6 Min ReadSelf 21 May 2020
Somewhere between the end of myspace and the birth of IG stories, self-love became trendy. And not trendy in the we all love ourselves type of way, but trendy in this elusive thing we all needed and could only achieve by posting images of ourselves on social media platforms. As if our confidence was not enough or real unless someone else could see it and validate it for us.
Back in mid 2013, I started posting images of my yoga practice to instagram. After splitting from an ex who told me there should be no pictures of me or my yoga on social media, I took the new found freedom to post what I felt was not to be shamed or controlled. Instead it was a strong representation of a practice that had saved me at multiple times in my life. Within a year I had amassed over 200,000 people following my Instagram handle @cbquality. Watching social media over the last five years from the inside has been an exploration of human nature, perception and what female empowerment and integrity actually means alongside how it is represented.
"I heard once, body confidence is not about thinking your body looks good, it is about believing your body is good" (Photo of courtesy of Margaret Pattillo)
My own self-worth story started long before instagram. My initial comfort in posting my yoga practice has plenty to do with my teenage year dealing with a life threatening eating disorder and finally having made peace with a body that I mistreated for so many years. Through yoga and many years of therapy (along with other healing methods) I had blossomed into a woman who was not to be defined by my body or what I looked like. During my years working through issues around depression and anxiety that had become an eating disorder, I was often confronted with concepts of self worth. Not self-esteem, not self-love, but self-worth and even self-efficacy. I had to do the not-so-fun or comfortable work of figuring out my core beliefs about myself that were deeper than what my body looked like. In this way, I've thought about self-worth as this more internal conversation that we must have before we even think about navigating a space like social media.
Due to my size and build, I was quickly lumped into body positivity movements and “body reclamation" narratives. Yet, something felt off. I recall wondering how I could show “empowerment" without showing my body. How could I show how confident I was in who I was (factors that had nothing to do with my body) in images that were around my body? How could I do this in a world that still valued women's bodies over women? I started to become torn as what I was seeing under #selflove images were more about what bodies looked like externally, not what they could do or what incredible women they housed inside of them. The problem with body positivity, outside of the fact that it no longer belongs to whom started it, is that it is still about what a body looks like. It is still about a specific form of beauty when it should be more about accepting and respecting one's body. I heard once, body confidence is not about thinking your body looks good, it is about believing your body is good.
The social media that is claiming to promote positive self-esteem in the communities I'm in is the same social media that is crafted to be a glorified popularity contest of the attractive, the privileged, the fit, the desirable and/or the easy to mock. Social media values the short attention span and conditions us to think our value must be in the superficial. It is easy to get lost in the competition and comparison while we scroll through the contrived lives of others; or we find those we deem less than us and use our feelings of superiority to cushion a faltering self-esteem otherwise.
The more I saw from where I was positioned in the social environment, coupled with my other work in the mental health space, I started to see that we don't need another work out program or a more ways to get abs in our living rooms. We don't need more makeup trends or fashion bloggers. We do not need more ways to compete with one another, even if that competition is in who can be the most authentic or the most relatable on a #nomakeup picture. What we need to do is change the conversation about women. We need to change what women are valued for, how we interact with one another on a fleeting and all too often feigned content platform and how to develop confidence that has real world implications. I want women to no longer get mired in staring at the lives of others on phone screens and analyzing themselves against strangers. We have to learn how to develop true self-worth in sustainable ways and to achieve this, we have to give self-compassion a shot while we're at it.
Looking at self-love and self-worth as things that have to be sustainable allows us the space to be human. I have been asked, how am I going to love me if I don't even like me? To understand how we think of ourselves it is more than skin deep and socials can cue these feelings as well. We assume we know the person's happiness and that they are not dealing with anything we are judging ourselves for. We assume they make more money or their spouse loves them more (or that they even have a partner.) We compare our insides to others' outsides and never measure up, as we are not doing the work on ourselves to be able to see others for something beyond societal conceptions of happiness.
Self worth goes deeper than self esteem. Self esteem is often built around what we have accomplished. It's a feeling that grows with what we can do or have done. Self worth is based in knowing we have worth and value because we do. Self worth is connected to intrinsic factors and characteristics.
More often than I'd like to admit in my life I've sat back and thought, would I be doing this if I loved myself? Would I be making these decisions if I valued myself? Would I be doing what I'm doing if I felt I was worthy? Would I be allowing the people in my life I do and would I be engaging in the relationships I entertain so willingly? I question my own internal dialogue. These are the types of things that end up coming up when we really get down to why we don't feel good enough.
Even with this deep self-analytical dive, we then have to assert self-compassion. We have to be good to ourselves even when we screw up. To continue to believe we are worthy just because we are not because we of what we do. By accepting we are humans (as is everyone we see on social media) we can start to repair our own inner dialogue, craft affirmations that actually help instead of hurt and live a more peaceful self-actualized life that is feels free and honest.
So how do you develop self-worth in a sea of hashtags? You start by moving the conversation back to yourself. Observe what your automatic thoughts are for you as you scroll on social media or any time you start to feel not good enough. Begin to label these emotions if you can.
"We do not need more ways to compete with one another, even if that competition is in who can be the most authentic or the most relatable on a #nomakeup picture. What we need to do is change the conversation about women" (Photo courtesy of Claire Fountain)
Start to ask yourself uncomfortable questions about how you see yourself, how you speak to yourself and what your core beliefs are behind those thoughts. Practice compassion and kindness for yourself as you work through this process. Often we start to judge ourselves for even feeling the way we do, and a never ending cycle of negative self deprecation awaits.
Even from where I am, it's a constant dialogue of perception versus self-concept and hoping the two align. Yet the minute we post something we begin to lose control of it. It can become less what I feel and more of what it made you feel. It becomes what someone else sees and they can add all the supportive or degrading commentary, depending on how they process you and the world. It is less about you and more about them. The way how we end up feeling about ourselves has little to do with the person in the pictures we view.
It's hard for me to be as much of myself as I would like to be. There is an objectification and sexualization that has come with my life on social media. On the surface it can be dismissed, but the larger ramifications of what it does to my sense of self worth linger long after the comments, DM's, forum posts, video edits and email requests. These constant micro aggressions wear on me. They wear on the secure, confident woman I fought to become since I was a teen.
Now, I focus on the message. With everything I do I ask, “does this serve the work?" Or does it serve my ego, my low self-esteem, my need for external validation? I write my values and mission over and over as I affirm myself and the purpose of my work. I try to balance the confidence and intact self-worth. I share ways to help my audience with the negativity of social media landscapes. Sure, we still live in a world where we, as women, are taught from a very young age that our bodies are the most valuable parts of us. Not so much that other components aren't valued, just that physically looking a certain way matters (and the specifics of that vary by time and place). To be something of substance in an otherwise potentially vapid space, feels far more empowering than taking the easy way out.
In the end, it is not about the hashtags. Perhaps they build community but they will not fix us or how we feel about ourselves. Focusing on sustainable self-love and self-worth, all the while never forgetting that true empowerment is not found in hashtags or bikini selfies but in how we stick up for ourselves, talk to ourselves, and how we experience the world-- social media included.
This article was originally published July 11, 2019.
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6 Min Read
Self-care is not selfish.
What do you believe you deserve? That's a pretty loaded question, isn't it? In more than twenty years working as a women's life coach, I've asked it thousands of times, and I've received countless answers. The majority of responses I've received have been disheartening, and they've revealed a startling truth. Women - even very successful, accomplished women - doubt their deservingness.
Deservingness is not to be confused with entitlement. Entitlement is about believing you have a right to something. Deservingness is about how much you believe you're worth.
When you doubt your deservingness, what you're really uncertain about is whether or not you measure up. Are you good enough? (YES.) You've made some pretty big mistakes. Do those bad blunders make you a bad person? (NO.) Are you a good enough person to deserve good things? (YES. YOU ARE.)
Many women carry around a secret shame that impacts their feelings of self-worth and deservingness.
Our stories are individual, but our core experiences are very much the same.
At some point in your life, someone told you there was something wrong with you. This is inevitable, of course, because there's something wrong with all of us, but it gets to dangerous and disempowering territory through repetition.
If even one person in your life tells you over and over again that there's something wrong with you, well, you can start to believe them. Being rejected or criticized hurts, and it has a cumulative effect. Imagine every criticism you've ever received is a tiny little pin that landed right in your heart. (Seriously bad visual, right? Wouldn't your heart look like a pincushion if that was the case?) Beyond hurting like hell, a heart full of pins holds you back and makes you play small. YOU ARE NOT SMALL. I want you to stop acting like you are.
In life, you always create the results you believe you deserve. If you don't believe you deserve good things, you won't let yourself have them.
You'll sabotage, procrastinate, and excuse the good right out of your life if you don't believe you deserve it. Happily, you can raise your sense of deservingness, and deepen your feelings of personal worth. I'm going to show you how today. It's time to start believing in you again.
Step 1 – Take good care of yourself.
On the face of it, you'd think this advice would be obvious and unimpeachable. Of course you have to take care of yourself. The problem with this truth is that there are whole communities of people who will try to convince you that prioritizing your needs makes you a selfish person. (And who wants to be seen as selfish?)
I've never encountered a woman who hadn't heard some version of this self-care-is-selfish-nonsense. The thing is, these messages are about control, and they come from people who are happy to keep you down and disempowered. (Which makes it easier for them to manipulate you.) Do not fall for this line of hooey.
Self-care is not selfish. Self-neglect is selfish.
Self-neglect tells you that you don't matter. It asks you to stuff your wants and repress your emotions. When you chronically neglect yourself, eventually, you turn into a repressed, angry, self-doubting zombie (or banshee depending on your anger level). Nothing about self-neglect is attractive. I want you to stop doing it. TODAY.
We need you in top form. There is purpose in your life. To make good on it, you need to connect with your SELF. The most fundamental way to begin that process is to take care of your physical body. When I'm working with a client, we practice four physical care basics. (I practice these guys too. Religiously.)
- SLEEP: You need seven to eight hours of sleep. Every night. No exceptions.
- HYDRATE: You need proper daily hydration. Water is energy.
- NOURISH: You need to eat food that nourishes. Not just food that fills your stomach.
- RELEASE YOUR STRESS: You need some way to unload your tension. Think working out, meditation, journaling, gardening, prayer, sitting in nature, cooking, or hot scented bathing. Let. It. Go. Girl. ☺
Notice I said, "you need." These are non-negotiable requirements. If you're tempted to argue against your ability to practice them, please pause. I've heard every excuse known to woman. And I don't buy a single one of them. We're in a no-excuses zone now. You don't get to argue against yourself and also be empowered. It doesn't work that way. You have to choose.
If you haven't taken care of yourself in a long time, this topic can feel totally overwhelming. I understand, and I want you to do it anyway. Remember, I'm your coach. A loving boot-in-the-butt will sometimes be required in our relationship. Consider this my velvet tipped toe, making contact with that booty of yours.
Take a deep breath and start tackling your care basics. You DO have time. You are NOT selfish, and there's no wrong way to do this except not to do it at all. Practice makes powerful. SO PRACTICE!
Okay, time to up the ante a little bit. This next step is harder.
Step 2 – Be someone you can count on.
You can't think your way into believing in your own worth, but you can act your way there. As it turns out, keeping the commitments you make to yourself increases your feelings of worth and deservingness, and strengthens your confidence too.
Think about it. You make countless commitments every day. The trouble bis that most of them are for other people. When you don't have a strong sense of your own worth, you agree to most incoming requests. Which means you're probably way overcommitted.
When your calendar is crowded, and something's got to give, you're the one who usually goes. Because it's easiest to break commitments to you, right?
Every time you break a commitment to yourself, what you're really doing is showing yourself, through your own inaction, that you don't matter. NO! Bailing on yourself is like giving your hopes and dreams a big middle finger. (Please stop doing it.)
It's time to start following through FOR YOU. Don't panic. I'm not suggesting you stop doing things for other people. As a woman, you're a natural-born nurturer. Of course, you're going to do it for other people. I just want you to add yourself to the list of people-you-do-for.
The best way to get a handle on showing up for yourself is to start paying attention to what's going on when you don't. What causes you to cross yourself off your own list? When you bring your triggers into your awareness, you'll notice a pattern, which will give you the power to make changes.
Take things one choice at a time. Whenever possible, choose to follow through for you. Every time you do, you remove one of those tiny little heart pins and strengthen your sense of worth and deservingness.
Now for the hardest part…
Step 3 – Stand up for yourself.
When you don't believe in your own deservingness, you become an earner. Meaning, you spend your time and energy earning love. This can show up in a lot of different ways. We'll talk about three of them here.
- You could be a PLEASER. You say yes when you mean no. You do a ton of favors. You're secretly annoyed the entire time you're doing them, but you keep doing them anyway.
- You might be a PERFORMER. You're the life of the party and an overachiever. You use material items and accolades like money, degrees, titles, and awards to prove your worth. (I used to be this girl.)
- It's possible you're a DOORMAT. This pattern is most damaging because it means you're allowing other people to treat you poorly. On the extreme end of the spectrum, this could look like allowing people to demean, degrade, or disrespect you. Even on the lesser end of things, it means you allow people to get away with passive-aggressive comments, or take advantage of you. On any end of the spectrum, doormat behavior is toxic.
It gets worse. When you live as an earner, you attract users. (That's just as bad as it sounds.) There are unfortunately people in the world that will live at your expense without giving it a second thought. If you're willing to give it, they'll take it, and even talk themselves into believing they deserve what they're taking. These kind of people like to keep you small, scared, and doubting your deservingness. (Then you do whatever they want. Whenever they want you to.)
YOU MUST STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.
Start by catching yourself in the act of playing the earner. What and who triggers the earner response in you? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to prove? If you feel drained or bad about yourself after you're with a specific person or in a certain place, you need to think twice about being with that person or in that place.
I know this is easier said than done. It's possible the people who make you feel bad are co-workers or family members. It's not like you can just stop seeing them, right? If you find yourself in this position, there is only one path. You need to speak up for yourself. Stat.
For help, you can check out three of my other blogs. They'll show you how to stop living like a pleaser, set some boundaries, and say no like you mean it. Will you be uncomfortable? Yep. You will. Can you handle it? Yes. You can. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Speak up. Stand up. Stop accepting less than you deserve.
Every time you speak up for yourself, you remove another pin from your heart, raise your sense of deservingness and you deepen your own sense of worth. You also show other women what it looks like to know your worth and live like you know it. Which encourages them to do it too. (THAT is female power.)
You are good, and you deserve good things. You deserve acceptance, belonging, and love. There's no mistake in you, my sister. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Just as you are.
My mission is your empowerment. That's why I'm here. If you haven't already joined my community, please do it by entering your email (www.kimberlyfulcher.com). Until we meet again, know that life is happening for you.
You've Got This!
KimOriginally published at www.kimberlyfulcher.com