I believe it is possible for every woman to live in self-acceptance, self-love and even self-understanding. But this is not achieved without work, there is no magic wand to living like this. It takes warrior-like courage, but it is possible. Here are three practices that have guided me on the journey…
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lee Wolfe Blum. Lee is a keynote speaker, mental health practitioner in the field of eating disorders and author of Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder and the recent Brave is the New Beautiful: Finding the Courage to be the Real You. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three teenage boys. www.leewolfeblum Twitter: @blumlee Instagram:lblum
Thank you for joining us Lee. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
In 1993, I wanted nothing more than to die.
I sat on the floor of the tiny attic room with enough belongings to fit in my car. Mobile and free with nothing tying me down.
Ironically I was a lonely 23-year old bound by the weight of depression. Having just spent sixth months in and out of a locked door of a psychiatric ward, my hope for normalcy diminished daily. My family walked on eggshells and my friends engaged with me like I was a contagious disease. My parents weren’t flooded with casseroles or flowers as I turned their lives upside down with my withering body and constant crisis calls from a hospital. My shameful disease nurses and doctors told me, “You will struggle with this forever. “
Incapable of shedding the tar-like darkness and feeling like a failure who was unable to pull my bootstraps up over the pain. It strangled me. I wanted nothing more than to die. I composed the letters and packed the plastic blue boxes with my belongings taping paper notes to each box. I tucked myself into the single bed and swallowed down my death.
Except I didn’t die. My perfectionistic preparation and secrecy couldn’t stop forces beyond my desires that had a different plan for my life.
I woke up in the intensive care unit tearing at the tubes screaming LET ME DIE until I was restrained like a wild animal.
A second chance?
The question like a billboard in my face as they pumped charcoal down my throat.
A golden ticket or a ride on the train of depression and hospitals for the rest of my life?
I choose the golden ticket and launch into a life far different than the one before that fate-filled day. A life holding out its hand asking me to grab on and take hold of the life patiently waiting for me to live. Of course, not as simplistic as it sounds, but full of extraordinary learnings as I began to climb my way back into the land of the living.
23 years later and immersed in the passionate pursuit of living, I find myself disheartened. We are in the age of #MeToo and women braver than ever and yet,
“Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, The rise was particularly steep for women.
The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study.” — https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html
NPR compared the suicide rates from 2000 to 2016, the increase was significantly larger for females — increasing by 21 percent for boys and men, compared with 50 percent for girls and women.
There is a gaping disconnect in the current culture, specifically for women. I simply hope to offer you what I have learned from working, researching and living my own story of battling through the pit.
It doesn’t have to be this way, this disconnect I described.
Thank you for your bravery and honesty, Lee. Can you share three strategies that we can use to finally learn to love ourselves?
I believe it is possible for every woman to live in self-acceptance, self-love and even self-understanding. But this is not achieved without work, there is no magic wand to living like this. It takes warrior-like courage, but it is possible.
Here are three practices that have guided me on the journey.
Back to school night can be exhausting. Even for an extrovert like me. The fall of 2013 it was particularly overwhelming. My first book, a memoir, would be releasing soon. Walking around my son’s elementary school I smiled and waved at all the moms and made small talk like any other year. But in the back of my head as I stared at the seemingly perfect “other” women all I could think was, Girl, you better get out of here and fast. When they read your story you are going to be the one they whisper about. What would they think of me, so boldly sharing my most naked self in the pages of a book? What would they think of me, the girl who struggled with an eating disorder and a suicide attempt? They would call me crazy. They would cancel playdates and have adverted eyes. I could just see the whispers, did you hear about her!
I asked my husband to move. And I wanted to cancel the book.
The book released and the exact opposite happened. Women came NOT to stone me or whisper about me (although maybe some did) but instead, they sent me messages, wrote me letters, and stopped me in corners of the hockey rink. And all the messages the same.
“Thank you. Me too!”
Maybe not “me too” I had an eating disorder, but me too…I struggle with anxiety. Or…my marriage is falling apart. I am depressed. Me Too. I feel alone.
It was a bit of dissonance. Where had they been, these women who secretly admit these things? Why haven’t I seen them? Why instead do I mostly see the Facebook and charming Instagram messages of smiling faces and joyful announcements?
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ― Steven Furtick
We all do it. Compare yourself to her, tell yourself you aren’t good enough or that you will never be. This was the story of my life, with messages like arrows to my heart telling me these things I chose to believe it. And it led me nowhere except shame and deep self-hatred.
Instead, owning my own story and beginning to accept who I am in this world and what I can bring continues to offer a world where I can be me.
This takes exploration and the ability to be comfortable walking and slugging through the dark shadow sides of ourselves.
“New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” — Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
Stepping into life 23 years ago meant radically accepting all of me, my brains, my body, and my baggage and one step at a time doing the next right thing.
“Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” — Parker Palmer
I strove for (and continue to) authenticity and acceptance. To accept oneself it begins with a mindful exploration of curiosity, who was I before the world told me who I was supposed to be?
For me, I was a vicious energetic theatrical little girl who loved to be around people. I wanted to play and dance and sing. Until the world told me I should be someone different that there were lines to stay in and proper ladylike behaviors to conform to. And in the process of becoming who the world expected me to be, who my family told me I should be, I slowly began to die. It is only through walking through the darkness and exploring that little girl, offering her the space to live again and letting go of the expectations of others that I can feel free to be who God created me to be.
The notion that anyone’s life is “easy” is a mirage. It isn’t real. To imagine that any of us is without pain and suffering is to deny what it’s like to truly live in this world. Conversely, denying or diminishing our own pain by comparing it to someone else’s is equally unhelpful. While it’s good to adopt a healthy perspective of your own suffering, another person’s agony isn’t the cure for yours.
So without my eating disorder to escape from my emotions and through accepting help for my depression, I began the road to introspection to discover who I am without these destructive coping skills. And this continued returning to accepting as one returns to water, of who I am helped me tolerate my fears of what others might label me.
“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks — we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”
― Parker Palmer
When we begin to accept our authentic selves, we then can live in a world of abundance!
What I realized from sharing my own vulnerability about my own suicide attempt and struggle with an eating disorder was when we take off our masks when we are vulnerable I found this quote to be exactly true:
“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” — C.S. Lewis
We look at her and we believe she doesn’t have problems or her life is perfect. We see her success and we ooze with jealousy. We begin to feel shame and self-loathing for not being good enough, skinny enough or successful enough.
Be careful of the story you tell yourself. This becomes the lens through which we see the world.
Even someone like Kate Spade was not immune to this outside image and inside image tension.
“In the end, the image of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.” –
As I began to research women and our own mask-wearing phenomenon for my second book, I uncovered what I knew to be true.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” — Wendy Mass, The Candymakers
Realizing this, beginning to accept who you are, and then shifting this crazy view of distorted mindset to living in a world of abundance can be incredibly freeing.
There is room for me. There is room for you. And when we adopt this in our lives we begin to see a world filled with talent and opportunity.
“Focus on Cooperation rather than competition. As long as you view the people in your life as competitors, you’ll always focus on trying to “win.” And you can’t have healthy relationships with people when you’re only thinking about how to beat them rather than build them up.” — Amy Morin, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
Jealousy robs us of a relationship. Begin to notice, what are you jealous of?
“When we admire someone, it is an opportunity to find yet another aspect of ourselves. If you admire greatness in another human being, it is your own greatness you are seeing. Whatever inspires you is an aspect of yourself. Be precise about what you admire in someone and find that part in yourself!”– Debbie Ford, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers
When I shifted my thinking about jealousy I found GREAT freedom.
I am not jealous of accountants, or people who work with children, because those aren’t things I want. I am jealous of successful writers, speakers. So now, when I notice this instead of turning green, I look at those people like my teachers. What are they doing? How are they doing it? How can I learn from them so I can someday achieve my own goals? And then I cheer them on!
This mindset actually becomes fun!
“When you stop resenting people for their success, you’ll be free to work toward your own goals. You’ll have the desire to live according to your own values and you won’t feel offended or cheated by people living according to theirs.” -Amy Morin
What if instead, we view this world of a place of abundance. Where there is room for you, and there is room for me. That none of us are accidents but here to encourage, learn and cheer one another one!
“The scarcity mindset is what’s adopted by those who believe in limited opportunities, scarce resources, and a “me vs. the world” control-driven mentality. It’s what keeps people from celebrating the success of others. Scarcity withholds recognition and waits for the other proverbial shoe to drop. It’s a suppressing and limiting mindset.” — Jon Cook
“The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” — Stephen Covey
Once I begin seeing others as my teachers then I am more likely to want to cheer on their successes as well!
Instead of saying, “Oh, I want what you have,” which separates us from each other, we can say, “You go, girl!” Let’s hold up signs for each other, let’s encourage each other. When one of us is beaming with joy and happy news, let us scream and cheer and bear hug each other. When one of us has collapsed at the side of the road, we can rush to help, saying, “What do you need? How can I come alongside you?”
Women, we are each other’s cheering section! We can hurt through people, but we can also heal through people — in a community, living close to each other.
“People don’t get lost if there are enough people to hold their hands.” — Jean Vanier, author
There is room for all of us! We don’t have to do this alone, but together!
How then do we accept ourselves and live an abundant life? We do it authentically and with BRAVERY.
Bravery is such a beautiful word. But there is another one I have found that I love how it rolls off the tongue.
A Finnish word. They use it to typify the Finnish spirit and a concept at the heart of how all Finns view themselves. I want this to be ours. Women. A concept at the heart of how all women view themselves.
“Sisu: endurance, resilience, tenacity, determination, perseverance.
Bravery empowerment inner strength.” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisu
Gritting your teeth, continuing to fight against an overwhelming enemy, clearing the forest with your bare hands, continuing on to win a race even after falling!
Find your BRAVE. Find your Sisu.
Be vulnerable. Be real. Be raw and let your naked bravery shine bright. In doing so, you help others see hope. You help others have faith. That is brave. That is beautiful. Now go forth and be that for each other.
Do you think you are brave? Do you think you are beautiful? Maybe you don’t. But in stepping out in your own bravery by accepting who you are all, all of you, living in a world where there is room for all of us and vulnerably cultivating authentic community with tenacity and Sisu you might encourage another to step out in her own bravery.
Because BRAVE is the NEW BEAUTIFUL!
Catherine of Siena wisely once said, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” And it is very true. All those wild, passion-filled, heart fluttering desires like changing jobs, buying a one-way ticket, leaving painful relationships, committing to a new way of life, reaching our hand and heart out to someone…they all take much enduring, much courage, much bravery. But the rewards are priceless. They are life-changing.”
Crawling out of the pit of depression in 1993 was life-changing and not done alone. And I am so glad I didn’t put a period where God had a semicolon.
Angela Duckworth the popular researcher and TED on Grit studies success and what kinds of personality traits lead to successful people. And she’s found one trait, in particular, that seems to always point towards bright futures: grit.
Angela defines grit as “the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance.”
But who is most likely to have this magical grit? Probably people who are naturally good and something, and thus more motivated to pursue it, right? Well, surprisingly, students and children who are naturally more talented or gifted don’t tend to display more grit. And in fact, Angela’s research has found that there’s a negative correlation between inherent ability grittiness.
Why’s that? Well, Angela has pointed out that it’s rather simple: if you’re always just good at stuff, you’ll never learn how to persevere through hard things. And Persevering through hard things takes TENACITY!
Tenacity is the quality or fact of being very determined; determination.
I am in progress, as are you, and I am determined to live life as fully as possible. With Grit, Sisu, Vulnerability.
We need each other. Acceptance, an abundance mindset, and authenticity will bring us together instead of tearing us apart.
Brave IS the NEW Beautiful dear friends. Now go out and let us ALL show this to the world!
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
“Well, you can go through your entire life without ever really having to know anybody.” — Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting
“Seinfeld” debuted 29 years ago and the phrase yada yada yada remains a cultural giant.
“Yada, yadda yadda, is boring or empty talk listening to a lot of yadda yadda about the economy — often used interjectionally especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating.” – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yada%20yada
Now in 2019 we are bombarded with information and live in a culture of great division and detachment. With a rapidly instant news feed and so many venues for opinions and platforms have we not become anesthetized by the staggering amount of noise? Much of this noise is peppered with hate-filled messages, online bullying (by all ages), and rage-filled debates
Our society is drowning from the lack of real human connection created through social media. I see this in the work I do every day as a mental health practitioner.
“Six in 10 people who share news URLs on Twitter don’t actually bother with reading them.” -https://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/twitter-study-news-sharing/
According to Forbes, “59% of people share an article without actually reading it.”
As an author and speaker, I experience this often myself. I wrote a personal piece on suicide in May. The article reached 12,000 people stirred a lively discussion and some telling me to F-off, and yet only 1% actually opened the article. Who knows how many actually fully read it.
We live in a culture of yada, yada, yada.
A culture with no time to finish sentences, no time to read articles, and quick jerk responses of opinions, judgments and slandering others.
“Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills.
It seems that social media is creating a paradox effect: giving off the illusion of many choices while making it harder to find viable options. Can it be that our highly connected world has now become disconnected?” https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/social-media-s-impact-on-self-esteem/
A deeper dive into the word Yada reveals that it has a profound meaning contrasting the idle palaver of yada, yada, yada.
It has deep roots in Hebrew that means “To Know.”
I want people to stop the polarization and begin with YADA.
Because sitting with someone and simply taking time to ask this one question, “Help me understand,” in a curious and non-judgmental posture will help us open the world up to the human connection. To the reality that when we really take time to know someone, and to hear their story, when we “yada” we will have much more grace. Much more compassion.
In an effort to practice this in my own life this past year I have encountered stories and people who I never would have known had I not dropped the preconceived judgment and instead intentionally engaged in hearing their stories. Intentionally “Yada”, knowing them more intimately.
To “yada” is an antithesis in a culture inundated by judgment and division. To provide a safe space where people listen to the tapestry of stories, human stories of people with diverse backgrounds, cultures, sexualities and even political differences. People sharing simply one thing: The beauty in entering into the human experience with another person. I want to believe in a movement to encourage all of us to live our lives differently. To encourage all of us to be the best version of ourselves by learning how to empathize with another perspective. For all of us to cultivate greater acceptance, love, and grace for the other. There is a story behind every person, are you willing to listen or just “yada, yada yada”?