Monday, October 26, 2009

Beauty IS More Than Skin Deep

By Amy Phillips-Gary

I have this mixed up and confused sort of relationship with beauty.

I would so like to feel beautiful; and there have been moments that I have-- but not as many as I'd like! For the most part, I look around me and feel sub-standard or merely okay.

Images of beautiful women in ads on tv and in magazines seem to hound me and exacerbate my lagging perceptions of myself. This doesn't necessarily get better or easier as I get older either!

I am not alone. It is a rarity to find a woman who truly feels beautiful as she is. So many women are critical in some form or another of our own bodies, skin, hair, and so on.

This is one reason why I feel encouraged by the Dove company's Campaign for Real Beauty. Yes, they are trying to sell us Dove cleansers, lotions and hair care products. But this company is stepping out and trying to do so in a different way.

In a field where the images are altered so that just about no actual woman meets the standard portrayed, this is a refreshing effort. Dove is talking about the importance of self esteem for girls and women as well as promoting their products with models who look closer to what you and I look like rather than the modeling industry's norm.

A conundrum crops up for me when I realize that while I so want to feel beautiful, a part of me discounts the whole idea of it.

I've considered myself a feminist for the bulk of my life and, on some level, I believe that placing my attentions on trying to be beautiful is a kind of sell-out. I tend to hold onto a belief that there is something shallow, superficial and even unintelligent about being beautiful.

The false dichotomy between beauty and brains arises within me and, of course, I want to go for the “smart” choice.

So I am left wishing I felt beautiful as I discount beauty. This leaves me merely wanting, empty and unable to truly feel that I am either.

Take back your power to be beautiful

It might be easy to merely blame the advertising and modeling industries and their unreal and impossible beauty standards for the pervasiveness of body/appearance hatred. I think that this misses a deeper piece of the dynamic however.

It's not so much about the ads or even the models and the airbrushing after all. If body image wasn't already a difficult issue for me, these ads wouldn't seem so powerful.

The trigger of feeling unattractive wouldn't be a trigger if the core belief that I am not beautiful didn't exist in the first place. And my confusion about beauty itself doesn't help!

A shift about the whole concept of beauty is called for here. After all, beauty is far more than just “skin deep.”

When I really think about it, beauty is an essence and an energy certain people just have.

Yes, the effects can be pleasing to the eye when a woman has created a particular look using makeup, hair styling and clothing. But a woman (or man) whose beauty effuses forth from within doesn't have to put forth those kinds of efforts.

She or he walks around confidently knowing her or his own worth, value and beauty and it shows-- with or without makeup. There is a depth and a sense of empowerment present in this manner of being beautiful.

This inner beauty that comes through is truly beautiful AND intelligent, wise, substantial and valuable all at the same time.

Cultivating Beauty

Grow your inner beauty by trying these ideas...

*Love yourself
Tell yourself, “I love you” throughout your day. Know that you deserve to be loved and who better to love you, than you!

*Build your self esteem
Find things to appreciate about yourself regularly. You can start out with seemingly small aspects and continue from there.

*Keep your dreams alive
Nothing stokes inner beauty and glow more than maintaining your visions for the future. What do you feel excited about? No matter how “pie in the sky” your dreams seem to be, keep them alive in your heart and act when inspired.

*Surround yourself with opportunities to cultivate your own beauty
Close friends and family members and I recently gathered for a Beautiful Party. We each wrote positive and loving words on our own bodies.

Many of our arms, faces, legs and bellies were covered with declarations such as: “confident,” “aware,” “wise,” “beautiful,” “graceful” and even “hot.” This was a fun and enriching way to witness the growing sense of inner beauty in each of us.

You don't have to host a Beautiful Party unless you'd like to. I do encourage you to take steps toward discovering and celebrating your own beauty and allow it to shine from the inside all the way out.

*The Beautiful Party idea is thanks to this woman and her friends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What Do You Do to Keep Your Wild Things at Bay?

By Amy Phillips-Gary

A young boy struggles to deal with his parents' divorce, the introduction of a new person-- his mother's boyfriend-- into his life, feeling left out and ignored by his older sister and an overall sense of loneliness.

This not-so-unusual scenario is the stage upon which the movie version of the beloved children's book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is set.

While the book hints at the difficulties the pre-pubescent Max is going through, the movie version (titled the same) expands and brings them to a level that can be downright uncomfortable for viewers.

The wild things that Max encounters after he sails off to another land personify his seemingly out of control emotions.

The wild things yearn for Max to erase their sadness once and for all but-- as you might guess-- this is impossible even for a child king in a magical land.

How do you cope with your wild things?

Our emotions can seem as intense and unruly as the wild things in Max's alternative world are. They can literally “eat us up” if we don't soothe and care for them in loving ways.

But the trouble is, many many of us don't want to deal with our wild things.

I used to abuse alcohol in an attempt to dull my wild things. Insecurities, fears, and even memories I didn't want to remember, were all temporarily kept at bay as I drank to the point of passing out at times.

You might turn to the false promise of soothing and distraction from alcohol or other things like drugs (legal or illegal), food, television, computer, exercise, work, and even the opinion of others.

There's nothing inherently wrong with any of these behaviors or influences.

Unfortunately, as I found out, they can quickly turn into addictions. We can become dependent on these external sources for a fleeting sensation of uplift that can have unhealthy aftereffects.

As I relied on alcohol to try to dull my wild things, I not only engaged in dangerous behaviors with serious consequences, I also moved further and further away from learning how to truly soothe myself.

This is a very conditional way to live.

When you rely on external sources to cope with difficult feelings, your ability to achieve what you want to achieve is severely limited. In part, this is because you are working so hard to numb out and not face or feel the feelings.

The effects of addictive behaviors can end up far more destructive than the original emotions ever could be.

And our wild things continue to exist. They are in there-- gnashing their teeth, growling and growing.

[*Note: There are many ways to understand and stop addiction. These suggestions are a general approach and not meant to replace coaching or therapy. If you feel that your health and well-being are in danger because of your addictive behaviors, please seek the help of a professional.]

Love your Wild Things.

It is absolutely vital that you stay in touch with you.

Even if you can only create 5 minutes each day to sit quietly, breathe and feel, do it. Give this to yourself. During those 5 minutes ask yourself how you are feeling and what you need.

If you need to cry, then cry. If you feel like yelling, create space for yourself to yell. Be in the moment with your emotions-- allow them.

Your in-touch time can be a source of healing, release and rejuvenation as long as you don't negate it with critical or judgmental thoughts.

Keep yourself focused on the feelings and not your stories behind the feelings. Afterwards, you will be better able to listen to any actions or changes you feel drawn to.

What any of us need is to feel loved-- unconditionally. You simply cannot love yourself without also loving and finding a sense of peace with your wild things.

Love yourself anyway, including those undesirable feelings, behaviors and addictive tendencies you have.

When you dive deeper into self-hate because you are jealous, critical, or you eat, drink or whatever too much, your need for those dangerous soothers increases-- as do your wild things.

From a place of love, however, you can almost always make changes more easily and assuredly.

Make it your goal to find even one aspect of yourself to love as you are, where you are. Once you discover one aspect to love, continue looking for more.

Build from there until you no longer need to escape or dull your difficult and intense emotions. Your love, awareness and willingness to listen to yourself and your needs can bring you the ease and answers you really wanted all along.

*Wild Things hat image thanks to

Monday, October 12, 2009

Be Prepared!

By Amy Phillips-Gary

A few days ago a headline on the cover of my city's newspaper advised readers to “Prepare for H1N1.” This cautionary lead was followed up by a list of steps that can be taken in order to minimize the affects of this strain of influenza that's reportedly making the rounds.

Cold and flu season happens every year. This time, however, there has been a particular focus on the H1N1 flu.

Countless news reports and websites share the list of symptoms. You can even go online to track where the H1N1 flu has shown up across the country and the world.

Our local YMCA has reminders posted throughout the building and on all exercise equipment about how to disinfect the space. Signs on the front door make the request that those with H1N1 symptoms to stay away. Bottles of antibacterial hand sanitizer seem to be available everywhere.

The preparations appear in full swing for the expected onslaught of this influenza.

Some of the people I know are getting sick and I even read about a teenager in my city who actually died from complications of H1N1.

But I can't help but wonder if we are preparing so much for a flu epidemic, we are actually making ourselves sick!

When the local newspaper tries to offer me tips for how to “prepare for H1N1,” I just say no thanks!

Instead, I am preparing for health and wellness.

You tend to get what you expect.

You might not realize it but your expectations can actually create the reality you live. Many of us have heard the term “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

This plays out as the slow or troubled child who nobody (including the child him or herself) believes will ever amount to much, ends up meeting everyone's low expectations.

Of course, there are those exceptions to the rule who surpass and overcome limiting expectations, lead successful lives and contribute positively to the world.

The point here is what you expect and what you prepare for usually manifests.

Your expectations are usually based on the past experiences you've had and also what you've learned from others. Expectations are inextricably linked to your beliefs.

This is especially accurate when it comes to your body and your health.

How many times have you been in the presence of a person who was obviously ill and then, after worrying about catching the illness yourself, you inevitably do?

Of course, there are germs floating about. But why is it that some people can seem to walk through a room of coughing and nose-blowing and come through just as healthy and resilient as before and others quite quickly succumb?

I believe that expectations play a huge role in these different experiences.

Even if the law of attraction does not resonate with your belief system, consider the countless scientific studies that show how damaging to the immune system fear and worry are.

I watch my thoughts and I pay attention to the influences I am surrounding myself with.

When I read about the flu, I notice that I often feel concern for my family and myself. I feel compassion for those who are suffering right now and I also feel grateful that at this moment I feel well and full of energy.

After these acknowledgments, I return to my belief that my body (and those of my loved ones) is strong and functioning optimally.

I expect this great health to continue and know that if I do become ill, I will rebound quickly and thoroughly.

When I take an action that affects my health, I choose actions that keep me lined up with this expectation and desired experience.

If taking extra vitamin C or health supplements helps me continue to feel aligned with optimum health, I will take those actions. If continuing to care for my body by washing my hands, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet feels like it will keep me pointed toward wellness, I will also take those actions.

Pay attention to what you are expecting for your own health. Where do your thoughts tend to spend most of the time?

You can always re-direct your thinking, question your own beliefs and form new expectations for your health and your life. These shifts can happen at any time with beneficial effects.

So, what are you preparing for?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun with Money

By Amy Phillips-Gary

In today's economy there aren't too many people connecting the word “fun” with the word “money.”

News headlines warily report the stock market numbers each day. Job cuts are still being made and plenty of folks are looking for employment that will adequately pay the bills.

A lot of belt-tightening is going on.

In such an environment, the focus tends to be on “getting by” rather than bounding into financial abundance and prosperity.

And, even in such an environment with a preponderance of fear and worry, it is absolutely essential that we identify our limiting beliefs about money, make shifts and open up to developing new ones that will support what we DO want rather than keep us stuck where we don't want to be.

Many, many people-- myself included-- habitually feel lack when it comes to their financial situations. Lack feelings contribute to people feeling helpless about money.

“Reality” and experience tend to match these feelings.

Money Beliefs

Beliefs are just thoughts that we practice-- a lot! We think similar thoughts over and over again. Pretty soon, they appear very solid, immovable and even irrefutable to us.

Money is a hot topic for many people. And, just like beliefs about other issues, our habitual thoughts about money become entrenched and appear to us as the “absolute truth.”

Lack Orientation

Beliefs start to take shape from a very early age. You might have grown up in a household where money was tight. The messages from your parents and other family members indicated to you that “funds are low” so “don't ask for too much.”

These messages and your thoughts about them solidified into beliefs that money is a limited resource-- this now seems to you to be an undeniable fact that is mirrored and reinforced in your own experience.

It can be a painful, debilitating cycle.

Perhaps it seems wildly unrealistic to you to consider an income or lifestyle that is outside a particular “comfort” range of what you've always known. This is primarily due to your money beliefs.

There's nothing wrong with remaining within the limits of your “comfort” zone-- as long as that's where you want to be.

If you'd like to expand your bank account and enjoy financial freedom, however, you might ask yourself if your lack constraints are really all that comfortable after all!

Money the Corrupter

On the other hand, you may associate wealth and financial abundance with corruption, greed, “selling out,” being “less spiritual,” or other descriptions that you deem negative.

Of course, there are examples of greed and corruption in the world.

But it is not the money that is responsible for apparent crookedness-- it is the actions of people who are usually motivated by fear, unhappiness and pain.

Money can be understood as just another form of energy and appreciation. It is an exchange between people that represents one party showing appreciation for services or a product.

There is an exchange of energy when money changes hands.

As you loosen up, relax and open up more and more to receiving and giving appreciation, a greater sense of flow with money can develop. And this can translate into greater financial abundance in your life.

This way of looking at money might be unappealing or seem like a huge stretch to you. This is only an example of a different perspective you might consider adopting.

What is most important here is for you to explore your money beliefs.

If, even on a sub-conscious level, you believe that to be wealthy is to be shady, exploitative or greedy, these beliefs are going to obstinately stand in your way-- of even minimal abundance.

Stay curious as you become clearer about how you think, feel and believe about money and don't get caught up in criticizing yourself or others in your life for helping to form these beliefs.

Learn what your beliefs are and then decide if you'd like to change them or not.

Be Free with Your Money

As you begin to change your money beliefs, you can ease up about money.

I'm not suggesting that you run out and max out your credit card at your favorite store. Make conscious choices about your financial actions just as you are beginning to do with your beliefs.

For example, with a positive mind-set, a budget can be a wonderful way to keep yourself pointed toward the financial future you'd like.

Remember that you always have choice. Make each of your money decisions from a feeling of empowerment, a clear vision for what you do want for your future and an overall sense of fun and joy.

From there, appreciation and abundance can continue to grow.