HOW I LEARNED TO FEEL COMFORTABLE IN MY OWN SKIN

“Your legs are so skinny they look like toothpicks about to snap.” I was in fifth grade and a classmate of mine was watching my body jump from an x shape to an i then back to an x again. Although it sounds like a malicious school-girl jab, she said it observationally. The following year, this time on a school bus, a boy pointed to my Italian descendent arms and commented on their hairiness. Some other time I found a note a girl wrote to another saying that I had a big nose. I could give you a dozen more of these.

Along with the ones I’d come up with on my own, I carried these stories about myself in my body. The weighed me down. They informed the way I spoke, my gait, and my attitude. I was not shut down, as you’d imagine, but I was falsely confident. I decided to stand tall, shoulders back and down. I was determined and motivated and wanted people to see that I was strong and self-reliant. But sometimes, especially in social situations, I couldn’t hide my true self. 

At a college party a guy in our group pointed out that I looked uncomfortable, “Michelle you look so uncomfortable.” Really, he said that. We were just standing there. But I was. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel pretty or cute let alone sexy or beautiful. I felt awkward, and other people could see it all over me. And this didn’t just relate to my physical appearance. I felt unsure of who to be in group situations, and I didn’t know how to just be myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was afraid to be seen, afraid to be judged, and wanted nothing more than to find people who I could just be myself with.

After college I read The Power of Now by Eckhard Tolle, and my mind was blown. I have an ego! A big one! It’s not actually who I am I sighed in relief. I had a mind that was holding me back from showing myself to the world. It was a beautiful new way to look at who I really was, and it was very powerful for me. It allowed me to stop being so defensive and to begin to let my guard down. In this process I started to drop some of the negative self-talk. I started to say, “I don’t know” instead of firmly declaring it wasn’t possible. I felt like I could finally let my guard down, that I didn’t have to have it all together, that it was ok for me to let go a little. My entire being started to relax a little. 

But for years more I still felt off, although I wouldn’t let myself admit it. I had begun to accept myself, but in a way that didn’t feel completely authentic. When people told me I was beautiful I would smile and thank them, but in my mind I would offer up conditions. Sure, I’m beautiful, but not in the conventional kind of way. I wasn’t able to fully embrace the goodness people were offering up to me. I wasn’t able to look at myself and see my beauty because I was cut off from it.

Beauty, to me, is radiance of the love we have for ourselves. Beauty is seen in the way we carry ourselves, the way our bodies move, the way we sound, the vibration of our entire being. We radiate our own spiritual relationship to ourselves. I say spiritual relationship because I had intellectually manipulated myself into believing that I was all good, that I loved myself, and that I was a vulnerable person. But the truth was that I was emotionally blocked off. I hadn’t cried in a couple of years. I had detached from my emotions because I wasn’t ready to face the pain I was required to feel in order to be the person I wanted to be. 

A few years ago I found myself domino-ing into a series of synchronistic events which landed me on a massage table breathing to a playlist of Sarah McLachlan, Native American Flutes, and something that sounded like it was from the Renaissance. Someone recommended I practice Breathwork to help me deal with my deep trust and control issues, and, although skeptical that breathing could do anything aside from relax me, I decided to go along for the ride. 

What I found was this amazingly simple and profound tool that opened me up to truths about myself that I had been hiding from for years. I would go to my teacher’s studio, lay on a table, and breathe for 45 minutes or so. I would breathe into my belly, then my chest, and exhale. Back into my belly, chest, and exhale…The technique felt strange at first, but quickly left me with insights into the pain I had been holding on to. And through the breath the pain moved and released. I felt lighter and lighter each time.

Through this continued work I began to love myself completely. The path to this place was a journey through all my pain, through all of the parts of myself that I had been hiding from. I felt them, experienced them, mourned them, and released them. I stopped carrying the weight of the judgements I’d accumulated and allowed myself to be new and free. I was finally able to feel all of the pain I had been hiding from because I knew that I was deeply loved and supported by the most important person who needed to love and support me — myself. I showed up to do the work of breathing and shedding and breathing and purging and breathing and opening. 

Through my own breath I became someone who loves themselves. I am now someone who can be vulnerable without needing validation. I can be in love without losing my power. I can see the beauty of my entire being: the mistakes I’ve made, the pain I’ve caused, the love I’ve given, the joy I’ve experienced, the deep essence of who I am in each moment and the expression of that in the world. All of it is me and all if it is embraced. 

And now my beauty radiates. I’m not done. I know this path is an open road. But now I feel good in my own body. I feel whole. I feel like this body belongs to me and I to it, at least while we’re still breathing. 

Along the way I've worked with different techniques that have helped me be able to look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman instead of blemishes, dark circles, and a big nose. I can see photos of myself and not need them to be a certain angle or expression to see my own beauty. And, most importantly, I feel comfortable in my own skin. I can own my power and share my voice. 

If you want to change the way you see yourself, if you want to feel comfortable in your own skin, sign up for access to my new 31 day course coming soon:

DISCOVERY: BROWNIES, BREATHING & BROOKYLN

1. SUPER DELICIOUS AVOCADO BROWNIES

A few weeks ago my friend brought over avocado chocolate mouse for dessert, and it was amazing. So I made these avocado brownies when I went to her place for dinner. No avocado taste noticeable. Yum. 

2. "I TRIED TO TRIP USING ONLY MY BREATH"

This guy wrote an article on Breathwork for Vice. While I'm happy to see Breathwork get more exposure, but it's a shame to not include the depth of the practice and the profound longterm benefits. The Breathwork mentioned in this article is not what you will experience with me. You won't be standing up and almost passing out. You won't be hyperventilating. You still may see things. Your body will still get tingly. You'll probably feel emotional, and you'll definitely feel peaceful. If you have yet to experience Breathwork with me you can learn more here.

3. BROOKLYN, THE MOVIE

Go see it. That's pretty much all I have to say. Well, I have more to say, of course. I talk a lot. But I won't say too much aside from that this film made me think differently about what my great grandparents went through when leaving their families to come here and how technology has made that so much easier than it ever could have been back then. Oh, and falling in love in the 1950s was a whole other ball game.

 

DOES FACEBOOK DEPRESS YOU?

Every time I’m on Facebook I see a new engagement photo, a squishy baby, a bride in a gown, a couple on a travel adventure. I remember when seeing these things made me feel like shit. I’d go on Facebook, mostly habitually, and log off feeling worse than before. Seeing everyone else happy made me feel like my life wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I wanted to be in love, sharing my happy moments with everyone, but instead I was fighting for a drowning relationship and trying to scrounge up enough money for a meal (forget a trip abroad). I was tired of happiness being rubbed in my face.

There have been several studies that show links to depressive symptoms and Facebook usage. Just last year a new study linked the depressive symptoms to social comparison, something I’m sure we can all relate to. The interesting thing about this particular study is that whether people perceived themselves in a lesser or better position than others, comparison in general created depressive effects. So basically we get depressed when we compare ourselves to others even if we judge ourselves as better. Fascinating, right? 

If you’re someone who compares themselves to others on Facebook, the reality is that you’re probably doing the same thing in your every day life. The problem isn’t necessarily Facebook, it’s a deeper underlying issue creating those difficult feelings.

It took me a while to be able to recall the exact feelings I used to have going on Facebook because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way. Now I happily "like" the array of chubby babies, vacation photos, and big moment celebrations being shared by my friends. I am genuinely happy for each of their happy moments, and it makes me feel good to celebrate with them just by witnessing the joyful moments of their lives. This is something you can feel, too.

The reason we compare ourselves to others is because we don’t feel good about our own lives. We feel like something is missing or lacking, so when we see other people living in joy our yearn for more for ourselves is heightened. These are deep issues that I work with my clients to face, but there are also simple things you can begin to do now to change how you feel when you see all the happy posts on Facebook.

The first thing you can do is acknowledge that you have the ability to be just as happy as everyone else appears to be. You can travel the world, hug a bunch of babies, and live whatever joy it is that you want for your own life. Everything is within reach, and the first step to it is to be able to let go of your own mind’s limitations. 

Step one is to become conscious of your reactions to others. Often times we’re unconscious of the feelings that are arising until they’ve engulfed us. If you know you tend to feel depressed after going on Facebook, become highly conscious of your own thoughts and feelings the next time you’re using it. The goal is to catch yourself when something makes you feel badly or a negative thought pops up in relationship to what you’ve viewed. As soon as it happens you have a choice. You get to continue to indulge in the thought or you can wish the person happiness and realize that if you want that for your own life you can have it. Take that energy and realization and use it to better your own life instead of indulging in the negative thought stream and inevitable depressive states that come with jealousy and comparison. 

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