self acceptance

Weighting to Jump In: How Body Shame Made Me Miss the Party

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

A public service announcement for all the women

Ladies, we are heading towards the latter part of summer… and of course season change typically includes a transition in wardrobe, at least in the Northwest. And as a curvy woman, I for one am ready to be done with the pressure to find the most “figure-flattering” swimsuit coverup, and spanx to avoid the uncomfortable chafing that inevitably results from 80-plus degree weather and thick thighs in a dress.

Trending toward body positivity

In general, I believe society is making progress around body inclusivity and size diversity. Big applause for public figures like models Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham who are using their beautiful bodies, and more importantly, voices, to speak out against body shaming and diet culture. The publicity around Nike’s effort to support the movement with their full-figured mannequin was epic - and hopefully just the beginning of more clothing companies actively promoting size diversity. 

I’m seeing more unfiltered Instagram accounts and people, not just women, owning their realness. It’s about damn time, but we’ve still got a ways to go. By “we” I mean “we” as a collective and as individuals. We cannot expect change to happen unless we are willing to do our part individually. And I, a mental health professional who works with people struggling with body image and disordered eating, struggled to do my part this summer.

This is my confession. 

How I ended up on a party boat

It was a beautiful Seattle Saturday a couple of weeks back. As a plus-one, I attended a promotional/marketing event for Seafair because my partner works in the hospitality industry. The event was hosted on a partnering company’s boat, which meant swimsuits, skin, and a lot of women who fit the bill for “traditional beauty standards.” I overheard women talking about their month-long cleanses in preparation for the event, two-a-day workout weeks, and compliments on each others’ physiques. Many of these women have become dear friends, and to be clear, I have zero judgement towards anyone who values these things. I’ve noticed this is also how lots of women bond and connect with one another. 

When self consciousness takes over

As we humans tend to do, I got caught up in my head on that boat because I saw no other bodies that looked like mine in swimsuits. I thought to myself, Where are all the Ashley’s and Iskra’s? The diverse women I’ve been flooding my social medias with to drown out the other filtered, photo-CHOPPED ads that otherwise pop up everywhere? I wondered if I’d just created a safety bubble for myself and if actually, the rest of the world really hadn’t expanded beauty ideals. The hard work I’d convinced myself I’d done around accepting my curvy body flew out the porthole. 

A couple of people asked why I was keeping my pants on (they were whooey pants-- the really loose, wide-leg kind that go “whoo whoo” in the wind) and not getting in the water with my friends. I replied self-degradingly, “I might have accepted my cellulite but I’m not sure that the rest of the world is ready for that yet,” and laughed. OMG you guys, the SHAME.

The thing is, I wouldn’t have given a shit if I’d seen anyone with cellulite. In fact, there were probably plenty of women with this NORMAL thingy happening on their skin, and I didn’t even notice because my brain was scanning for data that confirmed my self-conscious thoughts. 

If I could do it all over again

I have some regrets about that day. If I could have a do over, I’ll be brave enough to be the Ashley on that boat...because maybe it would have helped other self-conscious women on that boat rock their water-wear as well. After all, it was really hot, and I was really sweaty and uncomfortable, but my body-conscious anxieties kept me from doing things I actually cared about. My partner spent most of the afternoon floating off the back of the boat, staying cool in the water. Instead of watching my first Blue Angels airshow holding the hand of the person I love most, cooling off in a floaty next to him in the water, I sat on the opposite end of the boat, fully clothed and overheated, and missed out on a memory with him. 

Tapping into my values

While I’m trying to be self-compassionate around not feeling ready to be an Ashley just yet, I allowed my fear of negative judgment to dictate how I chose to live my life that beautiful Seattle Saturday. I was distracted from my personal values of making memories with my best friend, a core concept of Acceptance-Commitment Therapy (ACT). If I had slowed down and checked in with myself, I would remember the Health at Every Size Model (HAES), which emphasizes that every body is a swimsuit body. It de-stigmatizes fatness and people with bigger bodies; it reminds us that fat isn’t bad, nor is it a sound indicator of someone’s health… and certainly not someone’s worth. These are some of the tools I use to help my clients with body image and disordered eating. 

Taking a cue from the boys

What I also didn’t notice that day was any men discussing these subjects. The guys on the boat were rocking their swimmies with all sorts of body types; none were turning down the sandwiches provided to avoid looking bloated, because heaven forbid they were hungry. I didn’t hear any guys commenting on their bodies or shaming themselves. 

Gals - what if we’re mindful about speaking about ourselves unkindly? What would we hear? What if we avoided the calorie conversations at the table or the justifications for wanting the regular sized order instead of the half? We can learn to recognize that these critical thoughts are only thoughts, not absolute truths. 

It is okay and very nurturing to give your body what it needs and wants, which might be salad one day and ice cream the next. When we relinquish the rules and judgement around food and physique, food becomes less of a shame/reward system and begins doing what it’s supposed to: nourishing our bodies so we have the energy to be present for whatever it is we care about for the rest of the beautiful Seattle days to come. 

I am here

I may be a therapist, but I’m not perfect and I’m always learning from my mistakes. If you need someone to help you leave body shaming on the deck while you go for a swim, let’s talk. The party is in the water. 


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Abby Erickson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps people with anxiety and social anxiety learn ways to better manage their angst. She also helps people struggling with low self-esteem and body image issues be comfortable in their own skin. Abby is excited that there are still a few good days of summer left to get a second chance to try out that swimsuit and enjoy the sun.

Perfection Sucks (Here's Why)

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy-- the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

-Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

The lens we grew up with

Like many of my clients, I used to struggle with this aching pressure to be “perfect.” To have it all together, be “good”, hard-working...always be there for others in a time of need. That’s because patterns of human behavior are established during early childhood, both directly and indirectly, and we tend to repeat them throughout our lives… unless we are able to gain insight around them. Through lived experiences, these patterns are either confirmed or disputed. Since we’re not always conscious of them, we can go about our lives living out these messages as “truths”. For better or for worse, these beliefs then become the lens by which we understand ourselves and others in the world.

A recovering perfectionist

Hi, I’m Abby and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

My upbringing informed me that I could earn a sense of belonging and “lovability” by being “good” and doing what I thought I was supposed to. I pressured myself to hide insecurities and flaws for fear of rejection. Inevitably, those imperfections revealed themselves at times. When they did, I felt ashamed. In other words, I felt shi*y about myself… like really shi*ty.

Shame is a heavy feeling that makes us want to hide. It tells me that I’m “bad” and it did a number to my self-esteem and growth. The vulnerability in having my flaws and shortcomings be known was terrifying and avoided at all costs. My internalized belief went something like this: “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.”

My shadowy parts were best kept… well, in the shadows.

My clients as my teachers

Enter the power of therapy. No, it’s not what you think. My clients were my teachers!

When I first began working with clients, I felt strangely connected to them as I got to know them. I wondered where it came from and why it felt so different, so much more fulfilling than any of my other relationships at the time. My clients were of different ages, genders, races, cultures, and socio-economic status… one client was just beginning to learn English. We couldn’t have been more “different.” So how was it that I felt so unusually close to them?

Brene’s work was staring me in my face.

Flaws and shortcomings: Please come in!

Clients were showing up and expressing their worries, regrets, greatest insecurities, and deepest fears. I sat with them as they spoke and felt it. They were allowing me to see their shadowy parts and really letting me in. The thoughts and feelings they exposed didn’t make them bad or unlovable… On the contrary, it humanized them and made them relatable and real. Though our stories and struggles were not the same, I was able to connect and feel close to them because of their vulnerability. As I empathize with them, they felt seen and accepted for their authentic selves, comprised of all the black and white and grey in between.

Perfectionism: You may step down now

The experience I gained from my clients prompted me to seek this kind of authenticity in other relationships. Not gonna lie, it was hard. It definitely rocked the boat in some relationships and ended others, but it also created room for more intentional relationships moving forward. I learned that while the image of perfection might attract others’ envy, attention, or idealization… it sure as shit doesn’t foster meaningful relationships or a genuine sense of belonging.

If you look at it from another perspective, the people we think have it all together often makes us feel bad… because we know we don’t. Our self-esteem gets slapped. We probably find relief in the moments when “perfect” people mess up and aren’t so perfect.

Because if even they mess up, perhaps we can too.

Free to be fully me

Once I’d decided enough was enough, there was this sense of liberation in knowing that it was okay to have flaws and screw up and be wrong. The shame subsequently dissipated because I no longer believed the shadowy parts made me “bad.” Negative feelings come and go easier. The sky isn’t falling when I realize I mess up or when I hurt people I care about. The “I’m sorry” doesn’t taste like vinegar.

Free to be fully you

We all feel pressure to conform to an idealized image of ourselves, whatever your version of “perfection” is. Please don’t judge yourself for it… it’s not your fault. And, if you do judge yourself for it… that’s okay too. We can work on that. You might struggle with criticism, difficult relationships or low self-worth. If that’s the case, you can start your journey toward self-acceptance and real connection with others. I’m here to walk alongside you, and your shadow.


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Abby Erickson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps people with anxiety and social anxiety learn ways to better manage their angst. She also helps people struggling with low self-esteem and body image issues be comfortable in their own skin. Abby looks forward to meeting each new client, because each person she meets is an opportunity to grow and learn from each other.



It’s Okay to Embarrass Yourself Sometimes

The Weta Cave   Warning: This post has a lot of pics,    again

The Weta Cave

Warning: This post has a lot of pics, again

Felt embarrassed, ever?

Ever felt guilty about something non-consequential and then later regret acting on your guilt, rather than your values? Yes, in the moment, it might be uncomfortable, somewhat embarrassing, and perhaps an inconvenience to others. Nonetheless, to not speak up would mean regret, a difficulty letting go and a feeling that somehow, you haven’t been your true self. In sessions, I often give “the contractor” example, but more recently, I picked up one about yogurt. I’ll explain.

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park

Many moments in the Southern Hemisphere

Wai-O-Tapu

Wai-O-Tapu

Husb and I spent three weeks in New Zealand last month, two in the north island and one in the south. Limited by vacation days, we really could’ve stayed there for three more weeks. In the north island, we enjoyed Hobbiton, geothermal activities, hikes, museums, Weta Cave Workshop, black water rafting, and native bird watching.

In the south island, we camper vanned for eight days and took in breathtaking views of the Moeraki Boulders, Lake Wakatipu, Mount Cook, and Milford Sound.

Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley Track

And somewhere in the south island, yogurt happened.

Tempted by food

You see, at this amazing grocery store Pakn’Save, we found this interesting lookin’ yogurt by The Coconut Collaborative. Flavored with Mango and Passionfruit, it just sounds heavenly. So we threw that into the cart, paired it with some muesli and we were set for breakfast the next few days. We made sure the camper van fridge was turned on and working and the yogurt stayed nice and cool.

The yogurt that turned into a tale

The yogurt that turned into a tale

The next morn, I could hardly wait to dig into the tub and to my dismay, found this:

A questionable spot

A questionable spot

Now, the pic is blurry and it wasn’t taken of the first tub but like most moments when you’re alarmed, it doesn’t occur to you to take a photo. At any rate, a grey, cloudy looking spot stared up at me and I thought, “Oh crap! Mold!”

Behold, we drove to another Pakn’Save and wondered out loud, “Are exchanges allowed in New Zealand?” I learn that they are, but only at the same location. What was purchased at Christchurch must be returned at Christchurch.

The foodie is not quittin’

Determined to taste this yummy goodness, I got a new tub at Timaru and told the nice people at the return counter to just toss that other container. When we got back to the van, I ripped open the new tub to make sure it hasn’t succumbed to the same fate and my bad, there it was again! But it’s only because I never ate enough passionfruit to know that the “grey, cloudy looking spot” was a passionfruit seed! Real fruit seeds in New Zealand yogurt? Get out!

Panicked at this new realization, I remembered the tub that I had them toss away. Can’t have that! My husband *thoughtfully* stayed behind while I marched back to the customer service counter.

The big ask

“Excuse me, I’m so sorry. The tub of yogurt that I had you throw away, can I please have it back?” The woman gave me a, “crazy American lady” look and asked her manager where he had tossed it. They looked into three different garbage bins and finally fished it out. There’s some weight to it and it had gone some distance into the abyss. A sigh of relief swept over me. The manager was very nice and again explained that it can be exchanged at the first location. I thanked them for their extra effort and ran the tub under the faucet with soap.

As I headed out, I waved goodbye, thanking them again. The woman still looked at me funny. And I thought to myself, It’s crazy Asian Canadian lady visiting from America, to be exact.

Mission Accomplished

Back in the car, my husband wasn’t quite hidden from view but was glad he wasn’t a part of my yogurt saving mission. For the next few days, we enjoyed this delish yogurt with museuli and went back for our third tub! It’s one of the most missed food item from our trip to Middle Earth.

If you’re wincing while reading this, you’re not alone. Unless you take pleasure in inconveniencing others, then you’ll likely feel some discomfort. And for a moment, I wondered if I should’ve gone back: I already have another tub. It’s only $6 NZD. She’ll think I’m weird. Is it really worth it? But that, countered with: The yogurt is still good, why waste it? That plastic container needs to be recycled. I’ll regret not going back on the basis of feeling embarrassed.

That last thought got me.

Emotions and values

Feeling embarrassed. That feeling is real but it’s also a fleeting moment. It’ll come and it’ll go. But my value of not wasting food, of recycling when I could is something that will stay. Do I choose an action that will help me avoid an unpleasant feeling? Or, do I act based on what I value, even though I might not feel good in the moment?

What about you?

Within context, what would happen if you spoke up, even when you feel uncertain, embarrassed or guilty over something small, but significant to you? What would happen if you listened more to what matters to you and less to what others thought of you? Will you take up more space in your relationships, in your communities, in the world as you own your preferences, opinions and values and make them known to those around you?

Here at People Bloom, we’re about helping you find your voice, your place in your spaces and your relationships. We want to help you grow. However small we start, the effect is there. Or, if you’re ready to go big, let us know! We want to get you closer to what matters to you.


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Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps unhappy couples find safety and connection in their relationship. She also helps cancer thrivers and their caregivers integrate cancer into their life stories. The most embarrassing thing she has ever done is mindlessly walked from the women’s locker room out to the treads area wrapped in a bath towel. Why are people looking at me? What’s their problem?! When she realized the machines don’t look like showers, she promptly rerouted. Running would have made things worse, she thought.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

In my many years of practicing therapy, I have had some clients who feel that what they consider to be their traits, temperament, and preferences - i.e. their personality - is reduced to a diagnosis. Perhaps you identify with and have nurtured these qualities over time, and you take pride in that. Your way of being has helped you navigate the world and has gotten you where you are today. Thus, in addressing these qualities in therapy, you might be concerned that the work we do could radically change you as a person or invalidate your life experiences.

Here’s my short answer: You are not your diagnosis, or even the symptoms of your diagnosis.

My initial meeting with you helps me understand where you’ve been and what you’re struggling with. While a diagnosis is necessary for billing insurance and can be helpful to guide treatment, I see the qualities that you bring into sessions as a condition, and sometimes, as a timestamp of where you’re at, rather than a disorder. There is nothing wrong with you. Some things are just not working as well as you’d like, and you can use some help figuring it all out.

Here’s an analogy:  I once knew a young man who was well over six feet tall. He liked being tall, but he had had a problem hitting his head on low overhanging things like street signs and door frames. Not that I saw him in the office about being tall -- I saw him for something entirely different. He doesn't necessarily have to change being the way he is, as much as hopefully growing to be someone who is more versatile, like learning to duck at times.

My point is: Therapy is often about adjusting to situations, as a practical matter. You don’t have to stop being you; but we can help you do you with more flexibility.

Let me know if I can help!


People Bloom Counseling Bob Russell Teens Working Professionals Redmond I.png

Bob Russell is a therapist at People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice in WA. He helps teens and their families thrive through the adolescent years. He also helps twenty somethings figure out their place in life. In his 40+ years working in mental health, he’s developed a knack for helping people peel the layers of the onion that make up their identity. Bob can be found at PeopleBloomCounseling.com.

Self-Acceptance

Paolese/stock.adobe.com

Paolese/stock.adobe.com

So I grew up reading Japanese manga and I could really identify with a character in Ranma ½. He's the pig who gets lost all the time. That's me. Unless I've been down that route again and again, the GPS is my friend. And even then, I'll make the wrong turn.

Now, is this not an area I can grow in, to stretch myself some, to explore places still? Absolutely! But will I ever be like my husband, who helped his cousin move into his college dorm when he was 10, and then decades later, said, “Oh, I remember this was where my cousin lived...” Are you kidding me?!!

Spatial ability is not my strong suit and coming to terms with it is still a process. Need help embracing who you're wired to be? Glad I'm not alone.