Monday, March 11, 2013

Now that 7 year olds aren't good enough

This week the internet-world has become a bit obsessed with the story of a mother discovering a hand-written list of dieting must-do's on her 7 year old daughter's bedroom floor. (Read the full story at mamamia)

FFS! I mean honestly, it's a God damned travesty that in our world 7 year olds are subjected to worrying about how they look. 7 year olds should be worried about important 7 year old things like what's in their lunch box that they can trade or who is, in fact, "up" in their game of tag and exactly how many fairies there are at the bottom of an average garden in suburbia. 7 year olds should not fret about how others see them and, more shameful still, it is society (read: US PEOPLE - YOU AND ME) that is putting these ridiculous notions in their heads that they're ALREADY not good enough. Imagine that we are creating a generation of children who will boast having body issues and eating disorders for longer than they will have been able to write their own name. It's a disgrace. We've got it all upside down and we need to shake this globe up and set things right!

I remember when I was a kid and I first started thinking that I didn't look "right". I was probably about 11 and, having been a superstar member of the Wallumbilla swimming club (see my first ever post on this blog for more hilarity/mental scarring resulting from being a childhood swimmer!), I had spent most of my young life half-clothed wearing a swimming costume. And I can't say what it was exactly that started the ball rolling; maybe it was seeing older girls huddle at the end of the pool, arms shamefully crossed over their stomachs, maybe it was my mum phasing out the obligatory "after training choc wedge ice-cream" (the nerve!), maybe it was watching too much Press Gang and Beverly Hills 90210 with Kelly and Brenda spending weeks on end in crop tops and cut-off denim shorts. Whatever the catalyst, slowly but surely it dawned on me - I did not look right. My thighs were too big and thick and my tummy definitely had rolls when I sat down. Sure, I swam fast and I was super strong, but that didn't matter - what mattered was that all of a sudden I had wear a towel or shorts from the change rooms to the side of the pool and had to somehow find a way to stuff the little armpit roll into the chest piece of my swimmers (you KNOW the inexplicable roll I'm talking about). What mattered now was NOT what whether I won a race, but how I would manage to lift myself from the pool and make it to my towel without anyone seeing me.  This emergent panic also spread through my peers, probably on the back of the childhood plague known as "boys germs" and, personally, I had received the message loud and clear - Danielle, you can be as talented as all get-out, but girl that's not enough.

And you know, this message, it plagues people their whole lives. Even now, in my early 30's, I find myself having to give myself a mental slap because I am convinced that I'm not enough - for new friends, new bosses, new boyfriends or new adventures. People often say things like "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and for years I was convinced that that was just something people say to reassure fat people, second only to "you've just got such a pretty face". But why is it "beauty" that I aspire to? There are so many qualities that we, as a society, should be valuing before looks. Why aren't we saying "brilliance is in the eye of the beholder" or "general fucking awesomeness is in the eye of the beholder"? Yes. Probably because it sounds ridiculous... there's no such thing as a bad idea here friends! You get my point, I hope.

I might add, at this point, that I'm all for healthy bodies. But health isn't measured by how "hot" you look - we all know that logically, but a little voice deep down often convinces us otherwise and sets the bar a whole lot higher than being healthy and happy. Of course, your insecurity might not be about weight either - we all know there's a smorgasbord of issues out there to choose from! Unfortunately, it's a rare thing for someone to genuinely believe that what they have and who they are is brilliant and is enough. And if you're one of those people, I say "congratulations - please teach us all, young and old, how to believe the way you do".

Time to spread some positive vibes friends,
Dani xxx

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Hamburglar is probably just anxious

I think there are 2 brilliant things about getting older - you get better at knowing yourself and you get better at sex. I'd like to just address one of these things today, and since I'm typing this at work, I'll leave sex to the side for now (googling "sex" whilst sitting in a room full of Khmer co-workers is a bit creepy, right?). Anyway, thanks to this merry ride that life is taking me on, in recent times (and by recent, I mean the last fortnight) I've really started to get to know myself. Thanks to some stress, pressure, a bit of criticism and a liberal dose of isolation in rural Cambodia, I've come to recognise that there are certain traits/habits I have that I'm certain, now I think about it, I've had for years. But before you log off, fear not - I'm not going to bore you with some boring clap trap about an existential breakthrough I've had whilst meditating and the subsequent perspective-altering truths that I now know to be universal. No. This will probably not even give your mind a quick rub, let alone blow it. But what I am going to tell you about is real. The tips I will give you are practical. And the results will, hopefully, be achievable for both of us.

Here's what I have come to realise - I get anxious. I get so anxious, that I will spend hours distracted and totally consumed by a negative thought that I have convinced myself is a truth. I will want to speak and weep and write and fight (that's a big one for me, the fighting) and circle this negative thought for so long that I will not even realise I'm doing it. I'll stop working. I'll call my boyfriend incessantly until it becomes tantamount to stalking because I just want some comfort DAMN IT! I'll Facebook and read trashy celebrity news online and watch hours of ripped TV shows in an effort to completely distract myself. And then, when I've thoroughly exhausted myself, I will recover from this downward spiral by either shopping or eating. And now that I'm in Cambodia and no God-forsaken online clothing store will deliver here, guess which one I will chose?

So, as I say, I think I've been practising this routine for years. I once had a partner with a nasty gambling habit and I recall spending hours walking the streets at night looking for him, completely oblivious to the fact that I was never going to find him, but certain in my anxious state that he must be out here and that what I was doing was entirely sensible. It was ridiculous but I couldn't stop myself. But now, dear friends, now I know why. And in knowing why, I now have the power to do something about it - I can now, at the ripe age of 32 (ish), I can now tame this beast. And I can do it before it forces any more crazy acts or bacon cheeseburgers down my gullet. (and no, that's not me abdicating responsibility - the beast is still me, and I know that. I just need to figure out how to deal with this part of me. I know it's not "other". I get it! I was being poetic. Sheesh tough crowd)

I've found some great websites with wonderful tips (see links at the bottom of the page) and I've selected my favourite strategies from these sites that I think will work for me and chucked them up here. You might have to dig around for your own tools (come now, let's not be lazy).

  • Learn about Anxiety - read through a few sites and you may quickly recognise yourself within the pages. Learn more about what anxiety can do to the body and mind - this will lay the foundation for you understanding and putting into practice the strategies. 
  • Breathe - every site will tell you to do this. Slow, long breaths are a physical intervention that will help you get your mind back on track. It's like coming up for air when you're drowning - you need to breath when you're emotionally struggling too. Deliberately stop what you're doing (read: worrying about) and spend 2 minutes with your eyes closed breathing. It. Will. Bloody. Help. 
  • Challenge your negative thoughts - basically, you've got to find a way to say "stop" to the negativity before it goes OTT. You may chose to actually say the word "stop", spend 2 minutes breathing and then begin some real talk with yourself. There are some great example thought challenge questions that will help you get back to realistic thinking on AnxietyBC.
  • Laugh - it helps you keep at bay and/or recover from anxiety and it helps you look younger and appear witty and approachable in groups. I'll just leave this here to get you started: 

Hail me. Hilarious! Now, all of this breathing etc takes practice - it's not a one dose cure-all. I will no doubt fail using my chosen strategies just as much as I will succeed. But the point is I will try and I will be aware. My belief is that self-awareness and self-like/love/lust, is ultimately what keeps these emotional beasts and that excessive cheeseburger consumption at bay. So, if like me, you are fighting off those dastardly anxious thoughts - remember to breathe and know that you're not alone! 

Good luck 
Danielle x

Useful Resources:

Note also - I'm not a Dr nor am I anyone who actually has experience with Anxiety Disorders. I am, however, keen to get my own issues on track and I believe that sharing is caring so... there.