Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'beauty'

On the tail of my recent post about breaking up with my hairstylist, I read in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly that how we look remains the number one shame trigger for women! She says that “after all of the consciousness-raising and critical awareness, we still feel the most shame about not being thin, young, and beautiful enough.”

Over the  years I’ve heard hundreds of  “I’m not enough” stories from female graduate students, clients and workshop participants. I have my own version of the story. And in spite of over 20 years of consciousness-raising and personal work on these issues, I too have my moments of feeling “not enough.”

Saturday afternoon I had a partial meltdown when I couldn’t get my hair to do what I wanted it to do. I’ve had some bad hair days since going short, but never felt as frustrated as I did Saturday.

What was behind my reactivity? For me it was a feeling of being less than picture perfect. Heading out to several parties with people I don’t already feel a sense of love and belonging with activated the “I’m not enough” messages that Brown’s research indicates we all have and we’re all afraid to talk about.

Where does the expectation that I need to look a certain way come from?

For me it comes from internalizing destructive images and messages about beauty. I live in a subculture highly indoctrinated in the importance of external appearances. Here in Southern California, if you have enough money (even if you aren’t young or thin) you can pay someone to dress you up, do your hair and makeup, and come out looking stylish and fashionable in a way that passes for beauty. It’s a world where beauty  is often only skin deep. You’re as beautiful as the clothes and accessories you can afford. And, if you can afford those, you can probably pay to get your hair colored regularly, blown out weekly, and have cosmetic surgery to “fix” whatever wrinkles, bulges or sags are detracting from your “beautiful self”.

There’s a whole world of Botox parties, style consultants, and other opportunities to purchase services and products to fix yourself up if you aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror.

Lord, have mercy.

An eating disorder colleague told a story that illustrates how our fixation with image is a byproduct of socialization. Back in the mid-1990’s she’d just returned to the United States after 9 months traveling around the world. Digital cameras had recently become available to the general public and were a novelty in many of the areas she visited. The children were especially intrigued with seeing pictures of themselves.

One day, a group of kids were crowded around her, laughing and delighting in seeing “themselves” for the first time. One boy looked surprised as he viewed the screen. He pointed at it and asked the other kids “Is that me?” The others laughed and pointed back, “That’s you!” It occurred to her that those kids had no idea what they looked like. They didn’t have mirrors and they didn’t have cameras.  Her conclusion: “They don’t have an image of their body. They are their body. They don’t have mirrors and photos that turn them into an object of their own observation. No disembodiment. No body image. Just themselves.” Self-image, at least as it relates to appearance, is largely a product of living in a world of mirrors and photographs.

The desire and instinct to adorn ourselves, beautify, and enhance seems to be instinctual. Using makeup, hairstyles, fashion and accessories and even cosmetic alterations of body parts to match cultural standards of beauty is nothing new. Women have been beautifying ourselves since time began and we see it in cultures across the globe–even those in remote areas where the standards aren’t set by big businesses.

But in our image driven subcultures where mirrors and digital images of ourselves are ubiquitous, that natural desire to beautify gets hijacked by internalized images of beauty offered us by the industries that profit off of our discontent and shame.  We compare the image in the mirror to the one in the magazine and fall short. Then, frustration, disappointment, anger and a host of other feelings surface  in self-protection. The helpful message those feelings want to convey:  stop comparing yourself to others; just be you! But because we’re socialized to feel ashamed about our appearance, we turn our anger against ourselves and add another layer to the “I’m not enough” story.

On Saturday after my meltdown, I decided to just do me. I went back into the bathroom, messed with my hair a bit more, and decided my hair was good enough. I don’t have anyone to impress. I’m just going to do me!

I love India Arie’s latest album which includes “Just Do You” – an inspiring song to help us increase our shame resiliency by making choices that align with our truth. In reviewing the video I saw that even India Arie succumbs to cultural pressure when it comes to making videos. Highly stylized, hipster types populate the piece.  While I have nothing against hipsters, in some way it’s just another expression of the pressure to have a style and align with a particular subculture’s standards for appearance. But that’s for another blog. Enjoy the video.

Normally I spend significant time on my blogs. I edit for brevity (thanks to Dave Rogers who tells me less is more). I eliminate needless details about my personal life that don’t really support the point I want to share with my readers. But today, I mainly want to vent.

Last week I decided that after 2 1/2 years of seeing her every 6-8 weeks I’d had my last appointment with my hairstylist. It’s not so much about her skills, but more about being true to myself.

Our values about beauty are completely different. I’ve known that since my first appointment. But I figured that being “stylish” and concerned about looking just right goes with her territory. I gave her a break and joked about needing to hire her as a style consultant.

Along the way I also learned that she’s a competitive bodybuilder–a world that celebrates many of the values and behaviors that reinforce disordered relationships with food and bodies. But I decided she isn’t my client and what she does in her personal life isn’t my business. And, in the beginning she was very pleasant, gave me great cuts and was conveniently located. Moreover, when I decided to go from long to short hair a few years ago, she’s the one who took me into my new look. For that, I’m very grateful.

But as my time with her progressed, I also began to notice that when preparing for a bodybuilding show, she got especially crabby and didn’t give as good a cut. (Sometimes being a clinician trained to observe patterns in people isn’t such a good thing after all.) I also noticed that she often spoke critically of other clients or even her husband and kids.  My growing sense was that I just didn’t like or enjoy her a person. I put up with her tough, slightly caustic and sometimes negative attitude, ignored my truth and kept going back for my next cut.  All the while complaining to my husband and friends about the bad cuts, values differences and my dislike for her.

She wasn’t the problem. I was. If I were true to myself I would have broken up a long time ago.

Last week when she casually mentioned her use of Botox during my appointment and gave me a dissatisfying cut, it was the third strike.

Bad cuts on occasion are one thing. Irritability at times is understandable. But when I heard her voice her preference for Botox over Frownies in the salon conversation about the best way to deal with wrinkles, I realized I’d been compromising my values by continuing to support her business.

She’s not the problem. I am. As is always the case when it comes to relationships that aren’t working for me, I need to look at my side of the street, be completely honest with myself and take responsibility for how I’ve contributed to the problem.

My error: not listening to myself. I need to be true to myself, my values and views about authenticity, beauty, and health, and invest my time and money being with a stylist I respect and enjoy.

Fortunately, I have a number of stylists already on my list.

Now I’m wondering: how do I break up with my stylist?

I googled it and found plenty of advice. The bottom line seems to be that I’m probably more concerned about “how” than she’ll be. Clients come and go. It’s all part of doing business.

The last time I broke up with anyone was 27 years ago when my husband and I were dating. We still playfully argue over who broke up with who when sharing our story. But I remember it being fraught with tears and strong emotions. Thankfully, this break up isn’t hard to do. I just need to listen a bit further and decide what is the most equitable way to say good-bye.

What’s your vision? And what are you willing to invest to get there?

How about 37 years and over one million dollars of your own money?

That’s what Dillion Griffith has invested to build his 64-foot fishing boat in the backyard of his home in Sun Valley. “The Mystic Rose” was just a vision back in the 1970’s when he began to dream his boat into being. But, like many of us (myself included) he didn’t stop with a vision. He hired a ship designer to draw up plans, moved his family, traveled to Montreal to purchase materials, tore out and rebuilt parts of the ship, and navigated many obstacles to fulfill his dream. He had a vision, but he also created a plan and invested resources in getting there.

This August or September he plans to launch his 40 ton boat in Oxnard – at a cost of another $50,000 just to haul it to the sea!

Perseverance, faithfulness and determination are hallmarks of those who dream great dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.

Seven years ago I began investing my resources toward building a world where women love and enjoy being in our bodies, just the way we are on any given day. That doesn’t mean we don’t have goals, seek to change what we can, or work toward being healthier, more vibrant and radiant. But it does mean we stop criticizing ourselves and change our relationship to our bodies. Or, as a reader commented on a recent blog, at least “stop saying mean things about myself.”

I thought I’d be further along by now. Some days I get discouraged and think about giving up. But when I read Dillion’s story I imagined that 7 years into his boat plan he probably felt like quitting too.

What’s your vision of a healthier, more vibrant, energized you? What’s your plan for getting there? What are you ready to invest?

Health coaching is a resource to support you in fulfilling your dreams–for health of body, mind and spirit. You may want to focus on specific health behaviors like eating or exercise or you may want to reduce stress by changing your job or increase your contentment by creating more beauty in your home. The Wheel of Health provides an overview of the potential topics you might work on to support your vision of a life you love.

Visioning, planning, supporting you with Duke Integrative Medicine's Wheel of Health

I’d love to help you identify your vision and create a plan for getting there. Contact me to set up a no-fee phone consultation about how health coaching can help you build your ship!

On Wednesday, April 30th at 7:30 p.m. I’ll be at the Laurie Hendricks Gallery in South Pasadena for a screening  and panel discussion of Long Live L.A. – a series of artists’ videos addressing the public health crisis. If you’re interested in the intersections of health and art, how media can change lives for the good, or looking for ways to engage, educate and inspire health in yourself and your community, I’d love to have you join me!

Long Live L.A. was originally commissioned by Freewaves and broadcast on L.A. Metro  County buses during February and March 2014. With 70% of health care spending going towards diseases that are preventable through lifestyle changes, finding new and culturally relevant ways to educate people and inspire good health is an important part of the solution. Art is a fabulous way to access our “WHY” for taking care of ourselves in ways the written word alone cannot.

Six of the original videos will be screened followed by a panel discussion about how artists can contribute to public dialogue about health while educating people who might not be reached through traditional formats. Maybe I’ll see you there!

1504 Mission Street, South Pasadena, 91030

Years of healing work with myself and other women have taught me that God loves all of creation, including the parts I’d rather exclude from love–like the increasingly droopy skin encasing my upper arms. If I can’t love my body exactly as it is today, whatever my weight or state of health or disease, then I settle for far less than the fullness of life that lives in my by the Spirit of God. And I cut myself off from the transformational power of God’s love.

Having spent the first 30 years of my life in varying degrees of distance from my body, ashamed because my body didn’t match those of the models and movie stars of my day, I know about resistance to accepting and loving your body just as you are.

my nieces Sophia and Caity inspire my work - loving ourselves just as we are today

Acceptance and love for your body doesn’t mean you’ll “feel” good about yourself. Emotions come and go. I’ve worked with countless women with eating disorders and body image problems whose external appearance matched the cultural ideal perfectly, but still loathed their thighs, breasts, belly, nose or some other part of their body. As my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character Rosanna Rosanna Danna, played by the amazing Gilda Radner (God rest her soul), used to say, “It’s always something…” Either your nose is too big, your breasts are too small or just when you finally came to a place of peace with your body, some other change comes along to upset your equilibrium–like pregnancy, menopause, an illness.

Loving your body as God loves you is about attending to the real needs of your body for nourishing foods, plenty of fresh water, and adequate sleep—at a minimum. Many of us run on sleep deprivation and then drink caffeine or eat sugar to compensate for our lack of energy and focus during the afternoon. Statistics indicate over 30% of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Most of us need 7-8 to function at optimal levels. Countless numbers of us exist at varying levels of dehydration—75% being the statistic most often sited.

Regardless of other possible ways you might respond more lovingly to your physical needs, how might getting seven hours of sleep a night and drinking more fresh water improve your life? It’s likely you’d even begin to “feel” more loving toward yourself as both of these deprivations are associated with increased emotional distress—particularly anxiety and depression.

You can’t have fullness of life if you aren’t fully inhabiting your body. It’s that simple. Your body is where God’s transformative power dwells. The Spirit is an energetic presence that lives in our bodies. I imagine the Spirit operating within our bodies along the central nervous system, but that’s a blog for another day. So the wisdom, vitality, radiance, power, joy, peace, hope—and all the other transformative energies of our new life in Christ—live in and are accessed through your body.

What loving action will you take today on behalf of your body’s real needs? Drink more water? Plan to go to bed earlier?

Pick one small change and work on that for a month. Build the muscle of choosing to love yourself as you are by treating your body in loving ways, even if you don’t feel loving or accepting. Even if you feel shameful, disappointed, regretful for all the years you’ve spent living at a distance from your body. Shame and fear are huge obstacles for many of us. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming blog.

But for today, what might treating your body with more lovingkindness look like, just for today?

Please join me for a South Pasadena Community Special Event Screening and Community Discussion of the award winning documentary Miss Representation Monday, February 24, 2014 , at the South Pasadena Library.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Free Screening - South Pasadena Library, Monday February 24 5:30 p.m.

Hailed by the Hollywood Reporter as “A relevant and important doc[umentary] that deconstructs the insidious role of visual media in the widespread, unbalanced depiction of women and girls,” Miss Representation exposes how mainstream media contributes to the under- and mis- representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which makes it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

“How we think about ourselves helps to determine our sense of self-worth. Well-being is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Well-being is linked to how you feel about yourself and your life. We need to be increasingly mindful about the demeaning and sexualized images of women and girls that popular media promotes. This event will bring awareness to the source of these negative messages and jumpstart a much needed conversation in our community about self-esteem and political empowerment.” Marina Khubesrian, MD, FAAFP

The 90-minute film will be screened from 5:30pm-7pm followed by a dynamic discussion from 7pm-8pm facilitated by Cissy Brady-Rogers, LMFT, featuring expert guests Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media), Mayor of South Pasadena Dr. Marina Khubesrian;, SPHS Feminists Unite Club members Charlotte Foley, Mia Forman, Paige Valentine, Paige Forman, and Suki Sekula; Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media); Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah; Oliver Middelstaedt (USC student and featured in the film);, Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah and Shaunelle Curry (Media Done Responsibly).

The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Space is limited. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. While attendance of the screening is encouraged, it is not necessary for participation in the community discussion.

Press Release supplied by Healthy South Pasadena and Day One.

I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When I am Among the Trees” so much I committed it to memory. It reminds me of who I am and what I am called to be. Like the trees, I have come into the world “to go easy, to be filled with light and to shine.”

This week has been tough. Personal and professional challenges show up to dampen my days, weigh me down. I practice gratitude, pray for help, do all the things I know to do to be well. But the clouds have hung close anyway.

I found my quiet center and a lightening of my load as I sat at my kitchen island and took a mini-retreat with my colleague Joy Malek’s  Sacred Space Retreat Kit.

when i am among the trees

She introduced me to Wendell Berry’s “I go among the trees” – reminding me that like the trees that shed leaves in the fall, stand naked through winter, and bloom again in spring, my life unfolds one day at a time and nothing lasts forever.

Both the blessings and challenges of life must be worn lightly, not clinging too tightly to the goodness nor resisting the struggles. It’s all part of the cycle of life that enables me to be filled with light and shine, even when I’m naked in the midst of winter clouds.

Joy’s kit is a series of simple reflections to create a pause in your day, go within and find your quiet center. Or, as Joy puts it, a life centered in soul. A wonderful way to pause in your busy or burdened day and “go easy, be filled with light and shine.” Even if you can’t get away to the trees, a few minutes at your kitchen table or before you check your email might be just the thing you need to lighten your load today.

A courageous, intelligent, creative and vulnerable 25 year old woman sat across from me this morning and reminded me who I am. Half my age but filled with the same eternal wisdom of God, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “When I met you and saw your gray hair, you became my role model. I don’t want to grow up afraid of aging, of my body changing, of getting old.”

She also spoke of her fears for her six year old cousin who knows all about her mother’s recent liposuction treatment.  And, about how glad she is that smart phones weren’t available when she was in puberty. “It was bad enough without Facebook, Twitter and other media plastering my mind with airbrushed, photo-shopped images. It’s so much worse now.”

At least one prominent Beverly Hills board certified plastic surgeon reports that “a sizable chunk of his Beverly Hills patients are in their 20s, raised by moms who thought Botox was just part of a normal beauty regimen, like a pedicure or a waxing. You see a line, you get it Toxed.”

Lord, have mercy!

21 years ago a breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 became a shocking wake up call to love the skin I’m in! It transformed my attitude about aging. My wrinkles document the tears of love and laughter I’ve been blessed to experience as I’ve grown older.

I earned these wrinkles!

I’m not immune to feeling negatively about aging. Like the wise woman that sat with me this morning, I too have my moments when old ruts of negative thinking sneak up on me.

These days, when an initial wave of  “I’m looking old” thoughts and feelings hits me as I look in the mirror,  I breathe and pray, “Lord, have mercy.” I recognize the feelings and thoughts are part of being a 51 year old woman who chooses not to color my hair or “tox” my lines in a culture where that is becoming increasingly common and expected. I allow the negativity to pass through me like a wave.

Then, I remind myself of the alternative: “I could be dead!”

Hmmmm….wrinkles or death? I think I’ll choose the wrinkles!

My young colleague and I cried this morning as we spoke of our shared passion to bring a better story about our women bodies to the upcoming generations. I told her the story an African woman name Leah told Eve Ensler as she interviewed women around the world about their bodies.  When Eve asked if Leah loved her body, she replied “My body? Love my body…of course I love my body. It is my body.” Leah goes on to point out how all the trees are different, they don’t compare themselves to one another. “Eve” Leah tells her,  “you’ve got to love your tree.

May the eternal wisdom of our loving Creator that Leah embodied and testified to, that inspired our tears this morning, break through the darkness of self-deprecation and shame that so easily entangle and set us free to love ourselves as God loves us.

May we have more faith in that incorruptible, immeasurable and infinite Love, than we do in the stories of industries that want to profit off our insecurities and self-loathing.

It’s breast cancer awareness month. A wonderful opportunity to support early detection through regular self-exams, mammography and other cutting edge methods. Early detection saves thousands of lives a year – including mine back in 1992.

Sadly, like many good things, there’s a dark underside to the “Think Pink” campaigns of October. The commercialization of breast cancer awareness through sales of pink products (pins, hats, shirts, slippers, watches, water bottles, etc.) is a sneaky way for companies to pad their revenue. If you can make it in pink and sell it, it’s probably for sale by some savvy company seeking a profit.

Moreover, many of the same companies that take part in the pink ribbon campaigns also sell personal care products containing known carcinogens. At the present time only 200 of the over 80,000 chemicals used in the United States have been tested for human safety. The European Union has banned over 1300 chemicals from use in cosmetics while the US has only banned 11.

think before you pink

It’s impossible to point the finger at any one company as so many have seized the opportunity.  Everyone from department stores to makeup manufactures self-promote their supposed altruism by donating a percentage of profits to breast cancer research etc.

But seriously, do you really need a pink shirt or hat? Maybe if you like pink…but even then, how often is that pink thing something you really want, let alone need?

It’s definitely not something I want or need. While I deeply appreciate the loving intention behind those “think pink” ribbons and earrings and scarves I’ve received from friends over the years, I don’t wear them. After sitting in my possession for a few  years because I feel guilty throwing them out, they end up at the Salvation Army donation center.

How about just donating the $20 directly? No clutter in the jewelry drawer or closet and 100% of your money goes directly to support an organization you choose instead of the one the all-so-altruistic company is in cahoots with!

What can you do to support breast cancer awareness and survival?

Donate directly instead of spending money on things you and I don’t need. Organizations I support include the Cancer Support Community of Pasadena (supporting patients and their loved ones going through treatment) and Breast Cancer Action (a grassroots organization advocating for scientific research into the environmental factors in breast cancer).

Sign this petition demanding comprehensive government regulation of all chemicals that enter the marketplace and our homes and bodies.

Think before you waste your money on pink key fobs, nail polish, pants, watches, tennis shoes, bras, make up brushes and all the other gimmicks the breast cancer industry tries to sell you.

I love sweet peas. I love their delicate but strong blossoms, the way they fold in on themselves on one side and open up on another. I love their unpredictability–the way they weave up the fence, around the trellis or wildly splay out everywhere ignoring my effort to contain them. I love the variety of shapes and colors. I especially love their sweetness–along with jasmine and gardenias, they announce spring’s arrival.

the more you take, the more they give

I met a sister sweet pea lover who gave me yet another reason to love them. Like God who loves to love us without limits and yearns for love to blossom everywhere–the more you take, the more sweet peas give.

Sweet peas on the kitchen counter and dining room table, in the bedrooms and bathrooms. I can’t keep up with them. The more I cut, the more they produce. The more I take, the more they give. Even this morning, after several months of production, another bouquet.

Sweet Peas Everywhere

So it is with God’s love–the more I take, the more I get. My job is to take Love, to receive Love, to open my heart to Love wherever it appears, however it comes, whomever delivers it.

My twenty-four year marriage has been my greatest school of love. Like the peas, I can’t predict or control how my husband will love me. I want red sweet peas and spontaneous, romantic, weekend escapes. I get purple and white flowers and well planned vacations to high-end resorts that he gets great deals on using his internet search skills! I want variegated blossoms and the theater. I get beautiful solids, my laundry done on Saturdays and the bed made every morning. I open up to the real love he can give and let go of my agenda for what love “should” look like.

sweet peas straight from the vine (background)

My job is to take the love that comes, delight in it and be grateful for it, not waste precious energy trying to get red flowers to grow from purple seeds!

I open to the love as it comes, not guard my heart until I get the version of love I think I deserve. Not that I’m giving up hope that one day he’ll actually surprise me!

Spiritual Director Sr. Mary Ann Scofield once wrote that the most difficult thing of all is to take in how truly, deeply and unreservedly loved we are by God because it changes everything.

What will happen if I open my heart, take my guard down and let God love me?

The more I take, the more I’ll get!

I will be changed.

I will become more of the person I was created to be–made by Love, of Love, for Love. I will become a better Lover of God, of my husband, of my neighbor, of myself.

Being a great Lover is the only thing I know for sure is God’s will for me. All the other decisions of life fall into place when I focus on resting and trusting in this great love that changes everything because it changes me.