Are You Comfortable in Your Own Skin?
by Janet Neal, founder SuperbWoman
A couple of years ago, pre-social isolation, I had my friend, John DeMato, do some headshots and action shots, to promote me as a speaker and trainer. John does a great job capturing, as he says, the “magic”. I was excited to see the final product…until I noticed that they were not touched up. Here I was, with many wrinkles and slightly yellowed teeth. When I asked him if he could “fix them”, he asked me a question: Aren’t you a coach/speaker who encourages and assists people in BEing their powerful, authentic selves?
John’s question made it very clear to me that I was not in integrity. If I told people to be comfortable in their own skin, and I was not, why should they listen to anything I say? And here’s the more interesting part: I thought I WAS comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes it takes a mirror – in the form of a photo, an actual mirror, or an honest friend who is not afraid to call you out – to help you get back into alignment. Here’s how the rest of the story goes!
After I had my 2nd son, a rather chunky baby, my wrist said “That’s enough!” It was barely hanging on from the years of being a secretary, with those new-fangled word processors. The first step in helping my carpal tunnel was to wear a brace. While this helped me, it sent my older son, then 3 years-old, into pure panic. He would say “No, no, no!” and try to tear it off of me. It wasn’t that I was injured that bothered him so much, as that I wasn’t the way his mom should look.
The other day I looked in the mirror and (again) had a similar reaction. “No, no, no!” is what I thought. This “person” looking back at me was NOT me! I remembered the exercise I’d recently done, involving looking into your eyes for your inner child. I took a moment to breathe and focus. Ah, there was she was! A part of me relaxed…until I looked again and realized she was trapped in the body of this old lady! So, I did what a good, enlightened person would do: Panicked and went into full-on self-judgment. When I realized that wasn’t working, I went instead inward – to my inner child for the answer. The dialogue I had with her went something like this:
ME: “Why are you so angry?”
Little ME: “You’re not my Grammie!”
ME: “No, I’m YOU. You and I are the same person!”
Little ME: (shocked at that reminder) “Grammie’s gone. I don’t want you to be gone too.”
Cue the tears.
What I realized then was that I had no problem loving my inner child – it was my current version that needed the love. I needed to own who I was today, and to also face and come to peace with my mortality. And, I understood that I owed it to that little one inside to keep myself in the best shape I can, on all levels.
The challenge I gave myself was not to avoid the mirror, but to consciously spend 5 minutes a day looking at myself. REALLY looking. See what is there. Remember what created all those laugh lines around my eyes. Look at my full-toothed smile and see my Father’s full-toothed smile. Look at the twinkle in my eyes and see my Grammie’s twinkle in her eyes. Look at my sagging breasts and remember the wonder of feeding my chubby babies. Look at my sturdy legs and think of the thousands of miles they have walked, the hours they held me up when I being a waitress or a teacher or a trainer. Or walking endlessly to comfort a crying child. Look at the scar on my knees to remember my sandbox- and jumping into it a little too close the edge. Or the one on my chin and remember ice skating at a birthday party – and being able to show off my stitches after a blade caught in a hole. Or look at my long 2nd toe, or “feeler toe” as my ex-husband use to call it, or my nearly missing little toenail, just like my dad.
I am a collection of people and experiences, gifted with this unique body to see me through them all. I may be aging…but I am far from old. And ALL of me is grateful for that realization!
Janet M. Neal is and author, coach, and trainer and the founder of SuperbWoman. She is a “Reformed Superwoman” who has learned how to lead a “should free”, productive, joyful, and powerful life, and believes all women can do the same. Janet is a frequent lecturer and workshop provider for organizations such as IBM, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, and Working Mother Magazine. She is the author of Soul in Control: Reflections of a Reformed Superwoman (Balboa Press, 2012). She has been contributor to The Huffington Post and numerous business publications and hosts a web show called Superbwoman Sundays at 7, viewable on YouTube at www.youtube.com/thesuperbwoman.