MBP VIP Mary Lambert

Everyone, no everyone, should see this art. Mary is beautiful and so are you.

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Baring My Arms

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Even though I grew up in sunny Southern California, I never wore tank tops. I was irrationally self-conscious about the appearance of my arms. I thought they were ugly. I thought they were too big. I thought they were too pale. I thought everyone would notice that they were covered in tiny bumps from keratosis pilaris, an insignificant condition so common that it affects up to 80% of adolescents and 50% of adults.

In the 4th grade, I wore a flannel over my sleeveless ballet recital costume until seconds before I went onstage. In high school, I braved family vacations to Hawaii and Arizona with a suitcase full of long sleeved shirts and a stick of Teen Spirit. And when Alterations told me my wedding dress would look janky if they added sleeves, as I had originally intended, I was crestfallen and terrified; it was supposed to be the Most Important Day of My Life… how was I going to enjoy it with all the guests staring at my arms?

My mom struggled with her weight while I was growing up, and I vividly remember her saying she would never wear a tank top. Almost like it was the right thing to do, like she was sparing the good citizens of our community the discomfort of having to look at her body. Still, it never occurred to me that my tank top aversion was a learned behavior. That is, until my early twenties, when I discovered that my sister, who has always been a lanky bean pole, shared my irrational fear of sleeveless tops. She too had memories of our mom’s troubled relationship with her arms. We had certainly been paying attention.

Original image: The U.S. National Archives

Original image: The U.S. National Archives

In 2010, I moved across the country and experienced my very first New York City summer. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the unique agony of waiting for the subway in 98°F with 80% humidity. For the first time in my life, the physical discomfort of the heat had eclipsed my self-consciousness. So I bought my first tank top. And then I wore it. And the thing is… my world didn’t fall apart. People didn’t point and laugh. I was even cat called a few times by those rowdy Manhattan construction workers. I wore a tank top and it was fine.

I’m thankful for the lesson, and also curious as to what else in my life I’m not doing because I’m afraid and haven’t been pushed.

Look, I’m not saying my relationship with my arms is all butterflies and rainbows. I’ve still got a lot of relearning and reframing to do. But I’m much more mindful of how damaging it can be to harbor so much negativity toward a physical manifestation of YOU. If I’m working on self-love, it certainly doesn’t help for me to say, “Except for you, Arms. You, I’ll never love.” So I’m taking baby steps. I’m trying to be mindful of how blessed I am to have functioning arms, trying to be grateful for their strength and agility. I’m taking a great deal of pride in my arm balances in yoga – I could take a nap in Crow Pose. Some mornings, before hopping into the shower, I’ll perform a little Ayurvedic self-massage, paying specific attention to my arms, thanking them for all that they do. I’m also trying to reevaluate my conception of the ideal arm. Who says it has to be lean and sinewy? Maybe the perfect arm is broad and strong, thick with muscle and healthy tissue. Maybe that kind of arm can even make ballet look good.

A few months ago, my mom watched as an older woman carrying some extra weight stripped down to her bathing suit to enjoy the ocean. She decided then and there that she would no longer let fear dictate her participation in life. I am so lucky that I get to learn from her. And by the way, she wears tank tops now. And she looks hot.

Proudly flexing my guns while exploring in Sydney, Australia.

Proudly flexing my huge guns while exploring in Sydney, Australia.

The Post That Took a Year to Write

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This is my first official blog post. The first time I’m sitting down to write something specifically for my brand new blog. I’m terrified. I feel twitchy. My brain keeps telling me to take a bathroom break even though I took one ten minutes ago. Somehow, a bobby pin just ended up in my mouth and I’m chewing on it like a candy cigarette. There seems to be a red bump on my forearm, maybe I should pick at it for a second… NO! STOP IT. Just. Stop.

Just start writing.

I’ve always been a procrastinator. When I was a kid, we only had one computer in the house. My parents set it up in their bedroom to discourage us from putting off assignments until the night before they were due. And yet, I often ended up in that bedroom long after my father had gone to sleep, my mom patiently reading a book in bed. I had a pearl-covered princess crown (a costume piece from when I played Cinderella in a local youth theater production), and I used to wear it during those late-night homework sessions. I called it my “thinking cap” and thought it would somehow imbue me with superhuman paper writing abilities. I was in high school.

Really, I was just terrified that my finished work wouldn’t be perfect. And the idea of creating something perfect was so daunting that I often ignored the assignment all together for as long as I could. So I’d end up bleary eyed at 3 AM editing a satirical short documentary on Montesquieu when the assignment called for a simple power point presentation.

No one ever told me I needed to be perfect. Somewhere along the line, I just decided it was the only way to be. And it’s been tripping me up ever since.

FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY

I wanted to start this blog a year ago. Then this happened:

“But it needs to look professional.”

“I don’t know how to use WordPress.”

“I need to save some money so I can buy a custom template.”

“I should really study other Health & Wellness blogs for a while.”

“I don’t know anything. Who cares what I have to say?”

“People will think my blog is dumb and then they’ll hate me.”

All the usual suspects. All the usual bullshit. Only this time, Ms. Heimsoth wouldn’t be waiting for me to show up in her classroom with screenshots of my perfect blog. No one expects me to do this. And no one will miss it if I don’t.

A few months ago, I met with my mentor to discuss my emerging health coaching practice. “I haven’t taken on any clients because I feel like I don’t know enough yet,” I said. “I’m afraid I’m not going to get it right.” She leaned over her cup of Rooibos and replied, “You’re not going to get it right. You’ve got to begin somewhere.”

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is the title of a best-selling book by the late psychologist Susan Jeffers. I came across the phrase while reading Overcoming Underearning by the fabulous Barbara Stanny, and it really resonated with me. Logically, I know that nobody’s perfect. I’ve known this for some time, yet no amount of reminding myself ever alleviated my perfectionist anxieties. You see, some small part of me still struggles with the erroneous belief that my worth as a human being depends on my ability to perform well, to get things right. But I’m not always going to get it right. And that feels scary.

The message behind Jeffers’ now famous phrase is that it’s okay to feel scared. It’s absolutely human. It’s scary to know that you might fall flat on your face, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t try. So I’m going to readjust my criteria for self-worth to include what I do after I feel the fear. Do I let it paralyze me, or do I take the leap? After all, I’ve got to begin somewhere.