Who Defines Your Beautiful?

It’s been a while since I’ve jumped up on my soapbox, but longtime followers of this blog know my hot buttons…and my lack of filter (hopefully in a good way).

Today I saw something that made me furious enough to write this post; something that hasn’t happened in a while.

An author friend of mine shared a “what-the-fuckety-fuck-is-this-shit” kind of promo privately. She was angry, and rightfully so! She was asking about the trope this “person” was writing in. I wish I could say I’ve never heard of that theme or that it didn’t exist, but it’s as old as time and pisses me off every time I see it.

When did being overweight or “ugly” translate into being undeserving of love? Because the way some of these stories are written, these women are undeserving of these so called heroes and their attention until they either become skinny and gorgeous or have a complete makeover and wardrobe overhaul. And then they’re finally deserving of being noticed and/or loved.

I call bullshit.

What makes a person truly lovable and beautiful, in my opinion, rarely has anything to do with physical appearances. In fact, some of the ugliest people I’ve seen are aesthetically pleasing and/or proportioned to societal standards, but don’t have heart or character. For me, it actually diminishes their physical beauty as well.

Now intelligence? A sense of humor? Empathy? I find those traits sexy as hell! Kindness? Not nearly enough of it in the world, so it beautifies a person just as much as a smile does.

Here’s my take on that lame-ass book trope. It’s right up there with the overuse of “billionaire” heroes. Old and tired.

My exception? If it’s the herione’s own insecurities that prove to be the stumbling block, not the hero’s lack of character and depth. Because here’s another sad truth. When people say “you can’t love someone who can’t love themselves,” there’s a grain of truth, but probably not in a literal sense. People who don’t love or believe in themselves don’t believe themselves worthy of the emotion when others try to give it. They may be receiving it, but they can’t be forced to accept the gift.

That’s something within themselves that they’ll need to fix, and no fault of the hero.

So if you’ve ever been made to feel like you were less somehow, I hope you realize that the deficiency is in them. Not you. You’re amazing just the way you are. BTW, it happens to all of us at some point… Even me. Hell, someone once offered me $1000 to lose weight and another one offered to buy me a boob job so I could fit their versions of beauty. Too bad I like who I am and I know my worth. I hope you know yours too, and shut that shit down. No one needs that kind of undermining negativity in their lives, agreed?

Know what I think makes me beautiful? My belief in the best in people and my willingness to battle for people not powerful enough to fight for themselves. (AKA don’t fuck with an underdog in my presence unless you want to bleed.) I also think my loyalty and intelligence may me a pretty decent catch. 😉

What about you? What makes you a beautiful person? Has anyone ever tried to make you feel less? How did you handle it?

Q is for Quit

We hear it all the time. 

“Don’t quit.” 

“Winners never quit, quitters never win.”

And generally speaking, I agree. 

However….

There are times when quitting is exactly what we need to do.

  

Quit making excuses. For yourself. For others. It’s easy to do. But it’s not productive. The message sent when excuses are accepted is that you don’t believe the excuse maker is capable of more.

Quit blaming others. Good or bad, it’s your life. Own it. You are the one who has to live with the consequences. 

Quit the people who don’t believe in your worth. You don’t need that kind of negativity.

Quit limiting yourself. Dare to chase your dreams. Don’t settle for anything less than your best.

Quit holding on to the mistakes of the past. Learn from them. Use them as stepping stones toward the future you’ve always wanted.

Quit trying to please everyone. It’s not possible. Do what’s right for you. Real friends will understand and support your decisions.

Quit listening to and/or participating in gossip. Drama tends to create stumbling blocks and cause drama. It develops rifts in relationships, and has a way of coming back on a person. It’s unproductive, a time suck, and generates stress. 

Quit playing down your skills and talents. Be proud of what you bring to the table. False modesty is counterproductive and utter bullshit. There’s a huge difference between being an ego maniac & knowing yourself well.

Finally, Quit living your life for other people. You are the one who will have to deal with the consequences of the choices you make. Not them.

In other words, quit the things that hold you back, hold you down, or hold your self worth hostage. You are worth so much more….

I’m sure you guys can think of other important things to quit that are been ficial, or maybe you’ve quit some of the things I’ve listed and have seen the positive impacts…. Care to share any of those with us? You know what they say… It takes a village. 

N is for Nothing and Nobody

We’ve all been there.

Those moments when we feel invisible.

Like we’re nothing. A nobody.

Invisible.

No one likes to feel that way. Everyone is worth something.

Sometimes, though, we forget.

When you catch someone believing the worst about themselves, what do you do?

You can make such a difference! Remind them about their worth.

And when someone goes out of their way to make you feel that way? Take a page out of Pink’s book when she addressed a few haters… Is it any wonder I’m such a big fan?

At the end of the day, though, it all starts within ourselves, right?

To change the world, we start with us. By lifting someone else up. By choosing to see the best in ourselves, and looking at our weaknesses as opportunities rather than with hate and self loathing. So why don’t we help each other out?

What’s the nicest thing someone’s said to you lately? Share something admirable or heartwarming that you witnessed recently…. Let’s spread some uplifting goodness!

Continuing Education of the Sexual Variety

SexEd

A friend of mine recently reached out to me and asked for my opinion based on an article that had caught her eye. The subject was sex education in high school (and whether or not a certain text book selected for the class was appropriate for 9th graders). It was a topic of controversy in California. Parents were outraged. Civil liberty people were called. Text books were deemed by many of the parents to be “pornographic.” And in the end, the text book was pulled. The parents won.

As I read the article and contemplated her question about my opinions I found myself thinking about how often misconceptions surrounding sex come up. How often friends ask me for clarification and/or advice despite the fact I’m not a therapist. I’m just pretty knowledgeable and enjoy researching the subject (in the many various formats available for “research”.)

So here are my thoughts as they pertain directly to the California scenario. The parents were well within their rights. Although I firmly believe it’s very important that sexual education continue, and not just from a “sex is evil/having sex can get you diseases that can range from embarrassing to lethal/save yourself till marriage” standpoint, there are certain subjects that should probably be left for private discussions rather than a public forum. For example, the text book chosen went into details such as sexual positions, bondage, and helpful hints for masturbation. Now, to be fair, there’s no way to know if these subjects would’ve been discussed in class, but they also came with illustrations a la The Joy of Sex. In my opinion, that’s probably pushing it a bit, and I can see why the parents were up in arms.

In an ideal world kids would come to their parents or schools would have a social worker or therapist on staff that they could come to…to sit down and talk about these things if they’re curious. Heck, let’s be real….do you really think there aren’t any precocious freshmen girls who haven’t read 50 Shades? You’d be deluding yourself. But on the flip side, the entire class doesn’t need to be in the middle of this discussion because everyone’s level of knowledge and experience or desire to go there is not and will not be the same!

Why focus on the advanced courses without addressing the basics? What should be discussed in this sex ed class (because I truly do believe we should continue the education…heck, they haven’t had sex ed since their private parts and their functions, including periods, were explained in 4th-5th grade)? How about a positive body image. How about instead of focusing on tips and pointers of masturbation, we explain that it’s a natural function and that exploring ones self is normal. How about explaining the impacts of cruel cutting words surrounding a person’s body and/or sexuality. Detail how such simple things as words can create eating disorders, fear, and even suicide….and that there is power in social media, so they should be judicious in how they choose to use it. Or that positive words can build a person up and help them take on the world? How about tolerance for people who may not share our sexual interests? There’s no need for the details there, though it certainly may open some people’s minds up for questions and curiosities. Heck, they may even go to people they know who are into whatever it is that caught their attention and learn something…including tolerance!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that sexual education definitely needs to continue, but some of it should be explored and experienced through independent learning. Helping guide people to thirst for more learning is the first step. Taking away the taboos and the fear is the second. (And it doesn’t mean you have to push aside the very real concerns about safety, pregnancy, and diseases.) Third is teaching that with sex comes responsibility, and that sex is never a decision that should be taken lightly without understanding the potential for consequences. We can do ALL of that without threats and fear!

You know why else sex education is important? Because you don’t want your child to be the 23 year old girl who asked a very close friend of mine if she had to worry about becoming pregnant because she swallowed when she gave her boyfriend head. Or my own friend who, at 19 years old, was confronted with a boyfriend who didn’t like condoms and wanted everything to be “natural” including the pills they bought together at a health food store. Needless to say, she was pregnant with twins by the time she was 20. These situations, while extreme, are examples of what can happen when sex discussions are pushed away or fear is put at the forefront. Where old wives tales prevail. Or worse, ignorance.

Heck, I’m 40 years old and I’m still continuing my sexual education. How about you? BTW, if you’ve got your own stories of fear/ignorance, I’d love for you to share… And if you’ve got thoughts on sex ed, I’d love to hear those, too!

The Power of Mothers

Mothers-day

Mothers are powerful. Through them, children learn life lessons like self worth, empowerment, or sometimes…the opposite.

A mother’s feelings about her body or sexuality are often passed down and reflected in her children, particularly, daughters. A mother who diets a lot and speaks negatively about her body and weight sends the message that beauty is contingent on a very specific body image, often one that’s almost impossible to live up to.

The other day, it was driven home to me just how impressionable children are and how important a mother’s role is. A fellow author friend was lamenting the fact that her 3 year old had become convinced that she was “sick” and must stay home by her day care teacher because she’d been coughing. Apparently the teacher told her she shouldn’t be at school. My friend knew it was allergies, but because “teacher said,” her little girl could not be convinced to go to school because she was “sick.”

One word from that teacher. That’s all it took to convince a 3 year old. Wow! Is it any wonder that it got me thinking about other messages parents send their children, intentional or otherwise? I’ve shared the positive impact my own mother made on me regarding body image and sexuality….

But what does one do when the messages sent to them weren’t so uplifting? How does one go about fixing themselves so that they can be a better, stronger person for their children?  Recently I saw this video by Amy Jo Goddard and thought she had some great points…

A mother’s job is so important. She molds and builds her children to be strong, capable, productive members of society…hopefully who are also comfortable in their own skins, with their own bodies. She can raise children who aren’t afraid to embrace life, make their own decisions…and handle all the consequences, both good and bad.

What valuable lessons did your mother teach you? If your a mom, what message do you hope you’ve imparted on your children?

In honor of all the wonderful Mothers out there…and the wonderful and challenging job they have, I’m giving away my first novelette, Three For All….so go grab your Freebie and tell your friends!

Here’s a little excerpt:

“Oh, come on,” James whined. “You’re not seriously going to make me go play by myself.”

“That was a loaded statement.” I bit my tongue to keep from giggling over James’ inadvertent innuendo. “But seriously, there are always options.”

“Options?” His eyes were nearly black with intensity, his curiosity was caught. “Such as?”

“Well,” I smiled brightly and stepped between both men, “We could always head back to your uncle’s cottage. Much more privacy there.”

James shook his head as he took a step back. “Oh, hell no. This is my vacation too. We are not going back there just so I can sit all by myself in my room while you two get your freak on, christening every room in the place. Been there, done that. No thanks. Not today. Love you, but no.”

The urge to do a happy dance at the opportunity that just landed in my lap was nearly irresistible. Instead, I batted my eyes at them playfully as my hands found their way up both men’s chests, enjoying the feel of firm muscle. “Who said you had to be by yourself?”

Healing Wounds and Helping Hands

Circa 1990

Me, Circa 1990

I’m a lucky woman. I have people in my life who are passionate about the things that matter to them. In fact, they are so passionate that they know, to the depths of their souls, that they can change the world one person at a time. And I believe they’ll do it. How could I not? Recently I had the opportunity to be at August McLaughlin’s Facebook party where she candidly discussed her eating disorder and the ties to self esteem. She shared two powerful videos. One was about her journey to healing and the other centered on education and insight on a parent’s impact on their child. Check it out!

Another great friend is Ande Lyons from Bring Back Desire. Her mission to help educate women on the beauty and joy of accepting yourself. She is a huge proponent of exploring your sexuality and discovering your inner diva. She believes that self discovery is the key to personal happiness and lasting relationships. She’s creating a safe environment where women are welcome to go for tips, pointers and to ask the questions they may be too afraid or intimidated to ask elsewhere. She understands the struggle on a very personal level, and through hard work, love and dedication has managed to keep her love with her darling alive. In fact, they just celebrated their 25th anniversary!

They’re not the only ones, either. I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded online by people who have such strong senses of self. People who’ve taken the things that have personally impacted their lives and converted them from areas of weaknesses into platforms of strength. It’s great to know I’m not alone.

Most of you know that self esteem and words are near and dear to my heart. Today I thought I’d share with you a bit about how I chose the causes that most impacted my life. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until recently that I connected what happened to me my first two years of high school with bullying. The below is the story of how it impacted me.

Many of you know that my brother died right before my freshman year in high school. What you may not know is that after my brother died, I transferred schools and our family moved. It was too painful living so close to the site of my brother’s accident and there were just too many ghosts (memories, not literal) in our apartment. Fortunately, the hospital my mom worked at offered employee housing at a discount in a great neighborhood. Our church also approached my mom about giving my sister and I scholarships to go to their private school. They thought our faith and positive attitudes might be a good influence and would allow us to continue education in a “Christian” environment.

A couple of itsy, bitsy problems with their plan. That particular private school went from preschool through 10th grade, then the kids went on to boarding school. What did that mean? These kids all grew up together in a very sheltered environment. Many of them grew up in neighborhoods surrounded by people of the same religion, went to church school, then off to private colleges within that denomination. Once they graduated some would go into the secular world, but most would work either in teaching in that denomination, working in hospitals of that denomination…and a spare few would venture out into the “real” world. The other problem? As if their being sheltered wasn’t problem enough, my coming in from the outside made me “fresh meat”.

On my first day of school there were a total of 2 new students in my class. Pretty much all the girls within my general age range hated me on sight because they knew that a new girl coming in was going to draw male attention. Oddly enough, I understood that and wasn’t overly bothered. It only took a couple of weeks for most of the guys to follow suit.

This had never happened to me before. Raised by a mother who told me I could do and be whomever I wanted to be, I was a very confident young lady. In fact, the above picture of me was during this time. After hearing how ugly, stupid and untalented I was over and over again, cracks began to appear. Within one month of starting at this school I was told by a kid I’d gone to church with since I’d moved to this country that he’d heard I’d already been through about 20 boyfriends. Apparently I was also the biggest slut in the school despite the fact that I was “ugly”. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t really dated anyone because I was too busy grieving my kid brother’s loss (we were best of friends despite the 4 year age difference). When I did choose to date, I selected guys I knew from my old world…in public schools. I still remember hearing my schoolmates tell me that I was lying about my boyfriends because there was no way a “public school boy” would be interested in someone like me.

One thing to know about me? Even then I had pride in spades. I realized two things pretty quickly. First, though my instinct was to fight (and yes, I’d done it before…heck, I’m part Spanish and Chinese–pretty much guarantees a temper). I quickly realized this would not be a viable option. Not only could I not afford to get into trouble, my mother did not need more stress. Second, there was no way in heck I would let these people see the body blows their words were causing.

I still remember one particularly painful Friday night when one of my male sophomore schoolmates came by my house before our church youth group meeting. That night I learned just how bad my reputation was. As we were walking in he told me, “I don’t believe it now, but I thought you should know. —- told me that if I asked you out on a date I could get laid by the end of it.” I was so furious that though it was snowing and the dead of winter, I stepped outside with no coat on in an attempt to cool off once the guy who told him that (yes, despite it all, I am still choosing not to name him to protect the not so innocent) arrived. I didn’t even feel the cold.

It was my choir and voice teacher that want in, got my coat, put it around me and sat on the step beside me. She wrapped a comforting arm around me and told me this:

“It’s hard to be where you are right now. The problem is you’ve been through too much. Seen too much. So despite the similarity in years, you’re decades older than your classmates. I’ve been where you are. They’re hurtful. Immature. And they have no idea how badly what they’re doing hurts. As unfair as it is, you will find that despite the fact that they pick on you and are mean to you, when the chips are down…you’re the first person they come to for advice. They know you’ve been there. That you know how to cope. Chances are you also won’t date guys your own age. Eventually they catch up. They grow up. Eventually. But hang in there. You’re tougher than they are and they need you.”

Oddly enough, she was right. Even stranger…I didn’t know the full extent of the damage their body blows caused by words had inflicted until springtime. There was one upperclassman guy that I’d become friends with. He had never quite comfortably fit in with his group…and most of his friends, like mine were outside of this small community. He also lived in my old neighborhood, so one day he invited me to come with him after school. I was elated. That’s when I blew myself away and realized that when you hear something often enough you start to believe it. Words can be insidious. I don’t even remember what we were talking about initially…just the explosion.

Me: Well I’m ugly, so what does it matter?
Friend: (Stopped car in the middle of rush hour traffic on busy street, turns and looks at me, shocked.) Excuuuuse me, What did you just say???
Me: You heard me.
Friend: You know that’s not true. The girls only say it because they’re jealous.
Me: (shrugged) Whatever. I could understand if it was just the girls. Most girls haven’t liked me very much anyway, but it’s the guys, too.
Friend: (Stared me in the eye as if willing me to believe him) The guys are just saying it because they’re pissed. Most of them have asked you out and you’ve completely blown them off. Not interested. This is their way of getting even.
Me: Well, it sucks.
Friend: I know. Ignore them. Don’t let it get to you. You know what they’re saying’s not true.
Me: I thought I was. Guess it’s easier said than done.

The funny thing was that I didn’t realize how closely the teaching staff had been paying attention to what had been happening. Back then, it would have been labeled “growing pains” or a part of growing up. People got picked on. The trick was to survive it. The word Bullying in conjunction to what happened to me…well that’s a recent bit of connecting the dots as I’ve watched all these poor young kids going through their heartaches…made that much easier by the internet.

It wasn’t until one of my female classmates who had a tendency to be a bit cruel and gossipy bore the brunt of some teasing that I found out that the teachers had been watching and cheering me on. You see, this young lady was tall, but not at all endowed in the bosom department. She also had the misfortune of having the last name Chestnut. Typical of boys, they began to use the word “Chest Not” rather than her actual last name. Considering she could dish it out, I’m sure you’re not at all shocked to hear that being the target, she didn’t handle it very well at all.

She walked up to our homeroom teacher and whined to him about the fact that the boys were “making fun” of her. His response shocked the heck out of me. Instead of sympathy, here’s what he said:

“You’ve been going through this for a few days. Imagine how it must feel to be some of your classmates. There are people, one person in particular, in your class who have had to deal with you guys treating her like this for over a year and she hasn’t said anything once. Imagine how hurt she must feel.”

That same young lady who’d been whining came looking for me to give me a hug and to apologize for ever making me feel the way she was feeling right then. I thanked her for her apology and dropped the discussion.

When sophomore year ended I begged my mom not to send me to boarding academy and she concurred. That summer I got very sick. In one month’s time I lost over 10 lbs. Considering I only weighed 105 lbs to begin with, my family became concerned. I’d completely lost my appetite. Most foods made me nauseous on sight or by smell. I would get nauseous and shaky at the idea of leaving the house (now I recognize I was probably having anxiety attacks). While at my grandparents that summer there was only one thing I could eat that would not make me sick. Plain cake doughnuts. I only drank Sprite or water and I discovered the healing properties of mint (by way of mint flavored gum). It was the only way to keep me from dry heaving.

The moment I got back home my mom made me see a doctor. He asked me if I was pregnant. He didn’t believe me when I told him I was a virgin until he did tests and they came back negative for pregnancy. What he did discover was that I had an “unrealized depression caused by lack of vitamin B-12”.

It took me months of forcing myself to eat, of bringing water and mint gum with me everywhere…of forcing myself to go out, but I began to recover during my junior year. The carefree wild child I used to be was gone forever. She was replaced by someone who became very controlled. Careful with both words and temper….and I realized something else. That “unrealized depression”? Technically, maybe that’s what it was…but in reality it was simply relief. My body and my mind had, for two years, stayed strong for me. Blocked tears and fears and protected me from people out to hurt me. They’d been on the defensive…”Never give them the power of letting them know they’ve hurt you”. Finally, once I knew I wasn’t going back…I was safe. Once my body knew everything would be okay…it gave itself permission to crash, to feel.

For me, the trauma became a physical manifestation, not emotional. In fact, concerned about how the kids were tearing themselves and each other apart…and fully aware of the damage words could inflict, I went back to that school and found my English teacher. I asked her if I could come back and talk to her class about my experience and the damage… maybe prevent someone else from going through what had happened to me. She asked me to speak to 4 classes from 7th grade to 10th grade. I did. Honestly, I don’t know if it did any good, but I had to try. If it made a difference to even one person, it was worth it.

selfesteem_294151925_std

Since that time building up peoples’ self esteem and helping folks realize the power (both good and bad) that words hold have been passions for me. It comes from a very personal place. I was fortunate. I had a mother who’d already built a core of strength within me by giving me both faith in myself and God. Yes, it was shaken….but my foundation was firm. A little focus and I was back…and stronger than I’d been before. Not everyone has that.

Not everyone has the courage to speak up or speak out. Those of us who do have an obligation to do so. Be the strength for someone else when they run out of their own. Be their belief when they lose sight of themselves. Be the friend to hold them close and build them up when they need it…because as strong as you are…there will be a day you’ll need it, too. I guarantee you, when that day comes…they’ll be there for you as well.

Have you ever been made to feel like less than you are? Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart based on personal experiences? Do you have a poem, quote or thought or song to share that makes you feel strong or confident…or can help build someone up? Please share it… You never know what simple act you may have done that could help strengthen a soul or change a life. Look at those little moments that did it for me!

Changing the World…One Woman At A Time

Looking back, I guess I should have realized, with favorite books like A Proud Taste Of Scarlet And Miniver and the complete Nancy Drew series that I had my mission in life.  This may sound silly today, but as a little girl, I dreamed of winning Miss USA or Miss Universe.  Now before you go making your assumptions about my mom putting me in some sort of Toddlers and Tiaras thing let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth.  But as a girl, I was fascinated by the outfits, the poise, the beauty and the talent.  For me, though, I always picked my winners from the interview portion.

Why am I talking about this?  Because I was thinking…if I ever got up there and I was asked my question I know what I’d want it to be.  “If you could pick one cause that you feel passionately about in this world that you’d like to try to fix and that you think could have a lasting impact on the world around you what would it be?”  My answer:  Self Esteem in women.

My favorite female historical character is Eleanor of Aquitaine.  She isn’t very well known, but she is considered to be the grandmother of Europe.  Almost every monarchy in Europe have blood ties to her line.  She was the first queen to be married to two kings.  The king of France & the king of England.  She was smart, tough and feisty.  In fact, after her second husband, Henry II cheated on her she was able to get her sons to turn on him, wage war…and he almost lost his land!  My kind of woman.  Here is a clip from The Lion In Winter where she and Henry, her husband are talking.  By this time he’d locked her away in a distant castle where he felt she could do no more damage…

Perfect casting done…with Katharine Hepburn playing her role.  She was the mother of Richard the Lionheart and King John.  Most people have heard of them.  She intrigued me by being so strong and powerful and sure of herself in an age where women were regarded as nothing more than chattel!

Times have changed these days.  We have women’s lib!  We can vote.  We can own land.  We can do so much…and yet women of today seem to struggle every day with the person they see in the mirror.  Too many women gain their self worth from if they’re married…then who they’ve married.  Sometimes it’s the job they hold.  Or whether or not they have children.  Women stay in bad relationships because they’re afraid they deserve nothing better.  Or that they won’t be able to make it on their own.  But what message does this send their children?

Women are strong!  Powerful!  They give birth to children.  They make homes.  They enstill values in their children.  They’re tough, but they can temper that with understanding and compassion.  They show their strength every day in what they’re willing to do or to sacrifice for their children!  But somehow, it rarely translates to being willing to do the same for themselves!

Over the years I’ve developed friendships…and in my own little way, I’ve tried to be a friend.  I’ve listened.  I’ve encouraged people to go for their dreams.  To explore their talents.  To believe in themselves.  I’ve helped a couple friends learn to fight for themselves and to stand on their own two feet….and I’ve prayed that they’ve passed that newfound passion for life to their daughters.  I figure if I can help just one person…and they help one more…maybe we’ll have that chance!

Yeah, people blame magazines and skinny supermodels for women’s poor self image.  But I think it goes deeper than that!  I also think that if we can’t find a way to love ourselves enough to be willing to fight for ourselves, to stand up for ourselves…the cycle will continue to repeat itself.  What can you do to empower someone?  What issue in this world would you love to find a way to fix or to change?  How would you go about it?  Who do you look up to?  Who is your favorite historical character and why?