Oh yah, I’m going there. 😉
“But Sunni, this is a branding and design site, how in the hell does that relate to what you do??”
Trust me, it does. And I’ll tell you how—but first, let me start at the beginning:
Like most every woman on the planet, I have struggled with body image since I was old enough to know what’s up. If you live on earth, and especially in this culture, you’ll know this is nothing new or special. One of my earliest memories is of being 5 years old and my Kindergarten teacher remarking on how skinny I was after just having had the stomach flu. Yah, it’s jacked up. That that is what sticks out in my mind about being 5 years old is royally F’d — but there it is — the whole thing in a nutshell.
Fast forward 25 years, through puberty and middle school (god help us all), through high school, marriage, motherhood and a 15 year struggle with eating disorders, to where, at 30 years old, I finally started to wake up to the madness and started my healing—by doing the work. Ladies… you know what work I’m talkin’ bout. The inner work.
This was hard shit, but the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’ve never looked back at those behaviors. Well, I’ve looked back plenty, but I have not ever treated myself with such violence again.
But fast forward again over the next 9 years—you know, like they do on a movie montage—and you’ll see me inflate and deflate like a human balloon, except in this scenario I am much more full of hot air when I’m DE-flated than when I’m inflated. 😉
Up and down, up and down, the same 10-15 pounds, depending on what I’m currently going through, or the latest way I’m “taking care of myself” (i.e. what I’m feeding myself, and when, and how much).
I’ve been veggie, vegan, raw, clean, macro, protein-only, meat eating, food-app using, running, walking, core-burn practicing, no-fat, low-fat, full-fat, no-sugar, no-carbs, to full blown donut-arian. I’ve “listened to my body”, taken a “no restriction” approach, tried intuitive eating, “allowed myself what I want when I want”, and done the opposite. I’ve thrown the whole thing to the wolves and just lived and focused on anything but that, and every single time I do one of these things (and I cringe to admit this) I think, “this is it, I’ve finally really got this nailed! I’ll never worry about this ever again!”
and then…. inevitably…
Whether it’s weeks later, months later, or sometimes even years later… I do worry about it again. The tide of the full 10 (or 20) comes in, I step on a doctors scale, and it all comes flooding back. The evil cheerleader (as I call that critic voice in the head) comes in raging, “what is wrong with you?? Why can’t you get this under control once and for all?! How could you let this happen AGAIN?!” — to which I usually cower and cry and feel the hot flush of shame wash through my being, one more time.
A few days ago when this happened again, I was totally taken off guard. I knew the tide was coming in, but I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the wave. You see… I’ve had a hard year.
I haven’t mentioned it much around here, but I’ve had one hell of a year (like omg, holy smokes, let’s-never-do-this-again kind of year). I’m not going to go all into that here, but there were deaths in the family very close to me, the death of my very best little furry friend of 13 years, and a huge explosion of business growth in the midst of all that, and the combination of those deaths, and that growth, knocked something loose in me which was ancient, and monolith, and totally took me out.
I was terrified and lost in a way that I will never be able to describe to you, and all I have to say about that right now is… thank god for therapy.
It was a life raft in the wreckage of my heart and mind, and I am forever grateful I can now see the sun again. At first, during all this, I had shrunk down more than ever because I literally was too sick with worry to eat (and lord knows something is DEFINITELY wrong if this girl can’t eat! I am one of those people who is hungry pretty much no matter what. Pre-apocolypse dinner? count me in!) — but then, as things got better, my trademark appetite came back. And back some more.
The upswing to going through something like that is that, nothing could seem to matter less than what you’re eating or what you look like. And also, foods super-power is grounding and stability when you’ve felt genuinely untethered for a very long time.
So there I was, sobbing in the doctors office parking lot, lamenting my grandiose idiocy for having thought those cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries weren’t gonna catch up to me eventually. I walk everyday for 90 minutes, I take care of myself and eat well most of the time, but there I was again.
I’ve been through all the arguments, through alllll the justifications and reasonings… why one weight is better than the other or not, why one is healthier, one is more comfortable, one is more “natural for me”, blah blah blah blah. I’ve had plenty of good reasons for the lower weight AND the higher one. I could say one is more natural for me than the other til’ I’m blue in the face—but this is just the way it is.
Up and down. Up and down.
Whether it’s between weeks, months, days, years or decades.
There are all kinds of messages we receive from the world about what this means: It means you are weak. It means you have no self control. It means you have no power. It means you are less-than. It means you are a failure. It means you don’t care about yourself. It means you don’t take care of yourself. It means you aren’t healthy. It means you aren’t in touch with yourself or your body. It means you aren’t in-tune or aligned. It means you’re embarrassing or awkward. It means, it means, it means.
And of course, it doesn’t mean ANY of that.
It means, you’re human.
It means you’re vulnerable and perfectly imperfect, in the most endearing way. It is so easy to see this about others, and near-impossible to see in ourselves. I will do you the favor of not sitting here now and pretending that I have risen above all this and no longer give a good god damn about such trivial things as my size or weight, and while it’s true that I don’t care about YOURS, and it’s true that I know darn well I SHOULDN’T and that it doesn’t matter at all… it’s HONEST that I DO care about mine. For now. Because there is still all that meaning hanging over my head. And I know I’m not alone in that.
But here’s the difference: now when this happens, I don’t go on a crash diet and starve myself for 2 weeks to drop the weight before such and such event. Now when this happens I feel shame AND compassion, and even though the evil cheerleader is raising hell, my actions (not my words) are aligned with the compassion end of things, and not the shame. Now when this happens, I still remember who I am, and that has nothing to do with my pants size.
The heart of who I am is still in-tact. It’s still all here.
And THAT is how this relates to branding and design.
(“Damn Sunni, that was a long-ass wind around!” – I know. sorry peeps.)
Your visual presence to the world in terms of your business is a lot like your visual presence to the world in terms of your body… it is ever shifting and changing and evolving just like you… but what’s at the heart of it, is always the same.
It’s your unique being and brilliance in this world, it’s indelible and impactful whether you realize it or not. And that brilliance never promised to be perfect, it doesn’t owe perfection to anyone… it simply promises to be what it is. You can let your little light shine, or not.
So when it comes to your visual brand for your business, make sure you find someone who understands your heart. Or the heart of what you do – because THAT is what’s going to speak louder than any one design ever could.
Make sure you feel seen, and heard, acknowledged, and cared for. Make sure it’s someone you can see wanting to work with not just now, but next year, and 5 years from now, when your business is growing in a whole new way—because you are trusting that person to translate your heart to the world—and that is no small feat.
Keep people in your company who really see you, and understand.
And when it comes to your body, it’s exactly the same.
Remember who you are underneath the changing tides of styles and sizes, and surround yourself with people who’ll remind you of your heart. People who see, hear, and love you, regardless of what piece of crap diet (ahem, sorry, I mean, “way of eating/living”) you’re trying out right now. People who will laugh with you and cry with you, and don’t mind which one it is.
Share your shame voices and vulnerability with those you trust—the good ones will know not to try to fix you. The good ones will not offer you solutions, they will offer you their hand — and their own secret shames and embarrassments —so you know you’re not alone. (p.s. the solutions-offerers are good too, they just are still wrestling with their own stuff too much to let you just be jacked up alongside them)
We’re not alone. We are worthy of taking up space in this world, no matter how much space that is.
Body, business or mind.
So I’ll be shining my little light. Regardless of current inflation. 😉 And I hope you’ll join me in shining yours too…not because you feel invincible or ultra-confident, but because even when you don’t,
you dare to live anyway. ♥