This Is 30

I was having a conversation with my brother Keith over Christmas, and at one point he said something rather profound.  When talking about our lives – things we’ve learned, where we find ourselves now, and so forth – he remarked: “You know, I used to think once you reach a certain age as an adult, you’ve ‘arrived’ in life.  But now that I’m getting older, I’m realizing I don’t think we ever ‘arrive’.  There is no such thing.  We just keep moving forward all the time.  We’re always moving to the next thing.  The next goal.  It never stops.”

When he said this I instantly found myself applying the sentiment to my upcoming birthday; the big one.  The third decade.  Yes…on a Friday the 13th in January I’ll be turning thirty years old.  (And I’m not sure yet if it’s a good or bad omen to start a third decade on such a notoriously superstitious day.)  marilyn-imitation-photo

I thought about where I’d once envisioned myself being when I reached this milestone.  How once upon a time I’d imagined at thirty I’d own a home, be married to my soulmate, possibly have a child or two, and starting to make all kinds of money from my various ventures that were succeeding (writing novels, singing opera, and working on business/entrepreneurial ventures).

Lofty goals, as it now turns out.  And most of them not realized.  (Then again I also once thought thirty was “old”…and I now understand that isn’t true either.  So some unmet expectations are welcome.)

Instead of owning my own home, I’m currently living with my parents as I recover from an eviction that occurred as part of the end of an abusive relationship with a man my therapist is classifying as a Cluster-B Personality (sociopaths/narcissists/psychopaths).  Instead of married to my soulmate, well…I’m single, and at the moment downright terrified at the prospect of ever opening up my heart again.  So one could say I’m in the antarctic as far as finding a life partner right now; just me and the penguins, and they’re already paired off for winter.

I don’t even own a car; having sold my adorable little blue beetle about eighteen months ago, instead driving a car that belonged to Randall’s ex-girlfriend that she’d given to him (but still owed money on, so in essence I ended up having to take over the monthly payments…one more thing as I look back that I’m embarrassed about).  He ultimately drove that car into the ground; got into a few minor incidents (including one time where he decided to go ‘gliding’ around on icy roads and ended up colliding harshly with a curb), and ultimately it was determined all the damage meant the car had to be totaled.  His ex, Blanche, got out of the car payments, so her life was pretty damn good, and also got rid of the car; while I have nothing to show for that $600 payment each month other than a whole lot of anger and shame.

Not exactly anything I’m proud of so far.

Instead of confidently striding into my future, I often find myself questioning my abilities, my intelligence, and my talents (all courtesy of Randall, the abuser who managed to tear down almost every shred of self-respect and self-love I once had).  I find myself feeling afraid a lot, chasing the feeling of being safe even as it stays maddeningly out of reach.  I wake up in the middle of the night when I hear noises, worried Randall or his minions are breaking down the door to rob and violently harm us all (something he vowed he’d do by the end of our relationship).  Lots of fear.  Lots of shame.  Lots of emotions that aren’t necessarily rational, but they are definitely powerful and difficult to control.

In short, I don’t feel anywhere close to “an adult”.  I still at times feel like a lost, confused, scared child who simply yearns to feel safe and loved.

Still, that having been said, the one thing I do have at this point is a career that is blossoming beautifully.  It’s taken many years of hard work, earning my stripes through failures as much as successes; but I’m there now.  Working with Lasting Connections is a pure joy as it expands nationally, my personal success coaching with clients of my own is extremely fulfilling for my soul, and while I’ve had many moments in recent years where I close-up-meghann-andreassenexperienced abject poverty (bank accounts being closed down due to lengthy overdraft fees, eviction for non payment of rent, bills discharged to collections, hungry a time or two because the fridge was empty, you name it I experienced it), I’m moving away from that now in rapid fashion.  Speeding away is more accurate in fact.

I knew it would be that way; I knew there would come a moment when it would all click.  That’s just how it works in this industry.  Still, I almost didn’t make it; I almost threw in the towel many, many times, particularly after I was in a relationship with Randall, seeing as how he was constantly breathing down my neck about why I wasn’t getting big results yet, and ultimately saying I needed to walk away because according to his ‘expertise’ it was a business venture that was dead in the water.  (Read: The Myth Of The Overnight Success)

Thankfully, I was able to hang in there.  And now the checking account is healthy again, the savings account is no longer dry, and I am surrounded only by people who love and support me as I move toward the future.  No more leeches making themselves fat while leaving me dry.

So……it’s true, I’m not where I once thought I’d be when I turned thirty.  I’ve had a lot of failures in my life I didn’t anticipate all those years ago when I allowed myself to fantasize about my future.  I’m a convicted felon.  I’ve spent a little bit of time in jail.  I’ve made fairly big mistakes and left a few potholes in my wake.  I’ve allowed myself at times to be completely and utterly walked over by others; standing silently to the side as boundaries that meant a lot to me were blown to bits, instead of standing up and advocating for myself the way I deserved.

img_3864And love?  I guess as the song says, love hasn’t done right by me so far.  I gave my heart, my virginity, my everything to a man who ultimately proved himself unworthy in almost every way.  Right now I feel like all innocence and light has been stripped from me, and I just count myself lucky to be alive and able to move forward.  I won’t lie, I have days where I despair that I’ll ever find love; thinking perhaps I’m branded somehow as dirty or tainted by everything that happened.  And that saddens me; because I’m still also at my heart a deeply romantic person.  (I know…figure that one out.)

But as I often say to my clients, I’m trying to just put that to one side and keep marching forward.  If you can continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what is happening, that’s all that matters; because it’s when we move forward that good things can come into our lives.  Standing still doesn’t invite anything in.

So I’m endeavoring to do my best.

Besides, there’s a way to flip all those negative experiences on on their heads.  Instead of being something horrible or dark or twisted or embarrassing or shameful (as it sometimes is when I reflect), it can all be seen as something empowering.  Because I’m still here, despite everything that happened.  I have managed to find incredible success for myself despite being unfairly labeled as a felon, when so many others carrying that burden are unable to for one reason or another (and I do have to thank my wonderful family and friends for helping me pull it off).  I’ve stayed clean and sober despite the difficulties presented over the years, and only tripped up with one relapse along the way right at the end of my abusive relationship; but I hopped right back on the wagon afterward.  And in spite of the abuses suffered, and the shame I felt in my heart due to Randall’s actions and words, I still ultimately left him.  There are many in abusive relationships who never quite manage to get away, so that is something to be proud of.  All kindness and humanity hasn’t been taken out of me; I still overall am who I’ve always been…albeit a little battered, bruised, and perhaps a bit more cynical than I once was.

I can relate to people in ways I never used to be able to.  I’ve always been an extremely empathic person, but now it’s grown to a place where I’m able to truly offer comfort and help to not just friends and loved ones, but also to clients through my personal success coaching.  I understand addiction, and how it can take over your whole life whether you want it to or not.  I understand what it means to be depressed, to the point where even getting out of bed feels impossible.  I understand what it is to feel hopeless.  To feel lost.  To feel completely and utterly invisible and alone in a world that seems harsh and cruel.  I understand shame; and how you can say or do things that later you would give anything to erase from your life story.  The oppressive kind shame that can make looking someone in the eye next to impossible because you literally view yourself as “less than” whoever it is you’re talking to.  I understand the cutting sting of betrayal; the kind that is traumatic in the sense that you go to bed an entirely different group-photo-meghann-andreassenperson inhabiting a whole different world than when you woke up that morning.  I understand what it means to struggle to trust others, and to be suspicious.  I understand what it is to be overweight, and feel out of place or inadequate due to my dress size.  I know what it’s like to feel ugly; to hate what I see in the mirror.  I understand trauma, and the way it can haunt you and reach out and bite you when you least expect it.

And most important of all…I understand what it takes to pull out of these low points in life.  I’m able to offer my knowledge and help to others.  And I’ve also gained a new appreciation and love for myself that I never had before; my boundaries are firmly in place at this point and no one will ever get them to budge again.  That is a gift in and of itself.

So…thirty?  You may not look like what I thought you’d be, but that’s okay.  You’re actually looking pretty damn beautiful to me precisely as you are.  A shiny new decade to play with, that is free of abusers and jail sentences and trauma and pain.  A decade that can instead be celebrated as the time when I come into my own and truly start to live life the way I was meant to: empowered, wise, and confident.

This is me at thirty.  Let’s do this!

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

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The Audacity Of Age

“Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.” — Carrie Fisher

the-naked-hour-young-and-old-women

It’s a touchy subject for women when you start talking about “aging well”. Even as I’m writing this I’m holding my breath while mentally predicting the reactions of friends and colleagues. They usually fall into one of two camps:

Camp One is comprised of the women who insist there’s nothing wrong with preserving youth and beauty as much as possible for as long as possible. This is the camp that embraces plastic surgery, lipo procedures, Botox, weekly facials, clean eating, cleanses, meditation, and anything else that might prove to fight back the ravages of time.

Camp Two is where the women gather who instead let the gray hairs and the wrinkles loose, proudly displaying their age and daring others to find them unattractive or unworthy. Regaling me with stories of long-ago cultures where the old were revered and wrinkles were a sign of godliness.

And then there’s me…rapidly approaching thirty, and for the first time starting to realize I’m no longer in the “young” category, but I’m not considered “old” either. I’m just solidly an adult, noting a few silver hairs and a few extra marks on my skin from many years of suntans, and trying to figure out which camp I want to live in.  I can feel that pressure these days…and how ridiculous is that? How silly is it that I almost preen any time a waiter asks me for my ID, as though validating I’m not “old” yet? Why does it even matter?

There’s no question women feel pressured to fight for preservation of youth and beauty for as long as possible. And I applaud Carrie Fisher (may she rest in peace) for getting out in front of the issue as best she could with her reprisal of Princess Leia in the new Star Wars. Hell, I’d say just reprisingthe-naked-hour-carrie-fisher the iconic role took a lot of guts, since comparisons to her twenty-one year old self were going to be inevitable.

She said something else I loved during Wishful Drinking, her HBO special based on her one-woman Broadway play. And while I don’t recall it verbatim, it was comedically poking fun at the very real (and unfair) reality that she’d not known when she first donned the now-infamous metal bikini from Return of the Jedi that she’d signed an invisible contract with the public to continue looking like that for the rest of her life.  Obviously an impossible task for anyone to pull off…and in Carrie’s case, even more challenging given the legitimate battles she’s fought in her personal life over the years. Everything from Bi-Polar disorder to smoking to weight fluctuations and addiction to prescription medications have left battle scars on her body.

But really…why is that a bad thing? Why is a woman judged when she has the audacity to look her age?

It all boils down to the reality that no matter how far women have come, there’s still an intrinsic pressure from a male-dominated society to look ‘sexy’ and ‘desirable’ at all times…and according to the media, young women with tight bodies are what men find most desirable.  We’re basically objectified from the day the X Chromosome is discovered on the ultrasound.

I was lucky enough to not experience it too much growing up; the men in my life treated me as an equal, and as a competitive swimmer I found validation for my accomplishments rather than what my body looked like.  But what I didn’t experience growing up, I unfortunately made up for in spades while caught up in the negativity of my abusive relationship. Randall surrounded himself with other women constantly, and never forgot to talk about how attractive he found them. Young women who were barely legal, prancing around in tight little shorts and even tighter crop tops, fully aware of all the salivating males as they shimmied and sashayed their way around the living room.img_3047

It was a sobering experience for me…because for the brief period of time where that became my reality, I felt utterly invisible.

Randall talked about other women constantly; this girl’s fat ass that he wanted to squeeze, or the fantasy of how it would feel to enjoy that girl’s tight…ahem. It never ended. And when I’d try and address the issue of how uncomfortable or undesirable it made me feel to have him do that so blatantly in front of me, instead of reassuring me or stopping the behavior, his response would simply be: “Well what do you want me to say? I’m not going to lie…I want to f*ck them. You’ll never be that young again, Meghann…you’ll only get older. You just have to get over it.”

Well, he was an asshole. We’ve established that. And I’m not saying all men are like this, because they’re not. But society as a whole seems to present variations on that message to women of all ages nonetheless. It might be presented differently; a beautifully designed magazine perhaps, or a glamorous actress on the red carpet having her body analyzed by commentators rather than analyzing the roles she’s played. But make no mistake, the message is still the same; and it’s enough to leave scars and insecurities as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon over a woman’s self-esteem.

I know my experience with it was dehumanizing; reducing everything I was down to my age, height, weight, and measurements. It also instilled in me a powerful resentment toward those younger women, even if they hadn’t done anything overtly disrespectful towards me. Instead of feeling a commonality with my fellow females, I felt nothing but mistrust and anger.

In short, it was a highly toxic, unhealthy frame of mind, and I’m grateful to be out of it. But I’ve thought about it a lot since, as I’ve recovered and picked up the pieces of my heart and soul and put it all back together. And the conclusion I’ve come to is simple.  Youth and Beauty are both just part of the genetic lottery; you are either born with the “beauty” genes, or you aren’t. Either programmed to lose your hair starting at twenty, or you’re not. Programmed to be short, or programmed to be tall. You are either predisposed to wrinkles and gray hair, or the-naked-hour-womenyou’re not. (I myself have several strands of brilliantly silver hair starting to appear on my scalp, courtesy of dad’s genes.)

And while I’ll never shame a woman for trying to ‘age gracefully’…I still wish society as a whole allowed women to feel comfortable with the aging process. Because guess what? We all do it eventually.

I wish we as women will finally rise up and take control of how we are portrayed and valued and perceived by our male counterparts. Demand better of them, instead of just giving them a “boys will be boys” pass when there are episodes of chauvinistic asshattery on full display.

Unfortunately we’re not there yet. So until we are, all I can say is try really, really hard not to judge yourself based on your looks or how much attention you get. Instead try to value yourself based on your accomplishments in life. Your education. Your career. The quality of your friends. How you treat others. Surround yourself with people who also appreciate those things in you, and find you beautiful and sexy whether you’re twenty five or fifty five, because of who you are as a person

Accept the following as reality, and get on with your life:

  1. You’re going to get older. So are we all.
  2. There will always be women who are perceived as “prettier”; I don’t care what age you are. Don’t begrudge them their genetic winning lottery ticket; they couldn’t help how they were born any more than you could. Don’t covet or resent. Just love yourself, and remember…they may be sick of being seen for only one thing too.
  3. meghann andreassenThere will always be ‘younger’ women coming up behind you with ‘fresher’ faces and ‘tighter’ bodies. This has been happening since you turned 19 and had the ‘barely legal’ crowd to compete with. So……let it go. There is nothing for you to keep up with; just appreciate yourself as you are right now, and don’t resent the younger generation for being young.  We were all young once.
  4. The majority of men will probably lust after the aforementioned women from time to time, much to your annoyance. But again…let it go. It is what it is. (And let’s not pretend you didn’t notice that cute lifeguard at the pool either…)
  5. Ultimately, a good man will lust for five seconds…and then come back to you. He will appreciate all of the qualities that make you YOU…and usually those qualities have nothing to do with your age or your measurements, and everything to do with your mind, your heart, and your personality. Find that man, and love him with all your heart.

Love yourself. That’s ultimately all you can do. And live a life that you’re proud of. If someone makes you feel less than amazing, eject them from your life. They have no place there. And then carry yourself with pride, because you are perfect exactly the way you are.

It’s as simple…and as hard…as that.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

Day 60: It’s All About The Inches

It’s that time again!  I can hardly believe another 30 days has gone by, but here we are, and it was time this morning to check my weight, measurements, and progress photos again.

While the scale didn’t go down quite as much as I would have liked, the inches still appear to be melting off.  And ultimately, let’s face it: it’s all about the inches when it comes to getting healthy.  (As discussed in yesterday’s post.)  Think about it: measurements are what determine our clothing size.  Measurements are what determine how we look IN our clothes.  It’s not what the scale says, it’s what the tape measure says that really matters.

So why do we put so much emphasis on the scale?

Probably because it’s easier to step on a scale than it is to measure bust, waist, hips, biceps, thighs, and calves every time we want to check progress.  (Imagine people at a weight watchers meeting having to do that with each of the forty people who come in the door, stripping down and stepping behind a screen to get measured……they’d never finish in less than two hours!)

img_3465Certainly a doctor’s office doesn’t have time to do a proper measurement of a patient’s progress at every visit…not if they want to cram their mandatory forty patients a day into their schedule.  And as a result, we stick to what’s easy: the scale.  In thirty seconds or less we have a result that can either crush or elate someone trying to beat bad habits and get healthy.

Now……is it important to get your weight?

Of course.

It’s not good if the scale says 300 pounds, or 400 pounds.  Not even close.  Unless you’re eight feet tall, those are numbers that are bad news for anyone.  And yes, overall when getting healthy you want to see a general downward trend on the scale right along with your measurements.

But at the same time, success should be measured not just by the number on the scale, but by a combination of things: weight, measurements, and overall health and wellbeing.  Can you walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath, whereas before that was impossible?  Good for you! Are you fitting into your jeans without having to suck in your stomach or squeeze into a body shaper first?  That’s fantastic!  If that is happening, then who cares if you only dropped two pounds instead of four?  The img_3466point is you are trending in the right direction, and moreover, you’re implementing habits and changes that have a better chance of becoming permanent changes, whereas the kinds of extreme changes that cause dramatic weight loss in short periods of time often isn’t maintainable over the long haul.

So congratulate yourself on the small victories.  That’s important.  Getting healthy is a JOURNEY.  It’s not a fast, easy fix.

And with that in mind, and keeping my promise of total transparency and honesty on this blog, as of 60 days into my journey, my results are as follows:

Weight: Down 8.6Pounds Total
Inches: Down 8.75 Inches Total

My Three Big Victories Of Note:

  1. All three of my main measurements (bust, waist, hips) are now under 50 inches!  To some this may not seem like a big deal, but for me?  It’s huge.  Any plus size woman can probably relate, too; because if you ever try shopping for clothes online, I find that generally when one of the “main three” measurements is above 50 inches, it’s a lot harder finding things that will fit.
  2. I exercised a minimum of 30 minutes for 60% of these last 30 days.  Huge shift from what I was doing previously, which was essentially 0% of my days each month.  I always feel like a much happier Meghann when I’m getting a big dose of those exercise endorphins in my life.
  3. Three shirts that had become too tight to wear are now wearable.  And gosh darn it, they are really cute shirts!  So I’m freakin elated!

img_3467To everyone else on journeys to accomplish goals, I encourage you (as I instruct all of my clients) to identify what YOUR three victories are this month?  I know you have some.  I promise you do.  And writing them down always helps put things in perspective if you ever find yourself getting impatient or wishing things would change faster.  Building good habits is a process.  And that’s something I have to remind myself of often as well.

(And another friendly reminder for those who like me are on a weight loss journey: don’t forget to take your progress pictures.  It’s as critical as taking your weight and measurements at least once a month.  Because if you feel like you aren’t making a lot of progress, the pictures will show you otherwise.  I still have a long way to go, but I can see with my own eyes the progress from my first picture to now.  And that makes it an effective tool to combat feelings of frustration, impatience, or discouragement that ultimately come up sometimes with these challenges.)

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my goals for the next 30 days, and I hope you all are ready to create some new goals with me.  Cheers!

meghann andreassen, body image, self esteem, body shaming

How I Learned To Hate My Body

I’m not the first or the last woman to admit to the reality that more often than not in my life I’ve hated the body I saw in the mirror.  I talk about it openly as often as I do in the hope that other women might see themselves in my story, and perhaps start adopting some of the tools I’ve utilized to change that perception.  Because I think we can all agree that common or not, life is far, far too short to hate ourselves due to a number on the scale or a few extra rolls or stretch marks on our skin.

Yesterday was my official weigh in/measurements day for the past thirty days.  It’s the moment when I learn if the goals I set for myself for the month were effective, and honestly it was a mixed bag of results.  On the one hand, the scale didn’t go down as much as I thought it should have (3 whole pounds), and that was frustrating.  But on the other hand, I dropped several inches throughout my body, and when I took my progress photos and compared them with my first month, I could actually start to see the changes.

So why was I so haunted by the number on that scale?  Why was that causing me to basically disregard any positive results from other measurements?  After all, it’s really the inches that matter in terms of how a person looks and what size clothes they can wear.  If you order a dress online, the dressmaker doesn’t post a size chart with various body weights…they post a sizebad-body-image-photo chart with body measurements.

Keeping that in mind, I should have been thrilled with the inches lost.

But I wasn’t.  I was pleased, of course, but there was a cloud hanging over me.  And it was directly tied to the scale.

All I could think was how nothing had changed.  Same old, same old.  Because that’s always been my struggle, since I was very young; as a stocky, athletic woman with a predisposition toward packing on muscle quickly and easily, my weight is always the last thing to change when I’m trying to get healthy.  In good shape I have an attractive physique, but I am also solid.  Too heavy for most guys to pick up and twirl around or ever carry over the threshold.

And that’s the primary reason I’ve always hated my body, and felt ugly and unattractive.

Realizing how I was feeling, and how ridiculous it was given that I actually am getting great results, I found myself thinking back to where it all started.  Thinking back to when I first learned to hate my body and feel unworthy because of that godforsaken scale.

It was elementary school; somewhere between first and second grade.  Once a year we had what was called Health Awareness Day, where classroom by classroom we’d be filed into the gym and cycled through a rotation that included things like an eye exam, blood pressure check, and height and weight measurements.  There wasn’t anything confidential about it, as kids were lined up close enough to see and hear a student’s results on their various exams.

I was one of those early bloomers, and so even in first and second grade I was starting to have curves and was growing rapidly (I was the tallest in my class up until sixth grade, at which point I basically stopped growing and everyone else surpassed me).  I was also already a competitive swimmer at that time, training every day, and I was involved in two to three other sports at any given time, including soccer, tennis, golf, horseback riding, and softball.  I was in phenomenal shape physically…with a lot of muscle on my body.

It’s just how I’m built.  A delicate flower I am not.

And so when the time came to get on the scale, I can vividly recall the humiliation and shame I would feel.  I remember that they were those old-fashioned scales, where you had to set the square to a certain weight range and then slide the counter over until the scale balanced perfectly.  I remember that vividly, because they always had to slide the square over an extra space before they could even begin to calculate my weight.  And my fellow students noticed.meghann andreassen

I remember the whispers whenever I got weighed, and know that was the first time in my life when I began to not only become conscious of my body…but also aware of what others might think of it.  That awareness has morphed into a truly epic internal struggle the older I’ve become.

I’ve never felt beautiful.  Never felt sexy.  Never felt desirable or attractive.  And honestly on some levels that breaks my heart, because everyone should feel that way once or twice by the time they are approaching thirty years of age.  But it’s my reality.

No matter how many people insist I have a beautiful face, or a wonderful figure, or a beautiful smile, or pretty eyes…I just can’t see it myself.  And then to cope and comfort myself I’ll turn to eating which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy in the end.

I don’t want to feel this way about my body.  I don’t want to need validation from others in order to feel beautiful or attractive.  But I do.  And I think that desire – that need – is as human as the need to breathe.  We want to be seen.  We want to be valued and desired.  We want to feel special among our peers, even if only for a few moments at a time.

So now that I’ve come to realize that’s a truth – that the need isn’t going away – I’ve changed up my approach.  Instead of deciding I’ll never be beautiful, I’m trying to change the way I carry myself, and working to change my daily nutrition and exercise habits.  Changing my reality, as they say.

But it’s been a long, hard road to get here.  And coming out of my abusive relationship, I was even worse off than before.

Everywhere we go as women, we’re told how to look.  And usually what’s presented in magazines and on television and in the movies is unattainable…even for the models and actresses on display, because their photos are painstakingly airbrushed and photoshopped so that every flaw, wrinkle, mark, and blemish is removed.  Any woman who wears a Size 12 is labeled as plus size and sent in shame to a different section of the store.  High end fashion designers don’t usually make clothes in plus sizes.  And, yes, generally speaking when you go to a bar or a club with your friends, men are drawn first to the women who most closely resemble the models and actresses they see on TV and in porn videos.

It’s a vicious circle of self-doubt, self-hatred, and self-contempt.  And it’s hard to break out of it once you get trapped there.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, because I don’t.  I still have days – like yesterday – where I don’t feel like I’m good enough, and that feeling is directly tied to the number on a scale.  And I don’t have any magical solutions to change society’s view of women’s bodies either; because the most logical solution – namely to change the kinds of models and actresses featured in the public – isn’t one the industry is willing to entertain.  Other than a token “plus size model” here and there, everything in the fashion industry remains status quo.

So yes, as cliche as it sounds, ultimately every woman has to take responsibility for her own sense of value, beauty, and self worth.  Because the world isn’t changing any time soon.  And while I don’t have any magic solutions, I can at least offer what I do to feel better about myself.

The first thing I do, quite simply, is talk about it.  I voice my insecurities with trusted friends and family members.  I don’t do this because I’m fishing for compliments, but rather to get the monstermeghann andreassen out of my mind and out in the open where it doesn’t appear quite as big or terrifying.  Also, a magical thing happens when you talk about your insecurities: you open the door for others to reciprocate.  And it’s amazing how much relief there is when you realize you’re not alone in how you feel.

Beyond talking about it, I intentionally search for things that make me feel good about myself…and do those things in spades until my mood improves.  Writing…singing…working with my clients…working at Lasting Connections, where I’m a valued founding member of the team as the company’s COO…I immerse myself in that which I love and gives me positive feedback.  Gives me strokes.  And it works like a charm.

I hit the gym, because that natural rush of endorphins is fantastic.  Plus it takes me back to my days as an athlete, when I was proud of my career and my results.  I always carry myself with more confidence, my head a little higher, after I leave the gym covered in sweat and feeling like I accomplished something.

And, believe it or not, as silly as it sounds I’ll even snap a few selfies of myself too.  Because there’s nothing like instantly seeing yourself from your best angle and in the best lighting to boost your confidence a little bit.

Overall it’s a never-ending, uphill battle, but I do feel like at long last I’m starting to feel more loving and compassionate towards my body.  I only wish I’d figured out the secret sooner, so that I could have enjoyed my twenties a little more instead of worrying so much about how I looked.  Moreover, I often wonder if perhaps I could have avoided falling prey to an abuser if I’d had a little more confidence in and love for myself in the first place.

I’ll never know the answer to that question, but I do know that I’ve determined I’ll take control of how I view my body as I get ready to enter my thirties.  Not only that, but help others like me find love for themselves as well.  It’s not an easy, overnight fix…but like anything in life, with work and determination, I do believe it’s possible.  And ultimately, as cliche as it sounds, it’s true what they say: the only way the world will see you as beautiful is if you yourself see that beauty first.