For August, I'm kicking off the month with kick-ass woman and advocate, Ashley Solomon. Enjoy!
Dr. Ashley Solomon is a psychologist who specializes in working with people with eating and body image issues. She writes a blog called Nourishing the Soul where she offers thoughts on our relationships with food and body, self-improvement, and recovery. She likes to tweet, facebook, and sometimes even engage in real-life conversation. She lives in Chicago, IL and enjoys witty books, stationery stores, and dark chocolate.
1) What made you so passionate about body image?
Like many of us who have grown up in the culture of MTV and beauty pageants and Weight Watchers, I was acutely aware of my own body from an early age. I spent hours of time with my mind wrapped up in my physical body, and unfortunately much of that time was spent in an awareness that was laced with feelings of shame. Meanwhile, I was also absolutely fascinated by human nature, the brain, and how people related to one another. And I was raised by a mother who instilled in me a unwavering belief in the strength of women. So this perfect storm of my own emotional intelligence, body image issues, feminism, and passion for psychology led me to wanting to understand body image as best as I possibly could. I wanted to understand why our feelings about our bodies played such an enormous role in the ways that we relate to ourselves and others. I wanted to understand how our physical and spiritual and emotional and cultural selves intersected and it occurred to me that all of this is encapsulated in body image. And I wanted to help others heal their relationships with their bodies. I’ve learned that these goals are big ones since beginning this work, but I’m okay with that!
2) What is your biggest dream for all women?
Oh, wow! Where to begin… My dream for women is that they learn to approach themselves with not just the same compassion that they show others, but more compassion. What I’ve learned is that we as women must both be connected to a greater community and be our own independent selves. Developing compassion for ourselves allows us to do both – stand strong and alone when necessary and to connect in real and genuine ways when we can. I also dream that women are able to come together in ways big and small to promote social change. It’s frustrating to see how women can sometimes become each other’s enemies rather than allies. We need a collective voice to ensure things like the ending of maltreatment, equal opportunities, and even a healthier environment. And I dream that women will one day be able to throw out their scales and the need to measure self-worth by a number. And it would be great if we could all meet Oprah, too. I think that’s it.
3) What have you overcome in your own life?
I’ve of course had my fair share of trials and tribulations – illnesses, family discord, heartache, professional disappointments, and more. But what I have worked hardest in general to overcome is my own need for order and control in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to predict the future, to do the exact right thing, to avoid things that are messy and chaotic. But I’ve realized life isn’t about all that. It’s about wading into the muck and tolerating uncertainty. I’ve gotten much better, but it’s still something I work on every single day.
4) What does your future look like?
What I’ve found is that every time I try to answer that question for myself, I get totally lost in it. I tend to be extremely goal and future-oriented, which serves me well at times professionally (like getting through graduate school!), but at other times really ties me down. So I’ve been working on letting go of knowing what the future will hold and being comfortable trusting that it will be bright. I think I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to ensure that I’ll be happy, when that’s really not the goal. I’m sure that the future will hold lots of pain and discomfort (as life tends to do), but I just hope I can approach whatever comes my way with willingness. But to give at least one specific answer, one thing I hope my future holds is writing a book. That’s been my dream since I was a child. I just have to come up with an idea!
5) What are 3-5 things women can do to love their bodies a little more every day?
I think it’s so important to reconnect with our bodies in ways that make us feel powerful, connected, and strong. We need to engage in exercise and movement that makes us feel excited and joyful.
I think setting boundaries about our bodies is important in establishing a sense of ownership and strength for ourselves, and for helping to create a more respectful culture. I think that we need to let others know when we’re not comfortable with comments made about our own or others’ bodies. Some people call this “fat talk,” but whatever you call it, if it makes you cringe, you should speak up.
Recognize that body shape and weight will naturally vary through the life cycle and even week to week. Being glued to the mirror and the scale takes us away from the things that are most important to us – our relationships and the things that we actually enjoy doing!
Finally, it’s so important to recognize that you will at times have negative thoughts about your body. We’re not superwomen! Developing positive body image doesn’t mean feel one-hundred percent confident at all times. It means learning to accept that our minds will sometimes play games with us and going about living our lives anyway.