Clnical Psychologist and empowered woman Dr. Shayna Kaufman has a website entitled Embracing the Middle: Empower Women in Their 40'S, 50'S & 60'S - Discover and Apply Your Innate Wisdom, Awareness, and Courage. She leads short, day, and series workshops (formal and informal gatherings) on "an empowering approach to the second half of your life that invokes excitement rather than a mindset of "midlife crisis" or stagnation." She describes her program as one that
...teaches how to examine outdated beliefs and behaviors and gracefully accept what is, even if that means embracing your growing "mid" section. My programs are educational and experiential and are best suited for women in midlife (approximately 40-60) who are open to examining aspects of their lives through the midlife lens of wisdom, maturity, awareness, and emotional bandwidth.
I want to share with you an email she just sent, that has to do with body acceptance. If this resonates with you please visit Dr. Kaufman's website at https://www.embracethemiddle.com/ or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EmbraceTheMiddle/ for much more information.
What Embracing our Bodies IS NOT
Yesterday I received a call from Kyra (not real name) about attending an Embracing Our Bodies workshop. She shared her experience of being so extremely critical of her body that she actually avoids looking at herself in the mirror. “I love bright colors,” Kyra sadly told me, “but I mostly wear black, oversized clothing to make me look thin and hide my body.” Compliments from her friends or husband about her body are simply disregarded. Kyra is weary of being at war with her body and ready to make a change.
Kyra was concerned that “Embracing” meant only accepting her body and weight and that she’d be hypocritical if she tried to accept her body and lose weight. Her angst was especially strong as she’d recently had some exciting success with a weight loss program. For the record, that is definitely NOT what I mean by Embracing. But Kyra’s earnest question inspired me to clarify what Embracing Our Bodies IS and IS NOT.
Foremost, Embracing our Bodies IS loving ourselves exactly as we are even as we strive to look and be our best. These are not either/or positions; they are both/and. I try my hardest to embrace and openly admit to having my share of vanity. Just ask my husband how many outfits I go through before heading out the door. I applaud Kyra’s weight loss efforts and wish her success. If, however, Kyra’s self-love is contingent upon her weight, then she is not “embracing.” The challenge for all of us, including Kyra, is to love ourselves the same regardless of our size (or wrinkles, or grey hairs, or...).
Embracing IS accepting and appreciating what our bodies are and are not capable of at this moment in time. I recently wrote a blog about giving up my 40 years of running due to serious knee issues. I am definitely not happy about the status of my knee, and am considering any and all medical procedures. But I accept this is the reality of my knee at this time, I’m not dwelling on my inability to run and I actively appreciate what I can do. That is embracing.
Embracing IS NOT an excuse to skip the gym and eat bon bons all day; it’s not a reason for Kyra to discontinue dieting. To say, “I am embracing my body as it is and therefore I’m having fries and a shake with my burger” is a misdirected rationalization. Have your fries and shake if you choose to but don’t delude yourself by calling that embracing. That is splurging.
Embracing IS always a work in progress, a dance of sorts. We’re human and the path to embracing is not linear, but more like a few steps forward, a few back, and a few to the side for good measure. You make some headway and then you backslide a bit. Furthermore, some parts of our lives are harder to embrace than others.
In my experience, the most important aspects to work towards embracing are those that are currently interfering with the quality of your life. I got serious about coming to terms with my weight because it was more than a mere inconvenience; it was a dark cloud over my life. There are people I came to forgive because holding onto my anger limited my joy. And there were beliefs I chose to release as they were holding me back.
You likely already know which aspect of your life needs embracing. Maybe it’s your body image, maybe a relationship, maybe a work situation. I’ll be first to admit that the thought of embracing can be daunting. I assure you, though, that there’s palpable freedom and relief on the other side. If you are ready to embrace, and want some guidance and support along the way, consider joining me and some other amazing women at an Embracing event. Kyra is. Cheers to Embracing!
Shayna Gothard Kaufmann, Ph.D.