Body Memories: Identity – what do I look like (self and other perceptions)

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

This is not something I discuss often because the memories are jumbled up – a tangled mess that is filled with distortion. My perception of the experiences will be different from others who have known me in the past or shared the experience.

So I write posts like this with the following caveat:
My memories are distorted and filled with a perception based on negative body image and negative identity. That was then and not who I am now. This story is as factual as possible given the memory holes and distortion. Please read with skepticism.

Anorexia

My anorexia started with disrupted eating patterns and negative beliefs about food, weight, dieting, and self image from early childhood until early adulthood. At first, I internalized the messages from the women in my family – most of whom had weight issues and were constantly dieting – about how a female should look, what she should eat, how much to eat, when/where, etc. in order to be a proper young lady.

I’ve always been short and skinny. My weight problems included gaining weight and maintaining a healthy weight. As a child, that got me reverse shaming – comparisons with other family members saying “oh you’re so lucky you don’t have to worry about your weight. You’re so skinny and you eat like a bird. Wish I was that skinny and could lose weight like you do.” Their “praise” always came at a cost – “Oh you look so pretty and skinny. Why can’t you be as outgoing as your cousins?” or “Look at her; she’s so skinny and pretty. But don’t worry because you’re smarter and have social skills + grace. That’s so much better since looks go away fast.”

Whenever my mom went on a diet, I did too. Because in her mind, we shared a body. So I never saw myself as skinny or thin. People around me did. I always thought I was fat, overweight, and clumsy.

Sometimes, I still feel that way.

The eating disorder started around 5 years old; after the first time I was raped and gang raped. These people liked how I looked and that I was strong and resilient enough to take whatever punishments they handed out. Losing weight was a way to punish myself, control something in my out-of-control world, and punish the people around me by giving them what they accused me of being – a weak, skinny, ugly, dumb, socially awkward child.

Hiding In Plain Sight

Anorexia physically changes a person on the outside and the inside. By the time I hit my teens, I had done enough damage to not be considered “beautiful” or “pretty” anymore. I looked sick and tired and weak most of the time. It was easy for people to ignore me and not take me seriously.

That contributed to the social awkwardness – I couldn’t speak up or have conversations or friends with all the secrets – and my ability to be invisible anywhere at any time.

The downside – once I did speak and get people’s attention, they didn’t/couldn’t/maybe wouldn’t forget me. Or that fact that I was not exactly what I pretended to be to everyone else.

But the experiences leading up to the eating disorder taught all parts of me (because yes, I had already started developing alter personalities by 5 years old) to learn ways of manipulating my body and personality to meet other people’s perceptions of who I was supposed to be. I stayed skinny. My body was thin and bruised easily. I cried a lot and was quiet the rest of the time. It was obvious that I was smart, but also flighty because I had a hard time paying attention and participating in class. Kids didn’t want to be around me because I was too shy, quiet, and weird. Easy for the popular kids to make fun of and use for mean games.

And so, I learned that my survival was based on becoming whatever other people wanted me to be on a moment’s notice.

Who was I? What did I look like in my own eyes?

Young girl: Fat, clumsy, ugly, awful, stupid girl who didn’t deserve to live. Not as good as her cousins or younger brother. Not graceful or acceptable or good at anything. Hates her body. Hates being female. Always being used and shamed.

Adolescent girl: skinny, nerdy bookworm with too many curves and a bad attitude to keep people away from her. Hated herself, hated everyone around her and just wanted to disappear. Boobs too big or not big enough. Butt too big and got too much attention. Skinny in spite of that and always too short. Everyone made fun of me for being too short. Irritable all the time because I couldn’t be myself and show my personality in school. Hated being there and having to find ways to deal with bullies and teachers without blowing my hide-in-plain-sight cover. Lots of temper and anger management issues.

Young adult: ugly, fat, woman who gets too much attention even though she wears ill-fitting clothes. nothing to live for. hates her body and her self. hates her life. ready to die, but suicide doesn’t work. questions the meaning of life when everything hurts all the time, and she can’t even move without pain anymore. Doesn’t want this body. Hates herself and everyone around her. Does not respect anyone or anything. Anger and shame all the time.

Adult in Recovery: plain, sometimes attractive woman with a slender, curvy body she is learning to love, recognize, and accept. Chooses to live and be healthy by listening to and communicating with her body. Working together with all parts of herself, she learns how to change negative relationships and beliefs into neutral and positive ones. Pain is constant, and she doesn’t like her body much because it draws too much attention. But at least she is learning to be, express, and respect her authentic self. This woman has something to live for and values all the gifts in her life.

Adult now: not conventionally attractive, but happy with how she looks. 9 times out of 10, this woman recognizes the face and body reflected back from the mirror. She appreciates and embraces her curves, works with herself and other practitioners to find/utilize effective coping strategies that feel good, are positive and sustainable, and support her healthy lifestyle goals. She lives an authentic lifestyle full of love, laughter, and as many emotions as she can feel, express, and move on from every day. Her body hurts less, and the body memories are finally starting to leave her physical form. But that creates some anxiety and confusion because now her body is changing and looking/feeling/moving different again.

Other Perceptions

If you’ve read past posts, you have an idea of the negative beliefs taught to me growing up. If you’ve read the paragraphs before this one, you also can get an idea of the perceptions others have/had about me.

Perceptions are subjective opinions based on observations and shared information. Maybe that information is factual, maybe not. Maybe the observations are accurate, maybe they are missing vital clues and cues. Subjective means the observations and information are filtered through the individual’s own knowledge base and sense of self; then mixed with existing opinions, biases, information, emotions, etc. to create the opinion.

For many years, I relied on outside perceptions to understand who I was. I didn’t have an identity or a sense of self. My trainers considered me a blank slate with no personality. Peers who wanted to hurt and insult me called me a person without a personality. They thought it was the worst possible insult ever because as teens we all want to be seen as individuals with cool personalities who also fit in with our friend group(s). My mother taught me that we were the same person living in two different bodies; whatever she suffered, I suffered too. Her problems were my problems. Her failures, my failures.

But, not true with any positive or successful accomplishments. They were all hers.

I can’t remember when I decided to stop looking outward for approval and acceptance. Maybe during grief counseling after one aunt died in high school. Maybe when I started seeing the college mental health counselors. Or a college professor/mentor took me aside for a private talk. Or maybe when the police finally broke up the pedophile ring and put many of the people in jail. I was shunned for the last two years of high school because of the rumors and also some popular kids’ witnessing of me as my alter personality at those events.

But people always looked at me and made assumptions. Their perception was always based on first impressions and my physical appearance. It made my life easy because anyone who had a negative response to me was someone to avoid. That worked until I graduated college and had to get a job.

But by then, I had started counseling and was working on the idea of identity and perception. It was a concept I learned in college psychology classes and followed up on in my own time. The mental health counselor at the time taught me how to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and meditation to work through cognitive distortions and perceptions about myself, people around me, and experiences.

Identity

Identity is a work in progress that occurs throughout life.

Change is constant – always happening, never stopping. People can learn to accept and work with the change or resist/deny/fight the change and struggle in the aftermath as the change occurs.

Who I am now is not who I was in the past. Is not who I will be in the future.

But who I am now is the best version of my authentic self I can be in this moment and who I strive to be as I continue to learn, grow, and become.

It took a long time for me to stop hating myself and all the people around me. It took even longer to learn how to respect myself so that I could respect other people; then earn their respect too. Finally, learning to love myself is a constant practice. It’s easy to say the words, but difficult to do because it means accepting all the parts of myself I like and all the parts of myself I feel uncomfortable about. It means accepting what I have said and done in the past, what I say and do now, and that life circumstances can take away the choices that make me me.

If you were wondering, this is where the meditation practice comes in. Meditation helps me observe my self, my memories, and my experiences through an objective lens or perspective. From there, I can think about my choices and what I could have, might have, or would have said/done/felt/thought differently. And the possible outcomes if something changed.

Yes, that could spiral down into negative or catastrophic thinking. But thoughtful, caring, non-judgmental observation allows me to learn from my past instead of wallow in shame and guilt about what happened. Then, if a similar experience happens again (and it almost always will), I can think back on the past and choose a different path with a potential different outcome.

If it’s the same person and the outcome is the same even with a different choice, then I can say to myself: “I tried something different this time. I made choice and a change. The other person did not change or or react or act different. My change made things worse, but it’s not my responsibility or my fault because I did my best. I can feel what I feel and express these emotions safely; then let it go and move on.”

If it’s the same person and a different outcome, then maybe it was one or both of us who created something that allowed us to create a solution or a compromise or decide to not interact anymore…

You get the idea, yes? Because that works for similar situations and different people or context too.

But these mental exercises and examinations of my self: reactions, actions, feelings, thoughts, etc. are what helped me create a positive identity and sense of self not based on external accomplishments, but internal values.

So when the external stuff gets taken away (i.e. breakup with friend or partner, job loss or change, accident, etc.), I am still me with a stable identity and secure sense of self based on faith, unconditional love, respect, and acceptance. Not just of who I am, but also who each being I meet is too.

That is why I chose the photo of a man and a woman sitting together and smiling for today’s graphic representation. They look happy, healthy, comfortable with themselves, and comfortable with each other.

Thanks for reading. I wish I could add more photos, but honestly, I struggled to find even one photo that worked with today’s topic.

Thanks for reading.

I like being me...whoever that is

Resources: Author Round Up – mishmash of genres & media

Disclaimer: Resource Posts provide information and links to the organization sharing information with guests here. I DO NOT promote, advertise, or receive any benefit/compensation for sharing the information and links.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

*The authors and many links below are from Amazon.com and a Kindle Unlimited subscription that feeds my reading/book addiction. You are welcome to visit and find other ways to source any of the authors’ creations if Amazon and Kindle Unlimited are not your preference*

LGBTQ Books

Of the many new authors I’ve explored, these two have the most compelling stories that send me looking to their websites and social media account for more information. While all the series are LGBTQ friendly, some have LGBTQ main characters in the different books.

  • BR Kingsolver (author website) writes fantasy with some science fiction, mystery, and romance elements in many of her series:
    • Rosie O’Grady’s Bar and Grill – I am currently reading the newest title in this series about a young woman who was sold as a child to a magical organization and trained as a spy. She thought she worked for people who worked to help others and save the world until her last assignment showed the truth. The first book starts with the woman’s life after she leaves the organization.
    • Chameleon Assassin – The bisexual main character was born with mutations that give her traits of a chameleon while also looking human in a world that values scientific enhancements and while shunning others. Her personal relationships and work relationships add unique challenges and perspective to the plot of each book in the series. Can be dark and triggering
    • Dark Streets – A combination of magic and science with the main characters traveling to different realms to fight against enemies trying to take over or destroy earth in some way. Female main character whose supporting cast has a variety of people and relationships. More humor and lightness in this series
    • Telepathic Clans Saga (finished) – I’ll be honest with you; I couldn’t read this series without feeling triggered. In fact, I skipped one of the books because it hit many sore points. But if you like reading about succubi, open sexual relationships, and magical warring clans in an alternate earth, maybe it’s for you.
    • Found in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon general search
  • Dana Marie Bell (author website) writes paranormal romance with fantasy elements and great world-building for each series. She has so many series that I am only including the two series with LGBTQ main characters in the books.
    • The Gray Court series is based on fae mythology. The main characters in the third book are a woman and two men who become bonded mates in a triad relationship as they struggle to keep their loved ones and their way of life safe from “normal humans” and unknown enemies.
    • The True Destiny series is based on Norse mythology and explores relationships among the pantheon of gods and goddesses living as mortals with limited power and some memory loss. No one knows exactly who are friends or enemies – not even within family units. The different main characters find one or two life partners as they unravel the mysteries of their past and avoid enemies trying to kill them. The books I read have m/m or m/m/f main character relationships. Newer entries might have f/f or f/f/m relationships too.
    • This series is not part of Kindle Unlimited, but you can find a book list with free samples here

Self-Help or Inspiration Books

I have two books for this section. One you might have seen before on another list. The other is one of my favorite inspirational authors.

  • The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams
    • If you look on my Pinterest page, you will find the Dalai Lama included in my board of favorite coping resource books. He has inspired me and provided hope almost since the beginning of this journey.
    • The book discusses what joy means to both spiritual leaders from a religious and secular perspective and invites the readers to learn with them as they explore what joy means and how to achieve it in the modern world
    • Books like this are sometimes difficult for me to read, so I listen to them and similar topics as audiobooks and podcasts and am currently listening to the unabridged version from the library.
  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David J. Epstein
    • For many years I struggled with being a work failure in my family because I lost interest in job opportunities and changed careers/classes/direction all the time. I wasn’t “good” at any specific skill set and kept changing majors and career directions throughout my 20s. I started and stopped many graduate school and certificate programs for many reasons and had trouble defining what I wanted to do in life.
    • My dreams were dismissed because being a freelance writer or author is unreliable and difficult to succeed in. And other interests like alternative medicine were hippy-dippy hobbies, not careers.
    • Plus, how could I run a business or work in a company when I dressed poorly, couldn’t do math well, and wasn’t logical or able to commit to a career path?
    • If you experience similar questions or struggles, maybe this book will help you the way it helped me: by exploring and sharing stories about different successful people who specialized from an early age and others who explored for many years before specializing in one or more areas and becoming successful

Hobbies and Other Interests

As you know, I’ve been on partial sabbatical to focus on life outside my computer. It’s my life/life balance or Self Care as I work hard to provide relevant, high quality content here. To keep the topics relevant, I have to take classes, apply the lessons in practical ways, and ensure time for everything else in life.

So I decided to share some blogs, books, and other resources you might find interesting if you write, blog, are interested in self care, own a business, are starting a business or a blog or a website, or like to explore because you’re a curious person too.

Aromatherapy, Herbs, and Self Care

  • Aromahead Institute blog learn about essential oils and get interesting DIY recipes
  • AromaCulture magazine’s podcast – interviews with practicing aromatherapists, herbalists, and other practitioners about current research and events related to herbs and essential oils
  • CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism Blog and Podcast – Herbs as food and medicine are a lifelong interest. The blog and podcast discuss herbs, sharesDIY recipes, and offer educational resources to learn more about plants

Content Creation for blogs, websites, etc.

  • Adobe Spark blog has tutorials and free templates people can download and share to create content (my go to for creating images)
  • PicJumbo.com – get free stock photos plus information about related topics
  • LinkedIn Learning – this is normally a paid subscription, but I get it free through my other job. If you’re wondering where I learn the tech skills that make this site unique, a lot of it is from the LinkedIn Learning classes. They are partnered with Lynda.com, so if you are a Lynda.com member there may be a way to get access to LinkedIn Learning through that account

Thanks for reading.

Environmental Self Protection IMAGINATION + COPING STRATEGIES = SAFE SPACES Physical safe place(s) - physical locations in and out of home Mental safe space(s) - meditation, visualization, mindfulness Spiritual safe space(s) - aka altars or holy places or nature Home decorating with feng shui & energy clearing practices

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 5 – Environmental

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

What is a Safe Space? Is it the same as a Safe Place?

A safe space is any environment where you or I or anyone feels physically, emotionally, spiritually safe. Ideally we’d feel safe in all 3 areas. Personally, I am for 2 out of 3 at any given time.

Safe spaces integrate and utilize the coping strategies and techniques from the other types of self protection discussed in this series to create a safe, protected environment. aka safe space

Safe Places tend to be physical environments and can be safe spaces. BUT not all Safe Spaces are safe places.

  • Some safe spaces are physical spaces like houses, bedrooms, “home”, libraries, movie theaters, work, holy places, religious or spiritual buildings, hospitals.
  • Some safe spaces are visualizations that people can reach through dreams (day dreaming, sleep dreaming, meditation, dissociation, hypnosis)
  • Some safe spaces are a combination of physical and sensory areas that help people connect with a higher power, nature, or (your noun here)
  • Some safe spaces are sensory grounding objects people wear or carry with them as they go about their lives.

You (and I) never know what your safe space will be until you experiment and create one.

How many safe spaces can I have/make/use?

As many as you feel comfortable having

As many as your imagination can come up with

As many as you need or want

How many do you have/use?

I have a lot. One for each alter personality. At least one (maybe two) general spaces we all use together. Three for spiritual work. And five physical spaces not counting parks and green spaces where I live.

So 88 + 2 + 3 + 5 = 98 safe spaces approximately.

Most of those safe spaces are not physical. But they can become physical with help from physical protection techniques, i.e. touch stones & sensory grounding tools. I build my environmental protection using a combination of sensory grounding tools, emotional protection shields and spiritual invisible armor.

My favorite kinds of environmental self protection are the safe spaces limited only by my imagination because I can take them with me wherever I go.

Please be mindful of meeting your basic needs while creating safe spaces. All of this is part of self care and can be used no matter your budget or lifestyle.

Please do not limit yourself to only self protection coping strategies when you create your environmental self protection. Use whatever feels right to you.

What do Safe Spaces look like?

Environmental Self Protection equals safe spaces
Some safe spaces I’ve visited or only re-created in a visualization

So I am being vulnerable with this collage. Two of the images are from my current apartment. One image is from a vacation I took many years ago before my name change and move. It’s the same place where I found the banner photo for this blog. The final image is a stock photo that represents one of my visualization safe spaces – a location in my mind where all parts of me can get together and “hang out” so to speak. It’s much sharper than the faded memory of visiting Niagara Falls back in high school.

As you can tell, my apartment is colorful using many shades of earth tones to feel safe, calm and soothing.

Water: the smell, sound, look and (sometimes feel) always brings a smile to my face and peace to my mind. A bath cleanses my physical and energetic/emotoinal self by washing away dirt and negative energy. Flavored water (infusions) nourish my body, look pretty, smell and taste delicious.

Earth: Plants at home. Plants and parks all around my neighborhood and throughout the city. They remind me of joy, life, rebirth and laughter. All my plants are budding or having babies. It’s wonderful to watch and be part of the growing cycle. Or mourn when a plant ends its struggle to thrive and moves on to the next adventure (i.e. dies).

Either way, I’m connected to other living beings in a way that feels safe to me.

Fire: Sunlight in my apartment. Candles. Aromatherapy diffusers heating water to spread scents through the air in my apartment. Cooking food for nourishment. Cleaning and laundry. Fire reminds me to take care of my basic needs, so I can thrive and help others too.

Air/Wind: Wind reminds me to bend and be flexible. Nothing is ever exactly what it appears to be through my physical senses. Pause, reflect, use intuition and logic to make choices instead of reacting without thinking. Change the smell of my environment to remove triggers or bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered.

Pulling it all together

Environmental self protection is all about creating safe spaces wherever we happen to be.

Safe spaces, like all the other coping strategies and techniques I discuss, are multi-dimensional and unique to each individual.

I can give guidelines like in this post and others, but no one can create your safe space except you. And once you create it, no one can take it away from you unless you let them take it away.

That is a lesson I learned the hard way. And am still learning today. Kind of like the concept of “home” and “perfect living spaces”. Because, in spite of making my apartment as comfy and safe feeling as possible, I still (in the very back of my mind, buried in the subconscious) live in that childhood cage. The more internal stress I feel, the more my apartment looks like a mess and a reflection of that cage.

And when I worked in an office, my desk used to reflect the cage too. It got me into trouble (i.e. a target for harassment and backstabbing comments) from people who didn’t like me at work. They never talked to me directly, but they would point, whisper, stare, and talk to people who cared about me. Then those people would say something to me out of real concern. But still triggering and painful.

It wasn’t until I learned how to combine these different aspects of self care and self protection that I learned how to cope with experiences like that in more positive ways. Music, diffusers, crystal grids, other kinds of sound healing, and feng shui helped me create physical safe spaces and apply similar concepts in creating “magic bags” of sensory grounding tools to take with me wherever I go.

Maybe these ideas will help you create your own version of environmental self protection. Maybe it won’t. But I hope they inspire you to play and have fun with coping strategies and self care.

Thanks for reading.

Physical Self Protection...How will you express it?

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 2 – Physical

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

What is considered Physical Self Protection? And why does it matter?

Physical Self Protection means more than self-defense, an alarm system, and weapons. It includes:

  • Feeling safe inside your physical body wherever you are
  • Making healthy lifestyle choices for nutrition and movement or exercise
  • Meeting essential needs of food, shelter, warmth, and clothing in ways that suit your life and budget in the present moment while also giving a sense of joy and satisfaction because you CAN take care of yourself in the most basic ways
  • Personal finance education to learn how to make good spending and investing choices

My process started about 7 or 8 years ago when I decided to break from my family. At the time, I had very little money and less interest in doing more than survive my “new independence”. Rent, medical bills, utility bills, food, and transportation ate most, if not all, of my budget back then. But I also couldn’t afford to get sick or end up in the hospital either. That put my job and independence at risk.

And I was tired of hiding behind ugly, ill-fitting clothes and a meek persona. Invisibility was safe and protected me as long as I didn’t mind observing instead of participating in life. Up until I got a full time position at work and left my family, invisibility felt inevitable for someone lacking confidence and not wanting to be noticed.

While I didn’t much like my physical self (body, face, etc.) at the time, I was learning to love, respect, value, and feel confident in the rest of my self. And I was ready to start making that change from invisible to acknowledged. Nutrition and physical health improvements were already part of my care routine, but I didn’t know anything about style and clothes. Nor did I know where to start looking for something besides fashion that focused on body types and colors. And my “friends” at the time were not exactly helpful either.

So I started a new project: positive self image through personal style. There had to be a way to make my insides and outsides match just like I was doing with nutrition and physical activity. But also within my limited budget.

Fostering a neutral/positive self image through personal style

When I feel confident and safe, I look and act confident and safe. People are less likely to target me.

But what happens if I feel confident and safe, but don’t appear confident or safe to others? People are likely to continue treating me as they always have.

If I feel good on the inside, I want to show that on the outside too.

Does that resonate with you? Because it’s how I started on the personal style journey and found Inside Out Style Blog and Imogen Lamport (creator). She discussed personal style as an expression of our authentic personality and how body/face shape, color palette, etc. are all small parts of the whole package. While primarily an image consultant for women, she has consulted with experts in men’s style and shared those tips on her site too.

I wrote about this journey in some past posts and added information about this blog to the Resources page too. You can read about the results and see some photos in “My Style Manifesto”.

However, looking and feeling stylish WAS NOT the most important lesson I learned as part of that learning group. Here are some lessons:

  • I can share who I am (sometimes how I feel) with others without talking at all through my physical appearance.
  • When I make time to put together thoughtful outfits that feel good against my skin, fit well, and express something about myself, I feel safe, secure, confident, and able to interact with others outside of my safe spaces
  • Every one of us in the 7 Steps to Style Program was on a “recovery journey” of our own to find, express, and feel confident in our authentic selves as women no matter our age, sexual orientation, race, country of origin, marital status, personal experience, or financial status.
  • As we completed the 7 Steps, many of us used our newfound skills and experiences to create new business and job opportunities in alignment with our values.
    • One of these people is Liz Klebba of Closet Play Image based in the US. She created an image consulting and personal style business to help empower women to enjoy expressing themselves through personal style while still blending in and feeling appropriate in different environments. You can learn more about this by checking out her post called “Why Trends Matter“.

How can you protect yourself with an expression of your style that fits within your budget?

Creating ways to add movement into your daily routine (physical fitness)

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not have a typical exercise routine or participate in sports these days. In fact, I have not done any of that on a regular basis since college. Not because I didn’t want to participate, but because the pain in my body combined with panic attacks and flashbacks made such activities impossible without also experiencing shame and embarrassment.

So I started by incorporating more movement into my daily routine slowly. Grocery shopping meant walking to and from the store with totes and portable shopping carts that navigated stairs. Walk to and from the public transportation stations and work. Plus house cleaning and laundry require lots of movement + energy + time.

And I move a lot when preparing food and cooking. My pantry and dishes are all in shelves under the sink or counters. My utensils hang from hooks above my head. Reusable containers live on top of the refrigerator/freezer.

What are some ways you can change your routines and environment to include more movement?

Adding sensory grounding strategies and tools (physical objects) to your every day life style (aka magic bag)

I touched on this a little in the last two sections, but there are so many ways to include physical objects or touch stones in our every day lives to help us feel grounded and safe in the present moment. Here are more details based on the examples above.

In the personal style section, I mentioned putting together outfits with clothing and accessories. Wearing clothing and accessories can be a confidence-boosting, joyful sensory experience if we allow it.

  • Clothing has a texture and evokes a tactile sensation as it rests on and moves with the skin on our bodies.
  • Accessories also have a texture and evoke sensations as they move with, enclose, or rest on our skin/hair, etc.
  • The colors and patterns or prints engage our visual senses and bring out different emotions – not always consciously.
  • And let’s be honest here, our shoes, jewelry, even clothing sometimes, make sounds as they move with us – thus engaging our auditory senses.

Why not choose fabrics and textures that feel good agains our skin? Choose prints, patterns, and colors that flatter our coloring and remind us of positive emotions? Include accessories that remind us of positive experiences and express our genuine interests?

In addition, there are other portable items we can take with us and use discreetly wherever we are.

Healthy snacks and drinks engage our sense of smell and taste. Sometimes even our visual and tactile senses too. If sustainability is a personal value, reusable containers add in another element of self care. Plus bringing your own food instead of buying take out can be budget friendly and give an excuse to get creative too.

Aromatherapy and herbs come in many portable forms these days. You can carry them in pockets, backpacks, and handbags. Take them out and use when you need a moment to yourself without disturbing others or making a mess. Then put away for use in the future.

Then there are less obvious physical grounding objects we can take with us. Some are more portable than others. Here are some examples:

What are some items you can take with you to feel safe and grounded as you navigate the outside world?

Incorporating physical protection or grounding objects throughout your living environment

Plants and sunlight are the two most important grounding objects in my apartment right now. I often feel like I’m still living in the cage when I can’t leave my apartment. Plus I worry about privacy since some of my neighbors and I can see in each others’ windows. So being able to grow plants and keep my windows unblocked bring the outside world in when I can’t go out.

After that, I’ve worked hard to save money and purchase home goods like bed linens and towels made with different fabrics and textures that feel good against my skin and help me with some of the PTSD symptoms and side effects.

Bed first, the rest comes later 🙂

Two examples here:

  1. Bed linens. I experience night sweats and intense nightmares that soak/stain my sheets, pillows, blankets to the point where I had to get up and sleep somewhere else multiple times a night. Can’t tell you how many polyester pillows and acrylic sheets I ruined with the constant washing and sweating. Or how often I ended up with unexplainable rashes and acne or contact dermatits because of the fabric rubbing against and getting into my skin.
    1. Solution: purchase pillows, bed linens, blankets, etc. in fabrics with natural antibacterial and cooling properties – i.e. linen, wool, and percale cotton (organic if possible)
    2. Problem: cost and expense of replacing everything at once
    3. Solution: prioritize self care and move 3/4 of money from “fun” to “home goods” until I replaced all of the items on my list.
    4. Reward: purchase a book, see a movie, or something equally fun, budget friendly and frivolous after I buy 3 items.
  2. Cleaning and laundry products. In college, I learned that my body and nose were extremely sensitive to conventional cleaning, bath, and body care products. The smell made me physically ill or caused breathing problems. And the chemicals gave me rashes, acne, eczema, etc. That included: cosmetics; cleaning products; bath & body; perfume; and laundry products.
    1. Solution: research how to make my own cleaning products or find non-bleach and petroleum based cleaners, detergents, and soaps. Or stop using cosmetics, etc. I did both for a while.
    2. Problem: back then, the sustainability and “green” movements were grassroots and not well known. Not many products available on the market.
    3. Solution: compromise. Use a combination of aromatherapy and recipes from diy housecleaning websites/books/blogs to keep things clean at home.
    4. Reward: fun experiments with essential oils, mixing cleaning solutions. Find a learning path that led to this blog and other job opportunities. Apply my personal finance education to be “thrifty” and meet goals.

Crystals, stuffed animals, books, and figurines on my alter spaces and walls come in second. In my living room and bedroom, I have what I call “alter space” or “sacred space” for objects of meaning and spiritual or emotional power. They are combinations of objects arranged a certain way on corner shelves and remind me of my past and present. Before, my living spaces were bare because I used them as a place for sleep and storage. Now, I have a real home that reflects who I am and how I choose to live.

Do you have certain objects at home or work that act as protection to help you cope with stress or flashbacks?

Pulling it together

I protect myself and feel confident moving through the outside world because I’ve learned how to use every day objects in creative ways as armor or shields – aka grounding objects. The learning process was and continues to be difficult with lots of mistakes and challenges from expected and unexpected sources.

For example, I used to be afraid of anything related to my senses because I thought “sensual” was another word for “sexual”.

As I learned that sensation, sensual appreciation, and sensuality DID NOT EQUAL sexuality or sexual anything, my whole world expanded.

Self Protection = Self-Care
Protection is a confident expression of our Authentic Selves
Is a vital aspect of Self-Care
Provides Techniques to be assertive in how we choose to ensure our safety
  • Sensuality and Sexuality are different.
  • A person can be sensual and indulge in sensual experiences without falling into addiction or having to engage in sexual experiences.
  • Pleasure can equal joy and peace.
  • Grounding strategies teach people how to uses their physical, emotional, and spiritual senses to feel safe in and focused on the present moment wherever and whenever they are.
  • Confidence and security in oneself are the best kinds of protection and can be expressed in physical ways. Some are visible to everyone while others are more personal and customized to individuals.

These days, sensory grounding is an essential tool in my toolbox of coping techniques and strategies. I use it all the time.

Finally, physical protection provides a strong foundation to become emotionally, spiritually, and energetically protected too.

Thanks for reading.

Series: Care, Protection, and Expression of Self Part 1

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Photo by Rahul Yadav on Pexels.com

Hi and welcome.

I have not written a series in quite a while and wasn’t sure if this one would work out. But after the last two posts, I decided the topic of self-protection couldn’t be put off any longer.

My goal is to share a part of this series every week starting today. I/we all hope this information helps you feel safer, more secure, and more confident living in the outside world too.

What is Self Protection?

Some people call protection “armor” or “shields” or “barricades” or “Weapons”. Others use words like “wall” or “boundary” or “barrier”.

No matter the terms or labels used, protection means keeping oneself safe, feeling safe, and staying safe wherever we are in the world. Sometimes that means physical safety. Other times it means emotional safety. Maybe spiritual or environmental safety is required to feel safe and connected to the present. Many people consider the obvious choices for self-protection and often forget that protection can be anything as long as it keeps us safe.

Self Protection in and of itself is neutral. Intention matters and can change what seems like a negative or destructive act of protection into something positive and healthy. The reverse is also true.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Examples: comfort food, exercise, video/computer games, and sleep.

That said, protection can be aggressive (guns, knives, shouting, bullying) or defensive (walking away, wearing body armor, or installing an alarm system); visible (medical alert bracelet) or invisible (mantra or positive affirmation); constructive (positive, safe, helpful, useful) or destructive (harmful, mean, dangerous, negative).

Sometimes the obvious kinds of self-protection are not as effective as we want or hope at helping us feel safe. That is where creativity and self expression come in to play because all parts of me believe this:

There are as many ways to protect and express ourselves as there are living beings in this universe.

AlterXpressions

How does it connect with Self Expression and Self-Care?

Self-Care includes being able to protect ourselves from danger. How we protect ourselves and what kind of danger we need protection from depends on the individual. We are unique beings with our own learning styles and ways of self-expression. Each of us has different fears and requires different kinds of options to protect ourselves. What works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me.

But what does work for all of us is learning the tools and skills that enable us to protect ourselves. The first step in that is understanding the different types of self-protection available to us. Then comes the hard part:

  • Learn the tools and skills (self-study and exploration, apprenticeship and mentoring, or educational classes – they all work)
  • Practice and apply that knowledge in our own lives (requires persistence, self-confidence, resilience, and making mistakes)
  • Use creativity and imagination to customize the the tools and skills to fit our needs (fosters positive self-image/body image, self-expression, and thinking outside the box)

In doing this, we all learn to safely express ourselves, feel more confident and secure in who we are as individuals, foster positive self-image, and empower ourselves to be independent.

4 Types of Self Protection Discussed Here

Physical Self Protection

More than self-defense, an alarm system, and weapons. It includes things like:

  • Fostering a neutral/positive self image through personal style
  • Creating ways to add movement into your daily routine (physical fitness)
  • Adding sensory grounding strategies and tools (physical objects) to your every day life style (aka magic bag)

Emotional/mental self protection

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills
  • Sleep Hygiene routines
  • Awareness strategies (self, other, emotional intelligence)
  • Self-Reflection, solitude, or alone time

Spiritual Protection

  • Spiritual practice rooted in unconditional love and acceptance
  • Meditation and breathing exercises
  • Energetic shields around my self & home
  • Meaningful, positive connection with self and others (aka support network)

Environmental Protection

  • Physical safe place(s) – home & a few other places
  • Mental safe space(s) – alternative to dissociation
  • Spiritual safe space(s) – aka nature, religious building, sanctuary as defined by you
  • Home decorating with feng shui & energy clearing practices

Final Words

Whether you are a trauma survivor or not, self-care is vital to our overall health and wellness. Self protection is one small part of self care that can teach and empower us to feel secure, safe, and confident in ourselves. It’s a process that takes a lifetime to learn and apply. But in the end helps in obvious and unexpected ways.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

Thanks for reading