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bod·y im·age

noun

  1. the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body.

“Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies.”

When sitting own to write this blog post, as I began really thinking and considering viewpoints, I became very torn on the subject. On one hand I am a firm believer that we should be trying to break the rules that have us, as women, thinking our looks are the most important thing we have to offer— on the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the fact that negative body image is a prevalent issue. I’m going to focus this post on overall body image and feeling good about yourself. But I want to go on record first to say::

Inside each of you is something so much more important than what you see in the mirror. Inside each of you is a beautiful miracle in and of itself. Your capabilities to be a  thinking, hard working, kind, hopeful, learning, emotional being that impacts this world are so far above and so much more valid to define you than the size of your waist. That is what makes you beautiful.

After the incident last year the positive body image I hard worked so hard to achieve took a dive. I began to see my body as a dirty or inappropriate thing and no longer felt like my confident self.  I stopped caring about my health. I didn’t feel beautiful or sexy because I didn’t feel like I deserved to & that my previous confidence somehow made the incident my fault. I began to hate my body and that’s wrong. Our bodies are beautiful amazing things, especially as women. As someone whose college degree focused heavily on science, even without talking about aesthetics or physical looks— the female body is an amazing thing. We are beautiful inside and out and until we begin to truly believe that we will not be happy. With the help from my significant other and meditation I am starting to be back to my old self and refusing to be ashamed of my body because of someone else’s misconduct. Loving yourself and your body is a daily choice and it’s worth it. People always say to choose your battles wisely and this battle is worth fighting.

We cannot change the world over-night. But we CAN change our outlook and refuse to internalize these negative feelings about our bodies. We are all guilty of focusing on the physical traits about ourselves that we dislike or letting others make us feel badly, every single one of us. So my take on body image is this: there will always be negative things out there— people preying on our deepest insecurities & ready to point them out– so why do we do it for them? Let’s project out enough love, enough kindness, enough joy, enough acceptance— that it comes right back to us. At the end of the day happiness is an internal journey, not a result of our surroundings.

I want to encourage you to pause reading this and do the following::

  1. Look in the mirror or selfie camera from your phone.
  2. Find 3 things about yourself that you love. Three positive things and make one of them not something about your looks. Be honest and don’t try to just get it over with. Really consider yourself and then compliment yourself on these three things.

For some people this may be very easy, but for others it may have been a bit of a challenge. Keeping that in mind I want you to consider how often you genuinely give compliments. How often do you honestly and sincerely compliment yourself, friends and family on positive traits? I am of the belief that kindness and love are contagious. There are a lot of negative things in this world and we should get in the habit of counteracting those negative experiences any way we can— spreading love and giving thanks is a start. The mantra is simple, Love & Light, but the daily practice can be hard— so here’s a little help…

Alright, Love & Light Challenge, time to help uplift!

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My Daily Alarms

I want you to set a new silent daily repeating alarm on your phone (so you’ll get the notification, but not the sounds) for about 3 hours into your daily routine. This alarm title should be “Compliment.” Whenever this alarm goes off during your day I want you to stop and give a fellow woman nearby a genuine compliment— it can be about anything— and then give yourself one too! I also want you to set a second silent daily repeating alarm (towards the end of your day, maybe near dinner time) with the instructions “Thank You”. When this alarm goes off I want you to verbally give thanks for something. You can tell your mom thanks for cooking. You can say I’m really thankful that I passed my math test today. Literally anything you are thankful for that day— but make it genuine and make sure you verbalize it to someone else. These two simple actions will help you form positive habits that help ensure you don’t become focused on negative feelings— I know it helps me.

I rSydney4065eally want to make Love & Light challenges a consistent thing. I want to make them spontaneous, random, uplifting and fun— so make sure to follow me on snapchat to stay in the loop:: Sydney4065. We can make this world a better place and it all starts right here. You can always message me anonymously through the Wondr App if you need some extra motivation.
Remember— there is so much more to you than what the world expects you to look like— positive body image happens when you stop focusing so much on trying to be something you’re not and focus on loving yourself & who you are. At the end of your days it won’t be how “perfect” you were that matters. It will be the things you experienced, the lives you positively affected, and the love you gave that matters. Laugh with friends, read a good book, enjoy the sun on your face, eat good food, and get some exercise so you can stick around on this Earth as long as possible. Stop worrying about being thin or looking like your favorite celebrity and instead make health your goal— mind and body both.

Ps. Don’t forget that all blog post requests are still welcome!

A Year

It’s been a full year now. 1 year. 52 weeks since my world was turned upside down and 52 weeks since the thing that you think could never happen to you….happened to me. When I decided to start a blog, I’ll admit, this instantly came to mind as the topic for my first post. Not because I necessarily intend my blog to focus on incidents like this but, because I want my blog to be honest. Desperately honest. And this was honestly the most jarring thing to ever effect my life as an adult. I want this blog to be a safe space. I want readers to feel that they are not alone, and on top of that….welcomed with kindness and understanding….regardless of the topic we are discussing.

I will not be revealing names or personal specifics like that within this post for two reasons: the person isn’t worth my time (they have already taken up enough of it this past year) & I don’t mean for this post to be about them, it’s about my experience and being open about it. This is me closing the door on them. By finally being open about my experience and refusing to let my anxiety keep it bottled up I am releasing the negative energy that has been weighing me down.

So here it goes: I am going to type the sentence that I have been avoiding at all cost for an entire year — “I was sexually assaulted.

Simply typing the sentence genuinely makes my skin crawl. I am not the type to be a victim of anything. I am a feminist. I am a leader at work. I am the person everyone runs to when trouble strikes and for advice. I’m optimistic and smiling. I’m Sydney— these things don’t happen to me. Until it did happen and I questioned almost every part of myself. This past year I have worked and struggled to get back to myself, to who I am, to the me that I worked so hard to become before the incident. I don’t know if I will ever view things the same as before— I will likely never be that person again. In some ways that is terrifying. In other ways, it has allowed me to truly find myself and decide what my priorities are in this life.

As a society we teach our women not to dress a certain way, not to drink too much, not to be alone with people we don’t know…in order to prevent these incidents. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t dressed inappropriately (I was wearing a bathing suit), I was not wasted (had a few glasses of champagne over the course of several hours), and unfortunately I was with someone I thought was trustworthy and nice. And yet here I am— writing a post about my sexual assault. And to be perfectly clear: even if I was naked, wasted, and in ill company…I still would not have deserved it or been asking for it. That’s the most absurd thing society teaches women today and I hope maybe this post can make even one person see that. It could happen regardless of who you are or how you behave. Victims are not to blame. Ever. Yet it’s completely common for victims to feel guilty afterwards and be too scared to tell anyone— even their significant other or family. Even knowing I did nothing wrong I still felt ashamed and conflicted.

There are several things that stick in my mind about the incident. I remember having a nice time and then all of a sudden it wasn’t nice anymore. I vividly remember my arms being held by one individual, while another touched me inappropriately, trying to remove my bathing suit. I remember tears and a feeling of panic that Dan would think I cheated on him and wouldn’t believe that I didn’t choose this. I remember wishing he were there to save me, instead of gone on tour overseas. I remember saying “Please, I don’t want to cheat. Please.” and I’m honestly still not sure why I thought sexual assault would be cheating— another example of why we need to change the way our society views these occurrences. I remember their responses of “This isn’t cheating, no one will tell him right? He will never know. This doesn’t count.” I remember thinking, Please, let me wake up. This isn’t real. I’m going to wake up now. Wake up. I remember the breath on my skin and the tightness on my arms. I remember hearing them negotiating over my body as if I didn’t matter— “What do I get if I do this while you watch? A weekend vacation?” I also remember a moment of resignation — and closing my eyes tight in hopes I could just pretend I was elsewhere — I gave up, the thing we, as strong women, always tell ourselves we would never do…but eventually you do.  Then, most importantly— I remember a sudden, desperate moment of determination — and kicking & screaming until they released me. I tried contacting everyone and anyone I could think of, but it was late and Dan was overseas without service. Looking back at the texts, I know I was going through shock…they were simple and made no sense: “Help. Im scared. Please help me. I want to go home. What do I do?”–things that make no sense out of context. I’ve been asked before why I didn’t call the police— and I honestly don’t have a clear answer for that. I remember thinking: Sydney, don’t make them angry or let them know you’re not okay. Pretend. You got away and they are leaving you alone now so just make it home and it will be fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. Just go. So I went. I sat in the car with one of them as they drove me home and they tried to make light conversation— clearly testing the waters to see if I would tell anyone. I sat quietly, terrified, and couldn’t get out of the car fast enough.

My face was swollen from crying, I had bruises down my thighs and on my arms— I cried to the point that I physically threw up. When Dan had cell service and received my messages, he was there for me, as were my two closest friends. He did not blame me as I oddly feared during the incident— nor did he break up with me. He told me he loved me. He asked me details. He told me I was crazy for thinking he would leave me. He supported me and was there for me, as did the rest of our friend group. I am so grateful to have a group of individuals— they know who they are— who were there for me, no questions asked. Not everyone is so lucky.

Throughout this past year, I have had moments where I felt strong and felt that I was healed. I have then in the very next breath started to cry simply because that person showed up in my Facebook newsfeed and I couldn’t fathom how they continued to exist. I have had moments where I lashed out at others for seemingly no reason. I have had moments where I terribly pre-judged others based on shared qualities with the person in question. I have had days where I felt depressed and hopeless. I have had nightmares about it that felt so real I woke up sobbing and waking Dan, next to me. I have had moments where I mistrusted and alienated someone from my friendship based on no fault of their own—but out of distrust for new people.

I have also however had good days. I have had days where I look at my loving partner and cannot stop telling him how much I love him and appreciate his ongoing support for me. I have had days where I don’t think about the incident at all. I have started doing the things I love again. I have had moments of determination to help others going through this, like now. I have had thoughts of a future where this will almost seem like a story I read somewhere— instead of something that I experienced. I have days where I feel like myself.

One thing that especially changed was my outlook on how I present myself. I was always a very open, carefree, and social person. This incident made me suddenly question my feminist views. I began to blame myself for what happened, thinking: “Do I seem like I deserve that? I mean, did I deserve it?” It took me some time to get back to myself and re-aquaint myself with the true nature of things. And I want to stress the importance of, as women especially, not listening to the constant stream of insults, judgements, and ridiculous expectations people throw at you (and that at times we are all guilty of subjecting others to). It doesn’t matter what you wear, how subdued you are, how much makeup you choose to put on, or if you choose to be friends with mostly guys. What matters is your character; how you treat yourself and others. Be your genuine self and try your best to extend a bit of kindness to others every day–because you don’t know what they may be struggling with. One of my next posts will address this more in depth, as this is something that is a constant work in progress for us all, especially as women– we should be uplifting one another, carrying each other through these hard times– we have enough working against us already.

What has gotten me through this past year is this mantra: Love & Light. Wherever I go—whatever happens to me: I will trust and focus my energies on kindness, goodness, and positivity. I will not be a victim in any sense & I  will not allow others to determine how I live. I will take each day at a time and focus on my goals. We can overcome anything in this life with Love & Light. As Rumi said: If light is in your heart, you will find your way home. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Join me?