Campaign For Confidence is so much more than a mostly naked photo with strategically placed produce. It’s more than a Kale Yeah! Sticker stuck to a bathroom mirror. It’s more than a blog post… it’s a movement. It’s a celebration of our bodies + the journey to love them. The simple truth is that our insecurities run deep and it takes years of exploration, work and forgiveness to love + accept ourselves just the way we are. The path is flooded with tears, self-loathing and the ever present “I’ll start tomorrow” followed by one last pint of ice cream… sound familiar?
This blog series is devoted to telling the real life stories of the people behind the Campaign For Confidence photos.
Join the Campaign here.
Contact us to share your story in a future Conversation on Confidence! You must join the Campaign via a photo submission to get in on the conversation.
See all posts in this series here.
I met Chariti at a retreat earlier this year. From the moment we met I liked her. Quite simply she GLOWS! AND OMG her laugh will fill a room with undeniably joy. About 2/3 of the way through the retreat we shared how we see ourselves... Chariti held up her notebook with a picture that she had drawn of herself. It was this beautiful Bohemian woman with a long skirt and bangle bracelets, sparkles everywhere. The room went quiet as she talked about wearing what she called "Chariti length sweaters" and cardigans. She'd created a wardrobe of dark colored, "sensible" clothing to cover her body. Right then she vowed to get rid of them as soon as she went home (she made good on that promise). The next day she came to the circle with a scarf in her hair and a long sleeve button down rolled up to her elbows and left unbuttoned to reveal her white tank under. She was so clearly already starting to embody that girl in the picture. I'll remember that moment for a long time. It was freaking great!
I'm so proud to introduce you to Chariti! She posed with pitty-pat squash for her Campaign photo and I can't think of anything better. Of course she'd pick a veggie with a cute name to pose with! Even her sweetheart sunburn line makes me smile.
THEN + NOW + TOMORROW
Q: Who were you before you joined the Campaign For Confidence?
A: Before joining the Campaign For Confidence, I was the woman who would stand in front of the mirror and say “I’m so fat-ass” (but I would pronounce it fuh-tass, as if saying in that way would somehow lessen the pain of what I was saying). Ugh. I would literally stand in front of a full-length mirror naked, hunch my shoulders and stick out my gut so I looked like I was 5 months pregnant and then think: you’re just never gonna be thin and beautiful. I used to collapse the two ideas of “thin” and “beautiful” together. At age 40, I’m finally learning and practicing how to untangle those two ideas.
Q: Who are you now?
A: I am now a woman who is learning to LOVE her body—every inch, crease, curve, and sunspot. Now, when I stand in front of the mirror, I try to change the story and say instead “Girl! You’ve got some beautiful collar bones!”
I’ve always been disconnected from my body, seeing it as something separate from my mind and my soul. I’m really trying to work on seeing it as a CRITICAL PART of the whole me, of my health and well-being. I am not great at it yet, but I am trying to honor its needs and be more mindful of how I’m treating it. Just last night, I ate some pizza and ice cream because I was feeling the need for comfort, and it gave me really bad gas the next morning. The “new” me cradled my belly and rubbed it and said “I’m sorry belly…I promise to treat you better from here on out.” I pictured the inside of my stomach, working on overdrive to chew up and digest that junk that I’d put inside it.
All day I’m very good at giving my body what it needs—lots of water, green food, lean protein, and moderate exercise (most days). But at night, my alter-ego emerges and it’s not pretty. I eat and drink things that cause abuse of my body and, ultimately, my soul. It’s like I hang with the wrong “inner” crowd at nighttime. My daytime inner crowd is pure and helpful and wise and sweet. But not the nighttime ones, oh not so much…they are little devils who like to tempt me with all of my favorite “bad things.” And they know that I’m particularly vulnerable at nighttime because I’m tired. They beat me up when I’m down. That’s one I’m still struggling with.
Q: What are you still working on?
A: I am confident in my abilities as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, and as a coach. I am confident in my abilities as a writer, a speaker, a listener, and a businesswoman. I am confident in SO MANY AREAS of my life—except my ability to treat my body with the respect and love it deserves. It seems I can always do it “for a time” (whether that’s 10 minutes or 10 months) but at some point I always retreat back to “the old way” of doing things (i.e., mindless eating, comfort eating, forgetting that what I put in my body really matters, etc.).
My goal is to look at my body and say “WOW! YOU ARE GORGEOUS, you know that?” And to hear the answer “Duh! I thought we were past this!”
I still don’t feel that way.
I want to walk down the street and catch a glimpse of myself in a storefront window and think “I bet people look at me and think I’m sexy.” I’m far from that. Instead, I still think “I bet people look at me and think my ass jiggles too much in these pants.”
Parts of my body that I really want to love: my arms, my belly, my boobs, and my insides, especially my stomach and digestive system. I feel that if I could learn to love the inside, the outside would take care of itself. I’ve never really thought about the inside before…or at least I’ve never really prioritized taking care of it—not REALLY anyway.
Q: Was there a moment of truth in your life when everything changed?
A: I wouldn’t say that there was “one moment” exactly, but when I was on the verge of turning 40, I started thinking about what kind of life I wanted for myself for the NEXT 40 years. And I realized how EXHAUSTED I was of constantly worrying about and feeling guilty about my body size, shape, etc. I decided I want that monkey off my back. I’m ready to embrace my beauty inside and out. I’m now figuring out HOW to do that. It’s hard.
Q: Food is a powerful vehicle for change. When you change what goes into your body you change what comes out. I love the question that Wayne Dyer often talks about “What do you get when you squeeze an orange? Orange juice of course! And so what do you get when you squeeze you?” Anger? Self loathing? Greasy pizza with extra cheese? OR maybe it’s Love? Kale? Possibility? Speak to being squeezed and how you’ve changed. What role does food play in your life now?
A: Food is still my “go to” for comfort. You squeeze me and you get a longing for retreat and release from the responsibilities of life. I get so bored with my day to day domestic duties. I adore my hubby and daughter, but sometimes taking care of them all of the time means there’s not much left for me. I’m MUCH BETTER at taking care of me than I used to be. But food is still there as my “go to” when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Food is what I turn to when I’m bored, anxious, excited, needing a break, feeling blue, feeling happy, feeling celebratory, or feeling like I need a big hug. I can remember being a 10 or 12 year old kid and looking forward to coming home from school…and then, ironically, being BORED out of my skull once I got there. SO, I’d open the refrigerator and make a sandwich (my “second lunch”) or mix up a batch of brownie mix (and eat it raw with a spoon—ALL of it) or eat a bag of chips…all while watching TV.
I numbed out at age 12 to ease the pain of feeling sadness, I guess. Sadness that my parents were getting divorced, that my mom was always stressed out and working two jobs, that I could never “go and do with everyone else” because I had to stay home and take care of my younger sister, that my dad really didn’t want a whole lot to do with us. I developed the eating of food as a coping mechanism. And it never left me. Some people turn to sex, extreme exercise, gambling…I turn to food. And for a while I turned to drinking alcohol. That had to stop. And now, when I catch myself eating out of anything other than hunger, I try to remember to gently guide my thinking to “do you really want this?” And then I get really mad inside if I tell myself I can’t have it. And then I eat twice as much. I still use food as a reward. I use it as an avoidance technique all the way around, I guess. Avoid the pain, avoid the boredom, avoid the sadness. I’ve been through years of therapy and have done a whole lot of internal work around forgiving others, but the habit of food still sticks. My habit of coping with the unpleasantries of life is still very present in my life.
Q: What have you created in yourself, in your life that you’re proud of? How has changing your relationship with yourself changed the other relationships in your life? Let us celebrate with you!
A: I am so proud of the life I’ve created overall. I truly am living my dream in so many ways. Are things perfect? No. Will they ever be? Probably not. Mainly because my version of “ideal” seems to be an ever-evolving target! BUT—by and large—I am someone who is full of love and compassion, empathy and understanding, and I am using my talents and gifts to the fullest in this world, making a positive impact on the lives of individuals EVERY SINGLE DAY, and I know that I shine a very bright light on this earth. My life purpose statement: I am the sparkling floodlight that lights up your soul! Day to day, I live pretty damn close to that! It doesn’t matter what shape or size I come in, it’s the inside that matters most—and then sharing that with the world!
Q: Is there one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s in need of encouragement regarding their body, body-image, self-confidence, food, or life in general?
A: I think one piece of advice that I’ve found helpful and that I’m trying to really internalize is this:
Your body is right-sized for YOU right now. Just like everything else in your life, it is perfectly YOU for this moment in time. Learn to really love it from the inside out and watch the changes that happen!
Another piece of advice I like:
What would my stomach say if I put this in my mouth and then asked it to digest it? Would it smile up happy as a clam, or would it fall down in despair and exhaustion? Learn the connection between food and mood. For someone like me who is so driven by emotion, that’s a big one. When I put an Oreo in my mouth, it may taste good in my mouth but my tummy is going to ache in pain (Oreos do that to me so I can’t eat them anymore)…and if I am physically feeling bad, even if it’s temporary, how “good” can the overall quality of my life be? That’s the disconnect for me. I intellectually “get it,” but in the moment when I’m feeling sad or down or bored, I get mad if I stop and think “I shouldn’t eat this.” And then I reach for another one.
Chariti! Thank you so much for sharing so openly. I am so honored to share some of your story and to have you in my life! I'm just so happy I went to that retreat and I'm so happy that we met!
post format inspired entirely by Kelly Rae’s Possibiltarian Project Interviews.