Sometimes I feel like two completely different women. There is the version of me that loves to put on make up and heels (I missed dressing up during COVID) and one of my favorite Ann Taylor suits. I feel at home in the softness of the clothing textures, and alive with the feminine (pinks and creams) colors, and bold (navy – my favorite) silks that compliment each other when all donned together.

The other version of me loves hot showers, and considers the most decadent thing I can do, is take a long one in the morning, only to put on my PJs and let my hair air dry. That version of me can also go days without showering or changing (most) of my clothes. It feels like such a luxury to just be me, no decorations or props. A “tree hugger” of sorts.

Most of my life is a balancing act showing up somewhere between the two. I live my outer world between the two extremes of glamor (so much work and feels amazing) and recluse.

As we re-emerge post COVID our bodies are different. Our appearance has changed, and literally, medically, every cell and component of our physical body has died and been replaced by new tissue and material. Have our “styles” also changed? Have we been shopping or looking at ourselves differently 13 months after the shutdown of human face to face regular interaction?

I am curious. Because the more I think about (especially but not only) female pressure to look fantastic, the more I wonder: If we spent a fraction of the time developing our minds (souls and spirits) that we do on outer appearances and body images, would it matter if we wore a suit or our PJs?

At 51 years old I know I have been locked out of myself, bouncing around the outer realm of appearance for about four decades. As a school aged girl I was athletic, strong, and active. But also felt bulky and heavy. As I hit pre-teen awkward transitional mode, I got curvy and felt pudgy in all the “wrong” places. A close family member said to me point blank “Hey Lis, maybe you should try, you know, becoming anorexic for a while.”

Yup. That happened. And I did try it. That and a million other ridiculous suggestions by society. And from a body image perspective have traveled 4 decades between deprivation and gluttony on the never ending diet cycle. I remember my second pregnancy (the first one ended with an ectopic loss + only one ovary) feeling some type of relief that I could let myself off the dieting train for nine whole months. But a few weeks in began vomiting all the time, and was then labeled “hyper-emetic” a state that lasted my entire pregnancy.

In the midst of feeling like shit, and being completely stuck in a nauseous, dizzy and weak body, trying to grow a human inside me, I thought well, at least I am not gaining weight. A few months in, during a meal I was actually enjoying a little bit, another family member said to me: “You must remember Lisa: ‘Eating for two’ is a misnomer.” As if to shame me for ingesting what was her perception of me overeating.

Ah the duality of the struggle! Here I was unable to actually keep nearly any nutrition or fluids down, but I couldn’t escape the societal, familial and cultural mandate to be anything but fat. Even when I had that nine month pass that society gives women to eat and nurture ourselves without guilt, I couldn’t cash it in!

I will love sharing more about my experiences with body image, weight, the barrage of diets and nutritional theories that I am now a pro at, with 40 years of expertise under my (expandable and retractable) belt. (No problem hitting the threshold of 10,000 hours of practice required by the definition of “expert” here.)

But for today, here is my question: If I’d committed my focus over the last 40 years to my inner self, soul and spirit, as consistently, passionately and desperately as I have focused on my outer body, wouldn’t I be much closer to self-actualization? (See Abraham Maslow’s work for more on why that seems a worthy goal.)

I am an expert at the body image stuff, and am sharing because my experience is that as women, most of us are.

But how do we shift the the focus and break the cycle? How can we help young girls and women, become soulful spirit experts instead of body image professionals? So they can spend their life’s time on something that actually fulfills them, and frees them to more fully show up in the world, developing and sharing their innate, unique gifts? Instead of living between the states of binging and deprivation?

(Not pretending I have an answer but would love to work together to find one!)

I have a feeling it starts with not telling them to be anorexic for a while, when they are twelve years old.

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