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Mirror mirror on the wall …

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I was at an event not long ago and the presenter asked the women in the audience to list 5 physical attributes they loved about themselves. After a loud groan and a few nervous laughs from the audience, everyone got to work on coming up with their list. Interestingly, the number one attribute the women listed was eyes, followed by smile, some said skin and that was pretty much about it.

What was obviously missing was a list of things the women loved about their physical body. I too had to write this list, and yes I admit that my eyes and skin got a mention…but I also encouraged myself to look beyond that at my physical body. So my list also included strong legs and athletic body. These are the two things I have fought looking at as positive attributes for many years. Being in the fitness industry for over 18 years, I have spent a fair whack of time comparing my own body to women who were leaner, thinner and more toned than me. My self-judgement was very harsh at times, and I have done some crazy things to my body over the years in the hope that I would magically transform into the image I considered ‘inspirational’.

For the record – and after much self- work over the past few years – my definition of what is inspirational has changed and so has my notion of what is realistic for me in life right now. It doesn’t mean I never have those judgemental moments any longer…but I can put them into perspective against my own life, and I am learning to be more grateful for what I have, as opposed to what I don’t.

However for many of the women I work with as a coach and trainer, self-judgement is still running rife and doing such damage to not only their self esteem and self-worth, but also sending a message to the next generation that having the ‘idea body’is still important and seen as a status symbol in society.

Thankfully there is a small movement of women around the country and world who are beating the same drum I believe in now…that it’s about what your body can DO not what it LOOKS like that matters and brings true happiness.

So where does this self-judgement come from and what can we, as women, as a sisterhood, do about it. Let me share a story to explain a little…

About 18 months ago I was training one of my beautiful female clients and we were taking about what she wanted to achieve from her training sessions with me. She told me that she hated her ‘back fat’, despised it in fact, and it had always been that way. Ever since she could remember she focused on this part of her body and never quite felt like it ‘went away’, regardless of how much she exercised and how strict she was with her eating. I asked her if she noticed ‘back fat’on any other women she saw – either friends or strangers. “I do actually, she said, “It’s the first thing I notice”. I told her that I could relate to this myself as my hang up about my ‘strong legs’often had me comparing mine to those of other women…were mine smaller or larger than theirs?

For my client, she said the comparison was her way of measuring up against other women…was she better than or not as good as someone else? I had to admire her honesty in the conversation and so I asked her if she would conduct a little experiment the following week. My only instruction was that each time she looked at another women and noticed her eyes being drawn to the ‘back region’, she was to flick herself on the wrist (to interrupt the automatic thought) and then name three things she admired in that woman instead. It could be a physical attribute or something else, because we are so much more than just our physical body.

A week later we met for training again and I asked her how it went. She said it was a little challenging at first, but the more she did it, the easier it got to find many admirable things in all the women she met that week. I then planted a seed, and I will always remember the lightbulb expression I saw on her face. I said that I wondered what would happen to her OWN self image if she continued to focus on all the positive things in others. She looked at me and said “Oh my god, all this time I have been focusing on finding their flaws because this is what I see when I look in the mirror at my own body. I never see past this on them, so how can I ever see part it in me. I assume they are judging me because I am judging them – that sounds so sad doesn’t it!”

So I set her a second small challenge – each day for the next 21 days when she looked in the mirror, she was to look everywhere but the area she didn’t like – and then give herself a compliment. If she caught herself being judgemental, then I asked her to do three things:

STOP comparing – START complementing (and mean it)

STOP being critical – START being grateful

STOP listening to the ‘mean girl’- START talking to herself like she would to her best friend or daughter

I told her it would take time to shift from a pattern of judgement to one of praise…but given time, this would help her see that she is soooo much more than ‘her back fat’. Many already see this in her…it’s just about her recognising this herself.

Being a woman is awesome and has lots of pluses, but it’s also a tough gig at times. When we continually compare ourselves, cast judgement, or even worse, rebut a compliment someone else has given us, we lose connection with each other. And that is a sad thing because in losing this connection with others, we lose connection with ourself as well.

What I love about the Sister Code is that it promotes compassion, love and kindness towards ourselves, AND encourages women to come together and celebrate each other. Can you image how different life will be for our next generation of women if they learn from us that success, happiness and inner peace (sorry, had to add that fluffy one), really does come from being connected with other women. And that we are good enough as we are right now, today – not after we lose 5kg, get a more successful career, or have the perfect family. No judgement or feeling inadequate. No self loathing, beat ups or bitching. No competing or criticising. Just women who want the best for each other and because they give this to each other, then eventually start to see this magnificence in themselves as well.

So I challenge you to think of that body part you often focus on and wish were different – and then take your gaze to other part of you – body and soul…and give yourself a little loving – because you deserve it!

You can learn more from Lisa at her website http://www.simplywomenwellness.com/

Lisa Mills

Lisa is on a mission to connect people with their body, their thoughts and what lights them up so they can fully live an extraordinary life. She guides people to discover their truth and purpose so that they can live in a confident. authentic and meaningful way. Lisa is especially passionate about inspiring Fitness Professionals to be authentic, unique and connected with their purpose so they can have a long and fulfilling career or build the business of their dreams.

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