I first started with the concept of focusing on 5 values for each year versus resolutions in 2021.
As the new year approached I notice the trend of moving away from resolutions and choosing one word to focus on for the year. One word doesn’t work for me because it’s too big, it’s too much of a focus on one thing or more so too easy to let the one thing slide when unsuccessful.
That being said whatever works for you, go for it. I advocate for values because centring your actions around values provides clarity and purpose. Clarity and purpose helps with contentedness, contentment with peace, and isn’t that what we are all searching for?
The Annual Values reset doesn’t necessarily focus on a top 10 or even top 20 values, more so reflecting on the previous year and what might have been missing or could benefit from digging deeper into. The other reflection is on possible pinch points for the upcoming year and which values might help ease them.
My 5 values of focus for 2023 are –
Generosity, Growth, Compassion, Joy and Consistency
How these show up may look different day by day or month by month. With identifying the values, taking the time daily or weekly to check in and see if I’m still aligning my actions and goals with them helps with forward vision.
The values might present individually or in tandem such as Generosity and Consistency. Having set up a monthly contribution to a couple charitable organizations locally and via payroll deductions (something my company offers) I know consistent help is provided. This is a very direct correlation which might not always exist.
Generosity may show up in many forms as well, not just financial. The idea of being generous with your time, your energy and your space can be equally or more important. I have felt like I was pulling from an empty bucket for a while and so not being a generous as I would like so remembering small moments or actively finding opportunities to be is the goal.
Growth was important because the past year was huge in growth for me and I felt tired before my Holiday. I needed a break and thought maybe I’ll just take it easy for a while, it could be so good to just rest. The thing is I know I feel best when I’m continually learning and growing so my vision with this is to finish at least one course related to work and try something new. Very general and open enough for flexibility (options).
Compassion is something I try hard to apply everyday; I know there are areas where I am better at this than others. I can get frustrated with privilege and those I describe as Ostriches, people who would rather stick their head in the sand than hash it out.
I am hoping having this as a goal will continue to let me have an open mind in every interaction and if not (because I’m human and all) when I do lead with judgement instead, when doing my reflection periods (day/week) I can sprinkle in more compassion.
Joy, it may seem like a funny one but my partner suggested happiness and I said you can’t have that because it’s not tangible. Joy, joy can be tangible in moments, in memories and sometimes even in things.
So for Joy, my goal is to capture those moments as often as possible, to revel in them, slow down and savour them.
Last is Consistency- this was the last one I thought of but it fits perfectly because consistency is what will tie them all together for the year.
Consistency in my workouts (I’m currently on a 79 day streak with PILATES and movement), consistency on my rest taking, consistency on reading for pleasure, on marking those moments of Joy, and consistency in reflection.
I have spent the last decade since having my daughter feeling all over the place. I’ve worked at over 10 different employers, never one at a time and always while taking courses. I’ve spent a decade being all over the place. I’m sure there is a post in here but the point is that this year I finally feel like I can settle in a bit. I love my job, my kids are older and all in school, I’m coming out of the postpartum/post divorce fog/sadness and Consistency I’m hoping will only help in creating peace.
My last piece to Consistency, it’s a big one, is to show up here more. I’m off work for the next week, my hope is to outline 12-24 topics. Writing 1-2 per month with a corresponding podcast episode.
I started Inventing Resilience from a need to have an outlet and to fill my creative cup. Now I just need to ensure I spend the time often and consistently to always be filling the bucket.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading and please share your values of focus for the upcoming year – or your word or resolutions.
Trigger Warning: This post is the story of my own experience with abortion, the trauma, feelings and pro-choice stance. If you are unable to continue to read please stop, take a time, come back if possible or reach out. Be respectful in feedback and comments, abuse will not be tolerated.
I have tried writing this post several times in the last three years. I have started it many times, in many different ways, coming from many angles. I have stopped in tears each time, giving up, not being ready to share. I’m still not 100% ready to share or for the judgement but I believe it’s important to share our experiences, to share our stories so others can relate, understand or feel less alone.
I actually started this specific post the day that Texas came out with it’s new abortion restrictions and the U.S. Supreme decision not to strike it down. I wasn’t sure I could write it but then while driving to pick up my two oldest from school I saw a large truck with purposely graphic image pull up next to me at a light. I started writing when I got home and have come back to it several times in the last few weeks determined to finish this time, albeit a few weeks late but on the heels of the Woman’s March on Reproductive rights.
I can seem like an open book; I will talk about pretty much anything, at length and the more in depth the better. I try to have no secrets, although still some things are left hidden. Secrets are often rooted in shame.
The shame of having an abortion comes from the shame of unwanted pregnancy, the shame of having sex, the shame lack of control. I have cried so many tears trying to release this shame.
I do not regret my abortion.
The reality is that if I had made a different decision I would never have met my first husband. I would have been 8 or 9 months pregnant instead. If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have my two oldest children whom are amazing humans.
I do not regret keeping my second unplanned pregnancy.
I have been pregnant twice unintended, once at 23 where I chose to have an abortion and once at 33 where I knew I had to try and make it work.
My hope is in sharing my story one can learn that choice is important. That this issue is not a simple matter of right and wrong. That pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Pro-choice is understanding that privilege and circumstance affect the quality of life and the variety of options. Different times in my life afforded me more and less privilege. Pro-choice is understanding that every woman and girl has the right to make the best decision for them, and that their lives, wants and needs matter.
When I was 23 I was working two jobs and in university. I was living in a house owned by the son of a coworker with two other girls. Rent was cheap, my roommates were nice and the location was awesome. I met the man that got me pregnant at work. I was working at a recently opened furniture store at a large mall, he came in to look at dining tables for his family home. I remember I had to crawl under the table to read the label and get the right sku, as all the tables kinda blended together a bit.
When looking up the table and the availability, he made the comment – ‘Looks like you have great tits to go with that ass.’ I didn’t know what to say. I mentioned it to my manager who laughed it off and said I should feel flattered, so I did; I put my value in my body. He came back to get the table and I honestly don’t know how I saw him again but I did.
He was separated, or so I thought, he had two young kids around 2 and 5. He was successful at work (that much I could look up) and lived in a great neighbourhood (meaning nice house/high income). We would go out decently often, I met a couple of his friends, only ever one at a time and male but that didn’t send any red flags at the time. A few months in he had to take ‘a trip’, is was to rehab for cocaine, I was floored. I was always very clear in my distaste for drugs. I was open with my family’s struggle with alcohol abuse and how much hurt it caused.
He didn’t respect my boundaries but I was so desperate to feel wanted, to be loved, that I allowed my boundaries to be crossed. I feel shame in that desperation, the need to feel wanted.
He called me from rehab, it is almost surreal to think about now, it feels so ridiculous since working on my self esteem. I had pledged I wouldn’t speak with him again, when one afternoon about 6 months afters his trip I was walking along a busy retail street in my city (17th Ave) and he drove by. He parked and chased me down; I caved agreeing to see him again.
I think back at it and can see it was my lack of self worth that led me to allow this person that was so ready to lie, to hide truths, to use me for their own comfort into my life. I was taking precautions, I was on birth control, I was being responsible, ‘safe’; I don’t remember when I figured out I was late. I do remember sitting waiting in Starbucks, waiting to tell him, half hoping he would say it would be ok.
I grew up knowing I was pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. Read that again – pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. I say it multiple times, it means that there are circumstances where it might be the best choice. It means providing grace and understanding that there are more factors at play.
When I was twenty I knew a girl that had given up a child for adoption already, and was considering her third abortion. I remember the judgement, the superiority I felt, that I would never be in that situation. I couldn’t imagine carrying a child to term and giving it up, for me, it would be too much of a loss. I couldn’t imagine having more than one unexpected pregnancy, that was my privilege at the time. My birth control had worked, condoms had worked.
I believe part of our judgement of others comes from two places, one, our desire to be better than, and two, our desire for clear expectations, clear rules and guidelines.
The first comes from our societal structure, the way we teach ourselves, our children that being better than another is a good thing. That our value, instead of being something innate in ourselves, is based on how we relate to those around us, in hindsight that’s an empty belief. Comparison is the their of joy, as the saying goes, and to that effect, pushing others down to lift yourself up is false greatness. We (as in the global We) need to adopt the belief that You matter because You do, I matter because I do.
The second comes from an inner need for calm and control. When you know what’s expected, you know how to achieve. It’s a black and white view, it’s simple, it can feel like it’s within control. Judgement coming to those that lack that control.
I saw him walk into Starbucks, and I got that pit in my stomach. Part of me wanted him to say that he wanted me to have the baby. That he would help me financially, so I could finish school. I even ran the idea of him not necessarily being a part of the baby’s life but just help me survive so I wouldn’t have to make the choice. He didn’t, he was very clear that there was only one option.
He had a wife and kids already.
I called the clinic in town that I knew performed the procedure (meaning abortion, even the need to call it a procedure is indicative of the shame). I called and although I was really early in gestation (around the 5 week mark), I wouldn’t be able to be seen until a physical procedure could be done. Meaning I couldn’t do a medicinal abortion; I couldn’t take a pill and induce it at home. I would need to go into the clinic and have a full d&c. I can’t tell you at how many weeks I would have been, I blocked it out. I knew a friend that had one and asked if they could drive me. I wasn’t able to tell anyone else, no one, the shame.
I had to wait about six weeks to get in, again I have mentally blocked out the exact length of time. There is a buzzer to get in and the administration staff are behind glass with a lock door into the waiting room. The first meeting is with a social worker that goes through every option again (they go over on the phone when booking), they provide some resources, outline the procedure and the recovery.
I remember this part because I had booked a solo trip to Mexico for three weeks after so I could cry, read, sleep and try to mentally recover. It was here where I learned I wouldn’t be able to swim, my favourite solace wouldn’t be available to me. I would need at least 6 weeks for my cervix to heal before going into a pool. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor for one of my jobs – I wasn’t going to be able to teach.
I wouldn’t be able to swim when in Mexico, to wash my sorrows away. I love to swim when I’m stressed or sad, it is my favourite, because when you cry while swimming, you get the physical and emotional release but no one is the wiser because red eyes in pools are an acceptable thing.
The next room they brought me into was for an ultrasound. They needed to ensure there is a heartbeat because if not, I could just pass the fetus in a ‘spontaneous abortion’ or better known as a miscarriage. You are required to listen to the heartbeat.
I remember climbing on the bed for the procedure, and them saying you aren’t meant to be 100% knocked out but what I remember most is lying back and tears rolling down the side of my eyes before passing out. The next thing I remember is my friend picking me up and going home; Just numb. I texted him to let him know it was done. He came over, I snuggled into him, all I wanted was comfort and all he thought about was sex.
I was not ok.
I remember as a teenager marveling at the idea of conception. The real magic of it, that the egg and a sperm meet – cells grow and there is a human. That this human could be part you and part the person you love most in the world is pure magic. That is the ideal.
I remember saying to a friend a couple months after that I wasn’t sure I should have kids anymore. I had wanted kids my whole life, my friend knew this and said I ‘had to have kids, I was destined to the next Noam Chomsky or David Suzuki. My child will change the world’. This is still my favourite compliment I have ever received.
I met my first husband in what would have been the month I was due. I probably would have never told him about my abortion but the guy decided to try and find me at work. He lived close to the Rec Centre I worked at, apparently he had been looking for me for a while. He approached me when I was walking off deck, he had found Jesus, he was back with his wife, he thanked me. This man still felt entitled to me, to my time, my care; he had no concept or care of the trauma that was caused.
I had a full breakdown, I sobbed, I had to have a shower to calm down and that night, I told my then boyfriend (would be first husband) about the abortion I had the year before
I felt shame, I felt grief, and I cried myself to sleep.
One thing you will notice is that I don’t refer to the pregnancy as a fetus or cluster of cells. The reason being is that when you want there to be a heartbeat, a baby, it doesn’t feel like it’s just cells. Having an abortion or having to make this choice is traumatic. I believe part of needing to think of it as a cluster of cells or fetus is a coping mechanism, one used to detach from the sorrow.
My first husband and I were married two years after meeting. He started his Bachelor of Education the year we got married. We had decided to stay in our home city because I had two good jobs and could support us through his school.
It was a few months after our wedding, around Christmas, that we discovered I was pregnant. It felt almost like a honeymoon baby, if we had been able to take a honeymoon. I hadn’t been paying attention to my period so we would need a dating ultrasound. I remember lying on the table excited to hear the heartbeat this time.
There was nothing. The technician said it was possible that it was too early in the pregnancy, maybe I had just found out too early, there was definitely a baby there though. We would come back in 3 weeks for the 1st trimester screen and we would see more then.
It was a couple weeks later when I woke up in the morning to spotting. I went to the walk in clinic where they informed me I would need to go to the ER. I was a Supervisor at the Rec centre now and most of my staff were away on a ski trip that weekend, something that was planned for a long time and I was meant to cover.
It was the Friday morning, I spent the better part of 8 hours in the ER without being seen. I had to call my boss and let them know where I was, could she try and find coverage that night for me. I had an internal ultrasound, it requires a rod to be inserted to get a better picture vs a typical abdominal version. It was confirmed there was no heartbeat, I had a ‘spontaneous abortion’, a miscarriage. I was sent home to pass the tissue. I had to call in, grateful for those already working agreeing to stay late and cover, I then worked the Saturday night and Sunday morning.
It was Sunday evening while watching the Oscars that I started to bleed, I bled through a pad in 12 minutes. I called HealthLink, they confirmed that I needed to go to the ER. We went back to the Rockyview where I was seen much quicker this time. I was hooked up to IVs and told they would need to do an emergency D&C. I remember having to call my boss at my second job while up on a gurney to explain I wasn’t going to make it to my morning shift.
Why do I keep bringing up work? I think it’s because the memories are so vivid and because it makes me feels like it proves I’m a responsible person. There is a misconception that only irresponsible people get pregnant by accident.
I remember thinking that this was my fault that I had brought the miscarriage on because I had made my choice earlier. That I was never going to have the magic of my own child with someone I loved.
My husband and I waited awhile before trying again. We did get pregnant in 2012 and welcomed my daughter in December that year. She is amazing, a true spitfire – even as a baby and toddler the girl knew what she needed and wasn’t afraid to demand it. She is exhausting and wonderful.
My biggest fear about having a daughter was that I wouldn’t be able to relate to her, that I would damage or hurt her the same way I feel my mother has hurt me. I describe my mother as a wonderful person to everyone but me. She didn’t have a great example of a healthy maternal support system and it passed down to me. I was and am terrified to do the same to my own daughter. So I have never told my mother about my abortion because I know the reaction would be judgement with no compassion. She has told me I was lucky that anyone would love me. She would tell me as a pre-teen that I would be an alcoholic and have an abortion. If I did tell her it would be confirming all her most negative beliefs in me; And she is my ‘stable’ parent.
I had another miscarriage between my first and second earth side children; it is amazing how cold some people can be. Aoife was just over 1 at the time when I went for my 1st trimester scan and there was a heartbeat, it was weak, and I was recommended to have another ultrasound within a couple of weeks. I was clearly nervous given what I had been through before. The silence of the Technician led me to tears before the doctor came in.
He said, and I kid you not, ‘Well I guess you know what I’m going to say.’ I wanted to scream ‘No mother f*er, I didn’t know, I was hoping against hope but thanks for making it seem like no big deal’.
I went to my GP for a referral to the early loss clinic, as with my previous miscarriage I required the emergency D&C, they confirmed they could send the request. After not hearing for three days I called and someone had forgotten to send the referral. Again I blamed my self, the shame.
I will not go into the loss of miscarriage in this post as it is a topic all in of itself, but know that it is heartbreaking. My trauma was exacerbated by my choice and the guilt around it.
My husband had seen the pain the experience caused and offered to get a vasectomy because I always said I wouldn’t be able to go through another miscarriage again. He wanted another child, a sibling for our daughter and I said I would be ok to try one more time.
We had our second child in March 2015, about 6 months after the due date of my second miscarriage. Two kids is hard, Life is hard and it took a toll on our marriage. I would say we drifted apart the whole first year of our son’s life. I was a mess of postpartum, the lack of sleep, discontent with my potential or lack there of professional life, just everything. We decided to split in May 2016.
I met my current partner while working and married, nothing untoward but we started off as friendly conversation. We had our first date the week my husband and I decided we would need to separate.
A lot of my self worth used to come from physical relationships. I lost my virginity at sixteen to a friend, someone I knew from swimming and went to high school with. I wanted to always like the first person I had sex with, that was important to me. He, as I imagine most teen boys, was always stoked to have sex. I remember describing his as a kid in a candy store when I took my top off.
Because this was the first time I felt valued, so much of my self worth ended up being tied up in physical relationships with others. So even with the timing so close to the dissolution of my marriage, I felt like I needed sex to feel value again, self worth again (again a whole other post is in this). Marriage doesn’t just end, it’s a slow burn – often starting with the lack of physical intimacy, combined with poor communication and stress.
My partner and I had to have dates late at night because it was the only time that worked. We would meet after work as I needed to be home for my kids during the day. We would meet between 9 and 11, when I was finished work and I would leave around three in morning to go home.
I remember going out for some drinks with a girlfriend the first Thursday in July (so about 6 weeks later), Stampede’s sneak a peek. I remember stopping myself after one because I just felt off. I waited a few days because I wasn’t yet late, but on the following Tuesday morning I took a pregnancy test and confirmed what I had already thought.
I was co-teaching a course at the time, I had called the clinic at lunch to see what appointments/options looked like. I cried a lot, I remember the class was heading to the pool and I sat in the classroom crying, when I came on deck my co-teacher asked if I was ok and jokingly said ‘Are you pregnant?’. At this point almost no-one knew I was even separated.
By the end of the day I knew I didn’t want to have another abortion. I asked my partner to meet that night, resolved in my decision. If my husband (ex-husband) asked me to have an abortion I would, to preserve that relationship, for my kids, but not for this new person. He was clear, he enjoyed my company but it was too soon and we barely knew each other. This time I knew I had the resources, although it would be extremely hard, could drain all my savings, and I would still have shame of the unplanned pregnancy – it would be possible to keep the baby. I was clear he wouldn’t need to have anything to do with it. I needed him to decide by the three month mark.
In all honestly a large part of me didn’t believe the baby would make it past the three months mark or to birth. I always thought a large part of why I miscarried was stress, and what could be more stressful than going through a divorce with two young children, not having a permanent income and additional family stress I had at the time.
My ex-husband was nothing short of amazing. It was the hardest conversation I have ever had. I never wanted to hurt him, I loved him, love him deeply. The shame of getting pregnant. The shame of lack of control. The shame of needing sex.
When I first started telling people that I was pregnant I was pretty far along, partly because I didn’t believe the baby would make it and partly because I wasn’t ready for the judgement. I was proven this was the right decision, as when I told a long time girlfriend that I was pregnant and the first thing out of her mouth was ‘Don’t you know there is such a thing a birth control?’. This hurt deeply because of course I knew, things out of our control happen.
The thing about both choices is if I had made the opposite choice in either case I would still be shamed. If I had chosen to keep the baby at 23, I would have been a gold digger and a home wrecker. My feelings and situation wouldn’t have been considered. The fact that he was so bold to tell me he had found God, to feel entitled to my care for him, even in the face of complete lack of care for me shows that.
The second time when I did keep the baby, had I not, it would have been the shame and pain associated with an abortion, already covered. The thing is I was still judged and shamed.
My sister just recently admitted to me that my mom asked her not to tell her side of the family that I was even getting divorced, I can only imagine the panic when she found out I was pregnant.
I had one coach tell me that I better not have gotten pregnant to ‘Trap’ my partner, as if it wasn’t at all possible that I was the one that would be or feel trapped. I pulled myself together, gathered enough courage to decide to leave a relationship I had intended on being in for the rest of my life. Knowing there would be no possibility of reconciling, little lone space for myself to grow or heal. I have also been told consistently that I am so lucky that he stuck around, that he ‘took on’ my other children, as if we ourselves have no value or worth, we add nothing to his life.
I only remember one friend asking me if I was ok.
I love my youngest, Cael, so much and my family would not be the same without him but I would be lying if I said the last five years have been easy. There are days in all honesty that I’m lucky to have survived.
The reality is that we humans, like to judge. We like to point fingers, lay blame and feel superior but we aren’t always to open to pro-active solutions.
I will say it again that Pro-choice is not Pro-abortion.
Why this distinction is important is because their are those that have no real choice. If you say you are Pro-life but don’t believe in Universal Healthcare, a robust education system including sex education, post secondary education and a national childcare program, than you are not Pro-life. If you don’t believe in Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, or that LBGTQIA+ Lives Matter than you are not Pro-Life.
If you don’t believe Gun control, Vaccines, Masks but do believe in the Death penalty. You are not Pro-life.
You are Pro-control. You are Pro-hierarchy, Pro feeling superior, not Pro-life.
When I say no real choice, I mean the reality of having a child and all the costs that come with it. The cost of childcare, diapers, food, possibly needing a new home, possibly needing a vehicle or having to stop schooling. The cost of being tied to someone you didn’t necessarily expect or that is healthy for you. The cost on your mental health on top of all of the above. If these realities mean little to you then you are fortunate to hold privilege that others do not.
We must acknowledge that Quality of life matters; Access to resources matters.
Another reality is that social programs are needed to support individuals that have abortions. Understanding the how and why unplanned pregnancies happen, the mental health support needed to recover and prevent more, and the how individuals can be supported to successfully raise their children. These programs cost money, money that would require funding from taxes to support all people. Programs through churches or organizations come with ties and are again more about control than support.
This is a complex issue with so many factors and it is overwhelming.
I do not believe abortion should be used as a form of birth control, it causes pain and trauma. I do believe the only way to prevent multiple unplanned pregnancies is through education of both girls and boys/women and men. To improve access to birth control and the changing of the mindset that the girl/woman is the only party responsible for pregnancy.
We need to shift so many things to create a world where girls and women are safe, where we aren’t told their bodies are where their value lies. Where if someone does get pregnant they will have unconditional support.
I hope that my daughter or sons never have to experience an unwanted pregnancy; the stress, the uncertainty and the pain. I hope my daughter never needs to make a Choice. I hope my children only choose sexual partners with which they are comfortable raising a child with. I hope that their self worth is not tied to their physical being. That if they ever do experience an unplanned pregnancy that they understand Choice is important.
That if they choose to see their pregnancy through or support their partner with their child that I will continue to love them and their child unconditionally. I will support them in any way that I can, whether financially, with childcare or emotionally.
That if they choose to abort I will continue to love them unconditionally and support their healing in any way possible.
I do not regret my abortion, I would not have survived being tied to a person that only used me for their gain, a narcissist, an addict, for the rest of my life; I would not have survived the judgement from my own family; my life matters because it does. I would not have met my husband and more importantly I would not have Aoife or Bowie, and to follow the line further I would not have Cael.
This post could be a whole book on all the factors to consider, the reasons why anything but Choice is hypocrisy but for now, know that Choice matters and Choice is a necessity.
My hope in sharing my story, as small and limited as it is, it might give perspective, to change the narrative, to open minds. My hope is to help others feel comfortable sharing their own story, to support loved ones and to view abortions and reproductive rights as the full complex issue that it is.
After trying to spend last post defining the 3 values of Health, Beauty & Fitness, this time I want to see how they play into our every day lives and how we are conditioned to prioritize and confuse them.
Recently a news story came out where Khloe Kardashian felt the need to post a LIVE video and full post in order to show her body unfiltered, as earlier in the week an unauthorized, assuming less than flattering (as it can no longer been seen) photo was posted.
This display is an excellent example of how we as Society will claim we care about Health & Fitness more than Beauty however, we are conditioned to prioritize a Beauty standard above all else.
Khloe’s reaction and ensuing statement highlights the pressure that she feels to meet a standard. It is well documented the amount of plastic surgery her famous family has done. She expresses both the incredible pain and insecurity of being in both a famous family, and of being held to an impossible standard; yet also seems to end her post by saying that now it’s her choice to fit this mould. Equating a good filter or edit, to make up, nails done – she shows the desire, the need, to control the way the world sees her.
This statement hurt my heart, it worries me that it is so hard to acknowledge that her mental health suffers due to the pressure to fit Beauty. Her need to control how people view her, to ‘Fit’ into her family. Khloe pushes products that add to your workout, like the recent ‘What Waist Official’ band, to intensify your workout. She has a size inclusive line but isn’t comfortable with unedited photos of herself on the internet. She is in what appears good physical shape, it is evident she works out hard, she has lots of privilege and access to the best of all things Health. I ask, what good is it if your Mental Health is suffering? Are you Healthy? Are you Fit? What does this standard of Beauty do to us?
I was speaking with someone about the pandemic, priorities and the idea about these posts. She is someone that I believe would hold all 3 in her top 10 values, and I told her so. She started to refute me, that only Health and Fitness were her passions, that Beauty had nothing to do with it. She pointed out how little make up she wears, as a sort of proof.
I had to tread lightly but I started by pointing out her love of music, of art and fashion, she warmed up a bit to the idea of beauty. I didn’t dare mention her breast implants, which she got because of a lifelong feeling of inadequacy around her small chested-ness. I did however ask about her eyelash extensions and fake nails, that she somehow maintained the entire lockdown period. I questioned the Why behind having them done, it was for Beauty, to be efficient in looking beautiful, but for looks none the less. She has been willing to skirt the Public Health orders, to maintain her appearance, and I think we can agree false lashes and nails are not for Health. She once told me her mother brought her up to believe her sister was the smart one and she was the pretty one, that, was where her value lies.
It is so easy for us to get lost in the blurred lines between Health, Beauty & Fitness.
I want to start with Plastic Surgery, Breast Implants as an example to start, please know this is with no judgement to those that have them – I completely understand the societal pressure to ‘Fit’ a certain look or shape. I myself, struggled with having my breasts reduced for fear that I might become disproportionate or that it might affect my appearance.
I have friends, that people, that I, would consider very Health and Fitness conscious; they eat whole foods, watch what they put in their bodies, move daily and they shop at speciality grocers for the best and freshest of produce/grains, food options, etc. These same individuals willingly put silicone sacs (which is extracted from silica, the stuff in those little packs that we are told to keep away from children and not eat), filled with gel or saline under their breast muscles for Beauty. I realize how harsh that sounds/came out, and my aim is not to be unkind but factual. There are several reports now coming out around Breast Implant illness, with the FDA and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation developing and funding new research on BII. My desire is to highlight the dichotomy of the above.
We are taught from an early age that how we look adds value to who we are, and to place that value on to others as well.
I remember when my mom had her eyes cosmetically fixed, like an eye lift, not full face, I was so perturbed. I thought, if it had been a breast reduction, or tummy tuck I would understand but not the face. In reflecting for this post, I realized that it was probably because my whole life I have been told I look like my mother. I am taller and broader, but my face is that of her family – I think she looks more like her mom, and me like her dad, but I can definitely admit, there is a strong resemblance.
I remember when struggling with my looks in my youth, my teens and young adult life, I used to sit and stare at my face in the mirror and tell myself how at least I had a good face. I would always have thick thighs, and a loaf (vs rolls) around my stomach but my face, my face is good. So when my mother, decided her natural face was no longer good enough, it hurt me, probably not rationally so and definitely not consciously but it hurt, and I gave her a hard time, and now I think I’m realizing why.
The argument could be made that if having Plastic surgery makes you more confident and you feel better in your skin than it is good for your mental health. My question is why don’t you feel happy with the body that you are born into? What creates that feeling of needing to change/improve your natural appearance? To me the answer is Societal pressures, ones that are unreasonable and irrational.
When is it that we convince ourselves that we aren’t good enough?
I saw a post on @oilandgrain’s instagram stories that was by @nourish_by_kristina that resonates with me so much because it is so true.
It’s kinda funny that I feel I need to preface this next story, which I won’t do again, so please know that the stories or examples I bring up hold questioning and curiosity more than judgement.
So my example is of a situation where appearance, size, lifestyle isn’t always as it seems. When my daughter was about 16 months I went to Mexico with my dad and two friends. I was in the middle age wise of the group, but the only parent, and by looks it would be assumed that I was the most out of shape. Both friends are naturally slimmer than me, one was conscious with what they ate and the other not at all. One actually likes to still retell the story of one time me asking her if she worked out in secret, because her natural body looks as though she is very active, like about 6 days a week, and having travelled with her I know she is a not a restrictive eater, she eats enough but not healthy, she is genetically blessed. Anywho our resort was about a 20 min walk from it’s sister resort, and I would want to walk because it was easy enough to push the stroller vs loading it into the shuttle plus a little exercise was a bonus. I’ll never forget one night, both girls gave me a hard time about me not wanting to take the shuttle. Me, from an outsider views, the ‘out of shape’ mom was the fittest of the group.
Another example of looks being deceiving is runners in water. I have one friend whom is an incredible runner, and will always forever kick my butt in that arena. And really physiologically it makes sense to me, her thighs, are incredibly strong, but also are about 1/3 the size of my own. The sheer weight of my legs in comparison to hers, makes running harder for me (not to mention how much shorter mine are) – but get us in a pool and I’m winning!
My point being that every one of our bodies are made differently and each has powers within them.
Why is that we believe there is a standard? Why is it the standard is for women to be small and men to be big? That women must shrink and men dominate?
I have always marvelled at pregnancy… how or why was it that someone addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, someone over or underweight can carry a baby to term but a seemingly healthy woman, one that is ‘fit’, eats well, doesn’t smoke, can suffer several miscarriages? or have trouble conceiving in the first place.
It’s a really hard concept to wrap ones head around because it’s a crap shoot. And it is another example of how we confuse Fit and Healthy. It an example that begs us to have compassion for our fellow humans.
One of the conversations I have had a lot this last year was around why I like to stay fit and/or eat well, if not to live longer. The idea being, and this won’t be a popular opinion but that I am not doing it to extend my life. I have no misconceived notion that physical activity is going to guarantee me extra years on this earth; or that eating a salad vs having a blizzard is somehow going gain me an extra day. I don’t believe any of it makes a difference in the end, you maker comes when it is your time.
The reasons why I like to move often, daily if possible, at least 4 times a week with intention, is because it helps my day to day life. I mind what I eat, in a reasonable way now as I definitely recognize disordered eating in my past, because I like fibre and how it feels when I have a daily bowel movement. I drink a ton of water because when I don’t my skin feels dry and my eyes (after scratching my cornea twice) don’t hurt when I blink.
I don’t think these things protect me pandemics, or will save me from getting cancer. As I mentioned in my first post around these three values, my mother, who is very physically fit and healthy, has had cancer.
Yes, swimming as a kid and learning breath control makes it easier for me to come out of asthma attacks but my anaphylactic allergy to random pollens and chemicals is out of my control.
I guess what this whole post is trying to get at is that society, media, the patriarchy, other humans in general (those that need to feel superior) try to control things, things that really aren’t meant to be in our control. The irony to me is, most that believe they are against a controlled life are the ones most interested in controlling others or subjecting others to a standard that they believe.
And again what point does the need for control wear on our Mental Health? And if we don’t have our Mental Health – can we be Beautiful, Healthy or Fit?
I could go further into the confusion and standards how they affect race relations, marginalized communities, politics but those are topics deserving of their own posts. For now I’ll leave you here.
Next week we will work inward on how we hold privilege in the 3 values or face obstacles.
One of my goals this year, and specifically by May 1st was to create a Podcast, figure out the how to record, load, etc.
This is my first attempt – I wanted to do an Intro and revisit my post from the Fall when I first starting writing again, reaffirming the Values Mindset, hopefully giving a voice and some added feeling to the words.
You can listen on Spotify, if you could share and follow there as well that would be greatly appreciated.
Let me know your thoughts – I will aim to finish flushing out the last few posts on Health, Beauty and Fitness and then record. I appreciate any and all feedback. Much care – Meghan
To follow up on my previous post on how we confuse Health, Beauty & Fitness, using them as synonyms, I want to dive into defining each value. I started this post and have re-written it several times, so it is proving difficult to define these three things, so I’m going to roll with what I have and hopefully it will help prompt you with your own definitions.
Starting with Health.
As defined by the WHO (World Health Organization) – Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
This is a broad definition and we will need to pick it apart, so let’s try. If there is one thing we should be able to all agree upon it is that Healthy does not look the same on everybody. The last part of the WHO’s definition may be the only universal part of the definition, meaning that the absence of disease or infirmity (even though it only says Health is not just merely the absence of) is required to be considered Healthy, right?
Well not necessarily, it depends on who you talk to and where you do your researching. Even a quick google search leads to an endless list of resources from Wikipedia to the CDC, that lump together Infectious diseases, medical conditions (such asthma, allergies, lice, etc.) and even Psychological differentials.
Ok, so let’s go back further, in middle english the word disease means the ‘lack of ease’ or ‘inconvenience’ so the very word is extremely board and reaching.
The allergies and asthma I have had my entire life by the above definition would mean I am not considered Healthy. I now need glasses when using a screen due to my astigmatism and slight near sighted-ness, again not Healthy.
Another quick gander of research and you will uncover a slew of professional athletes in the prime of their careers and lives, that died of Heart Attacks. The one that always stuck with me and coloured my understanding of Heart Health was that of Sergei Grinkov, the two time Olympic skating champion that died at age 28, while practicing with his wife. It was discovered after his death that he had Heart Disease, that it ran in his family, his father had died four years prior of the same condition.
Genetic pre-dispositions are things that are completely out of our control, yet they affect our ability to be classified as truly Healthy and can unreasonably lead to judgement by others.
There are communicable diseases that we have created vaccines for such as Measels, Mumps and Rubella. Yet there is a strong contingent that believe taking a vaccine will render you un-Healthy, that if we just eat well, exercise, sleep enough you can beat these diseases.
There is no scientific proof that this is correct – COVID although worst for the elderly and those that have compromised immune systems still took the lives of those that appeared perfectly ‘Healthy’ although perhaps they had unknown genetic pre-dispositions, which without COVID would have been consider Healthy for a much longer time.
What about Narcissists? It is a personality disorder but I wouldn’t say it is inconvenient or creates lack of ease for the individual; they don’t know any better, in fact it enables people to completely ignore others wants and needs. Sounds pretty self serving and possibly even convenient. But is this Healthy? I am getting a bit off track.
This week the goal is to define Health, which includes Mental Health and to me that starts with the ability to accept yourself as you are, regardless of pre-dispositions or others’ opinions, perceptions, etc.
Is it Healthy to be so competitive that you will train yourself into exhaustion? That you control your diet to the extent that you weigh every meal, or count every calorie. Stressing over a missed workout, or maybe having a day, a week, a month of indulgences? Is a need for control Healthy? What toll does the goal of Physical Health take on our Mental Health.
Resiliency and Self Love are key to Mental Health, being able to feel safe, to be everything that you are, is required.
Without that safety, those that suffer from Mental Health concerns such as depression, anxiety, Autism, ADHD, Chromosomal disorders and other psychological disorders will always feel out of place and unable to access help for fear of judgement.
How do you view Health? Do you separate Physical and Mental Health? What, if anything, has the above made you rethink? What are some questions you can start asking yourself and others?
Now let’s explore Beauty.
Beauty shows up in so many different areas of our lives and in our society. From art, theatre, music, fashion, architecture, nature and humanity.
Beauty by definition, Oxford languages, is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
I remember reading the 1996 issue of People’s Sexiest Man Alive featuring Denzel Washington, I’m pretty sure it was that issue and timeline fits, as I remember reading it at the Orthodontist office. Any who, part of the article describes how we, as in humans, find symmetry to be beautiful. Denzel, has incredibly symmetrical features, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. It also showed other celebrities and the break down of of their features and the percentage of symmetry to people that found them ‘Beautiful’.
When looking at a piece of art, do you dissect it? Does the symmetry bias apply? Does how it makes you feel matter more?
Part of Beauty to me is how something makes you feel – like with a beautiful song, the emotions that a tune can stir within someone are incredible. Similar with a beautiful painting, we can’t always put into words what exactly we like but we can usually articulate how we feel when viewing it.
Seeing the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, (privileges I have yet to experience but I can imagine), and the Louvre. What draws us to these and other monuments? The sheer size, maybe. The human feat of construction, probably. The feeling of wonder, awe and accomplishment of creating such Beauty, definitely.
I live in Alberta, close to the Rocky Mountains, and I never cease to be amazed when driving near Canmore all the way until past Revelstoke. The mountains, the terrain, the expansiveness is unreal. Even the prairies, the drive to Saskatoon with the ever popping up Canola fields with their yellow blooms, can be breathtaking. Similarly the ocean and all the wondrous unknown that it holds has colours and beauty that is hard to describe. Bioluminescence anyone?
How is it when we apply the concept of beauty to fellow Humans we start with a list of desirable characteristics instead of that same feeling?
Slim bodies, hard bodies, tone bodies, big boobs, small waist, peachy bum, long eyelashes, nails done (fake or real), clothes on point, tall but not too tall, short but not too short, justtttt right.
How do you view Beauty in your life? How does you perception of beauty apply or affect how you live your life? Where would you rank Beauty as a value?
Lastly let’s define Fitness.
Well interestingly but not surprisingly there are several different ways to apply the term Fitness – I like the Oxford languages, because they are easy to find and provide options so here is what comes up when we look at Fitness –
the condition of being physically fit and healthy.”disease and lack of fitness are closely related”
the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”he had a year in which to establish his fitness for the office”
BIOLOGY: an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.plural noun: fitnesses“if sharp teeth increase fitness, then genes causing teeth to be sharp will increase in frequency
If those aren’t some mind f*cks (pardon the language) than I don’t know.
Fitness, as in being physically fit and healthy, is interesting because it goes right into the concept of disease that we looked at earlier in this post and have determined that it’s really hard to narrow people down to the one piece.
Again a reminder of all the Elite athletes that have been found to suffer from pre-dispositions. The other factor I want to bring into this arena is the idea of performance enhancing drugs and the sheer number of high performance athletes found to be using them.
Would this fit into disease? According to many it would. The argument that addiction is a desire for connection, which I can accept and wrap my head around at times does not apply in this instance; the use of performance drugs is not for connection it is to get a leg up. This then would fall into the category of disease for me, because the idea of taking them is to separate yourself from peers not join in with them.
What would be your acceptable Physical Fitness level in your life? Keep in mind, I will dive into the societal and bigger picture of why we stay fit in the next post. What I want right now is for you to define what Physical Fitness looks like to you.
Is it the ability to walk up stairs without losing your breath? Is it being able to run 10km? A marathon? Is it being able to lift your kids/grandkids into seats. Is it being able to attend a yoga class and not be sore for a week after? Define what Physical Fitness is for you.
Now here is where my mind got a little f*ed – I hadn’t even thought of Fitness in terms of our roles within organizations and social structure but it’s there.
As mentioned above I really want to dive into this next week but my thoughts on this level of Fitness, or more so the question to pose here is have you ever had bias of ‘Fitness’? Meaning have you written off candidates for jobs due to the clothes someone is wearing or their appearance? Have you written off someone because of their weight or body shape? Have you thought someone might not be a fit because of their background?
I remember my friend’s Dad once told me that I would never be able to run a half marathon, we were watching his daughter (whom is crazy talented runner), run one of her first races. I think I was 22/23 years old at the time and thought that he was right, in that I couldn’t run the way she did. She is the human embodiment of a Gazelle, but, I could (and subsequently have) run a Half Marathon.
His perception was based on bias, and the man in particular is one of the kindest people I know so I really don’t think he meant offence, he was just being what he thought was honest and supportive of his child.
When I read this post to my partner he mentioned that this second definition was the one he most thought to when considering Fitness, whereas to me it was the least. Perhaps it’s because I accept that there are things that not everyone is capable of but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ‘Fit’ in the overall sense. Where he views it as a task specific definition. Do you view Fitness as task specific or general, broad term? Or maybe both, because as I said not everyone can do anything. That doesn’t make them less valuable just not the ‘Fit’ for a certain thing. Does viewing it as a task only definition lead to more bias and prejudice? Thoughts?
So let’s look at the last part, the Biology, ‘an organisms ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment’.
Survive, not thrive being the goal but also reproduce, does this mean anyone that has trouble reproducing may not be considered Fit from a biological stand point? Given that 1 in every 8 couples struggle with conception, I am really hoping not. There are many individuals that may not be able to conceive themselves yet are amazingly Fit and vice versa lots of people conceive that many would not consider Fit.
What about Mental Fitness? What would one consider Mentally fit? Does one need to experience trauma to prove their ability to be mentally fit? Does trauma help build our mental fitness or hurt it?
Are you familiar with the saying ‘God only gives you that which you can handle.’? But why? And why are some more capable than others? Is this something you consider when thinking of Fitness.
Again the importance is to recognize each individuals definition of the concept of Fitness differs. That these definitions should be challenged and are not one size fits all. I would hazard a guess that those who devote a lot of their time and energy to physical activity are doing so to more than merely survive. They do so to thrive and feel as though they are making the most of their physical bodies. Are they taking the same level of care of the Mental Fitness?
I said it at the start and I will say again that even defining these was going to be hard. If you think you have some concrete ideas please share, share even half baked ones.
Next week will probably be an extra long one, or I might even break it into two. What I hope to do is connect the dots, to show how these are made to inter connect within our social structure (I mean just look at the WHO’s definition or Health).
I will also hopefully help with the connection, understanding of how we prioritize these in our lives (so ya, definitely at least two posts). I aim to provide ways to draw inward to reflect and be honest, learning to align your values with how you live in the world. Whoa! That’s some big stuff so you know don’t get your hope too high, it will promise to be ranty as ever and possibly even more so than usual.
Until then… send me a note let me know what you think? Questions, etc.
I have been trying to figure out where to start and how to write all the thoughts. Being almost halfway through the 50 Days of Movement Challenge (check out the Body section of this page), I wanted to spend some time exploring the three values of Health, Beauty and Fitness. I want to first introduce how we tend to use the three values as synonyms and why this needs to be corrected within all of our thinking.
I would like to share a slightly rambling connection of thoughts and stories in hopes that it will prompt you to reflect on how you view these three values and how they have appeared in your life.
Having been raised in the Western world, although I am pretty sure this is not unique to just here, there has been a large emphasis on Beauty. This unknown, ever changing value that we all strive to reach for. Beauty appears in many aspects of our lives from Art, to Fashion, to Humans.
Having been raised by Active parents, ones that brought us to the Gym with them on the weekend to watch their tennis matches, play in the pool or just watch them work out on the rowing machine or in the gym; Fitness was a necessary outlet. We started swimming ‘competitively’ before grade school and had to do some sort of activity or sport until at least high school.
Having parents that both worked in Health (a doctor and a nurse), we learned about all things Health related from a young age. We had human body diagrams and books in our office, the ‘Big’ talks, the what happens at the Hospital info with no filter were dinner and driving conversation. Yet, my parents didn’t quit smoking until age 40 and 60 respectively (20 yrs age gap), the year was 1990.
These three values have always seemed individual and inter connected at the same time. Having been raised by parents that had differing views on the three, valuing them differently, having expectations placed on each other differently, it was confusing on what was what.
My mother was born in 1950, she was raised to believe that a woman’s value was directly correlated with her appearance. That strong legs, if on the larger side were unattractive. She works out incessantly, I believe partly because she needs it for her mental sanity; she is high energy like myself but also due to outside influence on the ‘Beauty’ aspect. It’s weird though because although she would criticize her body, my sister’s and mine – she would give us dessert with every lunch and dinner. She still has a hard time not eating something sweet, even if just a bite after dinner. Another thing I remember her telling me at a really young age, before age 7 for sure, as she used to have a real love of purple eye shadow that ended in the 90’s, but I digress, she would tell me to never start wearing make up, because once you start you can never stop.
My father was born in 1930, he was a traditionalist. He, like my mother, worked out and did sports his entire life. He would boast about his all around athletic skills, he played every sport, apparently even Synchronized Swimming as Fred and his Aquabelles. He would encourage me to stand up for myself but never complimented me. He hid or more so kept a copy of the Vanessa Williams Playboy Magazine in his bedside table. He was domineering and expected to be appeased to until much later in life. He was an excellent physician but a raging, functional alcoholic.
None of my grandparents made it much past age 80 if at all, and lived common lives for their time; my Father celebrated his 90th Birthday this past December. My Dad, as in my Dad, not his parents, and my Mom’s parents were only a few years apart but I remember as a kid joking about losing my Grandpa at the mall because he would wander away. My grandmother always seemed fragile, like she was wasting away – the complete opposite of my Dad, even though they were less than 5 years apart.
Does anyone else remember the 50-60 years old of the 80’s and 90’s, how different they are from today? I used to joke my Dad was the bionic man, he has had reconstructive surgery on his back at least twice, his shoulder done, his cataracts, he had a triple bi-pass, valve replacement and they found a hole in his heart when in there – not to mention he broke his hip twice in the last decade. Despite years of alcohol abuse never any issues with his liver, and not stopping smoking until 60, no lung issues either. My mother has had her knees scoped, now replaced, her shoulder replaced this year – the other one to be done soon, as well as her hip. She has no plans of slowing down anytime. All that Fitness was good for the heart but maybe not so great on the joints.
My Dad’s first wife passed away from Breast cancer at 27, my ex-husband’s mom passed away near age 50 of the same and my mother had her bout with it, 8 years ago and survived.
Last year someone close to me passed away in their 40’s from cirrhosis of the Liver. My father and brothers both abused alcohol for much longer periods and have never been down the road of needing a new liver. I remember sitting at an intake meeting for a Nursing home with my Father where he described drinking a full bottle of booze every night, 750 ml of hard alcohol and never once has he had issues with his liver. Yet a beautiful mom, someone that worked out, ate well, tried to maintain her fitness, health and beauty, died.
Genetics would be the difference for the Health Conditions. Genetics and Lifestyle for my parents to their parents. Genetics play a huge part in our Health, Fitness and Beauty stories.
I had a friend that used to train for triathlons, this was when I was in my early twenties, before kids, before learning to accept my body and that of others without judgement. Anywho, my friend was incredibly Fit, she ate extremely Healthy and she could finish an Ironman, which is truly inspiring, but on appearance you wouldn’t know what her body could do. She wasn’t small or toned, she was beautiful none the less for her strength and her being.
I have met others that on appearance alone would be considered ‘beautiful’. Their clothes and hair are almost always perfectly placed; they are professional looking, traditionally attractive, fit, but when they open their mouths, the hurt and hate that lives in their hearts and minds comes out, for me the ‘Beauty’ fades. The insecurity that causes the hurt and hate, is this healthy? Is that Beautiful?
I know more people than I would like to admit, that work out every day, or close to, but will drink alcohol or use drugs like cocaine on what I would consider a regular enough basis. Think of all the athletes that have been found to be doping? Does this match the ‘Health’ and ‘Fitness’ values they put forth?
In my early twenties I had a friend that decided to try the ‘Wild Rose Cleanse’. She was the first person I knew to ever do a ‘cleanse’, I had never even heard of it before. My mom worked in the GI unit as a nurse for the better part of her career, so colon health was a topic I was very familiar with, but not cleanses; my mom is totally against them. Anywho this friend of mine was someone doing the cleanse for genuine health interest, she was very slight build and overall healthy person. I can’t remember how far into the Wild Rose she got, when one night while she was sleeping, and her heart stopped. I remember her retelling the story, something about her water intake (too much), her electrolytes (imbalanced from the water consumption), her mother finding her unresponsive and apparently having to be revived twice. Now this was 19 years ago so the details could definitely be foggy but that’s what I remember about the Wild Rose Cleanse.
You would think that I would be completely against Cleanses, and by jolly I was, for a while, but in effort to lose weight, ‘feel better’ I have tried my fair share. From the Master cleanse, to Metagenics to Isagenix – it’s been a whirlwind. All in the name of Beauty and Fitness, I won’t kid myself with the ‘Health’ part anymore. Have you ever done a cleanse or known someone that did?
I’m hoping the flow of these is connecting together a bit – my overall goal with this post is to get you thinking about how these 3 values appear in your life and of the lives of those around you. Where would you place them in your value rankings? How would rank them in comparison with each other?
Next week (I’m hoping to get the next post out within the week, this one took me 3 to get totally wrapped around, so fingers crossed) but next week, I am going to dive deeper into each individual value. How they are represented in the media, what critical thinking questions we need to ask ourselves about them, what defines them. And then finally a post to look at comparison, hopefully point out how decisions can or are made based on the values and how we can acknowledge our own bias around these.
Hopefully you will enjoy the next few weeks – I really wanted to tie in the values to the Challenge going on right now. If you take a peek at the Body section, you will see I am Hosting a 50 Days of Movement challenge, the aim to link Physical Movement and Resilience with Mental Resilience. I believe recognizing these values is part of the Mental Resilience piece.
Share your thoughts with me on these values, any topics around them that you would like me to explore. Thank you for reading and I wish you a good few days – MH
Yes, that’s right, let’s talk about Boobs. Today is the One Year anniversary of my Breast Reduction. I think it’s funny that it is also the day I decided, unmindfully maybe subconsciously, to start a Movement Challenge, promoting making time for yourself – building mental resilience through physical resilience; it was just meant to be.
Over the next few weeks I want to go back to evaluating and flushing out Values and look deeper into the following 3 values; Beauty, Fitness and Health. These three values often overlap, intertwine and coexist in our lives. How we prioritize each of them can make huge impacts.
I’ll start sharing my relationship with my breasts and how I came to a decision to have them reduced. I went through puberty young, exceptionally young. I got my period in Grade 3, at age 8, one month after my sister, a year older got hers – so you know I have always been ahead of the game; it was then that I started developing breasts. I remember being in my Elementary school library and having classmates comment on the fact that I already had boobs. I think it was Grade 4 when we did a night away at a local sleep away camp, we had parents and some teenage siblings as chaperones, I remember one adult that had not known me commented to my mother that by looks they thought I was one of the volunteers, not a student. This is what having Breasts at a young age did, it made others perceive me as older, and because of this I was often treated more like an adult, than the child I was.
By the time I was in Junior High, my breasts were easily what I suspect now was a size E/F cup but having no knowledge those sizes even existed I settled for DD. Other girls were just getting into bras and navigating puberty, where I was 4 years in. The thing about Junior High is, in hindsight it’s awkward for everyone. For me it was the 90’s and grunge, baggy clothing was all the rage, which any large chested person can attest too, does nothing for your shape. I vividly remember walking into Drama class to two boys (yes, I remember their names, Jon and Spencer) singing to the tune of ‘That Girl’ by Shaggy and Maxi Priest, ‘Fat Girl’ in regards to me.
The boys actions stung but what was worse was the reaction and advice I was giving when recounting the story to a friend. Instead of saying what assholes the guys were, which they were, for commenting on my body and basically bullying me in front of our entire class, she suggested I look at getting a breast reduction. She said that she heard it would make me look much thinner. I know her intention was good but let me tell you the result was really hurtful. To add insult to injury, when I went to my mom, she said if I was really interested in it, she would look at the cost and be open to covering it for me. At 14 years old, I was being told that my body was wrong and needed to be fixed.
To me this story is a great example of how we raise girls to believe that others have a right to comment on their bodies. That for some reason another person’s opinion of your body, of how you look, is more important than your own. The result is that girls and women strive to fit into an ideal, not too big, but also not too small, just right, but what is just right? With Boobs, is there an ideal?
OK, so moving on to High School, when I lost my virginity; American Pie came out in the summer between grade 10 and 11, the summer of 1999. I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to lose my virginity before the new year, kinda in a celebration of the new millennial but also to claim my body. I think of it now and how crazy young I was, 16 is not old enough to be sexually active. I was very lucky, I had a good friend from my swimming days with whom I was really close and attracted to. We would hang out and even though he would never date date me, was willing to participate and help me achieve this particular goal. Now I am not advocating for any one way to enter the sexual experience but mine was pretty great. He was really respectful (for the most part, until after almost 6 months he leaked our activities), he always asked if I was ok, and I’ll never forget his face any time I took my top off, he looked like a kid in a candy store; this was when I started to love my boobs.
I’m sometimes sad when I think of it in a critical way, that my love of an amazing part of my body, came from someone else’s enjoyment of it, not my own admiration.
The famous Teri Hatcher episode of Seinfeld gave me my favourite quote for the better part of my teens and early 20’s, the ‘They’re real and they are spectacular!”. My breasts were perfect, naturally round, like grapefruits plunked on my chest with skin on top. I don’t know if anyone else would remember the store, San Francisco, my nanny growing up lived next to a mall that had one and we used to go there. It was kinda a gag store, small silly gifts, and pop culture shirts; I remember this one shirt they had that showed all the different shapes that breasts came in, from Pancakes to Oranges to Ski Slopes, I remember being jazzed that I got the Grapefruits. So you see even at a young age, the understanding that boobs played a part in my (a women’s) worth was there. That it was acceptable for society to not just talk about them but judge them, make fun of them. I want to recognize that it’s not any easier being on the other end, possibly having boobs that are a size or shape that you feel is too small. What I am saying is that the societal pressures make all breast stories hard.
After learning to love my breasts for their shape and natural glory, I would still have to put up with others’ opinions on them. I often struggled to fit into dress codes, because button down shirts either popped across the chest or made me look frumpy, as then the waist wasn’t tailored. I would have constant comments from people that felt entitled to comment on how ‘booby’ an outfit was. In one instance, I was taking a course to become a First Aid Instructor, it was 6 months after having my second child, the Trainer felt it appropriate in my final review and in front of the class to tell me to cover up my chest when teaching. She said I wouldn’t be able to wear any v-neck/open tops because it would be too distracting to students. Even as recent as Fall of 2019, in a professional work environment, I was wearing one of my all time favourite dresses I own, a signature DVF wrap dress, and a mid fifties coworker, female, felt it appropriate to say to me that ‘I was really just putting it all out there’.
I have grown a thicker skin for sure, I now say, ‘They are there, so deal with it’. I recently did a headshot shoot for my work, and I had to pick outfits and even in doing my best, still received feedback that they might show too much cleavage. I find it crazy that this is even a thing – how is it that my body, in it’s natural state can be seen as unprofessional? That you as the viewer not being able to focus on the face would not be what was considered unprofessional. It’s a very self centred view to say to someone that their body makes you uncomfortable, as if their body has anything to do with you. If I am not rubbing my chest on you or anything of yours, you are not really entitled to an opinion and you should actively work against your desire to comment on them. My breasts, my body, do not belong to anyone but me.
My relationship with my Breasts changed after having kids. I was always open to the idea of having surgery when I was younger, not from outside pressure, but because I knew after kids I would want a lift. I didn’t realize how much my chest would balloon with kids, I went from a 30/32 E to a 32 J cup. Just one of my Breasts was the size of a full honeydew melon or small soccer ball; it would take literally 5 of my closed hands to cover just one. I know that’s a lot of describing but it’s important to paint picture. I went from loving my Boobs to hating them.
My Boobs were heavy, they were no longer mine, they were there to feed my kids. I had a strict rule of only breast feeding for 1 year. My kids all had teeth at 4 months old, like a minimum of 4 teeth that early. My breasts were hot to touch, sometimes hard, and I would need to sit in the shower for upwards of 30 min to just let the milk expel at night before bed just to be somewhat comfortable. I know these are good issues when you compare to those that maybe their milk doesn’t come in, but they were uncomfortable none the less, and when a friend says you look like you could be a fetish porn star, it doesn’t feel good.
It was after having my 3rd baby that I decided to go for a consult for a reduction. At the time I wasn’t even sure if I wanted one but I knew there was a long waiting list for it to be covered by my provincial Health care and I had thought maybe I would also inquire about a tummy tuck, because you know body and self confidence issues. I met with my surgeon, who is amazing, he was open and honest. The province I am in had just put in new restrictions (now they don’t even cover them anymore), that a minimum of 300 cc/units per breast had to be taken out. To give you an idea, if you were a size 32, it would be anywhere from 2-3 cups sizes. I was fine with that but took pause when the surgeon said he might not be able to preserve the shape, as it would be a lot of tissue taken off. This made me pause because I always loved my shape, I loved having the ‘implant’ looking shape, my Grapefruits. It took over 18 months to get off the waiting list and at that point I no longer had any hesitation. My neck and back, having started a more sedentary job, were in even more severe pain from the weight. I was at the point where I would have been ok coming out with an A cup.
A year after my surgery I am really happy with my decision; I would recommend it to anyone thinking of it. The healing process was long though, it was a good 8 weeks before I was comfortable working out and more than 6 months for all the swelling to go down. I would find a way to pay for it. The weight, literal weight that came off my shoulders was immediate. I am still wearing a 32 E cup (shows just how big they were), and my surgeon despite his reservations was successful in keeping my natural shape. I quite literally have my early twenties boobs back; what it also gave me was perspective, it made me really think about how much of my identity had been wrapped up in having large Breasts; it made me stop and think why that was.
To bring it back to Values and set us up for next week – my journey with my Breasts led me from valuing the Beauty of the them to the Health of them. The Beauty being, how they look, how others viewed them and the Health being how the feel, am I healthy and can I live a fuller life.
I want to explore all the ways we use these three values (Health, Fitness and Beauty) as synonyms, when really they are individual values and as humans we need to prioritize them; we only have some much capacity. Hopefully you got something from my overshare and will come back to the discussion next week.
Leave a comment and let me know what you thought. If you have any questions about my experience please feel free to send me a direct message via my Contact page.
Shameless plug – head over to the Body section of my page to check out the 50 Days of Movement Challenge that started today.
This week I was in the Gap, which is usually my favourite kids store to shop because generally the quality is good (meaning makes it to hand-me-downs) and you can get some good deals. I was struck this week because there were some even more awesome that usual graphic tees, and on sale to boot. The thing is, all the good T-shirts, and by good I mean the messaging on the shirts were in the Boys sections.
They had awesome shirts themed around Science, things like the Water Cycle, Volcanoes and Planets. There were also Sharks, Skateboarding and Sports… all of which existed only in the Boys section.
I headed over to the Girls section and the themes were considerably different. There were centered around Kindness, and taking care of the Earth and Others.
I have two Boys and one Girl, so I have the benefit of having to look around different sections to see all the variations of shirts. If you only had Girls you might only, probably would, only think to go to the one section. I mean after all we have made progress right? So there should be good options there. And look at least now we are telling Girls to be kind to each other.
It was such a stark contrast that I honestly can’t believe I never noticed before, but I know makes an impact. One example is in a meeting at work recently, we found ourselves talking about how do we elevate, and keep women in the male dominated industry in which I work. I had to say that maybe it’s time we stop being nice about it. Meaning stop holding ourselves back and call people out when they are sexist, racist, or prejudice in any way – call them out bluntly, not nicely. If we as women only ask nicely and seek to be kind, we won’t see change.
So this messaging of Kindness being only targeted at Girls, you might see how it more than irked me. Why aren’t companies working to target boys too? Why aren’t there plenty of Boys shirts promoting equality and kindness? Taking care of others or the Earth. Is this not the job of Boys and Men too?
One can argue that it’s not a company’s responsibility to teach kindness, or get kids interested in sports or science. They would be right, that’s our job, as parents, but when all kids’ see are messages sending them one way, it can be hard for us parents to course correct.
It might seem like this is harmless but I truly see the connection between how we raise girls and women to be caregivers and nurturers, while we encourage boys to just be boys. When I first heard about an all Boys school being a bonus by a friend, one of the selling points they listed was potential beds or cots for boys to nap on in the hallway if they needed a break. That Boys could be more free to horse around, talk out of turn and expend their energy. The all Girls school by contrast list the following points – focuses an understanding of the lived experience of women in local, national and global cultures, an interest in curriculum that highlights how women contribute meaningfully to our society and lead change. (see links below to example outlines from the CBE).
Where I struggle is that if we are only teaching girls to respect their bodies, to gain self confidence away from boys, to deconstruct the social norms (which are upheld by our Patriarchal society) – than what good are we doing? Why is this mandate not in an All Boys school? In my experience people with power do not easily give it up. If we are teaching one sex that their need for movement breaks, curiosity and they hold value just for as they are – without also teaching cooperation, the value of the opposite sex, the social construct of gender, we are going to get nowhere.
To add salt to my already inflamed feminist wounds ,this week – a friend posted an image of an ad her teenage daughter received from the clothing company, Garage, a subsidiary of the Dynamite Groupe. From their aesthetic of which is walking into a literal garage, to the clothing (not work wear) and the price point, it is most often shopped and targeted to the Teen and even the Tween demographic. So imagine my horror when I see the below –
Now call me an old lady, or prude if you would like, which those that know me would probably disagree, but I take issue with the focal point of an ad saying SEND NUDES. One that is specifically meant for women and girls, as they do not sell Men’s clothing. I get the idea is meant to be cheeky, as in Nudes, meaning nude clothing options, which they offer a variety of of tones (great), but the suggestive photos and the normalizing of the request to SEND NUDES is completely out of line.
My partner said that, of course the company didn’t literally mean send nudes, so he saw little issue with it but it’s the unconscious message that sending and requesting nudes is ok. That girls and women are encouraged to this, that their value is in their bodies and showing them off.
I am going to bring it together – In marketing we first are telling girls to be nice, be kind, care for others and then when they are older we telling them their body and their looks are their value. SEND NUDES.
All the while we are teaching boys to be curious, go after what they want, physical education, that they deserve the best, just the way they are.
The way this translates into adulthood is what I have seen, heard and felt at work. A self proclaimed feminist asking me; why I didn’t wear make up more often, and didn’t I wear it for me? Let’s be real, no girl starts wearing make up just for them. They start because of the pressure to look your best, which apparently when it comes to make up only applies to women and girls. If I wore make up for me or did my hair for me. I would perpetually have fun colours, crazy bed head and heavy eyeliner. Girls are told too early on, that their worth lies in their looks. The habit of doing your make up starts young, and from then on it’s hard to picture yourself without it; so much so that filter free/make up free selfies are a thing. These are of course for women and girls, not men and boys.
My sister once asked me to ponder the following question – If your child had to be one of these three things which would you pick? Ugly/Unattractive, Boring or Unintelligent. When you think of your answer, would it be different for a boy vs. a girl, and I implore you to be honest. I always chose Boring, because to me, if you are what would be considered traditionally attractive (meaning the norm/average person would find you attractive) and smart, than you could be successful. We put a high value on looks in our society, however it was argued that often for boys looks come last. If a man is Smart and Interesting or Charismatic they can be extremely successful, however the same can not be said for women, looks play a larger part in success both professionally and personally.
I don’t want to discount looking good and feeling good because of it. I have a tradition of getting fully dolled up on my birthday. Whole nine yards, make up, false eyelashes, usually get my hair done, new outfit (almost always a dress), likely one of the only times I wear high heels – and on that day, it is for me.
For me I think there is more value teaching our girls to value their intelligence, their independence, their curiosity, their strength over their beauty and teaching the same to boys. A girl’s and women’s value is not in whether or not their are kind to others, whether or not they are agreeable, whether they are in service to others but in their innate being.
This can and should be said for all beings, however the reality is that this is not yet the world we live in.
I know I was raised feeling the pressure to value looks, and to see my own personal value in them, this led to destructive behaviour in my late teens and early adult years; when after years of being the unattractive friend I finally received male attention. I allowed myself to get lost in the need for this kind of attention to find self worth. Instead of concentrating on what I could achieve if I put my value on my strength, my hard work and my goodness, I allowed myself to be distracted and feel unworthy. I made decisions that now as someone that loves themselves stills cries about. I have learned from my experience and hope that my candidness, and honesty of my mistakes, will help my own daughter, and other generations of girls and women learn from them, without having to repeat them themselves.
All this to hopefully raise the question in your own homes, to open your eyes to your own biases and those around you. To demand better from companies like the Gap and Garage. Yes, there are small companies such as, Whistle and Flute, that offer all unisex clothing and do an excellent job of promoting to all genders. The point is that we can still do better and need to consciously choose to support the organizations doing better. Teach both our girls and boys to be better. After all what do you value in yourself? What do you value in a person? Does it vary based on gender?
Picture a world where everyone is loved as they are. The potential is amazing and wouldn’t that better than where we are now?
*Pardon my language in this post as those that know me, know I have a bit of a potty mouth and it comes out on this one for sure.*
Accountability is something that comes up a lot in my home… having three young children, ages 3, 5 and 8 – it is a massive learning process to ensure they understand what accountability is, and how it applies to their lives.
I am adamant as a parent that my children believe in this value. I believe as parents, if we fail to set Accountability as a value within our children than we are not doing our jobs. On a side note my whole goal as a parent is to raise functional, contributing members of society. And what that looks like to me is raising someone who becomes an adult with good self esteem, a strong sense of self and personal conviction, someone with integrity (which requires accountability) and someone that gives back to their community.
When we don’t raise our children to be accountable, what happens? Well, they become self centred, hypocritical victims of the world around them. They become in short, Assholes. Yes, I realize that is exceptionally harsh sounding but it is true.
A caveat that when holding anyone Accountable, it is essential to be specific and to acknowledge your own personal perspective or lens that may skew the vision of events. Remember Facts Matter. What was said or done is more important when holding someone Accountable than your personal feelings. I say this, not because feelings don’t matter in my example below I take Accountability to another’s feelings but Facts are more important in Accountability because if we accept the refusal of fact, we can erase History.
I have worked over two decades with youth in what often was their first job, and have taught countless courses related to leadership training. I have had many a conversation with a parent that made excuses for the child either being late, not getting their work done, or not meeting a standard. The intention was good, to support their child, but the result taught their child that they did not need to take responsibility for their actions or lack there of. This in turn leads to a longer, harder road for the child in question because at some point (unless they hold strong privilege, which often they did) their child would experience a job, a course, a relationship where someone could no longer make excuses for them.
Let’s start with the idea of failing. Nobody likes to fail, nobody likes to feel like they are failing – these are facts. When we as humans do something sub-par, less than our best, or just plain wrong it doesn’t feel good; simply put, it feels bad to fuck up. Another fact is that everyone fails at some point in their life. So not learning from those failures ends up in us doing a continual loop of bad actions, behaviour and not growing.
When we fail, or do wrong – we have an opportunity to grow, however we can only grow if we are held accountable for our words and actions. It’s human nature to want to forget or minimize what we do when wrong, again, it feels bad to fuck up.
As parents we often want to protect our kids and this leads us to doing things like calling in sick for them at work, blaming teacher’s for our kids poor behaviour or lack of ability, or worse excusing dangerous behaviour as phases. If parents did a better job of holding their kids accountable, then we would have far more adults willing to do so as well.
I’ll give you an example of someone I had in a leadership class, the candidate was extremely strong in the knowledge aspect of the course, however did not have the physical strength to complete the requirements necessary. The course lead to a certification where the individual would be responsible for the safety of others and the physical requirements were directly related to their ability to do this job safely. The student when speaking with me, seemed to understand why it was important to complete the skills. We took extra time to work one on one, and with another participant to try and gain the strength. Their parents however chose to push and take the perspective that I was the issue, that I didn’t want their child to succeed. So instead of helping their child learn resilience through the failure; they fought, tried to show their child that the guidelines should not apply to them, got additional support and evaluation only to have their child fail again. In the courses I teach it is essential for people to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes. I, too had to learn from this experience because the communication from the candidate and myself had no hint of such misunderstanding. I now have a plan to acknowledge this in future classes to hopefully provide a safer space for students to share.
I could take the perspective that the candidate was two faced, that they just really didn’t want to face their own inability, that I did everything I could but that wouldn’t allow me to grow. My growth is coming from acknowledging that my message was lost, that I could do better in the future, that I will try to do better.
It is not possible for every person to be successful in everything. Read that again. It is impossible for us to be successful at everything. It is impossible for us to be perfect. Knowing this helps with Accountability, because it’s not as scary to admit we are struggling or failing, if we understand that the vast majority are doing the same, right along with us.
I have written my last few posts on privilege, representation and the values of wealth, status and power. The reason Accountability is so important to loop in, is that there is a misapplication of Accountability to marginalized people. An ideal of capitalism, that anyone can make something of themselves, does not factor in that the playing field isn’t even. It misplaces accountability on those without privilege, without representation, without wealth, status or power. It makes it so the oppressors need not take any accountability, and that those being oppressed do.
How is it possible to believe that those placed in a position with less resources, access to education, and opportunities are to be more accountable than those keeping them there. This premise directly applies to how white supremacy shows up in our lives without us even be conscious to it.
I want to take the example in Canada and how we treat the Indigenous. I was born, raised and still live in Calgary. I lived with fairly liberal parents (as liberal as Alberta gets), I read early, went to good schools, I should have been taught about Residential schools but I wasn’t. I was not aware of the existence of Residential schools until I was 28 years old. When I was first told my reaction was quite literally disbelief. I told my friend there was no way the Canadian government would do that. How could parents let their kids be taken away? It just wasn’t possible – I had to look up the Truth and Reconciliation commission and went down the rabbit hole of just exactly what had happened. That these ‘schools’ were open until 1996, when I would have been 13.
The purpose of Residential schools was to ‘kill the Indian in the child’; it was to abolish the Indigenous culture by isolating the children from their parents, their homes, their tradition, culture and heritage. To force assimilation to the dominant (white) culture. In contrast, as a white child I was taught that we, as in Canada, were a country that was a mosaic, one that embraced all cultures. We were led to believe that we were not a melting pot like the United States. That all religions, races and beliefs were important. I was taught this without ever being told that the exact opposite applied to the Indigenous in our country.
If I am starting to sound upset, it is, because I am. I remember the white hot shame I felt when I discovered everything that occurred and the misconception I had of our nation. The story we had been told, and if it was up to some politicians/historians (looking at you, Jason Kenney and Chris Champion), would still be told was that Residential schools and their lasting effects were not/are not that bad or perhaps not bad at all. There has been a recommendation to take the information out of school curriculum for younger ages, that these children wouldn’t be capable of understanding what happened. Residential schools directly affected the lives of 150,000 Indigenous youth, and generations to come after, approximately 6,000 children died in Residential schools. I would say it is more than appropriate that my children learn about what happened, how and why these schools were allowed to operate, given that they were compulsory for Indigenous children to attend at age 7.
My biggest issue with the idea of possibly taking what occurred in Residential schools out of our curriculum is that it would diminish our Accountability. We, as in white people, did that, or allowed that, or allowed ourselves to be ignorant of that. In not taking Accountability, we wrote a different narrative on the struggles of the Indigenous, one that places entirely their circumstances and any difficulties in their lives on their own shoulders.
Why is it that we can be more empathetic towards a wealthy, white drug addict? Or young, white youth breaking into facilities and injuring themselves, than we can an entire group of individuals that were subjected to years of abuse (physical, mental and emotional). Less empathy to an entire group being told that who they were born to be (culturally, language, etc.) was bad or lesser than. Perhaps it is because we haven’t been taught that we need to take ownership of the results of our actions and their long lasting effects.
In growing up, because I was so privileged and unaware I didn’t understand why Black people were still saying things like white people are racists, because I myself had never met someone my age that was racist. To me there weren’t any more slaves so what was the deal. I genuinely didn’t understand all the longstanding effects of slavery, land ownership, red-lining and the systems put in place to continually hold back an entire race. Not to mention the corrupt Justice system and all the Police brutality that they have been subjected to. That racism was still steeped in our waters. When we think of Accountability it is hard to understand that it’s not just about what we do personally, but also what we aren’t doing.
When learning about the Holocaust and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany it was easy to see how the us vs them group think got out of control. FacingHistory.org does an excellent job exploring this topic and I highly recommend checking them out.
Taking a look at what is happening in the United States and the recent attempted coup/Insurrection and the resulting lack of Accountability for those that led the charge, fed the words and created, enabled an environment that led to such violence is almost unbelievable. It is as though we have learned nothing from the past, or more so those that read about the past, took completely different lessons than what they should. Those that voted to not impeach Trump, to not hold him Accountable are doing so because they too, do not want to be Accountable for their own actions.
Yet those very same people believe that marginalized individuals need to be accountable for their actions. That a rape victim must continue to carry a fetus of their rapist because of ‘God’s will’. They protect a system that jails a teenager and holds them without trial for 3 years for allegedly stealing a backpack. The system that believes a young, white male, that excels at sports deserves a 6 months sentence for sexual assault because of their character, but that a Black athlete guilty of the same crime is sentenced to 15-25 years. A system that allows white people to shoot innocent black joggers on video with no charges for months. A system that allows a white cop to murder a Black suspect, caught on camera, for an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Accountability only applies to those they wish to hold power over, their lens is dirty.
In Europe there are many memorials about the Holocaust in hopes of never going down that road again. Memorials to help keep us Accountable to the 6 million Jews and millions of other lives lost for the name of status and power. We teach history to learn from it, to change our societies and shape our world to a better place.
I would argue that not wanting to teach Residential schools to our children is an attempt to not take Accountability to the damage we have done. To continue to paint our world and that of Indigenous people into blurry visions of history.
Accountability stems into so many factors in our lives from Oil and Gas companies being Accountable for clean up of their sites and the environmental laws of the countries which they source their resources. To employers adhering to labour laws. To employees showing up on time and producing the work they are paid for. To travellers during the pandemic ensuring they get the right COVID test (hello, PCR) before heading home so they don’t get forced into quarantine. To politicians keeping their campaign promises. People try to fluff off Accountability all the time because it is hard work, that is the truth. Being Accountable for your actions is hard work, but it is worthy work.
Accountability starts young, it starts with picking up the toys that you take out, putting your own dish in the dishwasher, acknowledging when you have lied or done wrong. If we don’t teach these lessons young than we never learn them. If we are never Accountable than the whole world is a mess.
Valuing Accountability and holding each other to like standards is what is just and fair. Understanding the nuance of why someone reacted the way they did is important, like when one kids hits the other when the first one takes a toy out of their hand. Who is accountable in this situation? The child that hit arguable did the greater crime, but the child that took what didn’t belong to them was in the wrong too and wronged first. What are we to do? Hold both Accountable to the situation. But it’s not always that plain to see and understanding where each person comes from, where they grew up, how they were raised, their privilege or lack thereof gives us perspective. It’s not meant to be an excuse but it is meant to provide context, that if you were in the same situation, given the same options what would you do.
Holding people Accountable again gives the opportunity for growth, growth is where real change is possible. Right now, we need real change in our world. If you don’t like the image in the mirror when someone is holding you to your words, your actions or inactions than maybe it is time to re-evaluate your world, your values. Having integrity is matching who you are with what you believe and what you put out into the world.
Now I do say in the title that Accountability leads to resilience and it does. In the simple way of knowing that growth is possible when you take it. That no one is perfect, that is huge in resilience – holding ourselves up to perfect ideals is what drives our resilience down. Resilience in accepting yourself, for exactly who you are. Acknowledging that we are all doing our best drives empathy and resilience.
What happens if we aren’t doing our best? What if we aren’t being Accountable? Well then we are perpetually the victim of a world of our own making, and we are an Asshole. Let’s not be Assholes.
Today I was fortunate to have a really interesting conversation with a friend, one that led me to revise privilege and how we hold it in our lives.
I think the biggest weakness we have as humans is that we often focus on the negative, the hard things in life and what doesn’t go our way. The reason why I point this out, is that it is, this focus that makes it difficult to see our own privilege.
I would argue that almost everyone carries a certain amount of privilege. Now there are a lot of factors that can diminish privilege that is held. What I mean by that is that our lives are made up of so many different factors, from relationships with parents/family, natural intelligence, race, financial stability, access to education, etc. Each factor can have a positive or negative affect in how privilege shows up in our lives.
It is my belief is that Privilege shows up when any of these factors has a positive effect on your life. How I rationalize that, is that if another has the opposite (meaning negative) experience than it can be said that you hold privilege in that aspect of life in comparison to them. Because as I mentioned above we can focus on the negative, we can be blind or down play these positives/privileges. What we value also plays into our ability to recognize privilege, because if we don’t value a factor in life than we won’t consider it a positive.
I will give you a personal example, which I return to a lot because I really struggled and can still struggle with sometimes. I grew up with quite privileged in terms of financial stability (including things such as ‘luxury’ vacations), access to health care (living in Canada with parents that were medical professionals), access to education, enrolled in a second language (bilingual schooling), and access to extra curricular programs (i.e. swimming).
All these privileges were things that I was actually able to see as privileges, but they felt diminished because they were tainted with negative experiences. The luxury vacations almost always included major blow out fights between my parents or fear of abuse. The extra curricular was about physical excellence/speed, I did not possess natural talent to really excel, I ended up not being able to keep up with my peers (so I ended up feeling less than). That doesn’t mean these aren’t still privileges, it just means they didn’t always feel that way. The were enabled by financial stability but affected my emotional instability.
One thing my whole life I never recognized as a positive was that my two parents were alive. They still are alive and now I can recognize it as a positive, because my children will get to know them. The reason why I didn’t feel the same growing up is because my parents for lack of tact, were not the kindest. It’s not that they aren’t good people; both my parents are caring for the community, they are generous, they are intelligent but they were and continue to be verbally and/or emotionally abusive. I grew up being told I was going to end up a failure, I was lazy, I was fat; nothing I did was ever good enough. I was just lucky that anyone would want to be around me. Even now, knowing and recognizing their behaviours for what they are. Their own reactions to their upbringings and their trauma, it doesn’t make it easier to manage my perception all the time.
Where I lacked empathy or recognition was for people that lost a parent and that said I was so lucky to have both of mine. I would honestly romanticize what it would be like because I would rationalize that people would at least feel sorry for me, or the parent that was living, often loved their child so deeply they would do anything for them, something I did not have with my own. On the outside I looked like I had everything but that’s not how it felt. Even now in my most insecure moments I take this for granted, because I have the inner voice (sounds just like my mother) telling me I am worthless, I’m just lucky anyone loves me, or I’ve wasted my life.
I think thoughts like this are often what hangs us up in showing gratitude towards and recognizing our privilege. The reality is that every experience makes us who we are; this includes the positive and the negative. This is a really hard thing to get across without being slightly insensitive because your feelings do matter but so does perspective.
It is important to recognize and understand another’s perspective. It is also super important to think critically about your situation and be honest about the comparison with anothers’. In my case, I don’t know what it is like to lose a parent but I can acknowledge that it is hard, it is a loss, no matter the situation. What my desire is, is that someone can see my situation and understand it was tough too. The reality is that my romanticized version of parent loss (warped) is probably not accurate. The same can be said for my financially stable, nuclear upbringing. As a result of my experiences I believe I value love, acceptance, and support more than money.
I am going to admit that when I first encountered the message Black Lives Matter, in 2013, the thought went through my head that they would get more support if they said All Lives Matter. I didn’t understand that was something that should already be clear. Of course all lives matter, that was never in question, the lives that were being treated as though the weren’t important were Black ones. It shouldn’t have been necessary for the BLM movement to point this out but they had to. They had to because we (the collective we) did not recognize the privilege we held in never having to worry about our safety the same way Black people do.
In my privileged upbringing I was never educated on Residential Schools. I had no idea they existed until I was 27/28 – so 2010 or so. In my ignorance I viewed Indigenous people as full of privilege because they had so many opportunities to better themselves for free, like post secondary education being free or that companies would reserve spots to hire Indigenous people. I didn’t know what they had collectively gone through or the generational trauma present. I do now and feel like we can still do more to assist in reconciliation and must educated our youth early in order to do better.
My privilege allowed for ignorance, it made it so I was blind to a massive injustice in my country. My privilege made me naive to even the continued rights being undermined such as clean water to drink (highly recommend looking up Indigenous access to clean water). My privilege gave me blinders to how much harder it could actually be.
I was speaking with a friend recently that has a family member applying to medical school. They made a comment about the biggest thing working against their family was that they were white. I had to pause before responding and didn’t feel like I could get out exactly why that thought process was so small and wrong. This family is wealthy, their member had every possible advantage from being set up with volunteering in hospitals through connections, to travelling abroad to work in the medical services field, to never having to work while at school because they didn’t have to make their own money. These are all privileges that are way more likely to help you succeed in getting the marks needed to enter medical school and for successfully completing. Not to mention graduating debt free, that will enable them to grow their own wealth from the start without having to worry about loan repayment, interest, etc. on top of opening a practice, hours of work, and so on.
Another example was someone I know explaining that they were given the directive to hire someone that was either female or a visible minority for a position where the most experienced candidates were white males. The factor they didn’t take into account is the reason why white males had the most experience was that historically their organization hired males first, that it has racist roots and that people have a natural tendency to promote those that seem most like them. All these factors made it so that of course, white males would have more experience than any other demographic. The reality is experience doesn’t make for the best candidate always.
Privilege is a funny thing – it’s something that in order to recognize requires identifying our values. Any time I have had a hard time recognizing my privilege, I, upon better reflection/critical thinking, have been able to see that it is because I don’t always value that privilege. Me not valuing something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I don’t value status or power, but in being white I have held it.
I know myself and my values, this gives me the privilege of resilience. That resilience gives me the freedom to walk away from things that don’t align with my values, things that make me feel untrue to my integrity. I live in a country that has universal health care, good public education, democracy and free market – all these make my life privileged. There is of course the need to recognize choices and that we all make them; that some end up positive and some negative. What we need to realize is that choice in itself is a privilege. Lots of people go through life with limited choices because circumstances that happen. Privilege is not having to overcome a circumstance.
I had another discussion with a friend where they said travel is a right and I had to argue that it is not. Travel is a luxury. Rights are things that we as humans, as a society should ensure are available to everyone not just a few. My friend’s inability to recognize that her frequent travel was something that most can’t afford is an example of her lack of reflection.
Recently it has come out that we won’t be able to open our fitness facilities for at least a month. I saw a thread that was debating the need for sports in the lives of our youth. That the lack of access was hurting the mental health of our youth. One comment was saying that in the area they service with work, sports/extra curricular were not always accessible to youth, that this was something for the more affluent/wealthy. The point being that those that don’t always have access to such programs aren’t always suffering, that it is a luxury, that those who are normally privileged should recognize that and maybe reflect on their positions.
The idea being that there are bigger problems than not being able to travel and do sports. These are privileges. It’s not that they aren’t important or that access to them don’t vastly improve our lives, because it does, but that not everyone has the same access, the same positives, so they are privileges.
I see the importance of recognizing privilege because it makes us unpack what we value and sort out things based on what is a right and what is a privilege. I have had conversations with people that believe travel is a right but that health care is not. That access to guns is a right but strong public education is not. The reason I bring this up is that those stances are based on privilege held that if something happened to these individuals they would be ok. Whether it financially, medically or in the justice system because of the social position. This is reality.
What I hope is that after reading this, you will take a few minutes to unpack your own privilege. Do the critical thinking. Make the comparisons. Find the things to be grateful for. Decide what you believe are fundamental human rights. I know it’s a lot. I do a lot of spinning but I have to tell you that acknowledging life as it is, and doubling down on what is important has given me resilience.