How many times have you dreamed of something, but convinced yourself you weren’t worthy of it? How many times have you hesitated to make the first steps to change?
I’m not talking about winning the lottery. (I think playing the lottery is silly. I’d rather dream big and then work for it. I know it’s going to happen.) I’m talking about getting healthier, learning new things and finding happiness.
My career to heal through photography came from a dream to help women as they took the first steps to change their negative self-image.
After a breakup I realized I had based a good portion of my happiness on spending time with him.
That’s certainly normal when you connect with someone however I decided I was tired of needing someone else to be truly happy.
Are all your happy eggs in one basket?
Your children, your career, your partner, your imagined partner? Children grow. Jobs come and go. And partners can become exes. Harsh truths we don’t like to think about but truths nonetheless.
If you expand your “happy” vocabulary you expand your entire world.
If something falls apart, you still have ways to find happiness in a storm. If your happiness hinges on waiting for something or someone (The I’ll Be Happy When… Syndrome), you’re just WAITING to be happy. What’s the fun in that?
A few months ago, I took stock of my life and decided to change many things.
The first step was sitting down with myself and deciding what I wanted: Happiness.
I wanted to be happy. I wanted my body to be stronger. I wanted to wear clothes that made me feel fabulous. I wanted an active social life in a new place. I wanted to have enough strength and energy to scoop my growing son up in my arms.
The second step was ACTING like the woman I wanted to be.
The happy, healthy, secure woman I wanted to be didn’t sit on the couch eating ice cream complaining to her cats that the dating world is too hard to try.
(I may or may not have done that.)
My dream-self had a vibrant circle of friends, was active often, enjoyed her family, ran around with her son and dated men who treated her well. (Whether or not the dates turned into The One.)
This happy woman kept trying.
Less than two short months later I’d achieved all that because I kept checking in and asking myself if what I was doing was what SHE would do.
Everyone asks how I lost the weight. It was simple. I had to decide I really wanted it.
Part of me liked feeling anonymous went I went out.
I’d never liked unwanted male attention. Part of me felt the weight protected me. I had to decide that I was ready to lose it and face what came with it.
The actual weight loss was also simple. Don’t let people make you believe it’s complicated.
The choices I made daily were not the choices of a healthy (or happy) woman. I had an immune disorder that complicated things, but at the end of the day, I was the only one responsible for my food and exercise choices.
Yesterday I wore this dress to the mall and felt SO uncomfortable as people stared:
I had vowed to do the entire evening without my phone thanks to this video and was probably more aware of other people than normal. I was sure they were saying awful things in their heads.
I wanted to run home and change. But I put my chin up and changed the tape in my head from them saying bad things to them admiring the dress. The dress creates wind as you walk. (Tyra would approve.)
On my way out of the mall, two women behind the Estée Lauder counter stopped me.
They said they’d wanted to compliment me on my fabulous dress when I’d walked in. I admitted I’d been feeling self-conscious of the stares.
“Why are people staring? Can you see my vagina?!” I joked. (Also I love saying “vagina” in public.)
They assured me it was because I looked beautiful.
Throughout the day several women complimented me on it. Why do we give the little negative voices so much power?
When I was overweight, I was devastatingly hard on myself and it became a vicious cycle of degrading myself and eating bad because I didn’t value myself enough to try.
But one day, I decided to treat myself with love and took baby steps towards health.
100 pounds later I’m celebrating fitting into a lovely Calvin Klein dress in a teeny size four.
Throughout the process, when I hit a speed bump, I checked in with myself:
“Is this how my happy and healthy self would act? Is this how she would talk to herself? Is this how she would spend her time?”
Sometimes the first steps to go after your dreams are the scariest.
I was lucky to have friends and family join me on some of my new adventures.
In that light, I’ve started a meetup group for women in the North Carolina Raleigh/Durham/Greensboro area.
A friendly face can help us face our fears. I’m really excited to witness other women gain the self-esteem and confidence that comes from growing into who we are meant to be. Many of us have barely scratched the surface of what we’re capable of.
And I’ll be honest. I can preach this happiness stuff all day and still have days that I struggle. The past few weeks have truly tested my Happy. I went on a date and a guy forced himself on me. I thought about quitting dating overall.
I thought about making it work with a very nice person. But I’d be “making it work” again. I’d prefer to wait for the right guy.
I’d rather be alone than with the wrong fit.
But I still have other areas that make me happy and it’s one foot in front of the other until I get where I want to go.
Take one of the first steps to change, tip toe if you must.
Today could be the day you step towards the woman you want to be. She’s in there. Give her a chance. I know how badly she wants to be seen. Find a friend to help or just know that I’m right here clapping and cheering you on.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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