Mojo Monday ~ I Am Not Enough

I have spent a great deal of time with women friends and a fair amount of time at women gatherings and it is surprising, and also sadly not surprising, to hear women of all ages and sizes express “I am not enough.” I have at times found myself surprised and mystified that a woman I know, who I find to be attractive, intelligent, creative, interesting and successful can still feel that she is not enough.

This has led me to ponder more deeply why so many of us feel this way. What creates this pervasive feeling that we are lacking? Why do we feel we aren’t enough? Is it something we have learned and absorbed from the outside world? Do the images of physical perfection that fill magazines and movie screens chip away at our own sense of self worth? What can we do differently and how can we think differently, so that we really see ourselves and value ourselves?

Suggested Reading ~ You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay

The Real Problem

“So here is a client who has just looked in the harmless little mirror, and he or she is all upset. I smile with delight and say, ‘Good, now we are looking at the real problem; now we can begin to clear out what is really standing in your way.’ I talk more about loving the self, about how, for me, loving the self begins with never, ever criticizing ourselves for anything.

I watch their faces as I ask them if they criticize themselves. Their reactions tell me so much:

  • Well, of course I do.
  • All the time.
  • Not as much as I used to.
  • Well, how am I going to change if I don’t criticize myself?
  • Doesn’t everyone?

To the latter, I answer, ‘We are not talking about everyone we are talking about you. Why do you criticize yourself? What is wrong with you?’

As they talk, I make a list. What they say often coincided with their ‘should list.’ They feel they are too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too dumb, too old, too young, too ugly. (The most beautiful or handsome will often say this.) Or they’re too late, too early, too lazy, and on and on. Notice how it is almost always ‘too’ something. Finally, we get down to the bottom line, and they say, ‘I am not good enough.’

Hurrah, hurrah! We have finally found the central issue. They criticize themselves because they have learned to believe they ‘are not good enough.’ Clients are always amazed at how fast we have gotten to this point. Now we do not have to bother with any of the side effects such as body problems, relationship problems, money problems, or lack of creative expressions. We can put all our energy into dissolving the cause of the whole thing: ‘NOT LOVING THE SELF.'”

Fat Cow

Fat cow.

I would say that most of the people I know wouldn’t dream of calling someone a fat cow. Saying something mean and hurtful like that just wouldn’t happen. While I don’t know Oprah Winfrey personally I would hedge a bet that she also wouldn’t dream of calling someone a fat cow. She is just too nice and too respectful to do such a thing. She is the type of person who works on helping people feel better about themselves. She sincerely wants people to have better self esteem. This is why she moved years ago to covering all the positive topics on her program.

It is interesting that while many of us wouldn’t consider calling someone else something like fat cow, we might easily take a verbal punch at our self and call our self a nasty name.

“I felt like a fat cow.” This is a statement Oprah makes in the January 2009 issue of her magazine. This particular remark was made in regards to her feeling she had hit bottom when she wanted to stay home from a show as fun as one with Tina Turner and Cher in Las Vegas. She said she was supposed to stand between them onstage and wanted to disappear. She added that she was thinking to herself, “God help me now. How can I hide myself?”

I went looking for photos of Oprah with Cher and Tina as I hadn’t seen the show. In the photo above I see Oprah looking attractive as usual. She is wearing some sassy heels and a gorgeous dress. When I finally found a clip of Tina and Cher performing Proud Mary at the end Oprah joins them on the stage. It was amazing to think that she actually thought she looked like a fat cow. Her dress was very flattering and she looked like she had a nice figure.

Truly I felt a little disturbed by Oprah’s comments about herself. When I think of Oprah my thoughts travel first to her amazing life story. I believe that Oprah has the following she does and is loved by thousands because of that life story. People love to see someone rise up from the bottom. She has succeeded in spite of being born to two young people who weren’t prepared to have a child. In spite of the poverty. In spite of being female and a minority. In spite of being molested as a young girl. In spite of working in a field that is very competitive. In spite of her weight.

Once my thoughts get past all of that I then think of all the good works she is doing in the world. Her school in South Africa for girls and the Angel Network are just two examples. Oprah is an amazing woman who is extremely hard working and intelligent. It is thinking about these accomplishments that makes it so sad to hear how she could be so reduced to focusing on the physical that she would feel like a fat cow. She also fell into the trap of comparing herself to others and in this case it was none other than Tina Turner and Cher. Oprah shared “As I interviewed them, I was thinking, ‘Who’s the real older woman here? I am. They didn’t just sparkle; they glittered.” I believe that MANY women, if put on the same stage with Cher and Tina Turner, would find themselves lacking if they began a comparison game.

Oprah talks about the struggles with some health issues, medications, and letting her life get out of balance, to the point she wasn’t making time for herself. She is honest about her frustration and how she began eating whatever she wanted. She says specifically “My drug of choice is food. I use food for the same reasons an addict uses drugs; to comfort, to soothe, to ease stress.” I also took note of her sharing a comment made by her friend and author Marianne Williamson. Marianne said “Your overweight self doesn’t stand before you craving food. She’s craving love.” Oprah added to that observation, “Falling off the wagon isn’t a food issue; it’s a love issue.”

Reading Oprah’s self disclosing article was also a powerful reminder to me about my own issues with my current weight. I too have felt embarrassed about my weight gain. I too have avoided gatherings, parties, photos, going to my old town with the fear of running into someone who would quickly notice how much weight I had gained. Like Oprah I also thought I had the weight thing all figured out and that the battle of the bulge was finally over once and for all. I worked out six to seven days a week for one to two hours for a good number of years. I watched what I ate all the time. It seemed like I could do that forever. It helped that I didn’t have a relationship or children. The two biggest portions of my life consisted of work and working out. I filled in all the other moments with playing on two volleyball teams, riding my bike, gardening, dancing, rollerskating, swimming, doing arts and crafts.

I think that some of us, maybe lots of us, have that tendency towards wanting perfection. I sense that even though Oprah says she wants her new program to be about her health and not about being thin, she also really wants to look like she did in 2005. She wants to look like Tina Turner and Cher. How many of us strive and desire to look like the stars and models who taunt us from the covers of magazines? This focus on how we look can create such dissatisfaction with ourselves. Even when I was a skinny size 10 and looked great in clothes and in workout wear I knew that I wasn’t completely satisfied with how I looked naked. I actually had thoughts that the only way I would ever look “perfect” was if I elected to have surgery.

I believe Oprah is right about health being the ultimate goal. Health is truly the golden chalice. If you do not have your health the quality of life can begin a tailspin off a cliff very quickly. I attended a conference where the speaker was a woman who had an impressive career as an endurance athlete. When she stood in front of the audience even I would admit she certainly didn’t look the part of an exceptional athlete. She wasn’t a model and she didn’t have an exceptional figure. In fact she was an older, shorter, slightly overweight woman. The people in that audience were from the local community and I recognized many as top trainers from the local gyms who happened to be impressive athletes in their own right. A number of these trainers happened to be in their 40’s and 50’s. I also knew some in their 20’s and 30’s and while some of them might fit the expected look of a gym trainer, that certainly didn’t pertain to all.

I ended up sitting next to a young man who introduced himself as a sales rep for body building supplements. He was attractive with muscles bulging. I suspect he was willing to talk to me because I was young, thin and had defined muscles of my own. As he looked around the room he stated that he expected to see more athletes and body builders at this talk. I figured he was looking to make some contacts, do some networking, with the ultimate goal of making some sales of his products. I realized as he spoke that he had no idea who was in that room. I shared with him that some of the top physical trainers from the local gyms were present and that many were impressive athletes. What I left unsaid is that he wasn’t recognizing this because these people weren’t matching his expectations of what you see in the magazines. Not all athletes or people with great health look like Olympic models. Not all athletes have muscles in all the right places.

It is an adjustment to anyone who has craved to look attractive and beautiful to change their mindset. There may be a certain internal struggle about “settling” and about not striving to be the best. Questions may start to spiral. Can I settle for being healthy? Can I settle for not attaining the type of thinness that the media propagates as ideal? Can I quit beating myself up? Can I quit feeling like I failed? Can I quit thinking that I am a disappointment to my husband? Can I quit fearing that I am an embarrassment to my children?

The deeper and more real questions to start posing are the following: What do I win for being thin? Am I a better person if I wear a size 6, 2 or zero? Will I really have the perfect life if I look perfect? What do I accomplish by beating myself up? What do I gain by pointing out all my flaws and imperfections? What good comes of comparing myself to others, especially women who find it necessary to meet the physical expectations of Hollywood?

The truth is that barraging oneself with negativity leads to lowering self-esteem, greater self loathing, depression, more fear, increasing stress and this can easily cycle into believing we are worthless. The worst case scenario is that it can even steal our desire to live.

We get to make choices about what really matters. Some may make career choices that dictate they need to look a certain way. I for one would never want a career that was based on my appearance. I believe that more people need to set examples about what really matters in this world. It shouldn’t be about looking like Tina Turner or Cher.

We are each unique with our own set of genetic DNA that can dictate a whole lot about the size of our behind or how easily we gain and lose weight. It is about time that we begin to truly value and respect diversity and that means not just diversity of skin color or culture. We need to respect that we aren’t all meant to be a size 0. We aren’t all meant to fit into a size 6 shoe. We aren’t all meant to be 6 feet tall with legs that last forever. A woman can be larger and healthy. Just as a woman can be skinny as a rail and completely unhealthy with high cholesterol and a heart condition.

Copyrighted to Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii.
I would love to have a conversation with Oprah and remind her that in some cultures a fat cow is revered, almost like a God. A cow is one of God’s creatures. It is almost humorous that the poor cows are getting a bad rap from her again and this time it isn’t about their meat. Oprah was once sued by the beef industry and had to appear in court. The beef industry lost its case as it grew apparent she hadn’t meant to defame their industry intentionally. Hopefully the Hindus won’t take her to task for insulting one of their most sacred animals. They love all cows -fat, skinny, tall, short, young or old. It doesn’t matter. They all get the same amount of respect. Isn’t that how it should be for us all?

Suggested Reading ~ You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay
“Overweight is another good example of how we can waste a lot of energy trying to correct a problem that is not the real problem. People often spend years fighting fat and are still overweight. They blame all their problems on being overweight. The excess weight is only an outer effect of a deep inner problem. To me, it is always fear and a need for protection. When we feel frightened or insecure or “not good enough” many of us will put on extra weight for protection.
To spend our time berating ourselves for being too heavy, to feel guilty about every bite of food we eat, to do all the numbers we do on ourselves when we gain weight, is just a waste of time. Twenty years later we can still be in the same situation because we have not even begun to deal with the real problem. All that we have done is to make ourselves more frightened and insecure, and then we need more weight for protection.
So I refuse to focus on excess weight or on diets. For diets do not work. The only diet that does work is a mental diet—dieting from negative thoughts. I say to clients, ‘Let us just put that issue to one side for the time being while we work on a few other things first.’
They will often tell me they can’t love themselves because they are so fat, or as one girl put it, ‘too round at the edges.’ I explain that they are fat because they don’t love themselves. When we begin to love and approve of ourselves, it’s amazing how weight just disappears from our bodies.
Sometimes clients even get angry with me as I explain how simple it is to change their live. They may feel I do not understand their problems. One woman became very upset and said, ‘I came her to get help with my dissertation, not to learn to love myself.’ To me it was so obvious that her main problem was a lot of self-hatred, and this permeated every part of her life, including the writing of her dissertation. She could not succeed at anything as long as she felt so worthless.”