Guest Post: Beauty & Self-Worth

I’m learning how to love myself, belly rolls and all. My body is a wonderful tool, not something to be scrutinized or ashamed of.

As a human with access to multiple social media platforms and magazines, you’d have to live under a rock to not know our culture places an enormous focus on physical beauty and appearance. We admire certain models, celebrities, fitness coaches, and peers for their hair, body, makeup, clothing. Why not? It feels great to applaud people for their fabulousness and dedication to be ridiculously good looking.

But, like, hell-o? We already knew this from age six when we caved wore scrunchies and Oshkosh B-Gosh overalls to fit in? Duh.

So while I will always be your cheerleader for posting a great bikini pic (you better werk), I will also be your biggest fan no matter what you look like if I truly find you beautiful on the inside. Cellulite and all.

We all struggle with our self confidence when it comes to comparing ourselves with others.  There is always someone with better hair, eyebrows, abs, and legs than us. It’s hard not to fall into a black hole on the Instagram “Explore” page.

Sometimes we’re able to brush off our feelings of self-doubt and love ourselves for what we are. Other times, it’s hard not to feel inadequate while scrolling through airbrushed photos of others frolicking on the beach or posing with coconuts.

It’s okay. I’m not here to bash anyone for what they decide to post or who they admire for their looks. Instead, I hope to give you a little perspective from someone who has over forty years (but doesn’t look a day over thirty) of experience dealing with pressure from culture to look a certain way.

My mom’s journey has not been easy, but she continues to redefine beauty every day. She enjoys eating whole foods and has learned to ease up on her formerly rigorous training regime.

Enter Karen Hovie.

My mom is truly one of the most beautiful souls in the world. I say this not only as her daughter, but as a young woman who looks up to a powerful woman who is fighting to change our perception of “beautiful” and what it means.

I asked her to write a guest post and she agreed to share her perspective. Sometimes we need a reminder that we’re all gorgeous kweens! Being stunningly gorgeous isn’t simply knowing how to do your makeup or what to wear or how to eat or exercise…it’s being comfortable in your own skin and knowing YOU ARE ENOUGH as you are.

So as bikini season approaches (it has arrived, honey), here is a kind reminder that your self-worth should not be determined by how closely you resemble a celebrity or model.

Respect your body, eat whole foods so you have energy to spread good vibes, and learn to appreciate yourself for what you are: a fabulous betch that is unapologetically herself.

Enjoy!

***

Last summer, after reading Jennifer Aniston’s rather scathing essay to the media addressing body shaming, I was inspired to write the following:

I give Jennifer Aniston credit for going public with her frustrations with the media in its portrayal of the female experience. However, I wonder if the message would have been more powerful had she been compelled to address a picture of her that was inarguably beautiful, but inarguably edited, instead of one that cast her in a ‘less than perfect’ light.

Now that would have sent a powerful message.

And that was as far as I got.

Shortly after Aniston’s essay hit the press, I was watching ‘LIVE with Kelly’ (a guilty summertime pleasure). ‘Dancing with the Stars’ judge Carrie Ann Inaba was co-hosting. As she interacted with the audience, I was drawn to her charismatic personality. She radiated joy and self confidence. I was also aware that she looked healthy. Vibrant even. She did not have the rock hard athletic body of Kelly Ripa; she looked real.

And then, she grabbed her stomach roll for all the world to see. I could not have loved her more!

Now, fast forward to last month, when my daughter Kristin asked me to write a guest post for her blog on…body image. (You knew that was coming, right?) I felt it was a sign, because while I never finished writing the post, I didn’t delete it either. This was the push I needed.

Before I go any further, there are a few things you should know about me. First and foremost, I am passionate about health and wellness. I eat a mostly whole food, plant-based diet. I exercise consistently and in moderation most of the time. I typically get 7-8 hours a sleep. On most days I devote time to prayer and meditation. Yet in spite of this all, having a positive body image is something I continually struggle with work on.

(Words bolded, as I don’t want you to get the impression that I am perfect, as I most certainly am not. Nor do I strive for it.)

Truthfully, while the topic of body image is near and dear to my heart, figuring out what to write has been challenging. Very challenging.

What could I write that you didn’t already know? What could I write that would make a difference in your life?

You understand the importance of positive body image.

You know the consequences of possessing a poor body image.

You’re probably aware most women have a negative body image.

And I know you are well aware of social media’s negative impact on body image.

We all know all of this, yet little changes.

Social media continues to be inundated with before and after pictures, sweaty post-workout pictures, edited pictures, bodies positioned in perfect-angle pictures…pictures suggesting there is an ideal.

Reality says (as do numerous surveys), few of us look like the so called ideal.

More importantly, we weren’t meant to.

Yet we keep trying to morph our bodies into something unnatural. We keep trying to be something we weren’t meant to be. We are brainwashed into believing we should be slender with a flat stomach and thigh gap, wear a size 2, have muscle tone, tanned skin, white teeth, and thick hair. And if we don’t meet these qualifications? Well…

And that’s when I think back to Carrie Ann Inaba. She looked healthy. She was comfortable in her own skin. And I think because of this, I admired her. A lot. She was somebody I would love to get to know.

The world needs more Carrie Ann Inabas.

And then I began to wonder, are there more Carrie Ann Inabas out there?

Turns out, there are. In my search for positive role models, I discovered a movement in the world of social media. There are women posting ‘before and after’ pictures taken within minutes of each other in an effort to make a point; looks can be altered in mere seconds. What you see, isn’t necessarily real. Perception is not necessarily reality.

I applaud these real women. We need to see belly rolls. We need to see cellulite. We need to see back fat. We need to see wrinkles and stretch marks and freckles and zits. We need to see authentic women. We need to see how an ideal body can disappear in the blink of an eye, because, until authenticity becomes the norm, positive body image will continue to be a struggle for many of us.

We will continue to strive to attain bodies we can’t healthily maintain, because in our quest to achieve the ideal, we’ve stopped taking care of ourselves. We’ve stopped listening to what our bodies are telling us. We’ve stopped being intuitive.

So what if we started listening? Really listening.

What if the focus shifted from outward appearance to overall health? What if we honored our bodies by eating real food, exercising daily and in moderation, and making time for rest and spiritual rejuvenation?

Could you accept your outward appearance knowing you were taking care of yourself?

And not that it should be a driving force, but just how do you want to be remembered?

By the hours you spent at the gym? The miles you’ve logged? The size of your clothes? The number of the scale? Your hair? Complexion? Muscle tone? Thigh gap?

I hope not. I hope this is not what defines you.

You are so much more than your outward appearance.

What matters, what truly matters, is who you are. What’s going to make a difference, is what you do.

So what if, we simply lived and focused our efforts on doing all we could to make the world a better place?

 

For more, head over to my mom’s blog 2write4health.com. She shares some great recipes, witty puns, and offers health and fitness advice.

Favorite child status?

The Benchwarmer

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Being a benchwarmer ultimately led to my verbal commitment to Binghamton University my junior year of high school.

Though the gym was a comfortable seventy-three degrees, I shivered. Whistles chirped at odd intervals across the length of the gym. Cheering reverberated across the cold walls and snapped my attention back to the volleyball court in front of me. I tugged on my jersey’s sleeves until the ends were balled up in my slightly purple fists.

Brrr…

Self consciously, I sidestepped in front of the three teammates that clapped enthusiastically beside me. I sifted through the pile of warm up jackets on the chair adjacent to them until I spotted a label with a hastily written, “#13”.

That’s me, I thought.

The number didn’t stand a realistic chance of making the regular starting lineup sheet yet, but I felt a little flutter of pride all the same.

A few months earlier, I accepted an offer as an outside hitter on the top club volleyball team in the state of Wisconsin. Though I had experience as an integral part of my previous club and high school teams, I now found myself ridin’ the pine on a regular basis. Feeling deflated, I realized I had gotten accustomed to watching the sport I loved most from the sidelines.

***

My sophomore year at Binghamton University.


Being identified as a “benchwarmer” is not an easy concept for every athlete to learn. It doesn’t matter if you’re sixteen on a club volleyball team, twenty on a Division 1 team, or thirty on a professional team. It can be an intensely emotional experience, especially if communication between an athlete and coach breaks down.

After reminiscing about my club volleyball experience, I was curious to see how my colleagues’ experiences on the bench compared with mine. Admitting they weren’t always the star player or part of the starting lineup, many launched into personal recollections that included rejection, increased motivation, shame, confusion, and bitterness.

Even though I’ve been involved in athletics since the age of five, I never considered giving the psyche of the benchwarmer much thought. To me, it just seemed like a self-pity party I threw for myself on the sidelines as an angsty teen in high school. After more deliberation, I realized my time on the bench impacted my life more profoundly than I had previously given credit to.

The semifinal game at the America East Tournament. We won the championship game and received the automatic bid to go to the NCAA Tournament in 2012.


Two social psychologists from the University of Virginia had a similar interest into the psyche of the benchwarmer and decided to study the phenomena in more detail. In their article, “The Social Psychology of the Benchwarmer”, Robert J. Rotella and Douglas S. Newburg come to the conclusion that some benched athletes “may experience [an] identity crises, the impact of which may be long-lasting and far-reaching for them”. In their report, the psychologists also offer suggestions for athletes, coaches, and sport psychology consultants to help respond to these situations effectively.

Overall this article has great intentions which I can give credit for piquing my interest. On the flip side, the authors come to broad conclusions based on a small sample size of athletes from the late 1980s. It also may have been supplemental to mention the possibility of an athlete who can learn positive lessons while sitting the bench. As always, hindsight is 20/20.

While the combination of prolonged bench time and poor communication will not likely impact the athlete positively, a lack of playing time can serve as an opportunity for some athletes.

This in mind, I can find no better example than former Ohio State basketball player, Mark Titus (of blogsite Club Trillion). He scored nine points during his entire four-year career but established a way to become indispensable off the court. He served as a practice and “pump up” player to the starters that won an NCAA Championship. His book Don’t Put Me In Coach is hilarious account of his journey “from one end of the bench to the other”. I’d highly recommend it.

On a more personal level, my experience offered opportunities to learn valuable lessons that easily translated to the workplace. Now that I’m about three years removed from the volleyball court, I have the ability to see how my role as a benchwarmer during high school impacted my life on an athletic and personal level.

Signing day, my junior year of high school.


After spending time as a six-rotation, front row and practice player through both club and high school, I decided to verbally commit to a mid-major Division 1 school as a high school junior. Overjoyed, I verballed because there was an opening for a four-year starter at this prestigious university.

The offers I had from universities with more competitive volleyball programs didn’t offer a four-year starting position like Binghamton University (NY). Though it’s nice to be a part of a winning program, I decided I’d like to have an immediate impact as a freshman. Without my time on the sidelines, I can’t say with certainty I’d make the same decision again. This is definitely a positive takeaway I wish co-authors Rotella and Newburg took into account in their article.

During my later club volleyball years, sitting on the side was tough. I felt cheated and unimportant, but I will maintain those who coached me had valid reasons for playing others before me if I wasn’t on the court. To this day, I hold no bitterness towards any of the people who impacted my journey as a player, whether I played or not. Feeling like you’ve been rejected is a hard aspect to swallow, especially at the ripe old age of sixteen, but it’s something that offers countless opportunities to learn from.

Not only has my time on the bench impacted my life athletically, but also personally. It’s nice to be an integral part of a team, but it helps to learn humility and perseverance as a player. This translates well into the professional world and your coworkers (and anyone you encounter, quite honestly) will thank you.

Squad of 2013.


As my mother told me from a young age, you’ll find ninety-nine point nine percent of the time there will be someone out there more talented than you. Sometimes you’ll be the star, other times not. Whether this is true in the athletic, real world, or both, there can be many opportunities to grow from.

If I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self anything, it would be to 1.) stop using so much eyeliner, 2.) invest in Apple, and 3.) let this time on the bench serve as motivation, not a sign you’re not good enough.

This isn’t to say every coach will have reasonable cause for keeping one athlete on the bench as opposed to another. As I’m sure we’re all aware, coaches are also human. Some humans have better intentions than others, but sports have seasons that end. This lesson certainly comes in handy in the real world while dealing with difficult managers and bosses. As my college sports psych professor often claimed several times per class, “sports are a microcosm of society”.

I had to include this photo, grainy or not. I’m now living in Providence so it’s a small coincidence!


In the short term, riding the pine may seem disappointing. Long term, I can say it eventually made me a stronger person and helped determine where I’d be happiest during my undergraduate degree. It’s exciting to be a starter or to feel important, but there’s also a chance to grow while off the court. What you learn through athletics often translates well into the professional world. I can definitely vouch for this!

Whenever you’re feeling bummed out about playing time, just remember you have the power to make what you can out of a situation. Sports have seasons, seasons end, you grow older and your knees and back will sometimes fail you. It’s times like these when I appreciate the lessons I learned on the bench more than I could’ve realized when I was sixteen. Though a very slim amount of players can say they aspire to sit on the bench if given the chance to be on the court, it’s not always a bad place to be.

Ride that pine with pride, athletes!

#12 was my favorite player to play against. She now coaches at University of Albany.


Are You Putting Out Positivity In the World?

I feel like in the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to experience both the joys and setbacks of working directly with people. But you already knew this.

I’ve whined and moaned about my sales job, complained about grumpy customers as I wait tables, and have (on a greater level) been absolutely disgusted at the violence in the world today.

But I’ve also met some beautiful people that display the utmost patience, kindness, and forgiveness on a daily basis. And people like this inspire me and challenge me to “be better”.

A couple weeks ago while waitressing, I had a family come in with their grandmother. Caught up with a busy night and worrying about twenty million things at once (Does table 2 have their chili cup? Did I remember to type in table 5’s drinks? Aw shoot, did I deliver the bill to table 8 after getting 3’s bill?), I completely forgot to type in the poor grandmother’s order. After realizing this and apologizing profusely and feeling utterly deflated, my manager came over and told them the meal, of course, was on the house. They were gracious and accepted my apology- also telling me with a laugh that their daughter was once a waitress and they completely understood that mistakes happen.

It’s people like this that make an absolutely crappy day turn into an opportunity to believe in the good in people. I couldn’t have been any more grateful towards these strangers. They could have been indifferent or rude towards me, but the fact that they displayed such warmth made me want to strive for this level of kindness myself.

Just a couple days ago, my family decided to go out to eat to one of our favorite restaurants. The service was sub-par, we were kept waiting for our food for over an hour, and my mother’s order was completely forgotten. Instead of getting pissed off, I found myself thinking about the time I forgot to type in the grandmother’s meal while I was working. Crap happens sometimes. We voiced our concerns to the waitress and we got our food. Though we were displeased at the wait, the fact that we didn’t completely bitch the waitress out and ruin her night (she couldn’t help that the kitchen didn’t have our food) potentially allowed the chain reaction that the grandmother passed onto me to live on.

That’s nice story and all, but how realistic is it to expect this level of understanding more often when cities are being bombed, ISIS is in existence, and shootings occur every other month? It’s hard not to feel dismayed at mankind more often than not.

So with all this crappy stuff seemingly outweighing any good that happens in the world let me ask you this:

Are you putting “good” out into the world? If so, how much?

You may think, “why yes, Kristin. I’m not bombing the life out of my neighbors and I’m cutting my waitresses some slack every once and awhile”. Great. I appreciate it. But what I’m really talking about is putting in the energy to inspire good in others with the things that YOU do- doing more than simply NOT doing bad things. 

Well, I’ll be darned if I don’t sound like I’m trying to be Pope Francis’s little minion (I’d be honored).

I am fully aware that what I’m asking of people is exhausting. It takes energy to constantly put others ahead of yourself, even if it’s your family and friends. And when it comes to complete strangers, why go out of your way for them? Your happiness comes before theirs, right?

Right…? I’m not so sure.

Can you imagine what kind of world we could live in if we put others before ourselves more often? I’d love to believe that humans are more than just animals who engage themselves in state of nature games. By putting more positivity into your interactions with others, life might just get a little better for yourself and everyone else around you.

The power to continue to make the world a less crappy place is completely controllable by us, the people. It begins with us doing the “little things”, not just simply writing out a check to a charity (although donating is nice, too. I’m not trying to deny that fact).

Talking poorly about someone you know or barely know? Spreading negativity about how you feel about something? Saying something to someone even though you know it will hurt them? That girl isn’t pretty enough to be with her boyfriend? I’ve been guilty of all of these more than once or twice, and it has gotten me nowhere. Decreasing the negativity you put out begins with behaviors such as these. It may be fun to talk shit, but in the end who is it benefitting? I’ve met some of the people that I used to not “like” only to be surprised at how much I loved being around them.

But eh mah gawd…cue the sappy music. I feel like I sound like I’m completely trying to bust your balls here, but remembering how I’ve treated some people and seeing the way some people treat one another saddens me and needs to be stopped.

This begins with your friends and family. Every single day, you are blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with your loved ones. This is not something to be taken for granted- so use this time to make both yourself and your loved ones better people.

 

That sounds so extremely hippie right now and I want to punch myself in the face for it, but I’m a firm believer that that fact alone has helped me get through tough times.

Feel like death? Make someone else’s day. Make them smile; make their life easier. Show them you care. Be a little less concerned about yourself. Helping others without expecting anything in return makes one a better person- it’s a win-win.

By being kinder and more empathic, you’re likely to discover heroes all around you- heroes in less likely ways. The grandmother who was openly compassionate towards me will not be forgotten any time soon. I’m continually amazed at the potential of humankind to treat one another with respect and want this to serve as a beacon of hope to those who struggle to do so or to those who are already making those little changes in their lives now.

Dealing with people is something we are going to have to do for the rest of our lives- we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible while we have the chance of being here.

So crack a smile at a stranger, genuinely compliment someone who you thought you used to not like, strive to continually show your loved ones compassion, learn to forgive and forget, and remember that those who continue to be sowers of discord across the world can be combatted by us every day: the people who have power to inspire and create good in others. 

How frickin’ cool is that?