re-picturing SWIMMING


My big toe skims the surface of the pool and the water feels colder than I expect. Although I instinctually pull my foot back, I force myself into the water to swim. In one swift motion, I plunge into the pool and dip my head under the water. I remind myself to breathe and settle into the front crawl.

As my hand slices the surface of the water, I capture a brief glimpse of the faded “T” that is tattooed on my wrist. I smile (and cough as I breath in a little water) and recall the reactions of my friends to my now almost non-existent henna tattoo. One friend wondered if it stood for Tom Tiegs and my husband plays along saying that he likes to have his women branded. Another wondered whether it was real (real henna-yes, permanent-no) and more to the point “what is that all about.”

My answer is simple. The T stands for Tribe. And thanks to Rebecca Murphy, I, along with 7 other women shared this symbol from our most recent gathering. Yes, the T stands for Tribe, but determining what the Tribe represents is much more complicated.

Anxious from the uncomfortable space of silence, I start rambling on and fumbling over my words. The questions feel pointed, even though they are motivated by friendly interest and curiosity. I try to find the language, but am at a loss.

So, I start with the real, the tangible, the concrete. Facts that I can logically piece together and articulate to others.

What is the Tribe? Well, the people of my Tribe are beautiful, creative, brave, authentic women who were willing to symbolically take the plunge and go to a creativity retreat with a group of women they had never met. I am still so grateful that Celina, Dar, Emily, Elizabeth, Meghan, Melissa, Sophie, and Rebecca said “yes” to that initial gathering of very different, but like-minded spirits. We came as strangers, but left as a Tribe. We are writers, photographers, painters, mosaicists, researchers, videographers, wives, partners, mothers, striving to be more authentic and creative, following our bliss. The Tribe is a scattering of women from across North America, but we congregate in spirit through our blogs and our “secret” Facebook group and in person in a rugged beach house on the Oregon coast. We do everything from the ordinary to the extraordinary. We prepare and eat meals together, we walk and run by the ocean, we dance. We create vision boards, we paint rocks, we voice dreams and fears aloud for the first time. The Tribe is about creativity, it is about connection, it is about drinking wine, it is about authenticity, it is about Mic Jagger.

Although my heart has a deep understanding of the Tribe, it hasn’t yet found the language to speak this truth to my mind (much less give me the words to explain it to others). Perhaps it’s the lack of oxygen that comes from being a novice swimmer or a momentary lapse in my racing thoughts as I fully immerse myself in the flow required to coordinate my limbs into one fluid swimming motion, but my mind is just quiet enough to hear my heart whisper that swimming in the water is a lot like being a member of the Tribe.

Some of us dove. Others waded. Still others got their feet wet, but decided that it was not yet their time to swim. Each woman in the Tribe ultimately plunged into the unknown, trusting the universe, trusting one another, and trusting herself.

Just as the Tribe requires us to share with one another wholeheartedly, swimming requires you to be all in. The legs can’t take a breather, leaving the arms to flail forward. You must be willing to give your whole self (even those parts that we often hide in the dark because they don’t feel so pretty – our insecurities, our anger, our not-quite-fleshed-out ideas, our what-ifs, our pettiness) and accept other people’s whole selves in return.

After having a long-standing running injury, I appreciate how the water supports me unconditionally. It’s not easy. I have to show up each day. And, even when busyness, fear, and feelings of not enoughness make me want to run, I know that the water is waiting for me to come as I am.

The water also offers gentle resistance as I move forward on my path. Likewise, the Tribe supports me, but also calls me on my shit. What do you mean you don’t have time to breath? You can’t prioritize 5 minutes for yourself? Hell, let’s breath now. Doesn’t that feel better? Yet, even with the gentle resistance that comes from moving in the water, I don’t sink.

The Tribe is linked to one another in the same way that the water connects all life in the sea. Although sometimes nothing is said, the Tribe hurts when one of our members feels alone or can’t speak her truth. Like a rising tide, a success of a fellow Tribe sister also raises us all to a higher level.

This year, the Tribe plunged into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. As with our first encounter, there were those who were instigators and others who were followers, but when it came down to it, there were 8 women throwing caution (and garments) to the wind as we raced toward the sea.

My big toe hits the surface of the ocean, quickly followed by the rest of my foot, calves, thighs and torso. Somehow, with these beautiful women surrounding me, the water feels warmer than I expected.

re-picturing MOTIVATION

If you are interested in topics of objectification and dehumanization please join us for the annual Symposium on Motivation on April 16th and 17th organized at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I have the great honor and pleasure to have organized a conference with distinguished speakers and guests from all of the world who are experts in these areas. Even you can’t visit Lincoln, you can stream the talks live on Monday and Tuesday. I’m bursting with excitement! Fingers crossed.




re-picturing TEARS

I was chatting with a friend about my grandmother recently and was startled when I said that she had passed away on March 4th. Wait a minute. Is that right? Could it have been almost a month since her death? How is that possible? I thought I would feel better by now.

Much of the time I do feel better, almost normal (or the new normal anyway), but often I feel pretty crummy. I may be fine for a few hours or even a day, but then the grief washes over me again and the loss cuts my heart just as strongly as it did on grandma’s death day.

As I work grow through this loss, I’ve learned that my grief is grounded in my body. When I’m perfectly honest with myself (instead of saying that death is a normal part of life and that I should get over it and just move on already!), I am not doing well. Or perhaps I am doing well, considering the circumstances. But I don’t feel good, at a deep, visceral level. I feel distracted during my days and nightmares of death and loss haunt my often sleepless nights. But I keep trudging on in my daily life. I have a conference to plan. I have a paper to resubmit. I have a dog to walk. And when I can’t express my grief, when I need to stuff it into my stomach and conjure up presentable smile, it manifests through my body. I feel out of sorts – tired, achy, dizzy, nauseous.

The upside of this grounded grief is that by expressing it through my body – I do feel better. When I am alone or in the company of friends, I find myself sometimes tearing up (sometimes sobbing) and although it sucks in the moment, it somehow feels better afterwards. Just as rain washes the grime of winter away to reveal the new life of spring, I can’t help but feel that this grief – including the blurry, muddied perspective that comes from my tears – is beautiful; it is an opportunity to grow in clarity, to reflect on what is important, and to appreciate the moment more (even when it seems unbearable).

What has your body taught you about grief?


Below is a short tribute to lessons of love and loss from my Grandma Mildred “Millie” Armistice Jensen who passed away last week.

Ice. One of my first memories of Grandma Millie involves icy roads. It was 5:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and my grandmother was fretting over the ugly storm that had blown in overnight. When I rode the school bus and met her at her green house on the corner the afternoon before, we heard rumblings of another storm, but we were not deterred. We had enjoyed tacos (as was often our tradition) down at Cindy’s, which was a bar and pool hall with a Taco Tuesday special. We had drunk Squirt and played Uno that evening until I nestled into bed with her – feeling warm and comforted as the wind roared outside.

We were now listening to WCCO (or “CCO” as she called it), a radio station out of the Twin Cities, to see if school was cancelled. If it was, we were in luck. But, if it was only 2 hours late, we would have to hit the road, despite the icy and windy conditions. My grandma was the cook at my elementary school, and even if classes started late, school lunch would be served on time. And that meant that Grandma Millie would have to venture onto the icy roads to Tracy, which was where the area school was located. Grandma worried about the weather, but she never used it as an excuse to skirt her lunch lady duties. If school was on, we would leave an hour early to slowly make the 13-mile hike north.

I guess it should come as no surprise that my last memories of her also involve ice.  I had heard that it might not be long – she wasn’t eating much and was losing weight. Although I had heard this story many times over the last 5 of her 91 years, like when she took a nasty fall down her narrow old stairs or when she fell and broke her arm – twice, this really seemed like the end. So, I struck out. Another nasty ice storm had made its way through the area and schools were first 2 hours late and then closed. As I drove to southwestern MN from my home in Lincoln, NE, however, I was struck not by the dangerous driving conditions, but by the beauty of the ice. A two-inch layer clung not only to the roads, but also to the trees – when the sun snuck out briefly that afternoon, it made the branches sparkle.

When we arrived at Prairie View Nursing Home, which had been Grandma Millie’s home for the past 2½ years, I was not prepared. She was a shell of the woman I had seen just two months before at Christmas. She was extremely thin. Dark circles formed under her eyes from dehydration. A wet towel rested on her forehead because of the fever. Her breath was quick and shallow. One of her eyes was closed and the other lay half open staring at nothing.

I cried. A lot. This was not the strong woman who I had known during most of my life; the woman who was fiercely competitive when it came to bowling and playing cards; the woman who spent her life serving others – from serving milk from the dairy farm with her husband Alden during the early days of their marriage to serving meals on wheels to the “old people” up until age 85. This was not the resilient woman who grew up wearing flour sacks during the depression, who survived the loss of her husband to a sudden heart attack in her mid-50s, or who religiously trucked to North Dakota to visit sisters even though they didn’t remember her visits due to Alzheimer’s. This was not the woman who loved to dance the polka.

This woman was not Grandma Millie.

So, I said my goodbyes and my “I love yous” and I left. I went back to my parent’s house. I soaked in the hot tub. I drank wine. I took Tylenol p.m., hoping to sleep. However, my slumber was restless and nothing tempered those images of her.

You are stronger than you think you are.

My friend, Lauren, had left me with this phrase during a phone conversation earlier in the week. Her words echoed in my head and became my mantra as I returned over the next three days to spend the last face-to-face time I had with Grandma Millie.

I’m embarrassed to say it, but my reaction from the day before had become the norm since she had become a resident of the nursing home a couple of years before. When I visited, she was mostly sleeping. It was unbelievable that a woman who hardly sat down during most of her life was suffering from bedsores because of lack of movement. Sometimes she was awake, but just stared back at me. Once and a while she would talk with me and in a few rare moments her words made sense. She told me she liked my earrings, obviously forgetting that before they were mine, they were hers. In response to “love you” I got “thank you.”

However, this was time was different. I knew in my heart that this would be the last time I would spend with Grandma Millie. So, rather than letting the denial, the anger, the guilt, and mostly the sadness overtake my heart, I stayed. I let the emotions rush over me, but they felt better than numbness.

You are stronger than you think you are.

So, on the first day, I pulled up a chair. I held her thin, mangled hand in mine and talked to her.  Hospice told us that her hearing would be one of the last things to go. We talked about some important things, but mostly the mundane. Our conversations were only interrupted as pieces of ice were flung from the trees hitting the windows.

The time passed quickly. I couldn’t believe another hour had gone by when the aids came to move her to a different position. But I also had difficulty remembering what day it was and how long I had been in this icy wonderland. Yes, the ice remained; it did not melt. The temperature hovered just below 32 and gray clouds blotted out the sun most of the time.

But during this cold and dark time, I got reacquainted with my warm and colorful grandmother. Things were not the same as they once had been, but the core of the relationship was still there, even if the roles were somewhat reversed.

She used to perm my hair. Now, I curled hers. She loved curly hair and even during her last hours, I knew she would want to look her best. So, I curled and combed her matted mane.

She used to insist that I clean my plate. Now I offered her a wet a sponge hoping to sooth her mouth, dry from her shallow breaths.

She used to take me to her Presbyterian church. Now I read her scripture and asked a pastor to come and pray with her.

Not everything was different. We played Uno. We played out Grandma Millie’s hand just as she would have (with lots of skips and draw twos) and as usual, she won.

I did not go through this alone. My parents, especially my mom, as well as my aunt Dorothy and uncle Wayne also spent many hours with her. My other uncles, Bruce and Glen, aunt Shari, and cousin Kathy arrived on Saturday, so that we would not have to shoulder the long hours keeping vigil alone. We sat around talking about the good times. Moments of laughter were peppered amongst the tears.

And amazingly, on that last night, Grandma Millie came back to us – just for a few moments. While we were talking with her, Grandma Millie’s gentle blue eyes replaced her distant gaze. When we looked at her, you could tell that she really saw us. I haven’t seen her that “with it” for a very long time. We took turns. I told her I was sorry for things I had done to hurt her. I told her I loved her, I respected her, I admired her. She tried to talk, but we reassured her that we knew how she felt and that she should rest and be comfortable. Shortly after, the distant gaze returned and happy hour (one of Grandma Millie’s favorite times of the day) was over.

As we left the nursing home, I noticed that the branches no longer slumped under the weight of the snow. Most of the slush from the roads was gone. Just as most of the ice had melted off the trees, so had it melted from around my heart. Just as ice turns to water, the love that Grandma Millie and I shared was the same, but manifested differently.


We almost made it. After getting a phone call shortly after midnight that the end was very close, we rushed back to the nursing home only to learn that she had passed away a couple of minutes before. I cannot help but think that this was purposeful on her part. Once happy hour had ended and most of us had gone, her breath slowed and she exited the party for good.

As we sat at the nursing home well past 2 a.m. waiting for the funeral director to arrive, my family sat in a circle. We mused silently. I whimpered. Letting the ice thaw from my heart made it hurt more now. Then, slowly we began to talk again. My uncle Bruce cracked a joke. I looked around and saw that although she was no longer physically with us, Grandma Millie lived on…her love, her laughter, and her lessons shared even in her last moments of life.

What lessons of love and loss has life taught you?


re-picturing CONNECTION

A couple of weeks ago, I got a peculiar note from a local playwright indicating that he had written a short play called “Oogle” that was inspired by an article describing some of my research. He (yes, it was a man who wrote this play) thought I might be interested in seeing an application of my work that I “might not have anticipated.” So, my husband and I ventured out (on Valentine’s Day no less) to “check out” this research-inspired production.

It was a 2-person piece in which a man was staring at a woman’s breasts as she was looking at a painting in an art gallery. Rather than ignoring it or leaving the situation, the woman instead confronted the behavior. She let the man know that even though he was “just looking” that his behavior was unacceptable. Spoiler alert. Only after she flashes him her breasts and then gouges his eyes out, leaving him blind, can they have a connected, intimate relationship. Somewhat even more interesting than what was happening on stage, was what was happening in the audience. People didn’t know whether it was a comedy or a drama. Nervous laughter escaped people’s lips.

We talk a lot about ogling, leering at, and “checking out” women in this blog.  I’ve talked about some of the consequences (distraction, safety concerns) here.

However, I wonder if at a more basic level, ogling makes us feel disconnected from the people around us. In a recent study published in Psychological Science, Eric Wesselmann and his colleagues trained one of their research assistants to avoid eye contact, make eye contact, or make eye contact with a smile to a passerby. Immediately following this seemingly innocuous gesture, a different research assistant approached the person and asked questions regarding connection. It turns out that even though only 45% of people consciously noticed the eye contact with or without the smile, they felt significantly less disconnected (and more connected) when someone had made fleeting eye contact, regardless of whether they smiled or not. I wonder if ogling someone serves the same excluding function as just avoiding eye contact altogether.

But here’s the rub. When you ask men about the purposes behind the gaze, they often say that it is flattering and represents interest (often romantic) toward the other person.

When do you feel truly seen by other people? Do any of these instances involve being “checked out?”






What happens when we get over the need to look perfect all of the time and see that we are enough, we are (imperfectly) beautiful, we are (already) pretty? Is that the destination, the end game? Actually, I think it’s just the beginning.

Once we accept that we are worthy, regardless of what our body looks like, then we can turn our attention to the real business of appearance authenticity. A different set of concerns start to surface. Questions change from “Do these jeans make me look fat” to “Do these jeans look like me? Do they reflect my style or what I truly value? Do they reflect on the outside what I think and believe on the inside?

You might not want to hear this (especially if you spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and money exercising, dieting, buying the latest fashion trends trying to “look good”), but it is actually much easier to accept the world’s view that we must look a certain way to be attractive and have worth. At least the world tells us exactly what this looks like and how to get there (if you doubt this, just open a fashion magazine – although on the surface the models may be different shapes and sizes, there is actually very little latitude in terms of what is considered beautiful in our culture). You need to be thin –diet and exercise. You need to dress fashionably – spend your money buying the latest fashion fads. You need to erase any signs that you are a human being – all hair (accept on your head) must go.

If we just listen to the world, then we don’t have to do the soul searching that might reveal our appearance authenticity – what our unique perspective and experience attracts us to in terms of our appearance. It’s actually very simple, but at the same time very difficult to do. We have to “check in” with rather than “check out” ourselves once and a while. What do you like? What do you prefer? I love turquoise. I hate yellow. Wool is itchy, but warm, so I always wear a cotton t-shirt underneath. I like the one-of-a kind pieces that come from local businesses and vintage stores. I want to buy from clothing stores that support my values. How much of your wardrobe actually reflects your true, authentic appearance?

Another shortcut we might use is to look around and find another woman who is exuding her authenticity through appearance. And we think, I want that. So, we go get her haircut, her clothes, or her bag.  However, playing dress-up with another woman’s authenticity doesn’t work. Once we don her costume, we wonder why we’re not exuding the same radiance as her. If we delved a bit deeper into what that urge really means, we would realize that her specific appearance doesn’t really matter. We don’t want to look like her. We don’t want to be her. But we do want to feel her authenticity. We want the feeling of being alive, being in the moment, of coming back (or going to) our true selves that comes from someone who knows who they are and is not afraid to show it to the world.

We also don’t do ourselves any favors by acting agnostic when it comes to our appearance. In graduate school, I had a consciousness-raising experience and was so angered by the fact that women were constantly judged (and never really positively) by our appearances.  We were judged as unworthy if we weren’t conventionally beautiful and we were judged as incompetent if we were. This was somewhat paralyzing when it came to my own appearance, so I chose to focus as little time as possible on it. However, whether we like it or not, we are always making choices when it comes to our appearance. We choose what to wear each morning. We choose to wear make-up or style our hair. We choose new clothes once our old clothes wear out.

We can choose to play it safe – by accepting what the world tells you about beauty, by trying on other women’s hand-me-down authenticity that will never really, or by acting as if appearance doesn’t matter. Or we can choose to search our deeper selves and start making sure that the outside reflects the inside.

When was the last time you “checked in” with, rather than “checked out” yourself? Does your appearance represent the true you?

re-picturing THE LOOKING GLASS

What relationship do you have with your mirror? Or perhaps more importantly, what relationship do you have with the self you see reflected back when you gaze into the looking glass?

In social psychology, we use the term the “looking-glass self,” to refer to the idea that our identity (at least partially) develops from how other people see us. Or perhaps summed up best by C. H. Cooley (1902) who coined the term: “I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am.” Although this applies generally to how we think others perceive us, it is particularly important to how other people view us through our appearance – the image that we project (sometimes purposefully, sometimes inadvertently) through the clothes that we wear, our make-up and hair styles, the way that we walk and hold ourselves, the emotions that we show, and the like.

How important is the looking glass to your identity?

One way to begin to consider this question is to examine your relationship with the mirror. Although mirrors are thought to merely reflect reality back to us, looking in them is actually an interactive process between the mirror and the viewer.

1)   How soon do you look in the mirror after the start of the day? I get out of bed and immediately capture a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I head into the bathroom.

2)   How often do you look in the mirror? A lot. I actually find myself inadvertently creating mirrors all around me. I notice my reflection in the door of the coffee house, my husband’s sunglasses, even the computer screen.

3)   Can you go into a room with a mirror and not look at yourself? Yes. Although now that I’m paying attention, I’m not sure how often I actually avoid (rather than seek out) mirrors.

4)   How many rooms in your home contain a mirror? All of my bathrooms, my dining room, my office. Not my bedroom, though.

5)   Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? Sometimes. More than sometimes. A lot. (This was a pleasant surprise. However, as I write this, my inner critic is screaming Narcissist! Didn’t the looking glass get him into trouble? Our culture has many narratives regarding the looking glass).

6)   Do you think the mirror actually reflects your true self? It depends. Sometimes I pose for the mirror very similarly to how I pose for the camera. I might suck my stomach in or smile similarly. I think this reflects one aspect of me, but not all of me.

7)   Do you look in the mirror even when you are all alone or not planning on seeing anyone else? Yes. However, I don’t think this is completely driven by always thinking about how others my see me. I want to completely engage my true self. My physical body and appearance is part of that.

Are you still having trouble determining what (if any) role the mirror plays in your life? You might consider going a day, a week, or even a month without mirrors. It turns out that you wouldn’t be alone.

I am simply enamored with Twyla Tharp and her book, The Creative Habit, which focuses on how creativity is accessible to everyone if we simply make the time and space to practice it. One part of the creative habit, according to Tharp, is to temporarily rid ourselves of the everyday clutter that distracts us from our own creativity. In this context, she suggests that we go a week without clocks, newspapers, even speaking, but perhaps most interesting to me was her suggestion to go a week without looking in the mirror.

See what happens to your sense of self. Instead of relying on the image you see reflected in the glass, find your identity in other ways. This forces you to stop looking at yourself so much and start focusing on others. You’ll be forced to think more about what you do, and less about how you look. There’s a difference between how you see yourself and how you think others see you; you might get confirmation back or you might be surprised. Either way, it’s a discovery process. It’s also a great technique for heightening your sense of curiosity. I guarantee that after a week without mirrors, you’ll be dying to see yourself again. It could be a very interesting reintroduction. You might meet someone totally new (Tharp, 2006, p. 33).

It turns out that Tharp is not the only woman to ponder the potentially distracting role (and other roles) that the mirror plays in her life. Check out the mirrorless, month-long journies of Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of the Beheld (love this blog!) and Marriane Power of Daily Mail.

What do you see when you reflect on (and focus on your reflection in) the looking glass?

re-picturing RESPECT

Although I can talk until I’m blue in the face about loving my body, one of the most frustrating experiences for me as an artist, researcher, and photographer is running into women who strongly dislike or hate their bodies or particular body parts. I want to shake my head at these women. And tell them how wrong they are…that they should love their bodies. Perhaps if I convince them, I can also convince myself. I love my body in a lot of ways, but there are still some aspects that I have yet to completely embrace.  And lately I’ve wondered whether love is the end game when it comes to our bodies.

Is it possible to love your body completely and fully all of the time?

I don’t think so. Progress and not perfection.

I’m wondering if a first stop along the way to the loving destination is to respect our bodies.

Generally speaking, respect is conceptualized as esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person. Applied to the body, it would involve seeing the body as worthy, even if it is not completely lovable. In fact, you could respect different aspects of your body without even necessarily liking (much less loving them).

Case in point. Have we ever talked about my feet? If so, you will definitely remember. I am not a big fan. My feet our wide and my toes are stubby, short, and crooked.  A friend of mine once told me that he would never walk around without shoes on if he had my feet. And last week, my physical therapist added further insult to my running injury.

Well sort of.

He told me that I had the biggest fat pad on my heel that he’d ever seen. Great. Another thing to hate about my foot. What is a fat pad, you ask? It is a one-inch structure on the heel that is designed to absorb shock and cushion the heel bone.  Although I’m not crazed about being a fatty when it comes to my feet, that fatty heel is one of the things that keeps me from injurying my foot during running. Do I love my fatty heel? No. Do I respect it and am I grateful for it? Well, yeah.

Do you think there is a difference between loving and respecting your body? In what ways do you love your body and in what ways do you respect your body?


“Do I worry about overly retouched photos giving women unrealistic expectations and body image issues? I do. I think that we will soon see a rise in anorexia in women over seventy. Because only people over seventy are fooled by Photoshop.” (Tina Fey, p. 157, Bossypants).

During our recent vacation, I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants and loved it. Seriously. I laughed aloud almost every other page. I didn’t even mind the curious, sometimes irritated, glances from fellow tourists. However, I have to take issue with Ms. Fey’s commentary on Photoshop. Even with her clever wit, I think she answers the wrong question when it comes to Photoshop and you won’t get to the right answers, if you ask the wrong questions.

Being fooled by lack of knowledge is not the problem with Photoshop.

Are you fooled by Photoshop?

I didn’t think so.

If you are…check out some of the most blatant Photoshop offenses. Unfortunately this is only the tip of the retouching tools.

Everyone knows that advertising + photoshop = ideal images of women (that even the models themselves cannot achieve). If you don’t believe me, check out this time-lapsed video of a cover shoot from Dove.

When we are able to look at advertisements rationally, we can see that Photoshop is used for one reason and for one reason only.

To make us buy, buy, buy. And, then, buy some more.

Everyone logically knows that the models used to sell products on the pages of fashion magazines (and everywhere else) aren’t real people.

The problem is that advertisers don’t try to appeal to our rational, logical minds. Because ads are everywhere, most of the time we are not even aware that we see them. Even though we see almost 3000 advertisements each day, for example, most of us could not pinpoint the last advertisement we saw. However, when you start paying attention, you will find them on almost every webpage you view, in your e-mail, on television, on billboards, on buses, even on the food we consume.

And, ads are most influential when we aren’t paying attention. Then they can prey on our unconscious, most basic emotions, fear, shame, guilt, self-disgust – the emotions of our inadequacies.

When we’re paying attention, we can see that advertisers copiously use Photoshop on models to make them look flawless and make us consumers afraid of getting fat, ashamed of and disgusted with the bodies we currently have, and inadequate if we don’t fit cultural ideals of beauty (young, extremely thin, perfect hair, white teeth, no blemishes, no wrinkles, large boobs, non-existent hips, and the list goes on). And guess, what? If tomorrow, we were all granted perfect, size-2 figures, then advertisers would use Photoshop to make models look heavier.

But, when we’re not paying attention (because we’re busy, tired, stressed, preoccupied), we don’t see the lies these ads sell. We just end up feeling afraid, ashamed, disgusted and guilty about our bodies.

Advertisers offer us the answer to the loathing of our imperfect bodies. And no, it is not to use photoshop on our own pictures (although I absolutely love this parody of photoshop, Fotoshop by Adobé. It treats Photoshop like the next fad diet or exercise regime).

The answer is to buy ______ (insert their product here).

Pay attention today. How are advertisers using Photoshop to make you feel the emotions of inadequacy? What can you do to reduce the impact of advertisements in your daily life?


This is the time of year for new beginnings, resolutions to stay the course or chart a new one, growing into the best possible version of ourselves.

And, we often have a list (sometimes a very long list) of resolutions that involve changing our bodies. Lose 20 pounds.  Stick to a new exercise routine. Sleep more.

But, how new are your new year’s resolutions? Mine seem hauntingly familiar to last year. And, guess what? I weigh the same as last year, I’m exercising the same as last year, and I still have chronic insomnia.

I wonder if the problem isn’t our bodies, but rather our resolutions.

Perhaps instead of resolving to change our bodies in radical ways, we might resolve to radically change how we think about our bodies. Perhaps instead of making sweeping changes on January 1st, we might try to make small changes throughout the year. I’m trying to love (or at least appreciate) a different aspect of my body each month. I’m starting with the easy ones…my ability to run, breathing as a way to feel totally alive in the moment, using fashion to accentuate the body parts I love (or at least don’t hate).

Are you making some truly new, New Year’s resolutions when it comes to your body? If so, I’d love to hear what they are and how their going!

Cheers to a new year and new (year’s) resolutions!