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I decided to do it – attempt Black Friday. I wasn’t going to but I woke up early Friday morning and decided that I would take on the crowds and be part of the hustle of bustle everyone always talks about. Little did I know that I would end up dealing with my body image.
I figured people had already started the night before when stores opened at 5 pm on Thanksgiving which I felt was absurd. After my entrance into the store, I witnessed a customer yelling at a sales clerk, a wife yelling at a husband, and a mother yelling at a kid – all within 7 minutes.
Holiday Shopping Panic
Then it happened – I slowly started to feel the panic creep in. The thoughts about what if I had missed the deals? I started to feel a sense of urgency. A feeling that I was going to be left out or worse, be left with nothing.
What if I came too late? What if I don’t have enough time before the sale ended? I found myself in the middle of the store breathing heavily, heart rate elevated and panic surging through my body. I knew this feeling. I have studied it and I have experienced it.
Body Image Thoughts Spiraling Out of Control
I was starting to have a panic attack. The spontaneous thoughts continued – what if I don’t get the perfect gift, the perfect party dress, and of course the perfect shoes. And then what if I don’t have the perfect body.
Wait! What happened?! How did it go from finding the perfect sale to the perfect body? How did I end on that? I, of all people, know better than that? Don’t I? All of it started to hit me that I had officially fallen into the vortex of American commercialism. They had got me!
I became victim to the very thing I am trying to avoid during the holidays. The very thing that I am trained to avoid and be aware of during the holidays – the holiday consumerism plague.
Creating a Fear and Solving it By Spending
I calmed myself by leaving the store. I did some self-care by going and getting some soothing tea, and did some cognitive restructuring, “Cabrera, get yourself together. You know that this is exactly what “they” want – create fear and panic in people to pressure us to spend money. You know this has nothing to do with your body!”
We can all fall prey to the holiday madness and chaos. However, holidays, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, or any other December celebration – it is about the joy of each moment of time that you spend with one another.
“They” make you feel as if you must have “it” to have the perfect holiday season and to in-turn be perfect. In my book, Mom in the Mirror, I talk about the need to find control in our lives by trying to be perfect in every way – the perfect house, kids, husband, and wife, and yes, body.
Daring to Become Real, Not Perfect
In my book, I write that it is about daring to become real. Perfectionism is a mask that we cannot sustain. People will often love the mask but never learn the real you underneath it and thus will not truly love you for you. It’s about being real and connected.
Also, holidays are about the lives we touch, the laughter, the kindness we show others, and time. Time to be truly real. It’s about making gingerbread cookies with your kids but realizing that you really don’t like gingerbread.
Life is about being real. It is not about the sales, the perfect gift, it is not about food or your body. It is about realness that allows us to shine our inner light and share hope with others. I asked my kids the other day, “What do you remember about last Christmas?”
My children answered, “Christmas Eve when we drove around looking at lights, drinking hot chocolate, eating gingerbread cookies, and singing carols.” They didn’t even mention any of the gifts they received, not one!
Creating Special Times for Yourself
Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle and forget to smell the trees, the candles or the fresh baked cookies. Don’t get caught in the vortex of panic and fear. Instead, create special times for yourself.
Realize it is not about your body, the food, or the perfect outfit that makes the holidays. It is about the connection you have with others. As psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, “People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” With this, I encourage you, to resist and be mindful of being swept away by the holiday commercialism and consumerism. Ignite the inner light, and then just let it shine.
About the Author:
Dena Cabrera, Psy.D., CEDS, is the Clinical Director of the Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. Dr. Cabrera oversees all clinical aspects of patient care, leads program development and directs staff training and supervision throughout the Rosewood system. Prior to being appointed as Rosewoods’ Clinical Director, Dr. Cabrera served two years in the role of Clinical Director of Adolescent Services, and Director of The Rosewood Institute.
Dr. Cabrera is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist with a wealth of diverse clinical experience including 19 years treating individuals, families, and groups with a range of medical and psychiatric disorders. Her specialized training includes neuropsychological and psychological assessment, dialectical behavior therapy, as well as the cognitive-behavioral treatment for patients with developmental disorders, behavioral problems, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Dr. Cabrera is a nationally recognized eating disorders expert. She has authored numerous articles and publications and is honored by her academic and clinical peers for contributing vital resources to the field of eating disorders. She most recently co-authored, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy (Rowman & Littlefield), a first resource of its kind that speaks to moms, and those who love them, through a personal and compassionate lens that assists in healing from body-image disturbances and eating disorders.
Dr. Cabrera is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Academy of Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. She received her Master of Arts and PsyD in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 6, 2018
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com