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"Over the past year I took up exercising and cut out sugar, which resulted in me losing quite a bit of weight. I feel a lot better about myself and even strangers will comment on how great I look — so why do I still feel like I’m not good enough?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think we live in a world where pictures/video of “perfect” human beings are thrust into our faces at every turn. If someone isn’t thinner than us, they’re taller, or more tan, or have bigger boobs, or nicer lips, or a really cute laugh, or they went to an Ivy League school, or they have more money, or they have cooler clothes, or they get to travel more, or yadda yadda I could go on for HOURS. Something happened at some point, I don’t know where, when our society decided that differences were not to be celebrated. Instead, we were all supposed to strive for this strange form of ‘perfection’ which doesn’t even exist, we’ve made it up and changed it all along the way as often as possible. I have friends who have literally said they “hate looking asian” in pictures… GIRL, YOU ARE HALF JAPANESE, AND ALSO RIDICULOUSLY BEAUTIFUL. I have friends who spend money they don’t have so they can “LOOK RICH.” I have friends who will delete pictures from my phone because their “arms look fat.”

YALL. It’s out of control. We’re all obsessed with trying to be anything but exactly who we are. Do I know how to fix it? no. Do I know why it happens? No. Do I have the answers to our messed up society? Of course not. HOWEVER, I will tell you that the most important thing you can do is feel good about yourself. Regardless of how you look or dress or act, feeling good is key. We don’t even really pay attention when someone says something nice. Compliments are whatever. If they make you feel good, it lasts about four seconds before you begin to rip yourself apart again. Who cares what everyone else thinks!? Literally, even yOU don’t care. Feel good about you, because you are you, and you are the fucking best.

Take time every morning to look in a mirror, really appreciate the person you are and the person you’ve worked to become and the person you will grow to be. Think about all the things you love about yourself. Write a gratitude list. What makes you feel like you’re lucky as fuck? If it’s too hard, if you can only think of one thing, just add something to the list every day. Every morning write one thing and by the end of the month you’ll have a bad ass list of why your life fucking rules and why you are the fucking best.

Kristin Says:

This has absolutely nothing to do with the way you look.

Nothing.

I know you may think that I have totally missed the point here (‘Kristin, I LITERALLY just told you that this is because of the WAY I LOOK’) but I haven’t. Our eyes, even though they are scientifically sound little organs that are designed to perceive colors and lights and such… they are connected to our brains. And our brains cannot be trusted. Our brains are informed by all those things that Dannielle just discussed (media, gossip, and other human nonsense), and then they take those eye-organs and squish them up all funny so that we see things not as they are, but, instead, how we hope they aren’t.

I don’t know who is responsible for brains, but I would like to file a formal complaint.

The way you help make your eyes get unsquished is by focusing on what is happening in your brain. I feel you. Right now my brain is so twisted and mushed that I am also struggling on a daily basis with how I look, how I am perceived by others, and how I live my life. I know that, for me, this is because I am way, way too stressed out. I know that, for me, this is because I am constantly on a computer or a phone or WHATEVER instead of breathing air, seeing green, and thinking about the complexities and beauties of the world around me. That knowledge is critical, because it gives me power over my eyeballs. I know that I need to slow down. I know that I need to disconnect. And, when I do, my eyes start to unsquish… and I start to see myself. The real self. The one whose hair might be a mess or whose skin might be getting a little old or whose clothes might not fit quite right… and the one who has a good heart, who loves to laugh, who loves to create and inspire, and who — because of these things and these things alone — is beautiful no matter the clothing, the skin, the hair, or any other physical qualities.

You know that this is true, Anonymous, because you have seen humans of every shape and size and color and stature who have astounded you with their beauty… and that beauty is the direct product of who they are, of their person.

The magazines are bullshit, and they won’t help unsquish your eyes. Look to your brain, and think about what makes it hiccup, hesitate, and doubt. Slowly, work to change those things. Give your brain what it needs, and you will be able to see yourself – your very, very beautiful self – for exactly who you are.

***

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"I NEED FUN/NON EMBARRASSING WAYS TO EXERCISE. I’m pretty overweight at the moment but because of the stupid thing that apparently fat people trying to lose weight (jogging, going to the gym etc.) is hilarious I’m way too embarrassed to full out exercise in view of other humans. Any advice you lovely svelte ladies?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I’m sorry but, in what world is “fat people trying to lose weight is hilarious” ???? That’s really fucked up and if people are saying things to you that make you feel that way, 100% report them. If, however, that is a thought that’s just in you head. GET RID OF IT.

I think about 90% of working out is related to your brain. I know you have to do the physical activity blah blah blah. BUT you have to convince yourself to put the clothes on, to go to the gym, to not feel embarrassed, to keep going when you’re tired. It’s all one giant mind trick. The best way to push through is to switch your way of thinking.

I’ve spent countless years not going to the gym because I was afraid people were judging me. They were TOTALLY looking at me and thinking about how I was lifting weights wrong or not running long enough or they noticed I hadn’t been in a week.. you guys no one is lookin at you, nor do they care how you’re doing things and how often you’re there. SO KEEP THAT IN MIND. Also, taking classes is a great way to get your work out over with and be with a bunch of people in solidarity. No one can do every single move in every single class perfectly. Spin class, especially, it’s pitch black and you’re basically just bouncing, PLUS cheating is simple and EVERYONE DOES IT. aaaaaannnnddd the goal isn’t to get it perfect every time, it’s to get a little bit better every time.

Working out, like many things, is for you and you only. F what everyone else thinks and says, it’s not about losing weight, it’s not about looking cool, it’s about you wanting to feel good. The best way to feel good about yourself is to drop all those negative thoughts surrounding what others think about you. I promise, they’re not thinking about you.

Kristin Says:

Sworkit.

HEAR ME OUT.

While I agree with Dannielle about the fact that people need to back the fuck off and that you should NOT have to feel embarrassed about your body for any reason… I also know that there are a lot of broken people out there who do really stupid and hurtful shit when they feel people are “different” from them. So, if what will make you comfortable right now is working out in privacy, you should one million percent do so.

LUCKY FOR YOU, I WORK OUT IN MY HOUSE AND IT IS MY NEW FAVORITE THING AND I CAN TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT.

I recently downloaded an app called Sworkit Pro. It is nothing special… it’s just a list of exercises with a British lady-voice who tells you which exercise is next on your list. I am sure I know all the exercises in my own brain, but setting a time and having structure is critical for me to get shit done… otherwise I’m like, “Eh I lost count maybe that was 15 sit-ups whatever where are the cookies.”

In Sworkit, you choose what kind of workout you want (they have settings for streching, for yoga, for strength, for cardio, etc), and the time you’d like to spend on your workout. You can also set weekly goals and such. AND WHAT’S MORE, you can play music from your phone while the British lady barks at you, so when you are doing burpees you also feel powerful while Katy Perry is telling you to Roar.

I have to be very, very disciplined and make sure to do this every day before I shower. After I’ve showered I am hopeless bc by the time I finish working I want to eat and then I want to relax and I can’t motivate to jump around the house. You figure that part out for you, but do it at the same time every day, and be as strict with yourself as possible.

Lastly. Yoga & breathing are essential for me. My “routine” as it were is as follows: I do three rounds of breathing (my preferred breathing is the breath of fire). Then, I do three sun salutations, very slowly. Then, I do 15 minutes of Full Intensity Cardio via Sworkit. Then, I do 5 minutes of Head to Toe stretching via Sworkit. When I can, I add on a little more yoga time at the end to do particular poses (shoulder stand, headstand, tree, and twists are my favorites).

Now everyone knows all my secrets.
Happy SWORKING.

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"Do you have any advice on how to deal with low self-esteem? I’m really self conscious about some of my facial features- how do I move on from this? I know of a lot of people who have unique features, but they’re confident and love themselves, and because of this and their personalities I consider them to be beautiful."

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Gabifresh as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Gabi Says:

First off, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Having low self-esteem is tough, and can be detrimental when it starts affecting other areas of your life. The good news is that you are self-aware enough to realize it’s a problem and that you recognize looks aren’t everything. You hit the nail on the head when you said that confidence makes a huge difference in how people view you, so working on how you view yourself is what’s important—not whatever feature is currently bothering you. I have a couple pieces of advice.

1) One thing I always tell people is to make sure you’re choosing your media consciously. You’re reading Everyone is Gay, so you’re doing a good job already incorporating positive media into your life, but be careful of any TV/magazines you may be into that have judgmental undertones about celeb’s looks (reality TV/tabloids are probably the worst). I get that it’s hard—almost all pop culture references celeb’s looks in some way, and some of it we can’t avoid, but making a concerted effort to limit your intake and replace it with cool blogs or web series can truly have a positive and concrete effect on how you see yourself.

2) Try to cut out the negative self-talk. When you catch yourself saying or thinking something not so nice about yourself, force yourself to stop mid-sentence, and change it into something you like. For example, “I hate my crooked teeth” could turn into “I like my green eyes.” I know it sounds kind of cheesy and self-helpy, but it actually works over time!

3) What are your passions? What do you want to do in life? Focusing on your talent and skills is a great way to realize that you’re more than just your looks, and getting better at whatever it is that you want to do is a really satisfying feeling. Also, think about your life idols and what you admire in them. For example, I’ve been sort of freaking out about aging lately, and I make myself remember how much I admire women like Meryl Streep and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They’ve aged so gracefully because they’re strong, smart ladies with immense talent who are valued in their field. Their looks almost never come up because they are so well-respected for their other qualities. This helps remind me to focus on what I want to accomplish and be known for instead of the lines under my eyes or whatever.

If you’ve tried these things for a while and aren’t seeing improvement, I definitely suggest talking to a therapist. There are lots who specialize in body image/self-esteem. Good luck, friend!

***

Click through to read more about Gabi and our other Second Opinions panelists!

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"Hello everyone is gay, I called my grandmother today to thank her for the coat that she gave me and out of nowhere she says that she would pay my way for my schools trip to Europe that I couldn’t afford if I lost 50 pounds by June. I don’t believe in bribery as a way to get things in life, I don’t believe in fat shaming, or that someone’s health is based off a number. If she offers to pay without any compensations, should I say yes or stick to my guns?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think stuff like this is pretty fucked up. And I’m glad you have the wherewithal to be like “hey that’s not cool” because I think there are people all over the world who are just like “wow I must be horrible if my OWN GRANDMOTHER WANTS TO PAY ME TO CHANGE” .. It’s not cool and it’s not fair.

Okay but now let’s talk about this opportunity you have to travel the world. I can honestly tell you there is no experience like traveling. NONE. And in a situation where you’re safe and you have people telling you what to see and what things mean and what food is authentic. It’s pretty amazing. So, I think if she offers to pay without making you do anything that makes you uncomfortable it is TOTALLY OKAY to accept.

You might have a bad taste in your mouth at first, but you ARE sticking to your guns by NOT giving her a return, you know? You aren’t doing anything wrong by accepting her help AFTER she’s agreed that you don’t have to do anything in return. Don’t worry on that, you did exactly the right thing by turning down her original offer.

Kristin Says:

What the fucking fuck.

I agree with Dannielle on absolutely turning down the original offer – and I want to take it one step further and encourage you to use this as a way to open up a more critical conversation about what that original offer does to you. Your grandmother made you feel badly about yourself, and – just as you said – bribing you to look the way she thinks is best is absolutely unacceptable.

These bodies that we have are OUR bodies. We take care of them the way we want to take care of them, we treat them the way we want to treat them, and at the end of each day we answer to ourselves. Not to our parents, not to our friends, not to our grandmothers.

During our recent Indiegogo campaign, Dannielle decided that she was going to tattoo one of our donors names onto her arm as a reward for giving to The Parents Project. Dannielle puts a lot of thought into her tattoos, and each one has a particular meaning, and a connection to a time in her life. For her, choosing to get that tattoo was much more than a “reward.” It was a symbol of the work we’ve done over the past four years, a symbol of the incredible support shown to us by so many of you, and a marker of the work we will continue to do in the years to come. However… she didn’t say all of that. She didn’t have to. It’s her body. But… you know what? SO MANY PEOPLE CARED SO MUCH! They begged her not to do it, they pleaded with her to please not make such a horrible decision, they told her that it was silly or foolish or irresponsible.

As ususal, though… they didn’t know anything past their own perceptions of body image and body choices. They weren’t Dannielle. And they were wrong.

I say all of that because the reason your grandmother’s words are so upsetting to me (and likely, to you) is because she is assuming something about your body. She is assuming that it is, in some way, “wrong” or “bad.” And that isn’t her place (or anyone’s) to judge.

Tell your grandmother that her focus should be on making you feel good about who you are, whether that be by learning about the things that make you, you, or by sending you on a trip to Europe. Tell her that you love her, but that her words hurt you. Tell her that you would love to go on your school’s trip, but out of respect for yourself, you can only take her assistance if you feel that she is gifting you that money because she loves you, not because she wants to change you.

<3

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