January 31, 2014

Accepting Your Body at Any Size : Lessons from Roller Derby

In a culture obsessed with thinness, it was sort of surprising at first to see a sport that encouraged women  to embrace whatever body type they had, but that is exactly what happens in the sport of roller derby. If you ever go to a roller derby game, you will notice there are thin girls, short girls, amazonian girls. It is a wonderful motley crew. Each of these body types carries some advantage in the sport. If you are short, and small, you may be able to get low enough to get past your opponents, whereas being bigger may give you extra strength to block or hit your opponents.  


Roller derby turns all of the regular conventions of the "right" body type on its head. A prime example of this is a player named Beyonslay. She learned to use her larger size to her advantage. She is pretty amazing as the video link below attests. And because she is so amazing at using her larger body, it starts to subtly change the way everyone on the team looks at weight and body type.  
The Queen City Roller Girls,  who wrote a piece about how roller derby encourages a positive body image had this to say,

The importance of "looking your best" is taught to girls from a young age and is continually stressed as necessary for success. Unfortunately, this lesson in proper self-care too often forgets about what may be your best and instead teaches us that we should aim to achieve whatever is considered to be the best, an ideal. The western ideal of an unrealistically thin, feminine and toned physique prevents many women from feeling satisfied with their own bodies, but it’s never too late to break the cycle.

Because roller derby defies the notion of an "ideal body type" skaters often enjoy a more positive body image and an increased confidence in what they and their bodies are capable of, a confidence which often carries over from the track to other aspects of living. When asked how roller derby has affected her self-image one Houston skater responded, "I was so excited to be part of a sport where you could be any body type, personality or background and still be accepted. This alone helps me to view myself as worthy and not needing to change anything.”

Before you spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to change your body, I encourage you to first focus on how you can embrace the unique and wonderful body you were given. Find ways to use your body that help you feel strong, beautiful, and useful. For some women, roller derby has done that.  For you, it may be something else. Don't be afraid to try something new, or to even get the wind knocked out of you. By using your body to do something you didn't think possible, you may find yourself feeling more capable and accepting than ever.

Photo of  Houston team Yellow Rose Derby Girls by Steve Beard

Struggling with your body image? Our Houston counselor are available for face to face sessions. Contact us to find out how we can help you feel good in your own body.

January 23, 2014

Letting go of broken relationships

One of my Houston clients brought in this picture of a naked women embracing a skeleton. She told me it had moved her deeply and spoke to her in a way that words could not. For this client, it was a visual depiction of a relationship she was holding onto with a man who could never really give her what she needed. When he would call her, she experienced a rush of happiness. But when he ignored her for days or weeks, she was forlorn and hopeless. She questioned herself and wondered why she was not more attractive to him. She was sure that if she were prettier, or smarter, or better in some way, he would be more interested. And she hated herself for not being able to just move on despite knowing the relationship was broken and lifeless. 

Seeing all of this depicted in this image communicated directly to her heart what was really going on. She was holding onto a man who was emotionally dead, unable to give back or love, or share in any satisfying way. She felt disgusted at the thought. The image gave her the courage to ask the hard question: how can I unwrap myself and move on from the relationship? 

First, we examined why she had a pattern of wanting to be with men who were emotionally unavailable.  It was important for my client to understand that her behavior made sense on some level and even served a purpose for her. She made a list of the advantages of staying in the relationship.  When I first asked her to make the list, she said there were none, but with some help she was able to dig deeper and see real advantages. For example, being with him allowed her to feel a sense of purpose because she could help him, and a sense of importance because she was able to get an unattainable man. Her father had also been a distant, unattainable man, and somehow capturing the heart of this man helped erase some of those wounds she felt from never feeling important to her own father. 

The list of advantages of being with this skeleton of a man grew as we talked and examined it. I think it was eye opening to see that her behavior was not really crazy but served a purpose. She could then compare the list of advantages and disadvantages of staying in the relationship and decide if it was ultimately worth it for her. 

You may also be struggling with relationships in your life that no longer seem to work - with a significant other, a friend, a parent. If this image resonates for you as it did for my client, it might be a good time to take stock of how the relationships are affecting you. Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of staying involved. Be brutally honest. Then if you need help moving on, or setting boundaries in those relationships, it might be time to talk to a therapist.

January 11, 2014

Editing Your Life Story Can Create Happier Endings

This is a great article from National Public Radio about how you can deal with past trauma or current feelings that are troubling you by simply editing your life story through journaling. If you can commit 15 minutes a day for four days, you can do this. The article includes a link with instructions on how to conduct the exercise. This is similar to what I do in therapy sessions when I help my Houston clients who are stuck learn to reframe their views of themselves and their life situations. It is often exactly what my clients need to get un-stuck.

Are you feeling stuck? Contact one of our Houston counselors to find out how to become unstuck and find your happier ending today!

January 2, 2014

New Year, Same Old Anxiety

It is day two of 2014 and some of you may have already broken your new year resolutions- if you had the time or energy to make resolutions at all. With the holidays behind you, you are starting to think about work, school, kids, bills, and feeling the anxieties of your real life start to creep back in. The anxiety can start to suck the energy and enjoyment out of your life.

In the Christian scriptures, there is a verse with wisdom about how to handle worry and stress, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I have also heard it said this way, "Do not borrow trouble." Think about how much time and energy you invest in worrying. How many minutes, or hours of your day are spent worrying. And then ask yourself as the scriptures do,"Who of by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

But, how can you worry less, and enjoy your life more??? Today you can start with one simple technique - take your day one moment at at time. In other words, instead of trying to control your whole day, your whole week, and all of the relationships in your life, just focus on the next hour of your life. Can you handle what is on your plate for the next hour? If so, you can handle all of the challenges in your life. I recommend you keep redirecting your mind to focus only on the challenges and blessings of each moment. Learning to live in the moment will help you live more fully.

Living in the moment is the first step. Next I would recommend that you learn some additional skills to help decrease your anxiety. You can do this at home through the help of some books that give you practical, hands-on tools.  Two the books that have been helpful to my clients are listed on my website and include:

  • When Panic Attacks: The New Drug Free Therapy That Can Change Your Life
  • The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J.Bourne

Finally, if you are having trouble managing anxiety on your own, I recommend you schedule an appointment with a therapist. A therapist can act as a coach, or trainer to help you identify what has not worked in your life and help you find the motivations and tools that will get you moving in the right direction.