Bleary eyed from having just woken up, I stood in front of the mirror and checked my abs.
This was a daily ritual, one I had been practicing for years since becoming a personal trainer. I wanted to look the part, to prove that I knew how to get people results. I’d been working hard to sculpt the “ideal female fitness body,” coveted by women and desired by men, and it was working.
Checking my abs in the morning was how I checked on my progress, and what I saw there had the power to determine my mood for the day.
Do I have abs today, or am I bloated?
I posed and flexed, surveying the work that still needed to be done, focusing on tiny flaws I was still working to tighten, lift, build, or lose, and decided my belly wasn’t flat enough to wear a tight top that day. For the millionth time, I looked forward to the day I “finished” sculpting the body I wanted, when I would finally feel free enough to wear whatever I wanted, and could stop checking on all these little flaws.
I threw on a loose top and grabbed a coffee and egg white omelette on my way to work, where I was known as the “model whisperer,” because I took naturally gorgeous models whose agencies wanted them to tighten up, and gave them The Right Look without cardio or dieting, by maximizing legit strength gains. The girls (and the agency) loved me, and I took a special pride in introducing 105lb gazelles to deadlifts and pull-ups, and then watching them kick ass.
This particular morning I was training a Victoria’s Secret model, who was one of the most strikingly attractive humans I had ever seen. She sashayed in the door with giant sunglasses and hair in a messy bun (looking fabulous as usual), grabbed my hand, and pulled me in front of the mirror– shushing me when I tried to ask what was happening. When we got there, she paused for dramatic effect, then dropped her sweatpants and pointed silently to the back of her thighs, right under her butt.
I stood there for a minute, staring at her ass, while she anxiously searched my face.
Eventually I looked up and asked what I was supposed to be looking for. She let out an exasperated sigh, and explained in a thick accent that her butt cheeks didn’t “pop” off her thighs the right way, so the whole thing just looked flabby and needed to be fixed.
This was a game-changing moment for me.
Staring at the half-naked backside of a woman whose body and beauty literally sets the standard for female attractiveness in our culture while she picked her body apart… something clicked for me.
“It’s never going to end,” I thought.
I had been waiting until my body was “good enough,” when I had fixed all the flaws and achieved body perfection, so that I could finally feel how I imagined women like my client felt every day– perfect.
I realized in that moment that trying to fix your body is a wild goose chase; no matter what we change, we’re never going to reach the point of being “done.” (In fact, as I had noticed in both myself and my clients, the more we focused on our bodies and the closer we got to conventional “perfection,” the more obsessive and unhappy we became.)
A tiny niggling truth that I had been avoiding for a long time rose up in that moment:body insecurity has nothing to do with what your body looks like.
Shit shit shit shit SHIT.
I believed in the power of feeling confident, and I was proud of helping my clients feel better in their own skin.
I had been making a living helping women lose weight, tone up, build juicy butts, and get strong AF. But I suddenly understood that the confidence we deserve– the sustainable kind of deep-down confidence that is so elusive for so many women and non-binary individuals, is never going to come from “fixing” all our flaws or fitting the social standard.
It’s a rigged game.
That’s when I decided I need to find where real confidence comes from, and how to help my clients achieve it. I took a yearlong life-coaching certification program, gave up my successful fitness business, moved out of NYC, and started working on the real issues surrounding chronic insecurity, self-criticism, and body perfectionism– both for myself and my clients.
Through my own personal healing, and working with hundreds of women, I discovered that true confidence doesn’t come from fitting conventional beauty/body standards, but it also doesn’t come from deciding to just “stop caring what people think.” (A troubling message I see frequently repeated in the body positivity community.)
After all, body image issues are about feeling disconnected, unwelcome, or like we don’t belong. How could the solution possibly be to isolate ourselves further?! No way.
True confidence comes from something else entirely, something I’ve never heard anyone else talk about, which I call the The New Self-Worth Paradigm.
Learning to love the skin you’re in requires redefining who you are and where your confidence comes from, as well as developing a strong sense of self, and learning to let yourself connect authentically with others.
Using the New Self-Worth Paradigm has completely changed the way I feel about myself, and the way I work with my clients.
Now instead of going around in circles trying to figure out why they feel insecure (something a lot of my clients have talked to death in therapy already!), I help my clients go deep below the surface to reconnect with their body’s lost language, untangle their self-worth from their appearance, and discover and express their authentic selves.
The best part about this new way of approaching confidence is that it actually helps them get more of the nourishing connection, acceptance, approval, and belonging that they need and want.
Nowadays, I no longer check my abs in the mirror, or hide my body under loose tops. There’s no need– not because my belly is always flat (it’s not), but because using the New Self-Worth Paradigm, I feel safe and comfortable in my body no matter what it looks like.
Whether my belly is flat or bloated doesn’t affect my mood, both because I no longer rely on my body to fight my self-worth battles for me, and because the way I feel about myself is no longer based on how other people feel about me.
The confidence that came from this new paradigm naturally spilled over into every other area of my life, seeming to spontaneously draw in a tribe of super-intimate friendships, a thriving business, mind-blowing sex, and a feeling of living my highest purpose on a daily basis.
I often see the same thing happen to my clients, who seemingly “out of nowhere” stumble upon strong and mutually nourishing relationships, alignment in their career or business, and more fun and pleasure after working with me.
Take my client Leah, who I worked with for a year as she completely changed her life, started exploring and enjoying her sexuality for the first time in her life, and launched a new business helping other women step into their fullest sexual selves.
Leah completely rewrote her script about what makes a woman valuable and lovable.
One of the most powerful breakthroughs in our work together was when she gave up the idea that she needed to be “conventionally attractive” in order to get the connection, acceptance, approval, and belonging she craved… and just started going out and getting it.
Another client named Maria said she “became friends with her body” during our work together, and was surprised by how many areas of her life were affected by improving her relationship with her body, from enjoying her free time more to finally feeling safe to come out as an activist.
Having been introduced to the New Self-Worth Paradigm, Maria no longer picks her body apart in the mirror, goes overboard with exercise, diets, or worries about food.
The old paradigm says that the only way to feel good enough is to feel better than other women. Confidence is supposed to come from being thinner, younger, prettier, sexier, cooler, or more pulled-together than other women.
The old paradigm just makes everyone feel isolated and lonely, and leads to us obsessively criticizing our bodies in the mirror, scrolling through instagram and comparing ourselves to everyone, and feeling like absolute shit about ourselves– even if we fit (or even set, for god’s sake!) the conventional beauty/body standards.
Let’s play a totally different game.
Let’s redefine what confidence means, and what it looks like, and where it comes from. Let’s restore ourselves to integrated wholeness, reconnect to our bodies, and reunite with each other.
We’ve got this,
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