of one year for this process.  To do this, I will explore all relevant issues related to my body and my physical appearance.   

To guide me in my body image rehab, I will be using a book titled “200 Ways to Love the Body You Have” by Marcia Germaine Hutchinson. This book consists of 200 pleasurable exercises from which you can choose at random, letting the Universe guide your choice. I will be completing exercises from this book and sharing my thoughts, experiences, and insights. I will use exercises and passages from the other books from time to time as well.

My Hopes for This New Blog…

It is my hope that this new blog will not only serve to heal my body image.  My heartfelt wish is that my writings will help countless other women (and perhaps some men as well) who are engaged in battles with their own bodies. I feel that we all deserve to love ourselves and our bodies. We are all worthy of feeling free to be ourselves and proud of who we are and what we look like.

I invite anyone who suffers from body image issues to visit “Body Image Rehab” and work on healing your negative body image along with me. I encourage you to join me on my path toward empowerment, self-love, and freedom.

Upcoming Topics

Here is a “sneak preview” of some upcoming post topics for “The Healing Project”:

  • Disconnectedness
  • What is the Real Problem?
  • Failure and Self-Image
  • Guilt
  • Self-Worth
  • Releasing the Past
  • Worrying About What Others Think
  • Law of Attraction
  • Accessing Our Higher Selves
  • Self-Criticism
  • Fearful Emotions

As always, I am open to topic suggestions, as well as feedback on my blog posts. I want this blog to be as helpful as possible to my readers!  Although I write a lot about my personal journey in my posts, my objective is to help others as well as myself through my insights and experiences.

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Release and Freedom...This post is based upon the first two exercises in Chapter 3 (pg. 45-49) of “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book” by Louise Hay.   I will share some of my responses to the questions, as well as some of the insights I gained from completing the exercises.

Over the course of my “healing project,” I plan to complete all of the exercises in this book and the original “You Can Heal Your Life” book, but I won’t necessarily do them in order (being the rebel that I am…).

The chapter begins with an affirmation (“I restore and maintain my body at optimum health”), as well as a health issue checklist consisting of eleven items, of which I checked eight.  Clearly, addressing my health concerns is a major issue for me in terms of healing my life.

Core Health Principles from Louise Hay

At this point, it is helpful to remind myself and my readers of some of Louise Hay’s core principles surrounding health (click here for a comprehensive review of the key principles of “You Can Heal Your Life”):

  • Our bodies are always trying to maintain a state of optimum health, no matter how badly we treat them.
  • We contribute to every illness we have, as our bodies mirror our inner thoughts and beliefs.
  • Every disease we experience is a teacher, and our illnesses signal false ideas within our consciousness.
  • Illness may unconsciously serve as a “legitimate” way of avoiding responsibility or unpleasant situations.
  • True healing involves body, mind, and spirit.

Connections to Our Parents’ Illnesses

The first exercise involves listing our parents’ illnesses and our own illnesses and looking for connections which may exist between them.  For me, the connections were not difficult to find.  With my mother, I share foot problems, migraines, knee problems, allergies, depression, and varicose veins. My father and I have both suffered from knee problems and bursitis.

One thing that struck me is that both of my parents have been and continue to be in better health than me.  Since my parents are now senior citizens and I am more “middle-aged” (I don’t care for that term, but I really can’t deny it…), shouldn’t my health be better than theirs?  What is it in me that has led me to create so many health challenges?

“I Am Willing to Release the Need…”

Louise Hay suggests that the first step for healing a health condition is to affirm, “I am willing to release the need in me that has created this condition.”  It is helpful to repeat this affirmation often and it is even more powerful when said in front of a mirror.  Internalizing this affirmation and repeating it frequently is a powerful first step to creating positive changes in the state of our health.  I am aware that since I have a number of ongoing conditions, I have many associated needs that are being met in maladaptive ways through my illnesses.  I am definitely willing to either release these needs or learn to meet them in a more productive and affirming manner.

Beliefs about Health and Disease

The second exercise explores beliefs we have regarding health and disease.  It begins with a few questions regarding how illness was dealt with during childhood and how early beliefs on this topic are impacting us today.  I actually don’t remember being sick much as a child, at least not any more than average.   When I was sick, however, I remember enjoying the attention and nurturing I received from my mother and being able to stay home from school and watch television all day.  Although I didn’t like being sick, I think I welcomed the break from the pressures of school and the social challenges of being a shy and insecure child in the sea of judgment and conformity that was middle school and high school.

Illness as a “Good Excuse”

It is likely that during my childhood, I internalized the belief that illness can serve as a good excuse for avoiding responsibility and for not having to do things we don’t want to do.  I also learned that sickness can earn one the attention and sympathy of others.  I don’t believe that I consciously create illnesses so that I don’t have to do certain things, but I acknowledge that my health conditions have served as valid excuses for bowing out of commitments.

One change I would like to make is to become more adept at being assertive and speaking up for myself and my needs with others.  If I can more adequately voice my needs and wants, I won’t need to generate illnesses to speak for me.  I have written a lot more about this topic in my post titled “Illness as Avoidance.”

Two Powerful Health Inquiries

The exercise ends with two powerful inquiries concerning how we have contributed to the state of our health and how we would like our health to change.  I acknowledged that I often don’t take care of myself as well as I should in terms of getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods.  Although I have made definite improvements on both fronts, I know that I still need to work on improving my rest and nutrition.

I also need to change my inner dialogue about my body, as my poor body image adversely affects my health.  Body image is such a large issue for me that I have started a second blog, Body Image Rehab, which deals exclusively with this topic.  I invite anyone who suffers from body image issues to visit this blog and work on healing your negative body image along with me.

There are many ways in which I would like my health to change.  Basically, I am looking for close to a 180 degree shift in this area.  I feel that I have far too many health challenges and although I’m grateful that none of them are life-threatening, they do adversely affect my life.  I feel sick in some way (and often multiple ways…) each and every day and this impinges upon my life and decreases my happiness and well-being.  I strive to remain positive and upbeat, but that can be challenging in the face of ongoing physical pain and discomfort.  I’m definitely in need of some major healing and transformation!

No Longer a Victim

I no longer feel that I’m a victim to my illnesses.  I realize that I have more power than I previously acknowledged.  I am definitely willing to release the need in me that has created my various health conditions.  I am also willing to do the work necessary to turn things around for the better, and to involve my body, mind, and spirit in the healing process.  I know that I will be in a much better place by the time 2011 rolls around.  My healing project will be a success!

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Woman on beach at sunsetIf someone were to ask you if you love yourself, how many of you would reply with an enthusiastic “Yes”?  How about if you were asked if you love your body?  I know that for most of my life, I would have found both questions absurd.  I definitely and unequivocally did not love myself or my body.

For years, I was my own worst critic.  I would unleash a torrent of criticism upon myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.  In fact, I was my own worst enemy.  Nothing I could do was ever good enough for me; my standards were impossibly high and there was no way I could reach them.  While my targets for accomplishment and success were virtually unachievable, my standards for my body and physical appearance surpassed them by leaps and bounds.

Specter in the Mirror

I would look in the mirror and pick myself apart mercilessly.  My hair was frizzy, my face was blotchy, my nose was too big, my hips were huge, and my thighs were completely unacceptable!  These are just a few of the criticisms that would play like a broken record inside my mind.  My self-criticism and overall negative attitude toward my body propelled me into a long battle with anorexia and bulimia, a struggle which almost killed me during my teens and twenties.  Even after I managed to pull myself out of the depths of that battle, the criticism did not end.  I was ruthless in the way that I’d pick myself apart, and all compliments from others would be quickly negated inside my mind.  I just wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, firm enough, or anything enough…

The Toll of Self-Abuse

The years of criticizing my body have taken a toll on my psyche and my health.  Although I have become decidedly more kind toward myself and my body in recent months (partly as a result of my healing project), the damage has been done. I am convinced that the laundry list of health issues from which I suffer can be attributed to the years of self-flagellation.

Think about it… How would you respond to a person who continuously berates you?  Would you thrive and shine in that person’s presence, or would you wither and fade?  The way in which my body has responded to my abuse is no surprise to me.  As Louise Hay and other wise spiritual teachers have written, our thoughts create our reality.  The reality of my physical body has been shaped by what I have continually thought over the years.

My husband has frequently commented on how mean I was to myself in my words.  Sadly, my unkind words paled in comparison to the ferocity of my internal dialogue.   I have created my poor health of the present time.  I take responsibility for that, as sad and defeated as it makes me feel today.

Learning to Love Myself

I am not an unkind person.  In fact, I believe I have a good and kind heart.  It is time for me to direct that kindness and compassion toward myself.  It is time for me to treat myself the way I would treat a person I deeply love.  In truth, I have learned to love myself in recent years.  I have learned to appreciate my uniqueness and my good qualities.  I am finally able to say – and mean – those simple but difficult words, “I love myself.”  I can even speak those words while staring into my own eyes in the mirror, yet tears always well up in those same eyes.   Likewise, I find myself becoming tearful as I express these sentiments today…

Ending the War with Self

The tears are for the years of self-hatred, for the wasted time during which I was at war with myself and my body. Although I would love to recapture those lost years and circumvent my current health challenges, I can only live in the moment and move forward.   Hopefully, I have many years ahead of me during which I can live peacefully with myself and my miraculous body which has survived despite years and years of punishing abuse.

Responsibility is Powerful

Some of you may identify with what I have written. I know that many people are tremendously hard on themselves and their bodies.  We can blame society and the unattainable standards that are set out for us by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.  But while society can and does play a role in our self-image and body image struggles, the ultimate responsibility falls upon us.  That is good news because it means that we have the power to transform our thoughts and attitudes.

Moving Forward…

How do we do that?  Let’s take some tips from Louise Hay (from “You Can Heal Your Life,” page 23):

“Loving the self, to me, begins with never ever criticizing ourselves for anything.  Criticism locks us into the very pattern we are trying to change. Understanding and being gentle with ourselves helps us to move out of it. Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked.  Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

I Approve of Myself

I have been repeating the affirmation, “I approve of myself,” over and over inside my head for months now.  It is a simple affirmation that I think whenever it comes to mind.  I use this affirmation to cancel out self-criticism when I become aware that I am thinking negative thoughts about myself.  Although I know it will take time to undo the effects of my many years of self-abuse, affirming approval of myself is starting to have a positive effect on me.  I am beginning to notice my negative thoughts more readily and can more easily release them and replace them with more beneficial thoughts.  It is becoming easier for me to think kind and loving thoughts about myself.  I am experiencing small but noticeable “pockets” of inner peace in my days, and that gives me hope for the future.

Hope to Soldier On

The journey to heal my health and my life is a challenging and tumultuous road with many twists and turns.  I am humbled on a regular basis by the ebb and flow of my numerous health issues which only seem to crop up again just when I feel they may finally be behind me.  Yet I have hope and that allows me to soldier on with my healing project.

I believe that the key to healing is in self-acceptance.  In the spirit of hope, I close this post with another quote from Louise Hay, one which provides hope for us all for a peaceful and powerful future:

“I find that when we really love and accept and APPROVE OF OURSELVES EXACTLY AS WE ARE, then everything in life works.  It’s as if little miracles are everywhere.  Our health improves, we attract more money, our relationships become more fulfilling, and we begin to express ourselves in creatively fulfilling ways.  All this seems to happen without even trying.”

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