living intuitively

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Posts tagged lifestyle
ebb and F L O W
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Life is a repeated cycle of getting lost and then finding yourself again. There are many smaller cycles within that cycle where you get lost to a smaller degree and then remember yourself again. Sometimes you do it to yourself on purpose, consciously or unconsciously. Every time you get lost it is so that you can learn something or experience something from a different perspective.
— Jay Woodman

Tell me if you relate to this:

I’ve been going through a funk. I feel…off. Out of touch with others and myself. Not [as] connected to others or myself. Things don’t flow like they usually do.

This isn’t the first funk and it won’t be the last. And that right there…that’s a life lesson I’m continually learning: that life is cyclic. In every way: physically, emotionally, spiritually, biologically, professionally…all of it. There are ebbs and flows in all things. Flow is an operative word in multiple senses. It’s key to remember to go with the flow of life, and not resist it.

Easier said than done, right??

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I may get a few “ME TOOs” from the following statement: I derive much of my value and worth from my accomplishments. Not just the big achievements (awards, degrees, etc) but also my daily doings. I measure the success of my day by my productivity. Not healthy, and something I acknowledge and work on daily.


We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of time and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible in life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Discipline is my default. As I keep learning throughout life, too much discipline can be as detrimental as too little. It’s about BALANCE: physically, mentally, emotionally…all of it. Going 100% all the time ain’t sustainable and ain’t healthy. I consider my drive/discipline my biggest strength(s) and my biggest downfall(s). Being driven + disciplined generates my accomplishments but also causes my issues (physical/spiritual/emotional).

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Let’s take fitness and nutrition for an example (or exampleS, I guess, since they are two areas? You get what I mean!). It’s naturally much easier for me to restrict myself and push myself than it is for me to indulge/relax myself. And before your eyes roll out of the back of your head like, “Gag me! Get over yourself” let me note: This isn’t a humble brag, trust me. Your body needs ebbs and flows to thrive and operate optimally. It doesn’t do well when you’re stuck in one speed, whether that’s fast or slow - or even moderate. My go-to gear is turbo.

Not only that, but I go on kicks with certain foods that last for YEARS, y’all. I shit you not. My body craves the same dang thing(s) day in and out, multiple times a day. For example, I’ve been eating the same salad daily since 2016 (only breaking when I travel - and even then, if I have a kitchen, I grab ingredients to make it). I would have it for every meal (and occasionally do). My body legit craaaaves it. Yes, i’m a weirdo, but I have theories for why I crave it repeatedly: 1. The nutrients are what my body has shown to be deficient in/what my body needs to sustain my current lifestyle; 2. My palate prefers fresh, plant-based ingredients. Before this prompts another eye roll, here’s why: This is partly because I grew up eating healthy, wholesome foods, and partly because I focus on giving my body what it truly needs/wants, allowing me to eat intuitively. It just makes me FEEL better. This may sound obnoxious - I get it. But look: We all have our superpowers. Some can belt it like Beyonce, some can move it like Michael…I genuinely love eating like a bunny. It is what it is.

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Okay, back to cycles and balance regarding fitness and nutrition: My go-to gear is hard and fast (that’s what she said. I HAD TO. I’m sorry. Yes, I’m secretly a 12-year-old boy). I get a high from powering through an insane workout and only eating a certain amount. Part of it is a control issue, sure - that’s a whole other conversation (if I feel frustrated/powerless in other areas of my life, I focus on the areas I can control, blah blah blah). But also: My body and mind both like routine. It'’s easy, it’s energy efficient, and it’s proven in the past to be effective. But just because something was previously effective doesn’t mean it will continue to be effective - and this is true for SO MANY ASPECTS of our lives, including eating and exercising.

If you haven’t been seeing/feeling the results you want, this next part may be your missing key:

Finding one approach and sticking with it ‘til the end of time is not only boring, it’s ineffective. Unrealistic. Life is not static, it’s dynamic, and requires us to be so as well (if we want to thrive and step into our power).

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Nature itself is cyclic (eg seasons), and so therefore are our bodies. I mean, our sleep has cycles, so why wouldn’t our metabolism? No day is truly the same, with our energy input/output, hormone/stress levels, etc. Our energy intake/expenditure must keep pace accordingly. And moreover, our bodies are fascinatingly intelligent. It’ll soon realize it’s receiving a certain number of calories and adjust accordingly. For example, if it’s only getting 1000, it’ll slow down to accommodate. That’s why it’s important to change it up and keep it dynamic and guessing, regarding both content and amount. Same with our fitness regimen, on a macro and micro level. Sure, steady-state cardio (SSC) has its place (walking, for example, can be restorative in multiple ways) but HIIT workouts kick SSC’s booty when it comes to efficacy and efficiency.

Not only that: intense SSC - especially prolonged (for an hour+ without any breaks) - can actually be detrimental! As in it will actually do your body (metabolism) more harm than good. This is good news for your sanity, your size, and your schedule! Sure, movement is the most important thing, but a 15-minute HIIT/Tabata workout will yield faster and better results than going for an hour run at the same pace. Plus it’s more FUN. Way easier to stay engaged. And doing the same workout over and over (even if it’s an interval workout) ain’t good either. Gotta switch up the type, duration, and intensity of workouts. Fitness queen Chalene Johnson covers this on her podcast, The Chalene Johnson Show (Episode #403 Calorie Myths: The Problem with Eating Less and Moving More and Episode 414 Cross-Training Your Nutrition and Getting Honest About The Fitness Industry).

it’s important to work with our bodies and their natural flow. Same goes for our lives. Some of you are good at this. Some - like me - must learn this.

Play and downtime are JUST AS IMPORTANT as go time. Science is continually and progressively proving this. To be at the top of our game in any area, we require recovery. This is the same for our minds and muscles! A truly fit person knows this, and prioritizes recovery. There’s no glory in going hard 24/7 with no breaks. I used to be one of those who took pride in never “needing” a rest day and having a hard time relaxing - whether regarding my workout or my work. But now I know this indicates faulty thinking and unhealed areas. It’s working twice as hard for half the results. NO THANKS.

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Relaxing our mind and body allows our body to restore itself. Letting our imagination run free sparks inspiration and innovation. It’s important to embrace - not resist - the fluctuations. When you’re feeling drained, just allow it. Don’t fight it. Defying it will just make you spin your wheels and delay your recovery. Sure, it can be tricky to know when to nudge yourself and when to back off, but keep at it. Eventually you’ll dial in and know what you need and when you need it.

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One of my tricks is to just remove the pressure from myself. I stop telling myself I HAVE to do something, and tell myself I don’t have to do anything. I get to do what I want. I grant myself grace. And magically, somehow, whenever i remove that impetus, I usually reclaim my motivation. Not always, and when I don’t - that’s when I know I truly need rest.

And you may again get lost in the noise and need to recalibrate, and relearn this lesson of going with the flow. But c’est la vie. This only proves the point that life is cyclic, and we often revisit past lessons, and will continually do so.

Just remember:

For a truly balanced and fulfilled life, the lows are as important as the highs.

xx,

-w-







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The O T H E R
Styling and Images by Whitney Richardson Photography  Model Lily Cuoio

Styling and Images by Whitney Richardson Photography

Model Lily Cuoio

“I’m here to challenge you.”

As soon as my warrior queen friend Julie told me this, I acknowledged its brilliance and added it to my phone’s Notes. We’re all here to learn from each other. The people in our lives are there for a reason, I truly believe this. Every interaction, no matter how seemingly minor, has a purpose. We’re all here to learn from each other, inspire each other, empower each other, LOVE each other.

Everyone you meet has something to teach you. EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. I’m willing to go out on a limb and posit you’re like me and haven’t mastered every single thing there is to master in the universe, and don’t know every thing there is to know. No matter how mature or advanced or enlightened or “woke” we are, there is ALWAYS something to learn. Maybe it’s a productivity hack. Maybe it’s a fitness pointer, or a financial tip, or a navigational shortcut. Maybe it’s a spiritual revelation. Maybe it’s even an example of what not to do.

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And technology has shrunk our world even more. More people from whom to learn and with whom to connect. So let’s all do each other a solid and keep (respectfully + lovingly) challenging each other.

And I challenge you to challenge yourself. Watch news from a different network, read a book outside your area of expertise/comfort, learn about a new religion, try something new - not to confirm pre-existing notions, but to question and expand your beliefs/outlook/assumptions/repertoire. Grow baby grow.

As Holocaust survivor/activist/author/professor Elie Wiesel advises, the more we are able to accept the many aspects of who we are, however contradictory those aspects are, the more easily we can accept others, with all their contradictions.

The extent to which we accept ourselves is the extent to which we accept others - ALL others, not just those aligned with our beliefs/lifestyle/etc.

So again, this requires:

  • Self awareness

  • Shadow work (face your demons, your repressed emotions, your fears, your S H A D O W S)

  • Self love


If you have issues with others, it’s a sure sign you have an issue with yourself. You’re projecting somehow. Our perceptions of others are reflections of ourselves. If we see a trait in others we don’t like, it’s because it’s triggering something within us, a shadow part of us. It’s triggering a fear/hurt/etc. It’s the ego at play, trying to protect us: protect our mental/physical/emotional health. Trying to preserve our dignity/sense of self. Our learned identity.

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It is the otherness of the other that fascinates me... What can I learn from him? What does he see that I do not, cannot?
— Elie Wiesel


We each have blind spots, just as every candle casts its own shadow. Only when you place a second candle next to the first do the shadows disappear, illuminated by the other’s light.

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A beautiful aspect of diversity is we EACH have our own way of perceiving the world, mixed with our unique set of background/chemical makeup/experience/etc. Even identical twins don’t share exactly the same outlook. We’re all like snowflakes, and we ALL have something distinctive and special to contribute.

That’s why:

  1. It doesn’t matter how saturated an industry is: We all have our individual eye/voice/view. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a photographer amid 25,000 other photographers in your city. No one has your same eye, your same touch.

  2. It’s crucial you nurture and celebrate and promote your individuality! Your quirks and eccentricities. They’re what SET YOU APART and make you SPECIAL. They constitute your superpower!


The distance between us is necessary, not something to turn away from.
— Elie Wiesel

When encountering someone with differing beliefs, listen to them. Listen to find their strength, not their weakness. Listen to enhance your own understanding, to enrich your own perspective; not to find holes on which to pounce, or incompetencies on which to judge.

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And respect the distinctions among us. If we believe we’re all the same, we might be tempted to prescribe identical solutions to all. In other words, we might think others are feeling the same feelings we are, and require the same remedy we do. Sure, it’s important to recognize our commonalities and collectiveness, but let’s not forget to acknowledge and celebrate our differences!

We need each other precisely for our differences and our diverse experiences. Those differences can cause conflict, and that conflict can be destructive or constructive, depending on our approach and mindset. Sometimes conflict can be good, to challenge the status quo, or our way of thinking/believing. If we never had challengers, we’d never have innovation. We wouldn’t have scientific breakthroughs, or technological advances, or humanitarian improvements.




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Entertaining different opinions and outlooks fortifies our understanding and stimulates our thinking. Even if we end up keeping our perspective, it can strengthen our grasp of the matter at hand. Staying in our echo chamber, shunning opposition and diversity, only weakens us, in ever way.

So let’s do our part to open our hearts and our minds to the “other.”

xx,

w




W O R K it I N not just O U T
Photos taken by Abbey Armstrong Photography, edited by me

Photos taken by Abbey Armstrong Photography, edited by me

The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.
— Thomas Edison

Tell me if one or more of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind:

  • I need to lose weight
  • I need to tighten up
  • Why am I not seeing results? I've been careful with my eating yet...no change
  • Okay, so I've been exercising consistently annndddd still nothing
  • If I'm not seeing results, that must mean I'm clearly not hitting it hard enough. Time to really drill down with my workouts and my eating
  • Carbs are enemy #1. I'll cut them out completely and get crazy shredded
  • I was up studying/with the baby/sick all night, but I need to be consistent with my early-morning workouts. Gym time for sleep is a sacrifice I gotta make
  • Pain is gain. Exercise and "clean" nutrition aren't meant to be easy/enjoyable

As Dwight from The Office would assert: FALSE. As The Grinch would aver: WRONG-O. As the...okay, you get the idea.

Health isn’t about being ‘perfect’ with food or exercise or herbs. Health is about balancing those things with your desires. It’s about nourishing your spirit as well as your body
— Golda Poretsky

It's so easy to get trapped in the mentality that if you aren't seeing results, that means you need to work harder in the gym/be more disciplined in the kitchen. 

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Some truths to consider:

  • What's happening internally is more important than what's happening externally

You can kill yourself in the gym and eat as "cleanly" as possible, but if you're stressed/sleep deprived/hormonally imbalanced, you won't see results. Moreover, the stress you place on your body through intense workouts/calorie (or carb or fat) restriction could actually be CAUSING weight gain. Real talk. Your body's job is to keep you alive and functioning optimally, so if it feels like its wellbeing is threatened in any way (excessive energetic output, insufficient nutrients/calories) it will spring into shutdown mode. 

  • Hormones reign supreme

Hormones are sneaky little bastards and can wreak havoc on your metabolic health. If you've been exercising regularly and honing your nutrition, yet still feel you're fighting an uphill battle, start side eyeing dem hormones. Consult your doc about running some tests to ensure all is well on the hormonal front. And don't go jacking up your hormones by ignoring your body's cries for help. Hormones are affected by multiple factors: lack of sleep, stress, excessive exercise, improper nutrition (inadequate caloric intake, insufficient fat/carbs/protein, etc). Do right by your body and it'll do right by you.

Piggybacking off of these first two points:

  • Stress is ew and sleep is BAE

This is where working IN is paramount. More important than working those bunz is minimizing your stress. Your physical health reflects your mental health. Your results depend on being solid mentally. Trust me when I say you'll reap a much larger reward when you prioritize your mind over your body. Get your mind right, and your body will follow. Sleep is a crucial component of this. Sleep restores and heals the body from the daily stresses it faces. Fight the urge to skimp on ZZZs. Your time is much better spent ensuring a full 8 hours than rising early to work out. Rather than compromising sleep to get an hour workout, try sleeping in later and then doing a 15-minute full-body HIIT strength and cardio combo. Honestly, if you hit it hard enough, 15 minutes are plenty to rev up the metabolism and keep you fit, and you have more time for life/rest. 

Shift your thinking from weight to self care. “I need to lose weight” becomes “How can I pay attention to what my body needs?”
  • Every body is different

Some respond to lower carb grub (and maintain optimal energy). Some thrive on a vegan/vegetarian subsistence. Some do best on high fat nourishment. It's all about finding YOUR sweet spot. You'll be able to *feel* when you find it.

Listen to your body. It’s smarter than you.

The same goes for exercise. Some people can run a marathon a day and be totally functional, or work out for two hours six days a week and still have energy to spare. Not moi. I love high-intensity workouts but my body does not. It does much better with mostly low- to moderate intensity workouts, with one or two harder ones sprinkled in per week. When I do two back-to-back intense workouts, I'm down for the count the rest of the week. My sleep takes a hit, my concentration suffers, and it's Zombie Whitney. Also (but less important) my muscle definition decreases. What have YOU noticed with your body? Experiment to find out.

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Lately, what I've been doing is setting my timer for 23.5 minutes (random, I know - that's just what the interval time app I use defaulted to) and perform various exercises for a minute nonstop. This works for me, and my body responds exceptionally well to it. It keeps me from mentally and physically burning out. It feels doable (less than 30 minutes - easy peasy lemon squeezy!) and keeps me on track. Shockingly, I've still maintained my strength and stamina despite giving up the longer, more intense cardio and strength workouts.  Again, it's all about honoring your body's cues and finding your fitness and nutritional sweet spots.


Nature gets it right. Human intervention gets it wrong.
— Dr. Libby Weaver

Working out/eating well doesn't have to suck! Explore your options to find what jazzes you up.  You truly do have so many, so don't feel like you have to resign yourself to the dreadmill (I personally can't stand the treadmill - I get so bored!). 

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Mindful eating means trusting your body, not a calculator.

The same goes for nutrition. Healthy eating doesn't mean bland food or bust. There are SOOO MANY delicious natural flavor choices out there! Play around with natural seasonings and spices to find what gets you going. It may require an upfront investment of time and energy to experiment, but then you'll get the hang of it and that investment will pay off. And lucky us, living in the world of social media inspo. Delectable recipes at our fingertips! All those social media influencers did the hard work for us. I personally recommend simply eating intuitively and listening to your body, rather than following a specific protocol, but it's totally up to you! It might help to use a structured regimen as a guide (emphasis on guide - try not to get obsessive and rigid!) while you get your feet wet if you're not following a certain protocol. A good place to start is the Whole 30 protocol. The best rule of thumb is to eat food as close to its natural form as possible.

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Mindful eating is very pleasant.
We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people surrounding us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I've never agreed with the saying, "Live to eat, not eat to live." Food/eating can and should still be enjoyable! Sure, if you're emotionally eating and ignoring your body's satiety cues, that could be problematic. But why not derive joy from a biological necessity, something we do multiple times daily? Mindful eating - really relishing the food and making that mind-body connection - can really transform the experience and ensure you are on the same page with your body and heeding its needs.

Remember when your body is hungry, it wants nutrients, not calories.
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Create healthy habits, not restrictions.

xx,

-w-

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I A M pretty
Beauty starts in your head, not your mirror.
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Do you remember when you were five and you didn't give a flying f*** what you looked like in a swimmy? You were just jazzed to be soaking up those rays. You didn't care about appearing a certain way or emitting a certain vibe. You were just YOU. 

So what the hell happened?

Somehow from childhood to adulthood, we start caring. We start caring a LOT. 

If you're lucky, you learn to stop the madness (or at least mitigate it). You learn to reclaim your power. Your self-love. Your confidence. You learn to shift the focus from the superficial to the real. The fleeting (looks) to the forever (soul). As cheesy as it sounds, you concentrate on the interior rather than the exterior. You're more concerned with how you FEEL, and the energy emitted by you/others. That's what really counts, right?!!

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How many rad, fun opportunities have you tainted for yourself by stressing over what you look like? Or worse - how many cool opportunities have you bypassed altogether, because of feeling too fat/ugly/whatever other self-loathing adjective you can think of. I know I have. And it's total bullshit. E N O U G H. 

And I said to my body, softly, “I want to be your friend.” It took a long breath and replied, “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”
— Nayyirah Waheed

I'll be honest, it took me what felt like an eternity to get to the point of full self acceptance. It was a long, gnarly road. I used to hold impossibly high standards for myself, and constantly fought my body at every turn. That shiz is exhausting. I'm sure many of you can relate (which makes me sad!). The shocking reward of finally accepting myself??? I actually look and feel better than ever before! It's like my body breathed a giant sigh of relief and said, "Okay cool - finally, let's play on the same team." It's been awhile now that I feel good in my skin, so I KNOW lasting results are possible!

I found I was more confident when I stopped being someone else’s definition of beautiful and started being my own.
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So what shifted it for me? 

  • Exhaustion
    • Honestly, it drained me and I maxed out. I just got tired of constantly mentally beating the daylights out of myself. SO.NOT.WORTH.IT.
  • Mindfulness and positive self talk
    • First I became aware of my negative thoughts, and then punched them in the face. In other words, I halted them right there, and replaced them with compliments. A lot of it was a "fake it 'til you make it" tactic. If I hated my arms, I would tell myself how much I loved them, and emphasized how strong they are. Ironically, now my arms are one of my FAVE body parts!
  • Gratitude
    • Thanking my body for taking care of me and keeping me alive. Expressing love for it through thought, word, and action. Knowing that contrary to my prior belief, my body really was trying to look out for me and be a team player. Removing that pressure for it to fit a certain beauty ideal really did make all the difference.
  • Focusing on how I felt rather than how I looked
    • Do I feel energetic? Happy? Motivated? If yeses across the board, then I'm solid. If not, I'll focus on the area needing my attention.
  • Self care
    • Wanting to take care of my body to keep it happy and healthy and thriving, not frustrated and starving and self-destructing.
Confidence will make you happier than any diet ever will.

 

  • Intuitive eating and moving
    • By slowly re-learning to tune into my body, I can sense what it wants and deliver. Our bodies are truly miraculous and intelligent. The cleaner your palate (less clogged with packaged frankenfood), the more you can understand what your body is telling you. My body constantly amazes me with its cravings. Time and again, I'll suddenly crave something and then be able to attribute it to a certain reason. For example, I'll crave citrus and then feel the beginnings of a cold that my body was able to fight off. The last time I had blood work done and discovered the minerals/vitamins in which I was deficient, it suddenly made PERFECT sense why I crave my salad every single day: all of the ingredients in there are booming with the vitamins/minerals in which I'm deficient. My body continues to crave those nutrients because it is still healing from malabsorption issues due to prolonged antibiotic use (another story for another day!). 
    • When my body screams for rest, I acquiesce and pump the brakes. This one can be a little tricky to master, knowing when you need to move to feel better and when you really do need to recover. You definitely need one or two rest days a week. Ironically, though I love high-intensity workouts, my body does not. A moderate workout regimen actually helps me look, feel, and perform better. So experiment a little and heed what your body tells you. Remove your ego and let your body be the boss.
Self love is accepting that the body you were given is enough and taking care of your body isn’t the same thing as obsessively manipulating it.
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And the biggest secret of all that eluded me all those years?? CONFIDENCE. How you carry yourself matters FAR MORE than what you actually look like. It's mind blowing how true that is. Think about it. Think about someone you've seen at the beach/pool. They might not (gasp!) have a thigh gap, they might have cellulite, they might be rocking a "plus size" but they are FEELING THEMSELVES. And that instantly makes you feel them too (but, you know...not literally. Unless you're high fiving them for looking so fly).

If someone carries themselves proudly and confidently, that automatically ups their attractiveness. It's like friggin' magic. Try it! And if you're not feeling yourself just yet, fake it 'til you make it, baby. No really. Pretend. Trust me on this.

In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.

Sometimes I'll put on a piece of clothing on and think, "Not your best look." Maybe I think it makes me look bigger, or shows off some celly. So I'll make myself wear it anyway. I'm so done with letting my body image hold me back. For example, I wore some leggings to teach Pound the other night that made my thighs look less toned (hello, literal spotlight, while teaching in front of a class!). Plus, as I'm sure many of you can relate: one minute you can feel like a busted can of biscuits, and the next like a svelte supermodel. Like...sometimes even within the same hour. It's b a n a n a s how that works. 

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Awhile ago, I saw the movie I Feel Pretty with Amy Schumer. I went into it expecting cheesiness and forced humor. I was happily so wrong. It was fun, it was funny, it was touching. Highly recommend. 

There is more to say on this topic, but rather than going on for dayzzz about it, I'll split it up into two posts. Thanks for staying with me this far! In the next one, I'll highlight a FANTASTIC article my friend shared with me. You should consider checking out the post if you: 1. have social media. 2. are a parent. 3. are human. We'll discuss how beauty ideals have changed in this brave new world we're living in, which includes social media. Gone are the awkward teenagers, replaced by adolescents who know their angles, know their makeup, and know their sex appeal. I really think you'll be glad you read it. 

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xx,

-w-

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I N T O the S H A D O W S
Images by Whitney Richardson Photography  Modeled by Nicole Spinnler  Assisted by Cari Spinnler

Images by Whitney Richardson Photography

Modeled by Nicole Spinnler

Assisted by Cari Spinnler

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.
— Carl Jung

 

Where there is lightness, there is darkness. Yin and yang. The blazing sun casts a deep shadow. Put simply, it is N A T U R A L. Therefore, it is natural for even the lightest souls to also contain shades of darkness. It is within every single one of us. We all have a shadow. 

When it becomes problematic is when we deny this shadow. We pretend it's not there, or even actively reject it. Why is this problematic? The shadow doesn't easily take a hint, then take a hike. No, it lingers. It lingers and it gets its due by seeping into our thoughts, our actions, and our words, whether we're aware of it or not. Ultimately, it blocks true happiness, authenticity, and evolution. 

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So what is the shadow? The shadow is a concept discovered by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists mainly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the desire for power. 

Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we will keep trying to slay them in the outer world. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there we must do our work.
— Marianne Willamson

The personal shadow is the disowned self. This shadow self represents the parts of us we no longer claim to be our own, including inherent positive qualities.

As I mentioned, these unexamined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. As if. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t eliminate them. They're stillll there.

We repress them; they are part of our unconscious. Put simply, the unconscious is everything of which we are not conscious. 

These emotions are part of our shared humanity. We're all in this together. But as we grow up, something happens.

Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected. We all have basic human needs. These needs include physiological needs, safety and security needs, and needs for belonging. These needs are biological and instinctual.

As humans, we are motivated by our needs. So when we perceive an aspect of ourselves as threatening one of our needs (typically the needs for safety, love, and belonging) we shove those aspects into the shadows. We pick up cues from our environment, so if we experience/witness a trait being condemned by others (especially our caretakers), we repress and deny, baby. Repress and deny.

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I mean, think about it. If you go deep and consider this from an evolutionary standpoint, our very safety and existence depends on our caretakers' (parents - biological or otherwise) acceptance and approval. We ain't tryna repel them, leaving us to fend for ourselves. We need them to feed and protect us. And even socially speaking - generally, to be "successful" (personally and professionally) and happy and fulfilled in life, we need social connection. So we will do our damndest to hide any trait we've perceived as socially unacceptable. We want to be liked and accepted by our friends/colleagues/bosses.

Let’s say you realize your need to take better care of yourself (especially you moms and dads!). You create a self-care routine and are feeling psyched about it.

A few days in, though, you start receiving blowback from the people in your life. Maybe your kids are banging on the door while you're working out/meditating, or your boss guilt trips you when you ask to leave work early (or on time!).

Your doubts and fears creep in about this whole self-care thing. You worry you are being regarded as "selfish" and decide to bail on the self care. Before you know it, you’ve taken yourself off your priority list and might even secretly take pride in your selflessness. That’s what “good” people do, after all. Right?

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In your quest to be good (likable, lovable, worthy, enough), your ability to focus on yourself has been pushed into the shadows.

In the above example, the shadow is the desire (or need) for self-care. But, somewhere along the way, you were convinced that focusing on your own needs was wrong or bad (aka selfish) so you rejected those desires by denying their existence. You designed your life so it would always appear you were doing “right” by others.

Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself—to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow, which then keeps us from freedom and true acceptance (internal and external).

All we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—become part of the shadow. Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves moves to this dark side.

Trouble pops up when we fail to see it. 

Get this: The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious takes the wheel. Remaining unaware of the shadow harms our relationships with our spouses, family, and friends. It will also impact our professional relationships, as well as our leadership abilities.

When we deny ourselves a safe outlet to express our dark side - or refuse to even acknowledge its existence - it builds up and becomes a powerful force capable of destroying our life as well as the lives of those around us.
— Debbie Ford

And those parts of ourselves we slide out of view? We then see them in others.

Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others.

In psychology, this is called projection. We project onto others anything we conceal within us.

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.
— Hermann Hesse

For example: Let's say you're pissed at someone for selfishly taking two cookies instead of one, or for interrupting you. This doesn't mean those actions aren't rude. It just means deep down, you recognize those in your shadow self. It should be noted we usually aren't aware of these projections (hopefully you will be after reading this).

These projections distort reality, creating a solid boundary between how we view ourselves and how we behave in reality. 

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Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change.

This is something I'm constantly working on. And you know what? It's not a process from which one ever fully graduates. Sure, it can become easier and more rewarding and enlightening, depending on how you frame it. I've trained myself to appreciate and be grateful for glimpses of my shadow; I now view it as an opportunity to progress and improve myself. But as I indicated with the yin and yang: it's the natural balance of things. Lightness and darkness go hand in hand. It's natural. That darkness has a purpose. Don't let it control you. Accept yourself and accept others. View it with love. Own your darkness and liberate yourself! That will help your light shine even BRIGHTER. 

xx,

-w-

Sometimes someone isn’t ready to see the bright side. Sometimes they need to sit with the shadow first. So be a friend and sit with them. Make the darkness beautiful.
— Victoria Erickson.
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