Last week, while standing in a rather long line at a natural foods grocery store, I noticed a common thread among the women’s health magazines that hit me like a ton of bricks.
Each of the eight magazines had at least one headline dedicated to achieving six-pack abs, with an additional 2-3 headlines focused on helping you “Shrink your belly!,” “Shed two sizes effortlessly!,”, “Eliminate love handles!,” or—my personal favorite—“Lose 50 pounds in 36 days!”
None of the magazines actually talked about health—rather, they encouraged women to focus their attention on becoming smaller.
As a culture, we’ve become so obsessed with being small that we no longer prioritize growth. In the pursuit of shrinking our waistlines, we’re also shrinking our self-worth, potential, and joy.
Of course, this is nothing new. The common theme of “you’re not good enough” has adorned the cover of health magazines for decades—and I used to buy into it.
After spending years of my life trying to become LESS, I started pursuing health with an entirely new mindset that completely changed my life.
It’s the mindset of being more, not less. Bigger, not smaller. Stronger, not weaker. And it’s the most liberating, joyous, hell-yeah way of living all women can benefit from.
Ready to pursue life with an entirely new mindset? Here are five ways you can become bigger.
1. Let go of limits
There’s no shortage of advice given to women about how they “should” look to be attractive and accepted. As a woman, you’re supposed to be thin (but not too thin, because “strong is the new skinny”), toned (but not “too bulky”), and your butt should really be shaped like an upside down heart, but if it’s not, that’s OK—just do squats!
What’s more, any change or fluctuation from this ideal is a sign you’ve “lost” yourself. You must have gotten lazy or started eating “too many” carbs.
Ladies, as a woman, you get to define what it means to be and exist as a woman. It can mean having muscles, being strong, and lifting weights (and GASP—getting bulky if you want to!). Or, it can mean not lifting at all. It can mean being big, small, athletic, or “pear shaped.”
You get to decide because it’s your body.
You also get to decide what’s enough food for your body each day. It’s OK to eat more, and sometimes, eat less. Your days aren’t the same, so your food won’t always be the same. By honoring your body and what it needs, you’ll provide yourself with the nutrients and fuel you need to thrive. Letting go of limits, restrictions, and the one-size-fits-all approaches that promise control and perfection will allow you to pursue what’s best for your body, and actually enjoy the process.
2. Focus on what your body can do
People often become so focused on their body’s size that they forget about all of the amazing things their body can do. The truth is, happiness doesn’t come from what your body is—it comes from what your body does.
Our bodies allow us to move, breathe, run, climb, create, and explore. Our bodies fight for us when we’re sick, repair things when they’re damaged, and grow (and birth) human life. Ultimately, our body is the vessel that allows us to experience life.
Focusing on all the things your body does for you—that is, all the things it’s capable of—allows you to pursue the things that bring you happiness. Whether that’s getting your first push-up, exploring a new city, or hiking in the mountains, doing more ultimately allows you to experience more.
And if you’re tempted to play the comparison game, remember: comparison is the thief of joy. Comparison only limits your potential, and keeps you trapped in thinking you’re inadequate. Your body can breathe, do, and move—right now—and if you desire to become capable of more, starting right where you are will give you the greatest chance of success.Pursue being more, not less. Bigger, not smaller. Stronger, not weaker.
3. Engage with media that lifts you up
The number of advertisements and brand exposures we see in a single day is staggering. It varies depending on where you live and what kind of lifestyle you have, but research suggests we’re hit with 5,000 or more per day.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of these exposures are designed to make you feel ashamed, unworthy, and not good enough.
It’s important to note that I’m not just talking about “big media”—I’m talking about social media, too. Who you choose to follow, whether they’re “internet famous” or not, can have a big impact on your day-to-day emotions. Every scroll, swipe, and click settles into your subconscious.
This is why periodically reevaluating the media you’re engaging with is so important. How do the shows you watch or the accounts you follow make you feel? If they continually throw you into a shame spiral, stop engaging with them. Unfollow the people and brands that make you feel less than, and start engaging with people who make you want to give high-fives and hugs. When more people demand positive content, more positive content is created.
4. Talk about more than what your body looks like
It’s not bad or wrong to take pride in your appearance—or to talk about it. However, when appearance is the only thing we use to evaluate someone’s worth, happiness and self-confidence are fleeting.
Every time you criticize your body in front of other women (“Ugh, my arms are too fat!”), you are reinforcing the idea that appearance should be placed on a pedestal. You also reinforce this idea when the only compliments you give are related to appearance (“Oh my gosh, those jeans make your butt look amazing!”).
Of course, I am not saying you should stop complimenting each other—I love a great-fitting pair of jeans just as much the next person. But consider the ways you could compliment the people in your life beyond the shape or size of their body.
The next time you see a friend, mention how much you appreciate her honesty, or how you love her sense of humor, or how you’re proud of her for speaking her mind.
What you focus on grows, and what you praise grows, so let’s band together to grow a giant garden of AWESOMENESS.
5. Take up more space
There are so many situations that tempt us to be small.
The pimple that rears its head before a party: It would be better if I just stayed home.
The aggressive go-getters who continually talk over you in meetings: I can’t get a word in, so I might as well be quiet.
The snarky comment from a family member: That’s just how they are, so I’ll just try to ignore them.
Ladies, it’s time to live bigger. It’s time to embrace a new mantra: Speak up, don’t shy away. Show up, don’t hide away.
Dare to go to the party. Dare to speak up in the meeting. Dare to tell that family member their comment hurt you.
Showing up in this way can feel vulnerable and scary, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to assert the fact that YOU DESERVE TO BE HERE. And it does gets easier with time.
Putting it all into action
This is all great in theory, but you might be wondering how to embrace these concepts. It’s not like you can just flip a switch.
Just like it takes time to strengthen your muscles, it takes time to strengthen your mindset. Making changes in small, incremental shifts will set you up for success.
In addition to implementing the advice above, here’s a super-easy way to tell whether a goal you have is making you bigger or smaller: Think about it for a minute or two, then stop and notice how you feel.
Do you feel shame inside, or do you feel confident and excited?
If you feel shame, it’s most likely time to reevaluate your goal, or to reposition it in a way that makes you feel better. Ask yourself where that goal came from, and why you have it. Does it align with your value system? Is it important to you, or is it important to someone else that thinks it needs to be important to you? Chasing shame always backfires.
If a goal makes you feel excited, uplifted, and encouraged, you’re on the right track. Chasing the things that improve your self-worth will lead to happiness.
This week, I challenge you to pick ONE way in which you’ll be bigger, and focus on that. (And if you’re inclined, share what you’ll be doing in the comments!)