Tag Archive | Pay It Forward

Stop Body Shaming!

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“Oh, No! This is the section for Fat People.”
Yesterday, at a large department store sale, I was perusing the racks in Juniors Plus when a mother and daughter entered the area. At first, I hear Mom say, “Check the sale rack first; you’ll be able to get more items that way.” Smart. But, then directly on the heels of this advice, I hear a comment, spoken loudly and dripping with disdain, “Oh, not here! This isn’t your area. These are for Fat People.” Ending with a barely concealed “Ewwwww…”

Equally embarrassed and curious, I risked a glance over my shoulder to see the source. I discover that, yes, the teen in question is slender and fit. But, the mother is not. In fact, she looks like she shops for size 16, the same as me. As found in most plus-size sections.

As much as I felt like hiding my face behind a rack for fear of being seen shopping in the “Fat People’s section,” I found myself even more concerned with those shopping around me. Because I happened to be browsing in the juniors section, filled with impressionable teens. The store was packed with large groups of young women shopping for semi-formal dresses (Homecoming, perhaps?) and they were all shapes and sizes.

Luckily, it seemed I was the only one close enough to be hit with this verbal vomit. And, honestly, my gut reaction was to say something to this woman. But no matter the pithy comment I thought of, all of them seemed as if they would only exacerbate the situation; and give weight to her words. But now I wonder. Should I have said something? So that if, by chance, any young mind had heard, they would know that not all people agree with this statement nor think that it is right.

But, I admit, in that moment I fell victim to Body Shaming. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Worse, I didn’t feel like I had the “right” to say anything to that woman because “technically” I am a “fat person.” It seemed like it would be better coming from someone with a slimmer silhouette.

In less than 30 seconds, I felt less than.

But, perhaps, I could have calmly said, “I understand this section isn’t right for your daughter. But it is right for lots of young woman and your words were hurtful and inappropriate.” What do you think?

I started to observe the groups shopping. I noticed that groups of peers were generally supportive of each other. Each group contained a wide range of body types but instead of comparing or belittling, they lifted one another up. They suggested flattering outfits, complimented each other, and when in the changing room, if something didn’t fit or look right, they giggled about it instead of making disparaging remarks.

Conversely, I witnessed a different type of reaction between mothers and daughters. Moms were quick to point out things that wouldn’t look good when their daughter excitedly held up an item. Most often with a “Really?!” and a raised eyebrow. One word that can speak (negative) volumes. And the parents who had slim children seemed to flaunt them; many of these parents being less-than-fit themselves. As if their child’s attractiveness was a direct (positive) reflection on themselves.

Yes, I know it was clothes shopping, which directly lends itself to “body talk.” But why can’t it be positive, supportive body talk?

Soon after this, I found myself in the dressing room. As I faced the daunting task of trying on a pile of clothes, knowing that if I found 1 thing that fit well, it would be a success, I was presented with two options. One, to let that woman’s voice seep in and take up court with my mental judges, or, two, to dismiss her as an ill-informed person.

I chose the second, and this is what happened:

  • I actually felt some compassion for her. How? You may wonder. I realized she must feel so uncomfortable in her own skin, she needs to belittle others and take on her daughter’s identity in order to feel better. What a painful way to walk around.
  • I looked myself straight in the mirror and reminded Me that we each have our own story. My weight is from years of physical conditions, surgeries and side-effect laden meds. I used to “pre-emptively” want to explain that to people (strangers, that is!). Even going so far as hoping they would think I was pregnant instead of “abdominally challenged.” Now, I remind myself we are all walking around with our own stories, no matter the exterior appearance. Being overweight comes from a variety of sources, whether it is physical or emotional.
  • I also looked myself square in the eye and made myself stand tall and proud. I committed to trying on clothes with a critical eye; not one of a critic putting myself down but critically, assessing which things compliment me and which aren’t suited to my body type. Period.
  • And a funny thing happened… I ended up finding too many items that fit me well! Wherein I needed to pick and choose and leave half in the store for another time. That rarely happens!
  • I also walked through the store proudly. I didn’t let one person’s shaming shrink me. Depending on the brand, I can wear anywhere from a Lrg to a 2x. That’s a wide range! It also means I shop almost every section of the store. I committed to acting the same way no matter the area; to not feel like a fraud when I’m in the “regular sections” and to not slouch and hide in Women’s or Plus. I am who I am. And I belong here too.
  • Finally, I started to positively pay it forward. I complimented women of all ages and sizes on their outfits or accessories I found flattering. I encouraged someone checking out an item to try it on: “Wow. I think that will look great on you!”

As a society, we need to stop “Body Shaming!” That includes making negative, derogatory comments about people or celebrities wearing (what we think is) an unflattering outfit.  We need to refrain from making comments about what others choose to eat. We need to cease the “non-verbal commentary” of a pointed look, raised eyebrow, smirk, or the good ol’ eye-roll. Or even the sound effect comments: “Hmmm…,” “Eww,” “Ugh,” *sigh*, etc. We all know what I am talking about.

Body shaming isn’t right. Worse, it isn’t supportive. As women, we should constantly be lifting each other up not tearing away at each other so we feel better about our own selves. And this includes people who you do not know… It is ALL wrong.

All that mother needed to say was, “Oh, hon, this section doesn’t have your size. Let’s check over there.” Instead, within her original comment, she not only put down anyone shopping in that section, she also put down herself, and her daughter. Because I was once a slender and fit girl, too. I no longer fit that body type. No one knows where our lives will lead. And we all deserve the unconditional support of our mothers, sisters, and Sisterhood at large.

How can you support a fellow woman today and Stop Body Shaming?

These Are My Graces…

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Yesterday, was my father’s birthday. He passed 4 years ago and so with the day brings a deep sense of melancholy, and yet… all I feel is JOY at the myriad of ways his spirit shines through me every moment of every day.

Today, I am in more physical pain then I have been in years. Meds have been changed, symptoms flared, and yet… all I feel is GRATITUDE that I am able to be with my closest family today; the ones who do not expect me to be anything other than me.

A couple days ago a dearest friend called in deep distress over the sudden loss of her closest mate, her dog. And my mind reeled with the age old question, “Do we close ourselves off to love to protect against the pain of loss?” And yet… all I feel is BLESSED at the way every being in my life has shaped me; has made me a better person. I have lost a lot… and yet I have also lived a life full of love.

Today, I turn on the news and once again bear witness to the tragedies of war and famine, death and disease, throughout the world, and yet… all I see is STRENGTH in the faces of my brethren, and the little acts of KINDNESS that are woven through the stories of strife.

THESE ARE MY GRACES…

The way I live my life… the way I view the world.

Threaded through my heart, coloring all that I see.

Influencing the way I treat others, and in turn, the deep compassion in which I am treated.

It is seeing a world full of ABUNDANCE instead of loss.

Grace, no longer reserved for just the Christian community… it is there, right there. Every Where. For every one of us.

Ripe for the picking.

Grace is not a thing you can earn, or deserve, or create, or even lose.

You do not have to be “redeemed” by grace; we are all gifts of grace.

It is always there. It is in the sparkle of newly fallen snow, blanketing the world in a clean, new slate.

It is in a child’s smile as they crack open from ear to ear at the mere sight of you.

It is in the gentle pressure of two hands as they encircle you in love, in support, in comfort.

It is the feeling in your heart when you give of yourself, passing the grace, to another.

It surprises us. When we are at the end of our ropes, Grace appears with an extension piece to help us get our feet placed firmly on the ground again.

It astounds us. A reminder that “no matter how tragic or bleak things get, the bad simply can’t shut out all the good, the dark can’t squeeze out all the light.”

It is our safety net: woven from the hands of loved ones, the history of passed ones, the memories of times survived, the hope that there will always be a brighter day ahead, and the knowledge that this too shall pass, and that in this moment, grace shimmers below the surface of everything.

And although GRACE is an unexpected, yet utterly amazing, gift waiting to be opened anew each day, you can still be an active participant in grace….

Pull grace into your life. Tonight at dinner, invite everyone to share their best “Grace Story.” This a great way to express gratitude for the ways grace has graced your life; and to role-model this attitude for others, especially children.

Be a witness to Grace’s magic. We’ve all heard of Bird Watchers, now it’s time to become a “Grace Watcher!” Keep a grace journal, where you document the ways grace has worked or appeared in your life each day. Review it at the end of the week and be uplifted.

Be a Giver of Grace. Look around today. Who in your life needs to be reminded that grace is still working in their lives; who needs to be uplifted by a moment of grace? Is there a way you can pass the grace this Thanksgiving, without that person ever knowing where it came from? Challenge yourself to this. It will be surprisingly rewarding: doing a random act of grace just because.

Turn yourself over to grace. Choose a day during the upcoming holiday season where you put your calculated “To-Do List” down for a day. Let grace guide your day instead. Trust that what needs to get done, will.

And most importantly, be open to grace. Center yourself each day with a short mantra. Mine is, “May my mind, eyes and heart be open today to seeing and receiving the gifts of grace that cross my path.” The challenge comes in accepting the gift of grace in whatever form it comes. No “return to sender.” Remember if at first I doesn’t seem like the right fit, try again. Grace often appears in unexpected ways and at unexpected times, and yet it is always just what you need in the moment to get by.

“The winds of grace are always blowing,

but you have to raise the sail.”

{Ramakrishna}

You Are a Spark of the Divine

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“Imagine a tiny spark of the essence of God existing deep within each of us, like a tiny flickering candle within this dark room.  If our minds and emotions are distracted by the competing spotlights of greed and wealth, jealousy and lust, pain and depression, elation and euphoria, or even thought itself, we become blinded from seeing the tiny flickering candle in the center of our atman, our soul.” [Spoken by a character in Breathe of God, while describing the foundation of Hinduism and subsequently many religions, based on The Upanishads]

A dear friend commented on my post, Shine On, Soul Beacons, Shine On (click link), stating that she sees her energy as the Divine that flows through her and outward, keeping her replenished.  And I heartily agree! But she also mentioned concern over giving her energy away (depleting herself) or taking on the energy of other’s (not wanting to take on negative, fearful, hurtful energy).  This is a concern I’ve heard echoed by others, so I thought it was a good place to start a dialogue.

I picture my energy source as a “River of Grace,” an ever-flowing stream of Universal love and energy.  Yet any river will go stagnant if it is stuck in one place.  Therefore, by letting it flow outwards and shine on others (no matter who they are), I am constantly keeping my divine river charged with healing energy.  This is much harder to explain than to experience!  So you will have to practice you own techniques and see what is best for you (see starting point at end of post).

I warn against pre-determining who has positive energy that you want to share in versus those you see as containing negative energy you want to stay away from.  I found that those with the most negative, caustic outlooks are the ones who are hurting the most; who most desperately need someone to see them, and share their light and love.  It is not up to us to decide who “deserves” the light of the divine.  A person’s exterior rarely reflects the true nature of what lies beneath. (Think about yourself, with chronic illness, and the oft-heard comment, “but you look so good!”).  No one wants to be pre-judged by their “cover.”

There is no “giving your energy away to the extent of depletion.”  The divine source is endless!  The problem lies in each of us living in fear of this imagined depletion, and keeping the light of our Soul Beacons all to ourselves. 

Rabbi Laurence Kushner wrote, “If everything is connected to everything else, than everyone is ultimately responsible for everything.  The more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts.  We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.”

This is not a burden, it is a gift!  We are there for others, as they are there for us.

I’d like to leave you with some final “food for thought:” a simple exercise you can attempt at any time…

Next time you go to the store, notice if you feel harried or overwhelmed.  Many times we move through the store as zombies; trying to “get on” with this chore so we can start living our “real” lives.  Instead of looking as your trip to the store just a place to pick up food fuel for your body, try to look for opportunities to re-fuel your Soul Beacon, too.

The best place to do this is in the check-out lane.  Watch the cashier while you’re waiting in line.  Observe the interactions.  Most times, there is little if no eye contact between cashier and customer.  The customer may even be complaining or perhaps even ignoring the cashier, tapping their foot in exasperation.

There are so many moments in our life where we are only waiting for the next moment when our life will begin, instead of seeing each moment as a possible beginning. 

Use this lesson as a new beginning.  When it’s your turn at the cash register, greet the cashier by name and ask them how they are doing.  Perhaps make a sympathetic comment about how busy they are today or that they look like they could use a break. If you don’t know how to pronounce their name, use that as a starting point (“What an unusual name.  How do you pronounce it? Oh, hi ________, that’s very pretty!”)  You will be amazed at the physical transformation in this person that has changed from a “cashier” into a “human being.”

Treat this person as you would want to be treated.  No matter how hurried you are, think about this pretty thankless job this person is doing; one that makes your life easier.  As you engage them in conversation, notice how much quicker the time goes.  And even more importantly, notice the physical change in the cashier.  Most times they start to stand straighter, make eye contact and smile. 

Now this is the most important part of the exercise: when the transaction is complete, say “Thank you” and their name.  If nothing else, just doing this one part will make a difference.  For both of you.

As you leave, you may want to look back.  I am always amazed at how differently the cashier now approaches the next customer… with a warm greeting, with a proud stance.  That’s their Soul Beacon recharged, now shining their light on another.

Notice yourself.  How do you feel?  That’s your Soul Beacon glowing brightly.  Not only did you shine your light on another when you were feeling depleted, that light recharged their energy and, in return, they shone back on you, recharging your own energy source.

This is a simple yet very clear way to see energy in action… being passed from one, back to another, and on to the next.  You’ve started a chain reaction.  The more you practice this (at the bank, gas station, restaurants, etc.) the more natural it will become. And, soon, you will notice that others around you are exhibiting similar, positive energy-interactions. . .  because this process is contagious. 

“Divine abundance follows the laws of service and generosity.  Give and then receive.  Give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”  (Paramahansa Yogananda)