Once upon a time there were two sisters from a tropical island. One of the sisters was round and voluptuous, the other thin and angular. The one who was round and voluptuous was very popular. She had boyfriends and was invited to parties all the time. The one who was thin and angular would often tag along with her sister, the pretty one, to the parties and other activities. Her sister and her sister’s friends were mean to her and the men showed no interest because she was not very pretty or sexy. She knew she was ugly and just accepted it as the way it was.
After she graduated from high school the thin one had a chance to move to the city and live with relatives. She didn’t see many prospects or options staying on the Island so she decided to go. As soon as she had moved to the city she had started to notice men paying attention to her. They would chat with her in cafes, flirt with her on the street, smile at her even when she took her young nephew for a walk. All of it was quite confusing for her since she knew she was ugly.
The thin one had only been in the city a few weeks when she was stopped on the street by someone who asked if she was a model. She laughed at the man and told him she was not and could never be, a model. He begged to differ and gave her his card. He asked her to call him if she was interested. She laughed all the way home but her Aunt, when she heard about it, said she should go check it out, that she actually was model material. The thin one laughed because she knew she was ugly and certainly not model material.
The thin one decided to go meet the man just to get her Aunt off her back. And in what was the biggest surprise of her young life, the man was actually the artistic director of a very large and legitimate modeling agency. They liked her and within a month she had her first paid assignment and within 6 months she was making a good living.
In the meanwhile the voluptuous one was hearing about this back on the island. She was very confused, and a bit jealous, because she knew what her sister knew. She was the pretty one, the popular one, and her sister was the ugly one. But now she was hearing she was a model in the city? How could that be? It made no sense. She decided to go visit and see for herself.
The first thing the voluptuous one noticed when she got to the city was how few men paid any attention to her. She walked through the airline terminal, picked up her bag at the baggage claim, and even hailed a taxi and no one paid any attention. It was not something she was used to and it made no sense. But she chalked it up to her maybe not being all that fresh looking after the long flight and forgot about it.
It didn’t take her long to become annoyed by how opinionated her sister was. She wasn’t nearly as meek as she used to be. She had even argued with her about what to wear when they went out to the party her sister had been invited to that night! The voluptuous one wanted to wear a revealing dress, one that showed off her cleavage (which was plentiful) and her legs. Her sister told her that was not a good look, that she had to choose one or the other, show cleavage or show legs, not both. The voluptuous one didn’t like that but decided to go with the leg look, just so they wouldn’t have a big fight on their first day together in the city.
The party was very exciting. There were some people the sister who was visiting recognized from TV and from magazines, though she couldn’t remember their names. Her sister introduced her to many people, so many she lost track. She realized that her sister was one of the stars of the party, she was popular with men and women alike, older people and younger. When the sister from the city would go off to chat and leave the sister from the island alone she noticed once again she got barely any attention from anyone, unless it was when someone came up to her to tell her how amazing her sister is.
It was then that she had her epiphany. She saw it so clearly. They had switched roles. Here in the city her sister was the pretty one, and she was the ugly one. She went to the bathroom and sat in a stall and cried. When she came out her sister realized something was wrong. She smiled inside, happy to see her sister, who had been so mean to her so often get a taste of what it was like to be the ugly one. The sister from the island tried to explain to her how she felt but the sister from the city wasn’t showing much sympathy. By the time they got home to the Aunt and Uncle’s house they were having a fight about it.
The Uncle and Aunt were still up when they got home and couldn’t help but hear them fighting. They invited them to sit in the kitchen and have a cup of tea, calm down a bit and maybe talk to them about it, which they did. They both explained their version of what happened that night, which led to an explanation of what used to happen on the Island. How they both felt ugly and both felt pretty, all depending on where they were. They talked about how they didn’t want to feel that way but did in spite of that.
The Uncle said, “You know, your Aunt has gone through this too.”
They looked at her and said in unison, “You have?”
“Yes. I was voluptuous and popular on the Island just like you are. Then I came to the City and I didn’t get nearly as much attention, just like you.” she said to the voluptuous one. “So I decided I would do whatever it took to become attractive to the people in the City. I worked and worked and worked. Finally I started to get noticed. I went on dates, had fun, had a lot of friends. Then I was in that car accident you heard about many years ago and wasn’t able to keep in shape after that. I became like I had been before. Many friends left me and I wasn’t asked on any dates anymore. But there was one person who knew me when I first came from the Island, knew me when I became popular and pretty, and knew me after my accident. That person was always my friend, was always supportive, was always saying kind and complimentary things to me. I saw him almost every day because he worked the counter at the grocery store I would go in. You know who that is, right? He’s your Uncle.”
The sisters had never heard that story before. They smiled and told their Uncle what a great man he was. But he stopped them. He said, “I was not that great a guy. All I did was care about your Aunt. I didn’t know anything about ‘popular’ or ‘pretty’ in the city. All I knew was your Aunt was kind and thoughtful and smart. She also was very pretty to me, so I am not saying that wasn’t there. But her ‘pretty’ came as much from her smile and kind words as it did from her beautiful face.”
“What that taught me girls is this,” the Aunt said, “You are planted somewhere in the world, it’s called your home. But not everyone fits in perfectly to the larger home that is your island or your city. Some look out of place to others in the city or the Island. Some look like they belong. You can’t control what the rest of the Island or the City are going to think of you. What you can do is develop the things that matter, no matter where you are, city or island. You develop those things and someone will be there to see them. In my case I was lucky enough to have the boy at the grocery counter notice them. I am grateful for that.”
The uncle piped up with a laugh, “And I am grateful this beautiful woman noticed me!”
The sisters went upstairs to bed. They talked a long time, apologizing for all the small and big slights they had laid on each other. They decided to be more supportive and loving to each other and others in the future. And they did just that.
And in the most ironic twist of all. The sister from the Island met the man of her dreams on the flight back to the Island. The man was from the city and was going on a business trip to visit some resorts he had contracts with. They talked the entire time and she knew by the end of the flight he was the man for her. They ended up marrying and settling in the city of all places. She felt loved and cherished the rest of her life.
The sister from the city had a more roundabout journey to her true love. But it was equally ironic when it happened. It was when she went back to visit her family on the island 10 years later. She was a famous model by then and everyone on the island knew of her. Well, almost everyone. There was a man in her home town who ran the local orphanage. He never really had time to pay attention to fashion magazines or watch TV and didn’t know who she was. But when she came with her mother to help at the orphanage one day, he watched her play with the kids with rapt attention. He noticed the care she showed, the willingness to get dirty, the smarts to figure out why the roof was leaking in one corner. He asked her to come back again if she could. And she did, the very next day. Within a year, after she had made many more visits to the island than she ever had before, they were engaged. She moved back to the island permanently a short while later and they got married in a ceremony on the beach with all the orphans and her family all around.
She would occasionally do some runway modeling shows at the resorts but otherwise she was full-time at the orphanage, loving her life and her husband until the end of her days.
Yesterday, while I was drawing this, we were having a discussion on Periscope when someone unknown to me, or the #NapkinKin (our tribe) who were watching the scope, came in. He proceeded to say he was depressed and suicidal. I had a feeling he was a troll but I took it seriously anyway, doing my best to give him reasons to live. Others in the scope immediately helped out, giving suicide hotline numbers, explaining that they too suffered from depression and anxiety, and in general trying to help. It was amazing to be a part of it. It really made me love my #NapkinKin tribe more than ever before. He was in only a short time before he said an ominous “Goodbye…”
Mind and Body
I have no idea who he was or what he was about. I hope if he was serious we helped and if he wasn’t he will mature and not do such stupid things. But it doesn’t really matter for the sake of this discussion. The reason I mention it is because we then realized we could substitute ‘mind’ or ‘brain’ in place of ‘body’ in the quote and it would be the same.
Loving Doesn’t Equal OK
Loving our bodies, or our minds, is not the same as saying everything about our bodies or minds are perfect and no change is needed, just as with a misbehaving child. You aren’t going to tell the child that because you love them even when they misbehave that that means their behavior is ok. It’s not ok and you will likely find a punishment for them as a result. That is not the same as not loving them. As a matter of fact, it actually is evidence that you do love them (as long as the punishment is not abusive and hateful).
The same is true with your bodies and minds. If you have an issue with weight that precludes you from living a healthy life, then you are loving your body when you take action to reduce the weight. If it isn’t about weight but about bad skin, or no muscle tone, or bad acne, or a disease or illness, or something else, you are loving your body when you take action to remedy the situation as best you can. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you don’t know some areas need to change.
Evaluation vs Judgment
And so it is with our minds or our behaviors. I can love my mind while still realizing my predilection towards procrastination and avoidance needs work. I can still love my mind while still realizing my hot temper or anxiety or depression or ADHD or any number of things needs to be addressed.
The key in all of it is honestly evaluating who you are WITHOUT judging and condemning who you are. Evaluation is neutral. It says ‘this is an issue and I will address it’. Judgment is morally condemning. It says, ‘I am stupid for letting myself get fat.’ or ‘I am worthless because I can’t focus on something long enough to accomplish it.’ or ‘I hate myself because I can’t stop drinking.’
How Different Would It Be?
How different would you see yourself if you loved yourself no matter what? How different would your progress in whatever area you need or want progress in be if you allowed yourself an honest evaluation of yourself instead of condemning judgment?
You might think this quote is backwards. That the mind is what listens to your body, not the other way around, and you would be right. But the larger truth is that it is not a one way conversation. It’s not a monolog, it’s a dialog. Your body listens to what you say and think. Think negatively and your body will respond to that over time. Be hypochondriacal and your body will find a way to show you more and more things ‘wrong’ with you.
One the other hand, speak and think positively about your body where it is at right now and you are helping your body. Positive doesn’t mean delusional. It does no good to say to your body “You are in GREAT shape body, good job!” if your body is in terrible shape, right? It’s about stating the truth to your body. “Body, we are here now, in this shape, at this age, in this condition.” The key is to not follow that statement with this one, “And body, because you are in this shape, I hate you, blame you and am giving up on you.” Just say the first sentence and do away with the judgment of the second sentence. Once you say the first sentence, but avoid the second, to your body, then you can move forward and transform or maintain your body as you wish. No judgment mean no negativity, just positive realism. And that starts with speaking truth to yourself, both your mind and your body.
What do you think? Does your body listen to your mind?
Have you ever seen two people whose faces are so different from each other that when their photographs are shown side by side they both look really strange, maybe even ugly? Their head shape, the placement and proportions of their facial features, their hair, their coloring, their skin are so different that it’s a jarring visual juxtaposition when it occurs.
If we happen to be one of those two people we can easily start to compare ourselves. Her forehead is smoother and rounder than mine. My eyes are so much closer together than hers. Her neck is smoother. My lips are thinner. And the list goes on.
What I think is surprising is it’s usually both people that feel that, not just one. The thin blonde looks with envy at the curvy brunette while the curvy brunette wishes she was thin like the blonde. The freckled one looks wishes she had the golden tan of the other while the golden girl wishes she had the fair skin of the freckled one.
Here are two videos that show off how different we all look from one another and how, when we compare beauty to beauty we end up seeing most everyone as ugly at some point. Why is that? First is one with famous celebrities
The second is of non-famous women
So, how do you get past this dilemma? By seeing yourself clearly. Not for who you are not, but for who you are, who you are made up of and how who you are fits together so well. And if there is something you want to change, resist judging yourself negatively. Instead evaluate and make a plan. Body too big? Make a plan. Hair too drab? Make a plan. Character too immature? Make a plan.
You are under your own control. You see your beauty when you see yourself clearly. And that is when you will see everyone else as more and more beautiful as well.
How much does your soul weigh? Your personality? How about your character? Does your Passion weigh anything? What about your intelligence, how heavy is that? Have you ever had your sense of humor weighed at the Doctor’s office? Is there a spot on the medical chart for the weight of your love, commitment, insight, compassion, mercy, tenderness, diligence, patience, opinions, wisdom, spirituality?
I have a long time friend in another country who has a lot of very long distance online relationships. By ‘very’ I mean, other country, other language, thousands of miles away type distance. She has been unsuccessful in turning any of these into permanent, in person relationships. But she keeps trying.
Recently she had a one year online relationship via text, Facebook, Skype and email, with a man. She planned to visit him in his home country. But there was a problem. She knew he liked thin, ‘sporty’ (her word) type women. She used to be thin and sporty, but now she had gained some weight and did not fit into that category. She was afraid if he knew, he would reject her. She was hoping that if she could meet him he would overcome his dislike for her extra weight because of his admiration and attraction to all the rest of her. So she sent him photos of herself back when she fit that look. When he wanted to see her now she sent photos of her face and some of her more attractive parts (not nude) but none of all of her.
When they Skyped she didn’t reveal her body shape, just her face. She tried to hide herself. He was suspicious and told her she didn’t seem to look the same as she used to. She told him that she still looked ‘good’, he would see. But she was nervous he wouldn’t approve. She went to the gym, lost some weight, not much. Not enough in her mind.
After a year of long distance communication; detailed, intimate, truthful, deep communication where they told each other all about themselves, their dreams, their hopes, their desires, they finally met in person when she went on vacation to his home country. And sure enough, according to her telling of the story, within ten minutes he had lost interest. She said he was a gentleman, wasn’t rude, but that she could tell he had made up his mind about her. They spent some time together. She remembers being incredibly self-conscious in the coffee house when they first met. She didn’t want to take off her coat because he would see her big (her word) arms, legs, hands. She knew her breasts look great, but she knew that wasn’t enough by any means. The rest of her did not look like he was lead to believe.
She came back to her home country devastated. He was kind, told her they would still be friends, but that he wasn’t interested romantically. She wants now to know why. Is it due to her extra weight or is it just no chemistry? I told her in my opinion, based on what she said his reactions and words have been over the year when discussing weight, that it probably was weight.
She said her goal now is to get back in shape, lose the weight, go back to his country and see what he thinks. I have told her instead that the best idea is to get in shape for herself, for her confidence. She agreed.
The life of long distance relationship building is a hard life to navigate through. People naturally want to hide their defects and show off their best parts. She showed her face but because she was embarrassed by her body she lied to him. She understands now that was wrong and unfair. I am hopeful she has learned that facing the truth and allowing others to see the truth, whatever it is, is best. I want her to find peace and confidence in herself before meeting him again. Her victory will come when she realizes she doesn’t need approval from him or anyone else.
I have known plenty of seemingly beautiful thin people who couldn’t do a push up to save their lives. I have also known many seemingly overweight, average looking people who can run marathons, do 20 burpees in a row, work in their garden all day long, take care of their families morning to night, and kayak in open water for hours.
Strength of Emotion
I have known plenty of seemingly beautiful thin people who have an even thinner emotional shell. The slightest thing, inconsequential and trivial, will set them off into emotional tirades. I have also known many seemingly overweight, average looking people who can express themselves effectively and honestly in a wide range of emotions appropriate to the events and circumstances of their day.
Strength of Mind
I have known plenty of seemingly beautiful thin people who wouldn’t know their mind if it rang their doorbell and asked to be let in. I have also known many seemingly overweight, average looking people who are smart, wise, insightful, creative, astute, practical problem solvers, philosophers, leaders, entertainers, opinion makers.
Strength of Individuality
And finally, I have known plenty of seemingly beautiful thin people who are all those positive things as well. All sizes can be those things.
Beautiful does not equal good, thin does not equal fit, educated does not equal wise.
Are you thinking what i’m thinking? It’s Body Image #4!
Hair Brained and Empty Headed
I love a great hairdo. I love fun colors, bold shapes, great style. I think it’s awesome. But it’s not enough. To carry awesome style at it’s best you have to have the same investment in what’s under the hair as the hair itself. For a body image (which does include your head, by the way) to be solidly positive it has to be accompanied by a solid mind image as well.
Investing in your head
You invest $100 to have a great hairdo, but will you pay $100 to make your brain better? You would hire a physical trainer for your body if you could. But would you ask a trainer to help train your mind to think kinder, more loving, positive thoughts? You know your body (and hair) won’t be it’s best without you investing in it. The same is true of your mind. If you want to be a person with a great body image, you will need to have think highly of your mind as well. That takes work.
Can You Direct Me To The Mind Gym?
Never mind, I know where it is. It’s in my bookshelf in in my office and the book by my bed. It’s in my church. It’s in the Community College in town. It’s in good TV. And above all it’s in interesting conversations, curiosity driven adventures, and an open minded fearless attitude towards new ideas, people and places. That is what keeps my mind growing.
And that in turn, when combined with my paying attention to the body I have, leads me to feel good about all of me, my mind AND my body.
What do you do to keep body AND mind feeling good?
Drawing by Marty Coleman
Quote by Garrison Keillor, 1942 – not dead yet, American Humorist and Writer, creator of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ radio show.
I am making a splash today with #3 in my Body Image series.
Because I coach intermediate runners I have occasion to work with people who do not occupy what they envision to be their optimal bodies quite yet. There are various body goals they may have. They may want to get thinner, have more muscle tone, be more flexible, or have better heart health, to name just a few. Since they have already made the choice to join a running program I take that to also mean they have made a decision to do something deliberate to achieve their goals. I encourage them, do my part in training them, explain as best I can what I think will help them achieve these goals. I truly want them to be who they want to be and I love helping them get there.
But there is something else I work on with them. And that is joy and happiness. I believe achieving goals can increase one’s happiness. But I also believe you don’t arrive at a body goal (or any other type of goal) and suddenly find happiness waiting there for you. As odd as it sounds, one needs to train for happiness, just like for an awesome body.
For example, the joy in doing a cannonball in a pool is primarily in the fun of doing it. If you are big and round, it is still fun. If you are skinny and boney, it’s still fun. If you are 60 years old it’s fun, if you are 20 years old it’s fun. Now, it is true you might enjoy the walk to the diving board more if you are happy about your body shape. It is true you might be less self-conscious about something if you have the body you want. But if you want to experience fun you shouldn’t wait until you are ‘perfect’ to experience it. Suffer that bit of self-consciousness if you must because the act of doing that fun thing will show you, again and again, that your self-consciousness can be overcome, it can be put in it’s place.
But if you wait for that ‘perfection’ then while you are practicing and training your body to be it’s best you are continuing to train your mind to think it’s not. You are continuing to tell yourself that joy and fun and happiness is dependent on you being the right weight, or the right tan color, or the right bra size and that is not true. You actually may intellectually know it is not true, just as you know intellectually you will be in better shape if you run or work out. But that knowledge will remain academic and intellectual, unproven and unpracticed, unless you practice the happiness action the same way you practice the physical action.
In other words, train your joy and happiness as well as your body, then both will be in great shape!
How do you train your happiness and joy?
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Rosalind Russell, 1907-1976, American actress. Her autobiography is titled, ‘Life is a Banquet’.
I started a Body Image series a few months ago but only did one drawing for some reason. Easily distracted is my excuse. I am starting it up again today.
My Body Image
When I was young I had no fat on me. I didn’t work at it or think about it. Then I turned 30 and I saw my tummy popping up above the line between my hip bones when I laid down. Then I found my chest had a little layer of fat. Then I got some love handles. Then my abs disappeared.
Now I am working my way back towards that body I remember. Of course it’s 25+ years later so my goal is not to look or be exactly like that. But I have an updated vision of what I would like to look like. I can look in the mirror have a memory reference point of sorts. I know what I used to look like and I believe I can be close to that again. Who knows, maybe even better.
I have many motives; some noble, some vain. I am doing it so the runners I coach will look at me and see a person who coaches by life example. I am doing it so I will look fit at my high school reunion this summer. So I will look fit when I am on stage giving speeches or being interviewed on TV. It helps my business to look fit. I am doing it to be an example to those I love; my wife, my daughters, my friends. I want them to have a real life example, someone who said they were going to do it and they did it. I want them to say, as one of my runners said yesterday, ‘I think to myself, if he can do it, I can do it.’ I want it so I am more productive and creative for the longest possible lifetime.
But those motives and reasons are all secondary. The #1 reason I am losing weight and getting more fit is because I want to look how I want to look. I am not under pressure from my wife or daughters or friends or career or doctor or anyone else. I just want it for myself. I want to look a certain way, a way I think looks good and is healthy. I am choosing to be deliberate about becoming that.
My question to you is, do you have YOUR vision (not someone else’s) for what you want your body to look like? If not, why not? Your mind didn’t get educated without you working at your education, did it? Your heart and morals didn’t develop without you practicing being a moral and compassionate person, right?
Your body is just as essential as those areas. Your body will be become it’s best when you are deliberate about helping it. It won’t do it on it’s own.
So, if the body you behold in the mirror is the body that meets your vision of beauty and health, then maintain it and cherish it. But if you look in the mirror and feel, not because of family or social cultural pressures but because of YOU feel it, that it’s not the body you want, then take action to help it become what you want it to be.
You can do it.
Drawing, quote and commentary by Marty Coleman, who has lost 22 lbs and has 8 more to go.
The New Year is resolution time and one of the most popular is to ‘get fit’. With that in mind I thought I would explore the idea of body image for a few days.
Who Owns You?
I saw a report about a murder trial yesterday where a woman is accused of stabbing and murdering her boyfriend. Her defense is that she was abused and it wasn’t murder but self-defense. One of the pieces of evidence is a photo of her in this t-shirt.
The defense submitted this t-shirt as evidence that the boyfriend, Travis Alexander, was possessive, going so far as to feel that Jodi was his property and making a shirt that stated such. Now, I don’t know anything about the trial, her guilt or innocence. I am simply using this as an example of how someone can abdicate ownership of themselves. Sometimes it is emotional or psychological, but it can also be physical. You can give up your rights to your own body (or have them taken away under force). A slave is what you become.
Let’s take this idea and have both the owner and the slave be the same person. That is the quandary we humans find ourselves in. We both own our own body and we are slave to it, bowing to what it tells us to do. If we decide to sit on the couch all day every day, our body has no choice but to obey our command. It will not get up and take a walk unless we tell it to (sleepwalking excluded).
Owning a Slave
As a running coach I start each new season with some simple ideas for the participants. One of these ideas is that we really only have 2 things we run with. Our minds and our bodies. I ask them which controls which? The answer? The mind controls the body. We tell it to run and it runs. The body does what the mind tells it to do. Your body is slave to your mind.
Being a Slave
But that same body we can make bow to our mind’s wishes is also the body that can make our mind cease to exist. Our mind is dependent on our body. Without our body we can’t think, talk, listen, eat, laugh, cry, run, sleep, make love, etc. We cease to function. There are examples such as a concussion that takes our ability to think clearly away for a time or Alzheimers where our physical body slowly but surely causes our ability to think to diminish completely. And then we have the final example of death, where our brain function completely stops and all we could do and all we were conscious of via that brain ceases to exist.
The Bad Marriage
You have heard of marriages, you might even be in one, where you are constantly fighting with each other. You are not on each other’s side and the marriage is destructive. That is what we often do with the relationship between our minds and our bodies. We put our bodies through utter crap and then expect it to sustain us. We follow down paths of destructive thoughts and judgmental ideas about our bodies (and others) and then are surprised when our body and it’s shape becomes something we hate.
The Good Marriage
In the body/mind dichotomy analogy the marriage will always end in divorce. The body will indeed eventually die and our mind/consciousness/spirit/soul will either cease to exist or go on to another plane of existence without the body with which it started.
What we want is that while the marriage is intact for there to be a healthy, happy, and communicative relationship. Our mind listens to our body and takes it seriously and our body listens to our mind and does what is asked of it. It is no different than a real marriage, it takes patience, compromise, communications, love and attention for it to work.
Drawing by Marty Coleman, whose mind likes its body ok but wants it to avoid getting man boobs in the future.
Trivia Question of the Day (answer tomorrow)
Who has the largest brain, humans or elephants?
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