For when you feel guilty about creating boundaries.

She rang the doorbell, showed me a sheet of paper with 5 questions on it and asked if I would answer them. I said yes, but this is what actually happened:

She used each of my answers to springboard into a detailed marketing pitch for her company.

After listening patiently as she did this on the first 3 questions, I rushed through the last two and said goodbye. And even though I was kind about it, when I saw her disappointed face, I felt guilty.

My story says something about slack marketing tactics, but really, I’m more interested in this:

Women have spent centuries being told that demurely whispering out a ‘yes’ to every request is why we’re on this planet. That shit goes deeeeeep, which is why even when we get better at saying no, the guilt fires still burn for many of us.

And there’s no magic pill here. Undoing eons of denial and avoidance doesn’t happen in a moment.

It happens when you repeatedly remind yourself that you’re not a bad person for saying no to someone’s request, so you can say yes to yourself.

It happens in surrounding yourself with people who celebrate your boundaries – even if you create boundaries with them.

The first step in true self care isn’t buying a new bottle of bubble bath – it’s believing that you are worthy of care at all.

It’s loving your No just as much as your Yes.

It’s remembering that whether others value your time or intent is not the point. The point is that YOU value yourself.

My response to “Weight loss is about being healthy”…

When I hear someone say “Weight loss is about being healthy”, I want to boil the kettle, serve up a slice of their favorite pie, and say this:

If you devote yourself to building a more compassionate and loving relationship with your body, and in that process you lose weight, that’s awesome. I did. I’m not at all knocking weight loss. Here’s what I AM concerned about:

Do you know WHY you want to lose weight?

And I’m not talking about the quick, habitual answer everyone expects. I’m talking about the down down deeper reason.

Years ago, when I was actively trying to lose weight, I told myself and the people around me that it was all about “health and wellness”, but I was running a Grade-A con on myself.

I had drunk the weight loss kool-aid.

Underneath my desire to lose weight was the belief that if I didn’t change myself, I wouldn’t be respected, I wouldn’t know what true confidence felt like, I wouldn’t be sexually desirable.

I’m not a medical profession. I don’t know what your body needs. And I’m not at all suggesting that weight loss is a ‘bad’ goal. But if you are trying to lose weight, I am encouraging you to also explore the deeper truths in your mindset about body, beauty, attractiveness and social value.

Sometimes, weight loss is connected to a legitimate health issue but I know sooo many people (I used to be one) who are pushing themselves to drop pounds because they’ve bought into the idea that a smaller body or cellulite-free thighs are the most attractive and valuable.

The underlying belief is that if there’s less of you, your life will feel like MORE.

And as my favorite line in Forgetting Sarah Marshall says: “Boolshit. Boolshit. Boolshit.”

When I recognized the absurdity in that logic (aka: no logic), and focused less on losing weight and more on building up my relationship with my body, my body naturally changed in some ways, and not in others.

But what mattered MOST was that my peace of mind and quality of life skyrocketed.

I walk into a room like a different woman now.

I’m so much more confident and clear about my gifts as a writer and a coach.

And that’s more valuable to me than abs.

So instead of putting weight loss on a pedestal, what if your priority became finding peace in, and with, your body?

What if the mission to change your physical self morphed into a mission to free yourself from the chains of someone else’s body lies?

What if it all became about feeling joyful, at peace, and in appreciation of yourself? What about that?

My work is about helping you come up with your own unique answers to these questions, so you can feel better in your body, at work, in your love life, everywhere.

If you want to know more about what your personalized process might look like, click here to email me.

New Year. New Everything.

xox

The million dollar question. Are you asking it?

There are rivers of gold in understanding the deeper WHY behind your choices. Here’s a personal example:

I usually leave my phone at home when I go for a walk. Initially, I was quite proud of the phone-free part. Until I asked myself “Why?” and realized that underneath the talk about mindfulness and mother nature, my bigger motivation was: “See! I’m not one of those permanently-glued-to-my-phone people! I can be namaste and present n’ stuff.”

It was about proving my goodness. It was rigid and checklist-y.

I wasn’t tuning in. I was hustling for my peace and fyi: that never works.

It took some doing and patience, but in time, I let that proving and pushing go. Now, I still take walks without my phone, but instead of fiercely stomping off to prove something, it’s actually about breath and shoulders and leaves.

On the surface, it looks the same – woman sans phone.

Under the surface, I’m vibing on a whole new strut, and without exploring my “why”, I wouldn’t have found it. “WHY?” is a million dollar question.

Why is that your goal? Why are you eating that? Why did you choose those clothes? And that person? Why are you in that job? Why is your money going there, and not there?

Ask yourself “why?” more.

My childhood food story.

childhood-platesThese are the plates I grew up eating on.

My first lessons about the food I ate (and other people’s opinions about that food) happened on these plates.

Most of those early lessons were the things you’d hope for. Laughter in the kitchen and at the table. The passing down of recipes and traditions. Food as a connector.

In the Caribbean, food is its own love language. When you walk into someone’s house, the first thing they’ll ask you is, “You hungry?” and no matter how you answer that question, plates and bowls will come out.

This is why I grew up knowing food as a source of care, comfort, generosity, welcoming.

And I also learned that food came with rules.

Food had limits and expectations, which the chubby-cheeked youngster that I was seemed to violate exceptionally well. My food choices were regularly teased and openly insulted. Before I’d turned 12, someone close to me suggested I replace dinner with a can of SlimFast.

And all this created a paradoxical pattern:

annika-sunflower-hatI reached out for food constantly, as a stand in for the affirmation and comfort that I was craving.

But even though I saw food as a source of comfort, I was also scared of food. I was scared of violating its rules – namely, eating too much, too often, or eating the ‘wrong’ kinds of foods. If I broke the rules, I’d be ‘a bad girl’ and my book nerd, highly sensitive, pig-tailed self was terrified of being bad.

Here’s how I resolved the conflict in my pattern: food became a drug that I only allowed myself to take a hit from when other people weren’t looking.

I became a pro at quickly shoving a piece of cornbread in my mouth and then turning into the open fridge door, or pretending to look for something in one of the cupboards, so that no one would see me chewing.

I wanted nourishment (of many kinds) and I was trying to get it from food. And I was ashamed of my wanting.

Food became a container I could pour my sadness into, and by pouring it all out, I could set that burden down and find a few moments of relief.

But like all temporary fixes, it was temporary. And so the cycle went on and on.

Some people grew up being told they weren’t smart enough, or pretty enough, or they didn’t come from the right part of town. Those weren’t my struggles.

My struggle was being told that my body (and everything I wanted to put in my body) was ‘bad’. That no matter how great my grades, how sparkly my smile, or how successful my parents were, because of this body (and my apparent inability to change it), I would never be good enough.

– – –

This is why I do the work that I do. Because I spent a couple decades living up close and personal with the truth that how you feel about your body affects EVERY part of your life.

It showed up in my relationship choices. It showed up in my professional choices. It showed up in the clothes I wore (and the ones I refused to). It showed up in the silent, cruel thoughts I had when I was alone.

That’s why I’m so passionate about deconstructing the idea that your body’s worthiness lies in someone else’s opinion of your thighs.

That’s why I’m quick to call out the twisted cultural logic that says a smaller body is an inherently more beautiful and valuable body.

That’s why I WILL NOT STAND for the lie that your dream partner will only want you if you lose a few pounds. Or that the career growth you want lives on the other side of dropping a dress size.

One piece of the body puzzle is your relationship with food. Is food a source of energy and delight for you? Or is your food story coated in some crusty-looking, dank-smelling goo that needs to be thrown out STAT? If it’s the latter…

Next week, I’m teaching an online workshop called Food as Joy (not a sedative).

For most people, the holiday season brings on mountains of food and the tiniest bit of stress can have even the most mindful person swan diving into the mac n’ cheese. In this workshop, you’ll learn tools and techniques to interact with the buffet table more consciously, so that you enjoy food, instead of using it as an emotional sedative.

Sign up for the workshop HERE.

food workshop - annika martins

Your food story is not tattooed on your forehead. It’s not permanent – at least, it doesn’t have to be.

I updated my food story and yes, cornbread and I are still good friends, but we’ve taken our love public and we’ve become more thoughtful about our moments of mouth-to-mouth contact. It’s much more wholesome for both of us. : )

In the workshop, I’ll be sharing more of my story and giving you details galore on the mental and practical shifts that will help you create a saner, kinder and more delicious food story. I hope to see you there!

xox
Annika

Show up for the community and the individual.

The call to become more politically and socially conscious and engaged is ringing loud and clear, and I’m saluting those bells. There’s major systemic work to be done in every country (not just America).

But also, I’m wondering this… What about your personal work?

For years, a lot of us have been so focused on our individual stories and priorities that we’ve missed (or straight up ignored) the larger cultural stories unfolding around us.

And we’ve seen the error in that and we’re working to turn it around. But I’ve noticed some folks swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction, diving headlong into others-oriented work so completely that their individual story seems to be falling off the map.

Of course, some of our individual healing and growth will naturally happen through engaging and supporting others, but not all of it. Personal growth needs an intentional space and focus of its own.

Community healing is not more important than personal healing. They need each other. We need them both.

We’re part of the whole and we’re also individual selves, and it’s mighty dangerous to fixate on one arena and ignore the other.

We need the political and the intimate.
The external and the internal.

I’m doing my best to be thoughtful and intentional about my personal work AND my role in broader community work, and I hope you’re doing the same.

Because we cannot heal the world if we keep avoiding our own stuff – and eeeeverybody and their mama has stuff.

We’re all works in progress. Our wholeness needs our attention.

xo

A swimsuit, bee sting breasts and people who think your body is their business.

It was the aquatic version of Sports Day (did that have a name? Pool Day?).

I waited until the last possible minute to go into the girls locker room to change into my swimsuit. I stalled until the loud speaker announced my race was coming up.

I sucked in my belly and stepped out of the locker room with my arms wrapped across my flat chest, forming an X that conveniently covered my small breasts. I justified this awkward pose by saying loudly to the girls nearby, “Oh my gosh, it’s so cold! Aren’t you cold?”. I fake-shivered for emphasis.

(I went to school in the Caribbean. Nobody was cold.)

After I pretended to be cold to a few more people, I turned towards the starting blocks and almost bumped into James (name changed to protect the ignorant).

Without skipping a beat, he eyed my body from top to bottom and said, “You really have a beautiful face, but your body doesn’t match up.”

He said it just as casually as he might have told me the granola bars were really good and I should get some before they ran out.

And he walked off just as nonchalantly. No big deal. It’s whatever.

I jumped in the pool and swam so hard that I beat my personal record.

And I didn’t wear a swimsuit in public for another 15 years.

– – –

There is nothing rare about what happened to me that day at the pool. You probably have a story like this, too. (Maybe you have so many versions of this story, it’s hard to keep track.)

A story of an insensitive ‘joke’.

A story of relatives claiming ‘tough love’ to justify un-loving behavior.

A story of violation. Of boundaries crossed.

A story of feeling unsafe (emotionally or physically) because your body was mistreated, rejected, or entirely overlooked.

Most of my clients have at least one story like this, and at least one ‘James’ in their life.

It’s that person who believes your body is a bulletin board they can pin anything to. That person who thinks they’re ‘helping’ you by challenging your eating or exercise habits every.single.time they see you.

And with the holidays coming up, you might be tensing in anticipation of seeing that person.

You’re going to sit through (what feels like a thousand!) family dinners and holiday lunches with your very own ‘James’ sitting right across the table from you.

And you know what I have to say to the James’ of the world?

NOT THIS YEAR, BUDDY. This year is going to be different.

That was the declaration I made to myself after I realized how long I’d let that James moment (along with several other James-esque experiences) define my life.

I let his opinion decide whether I could swim in the ocean or go to a pool party. I let his assessment of my body fuel the anxiety that lead me down a path of self-sabotage and overeating. For years.

Everything changed for me when I decided to take back my life from the ‘James’ people.

I recently posted about the crap that someone told me she deals with at her family holiday gatherings on Facebook and so many people responded to say “Me too!”

That, combined with how many women who’ve told me they secretly dread most holiday events because of their fears about their body being judged or criticized, inspired me to do this..

I’m hosting 2 holiday-themed workshops over the next 2 months. I’ll tell you more about them next week.

Basically, my hope is that they’ll help you have a very different holiday experience this year. They’ll help you face your ‘James’ moments in a new way, in a way that leaves you feeling stronger and more self-loving, instead of wanting to swan dive into the macaroni and cheese.

So until next week, sit with your version of my James declaration:

Not this year, buddy. This year will be different!

And so it shall!

xo
Annika

We’re all works in progress. If we admitted that, it’d be so much easier.

WORKS IN PROGRESS

I saw a video of a woman lip syncing to a Kelly Clarkson song and my immediate reaction was: “WTF? Why is she posting this? Why does she think we want to watch her 4 minute lip sync dance party? This is lame.”

After seriously pondering this for a few minutes, here’s where I landed:

She posted it BECAUSE SHE FELT LIKE IT. Because she was having fun. Because she wanted people to lighten up, and shimmy to the tunes that speak to their hearts, the way Kelly Clarkson speaks to hers. Because this was her way of trying to connect, to inspire laughter and joy.

But why was this not my immediate response? Why did I have to exert so much effort to see her video through gentler, more optimistic eyes?

Here’s why:

I’ve got a hefty dose of cynicism floating around in my head. (I went to business school, after all, where cynicism is pumped into the air at 15 minute intervals.)

A lot of my life’s earliest experiences primed me to only value the A+ excellent, the high production value, top-notch, super-duper perfect. Because her video was not these things, I snarked.

My tendency toward skepticism and criticism is something I’m working on. It’s happening less and less, but it still occasionally rears its head. It’s one of my works in progress. And when it does show up, instead of attacking myself for being unkind or too rigid (used to do that – it doesn’t help – ever), here’s what I do:

I ask to soften. I invite compassion and hopefulness. I return to my desire for a wide open life that gives me space to be my true self, which means extending that same spaciousness to everyone else.

We’re all always learning and growing. I’m working on my stuff. You’re working on yours. To pretend that we’re not is to lie; to present false selves.

We are all works in progress.

If we could all get a bit more comfortable owning our messy, en route, majestic lives, we’d be so much kinder to ourselves when our old stuff shows its face. And we’d be more patient and tender when our friends and family flounder with their own messes. But most importantly, we’d probably spend more time laughing and participating in lip sync dance parties and really, what is better than a lip sync dance party?

Anything?

Puppies, maybe. But not much else.

So here’s to our in-progress-ness. May we never again be ashamed of the ways we’re still struggling. May we be kinder to our ever-growing selves. May we love our works in progress.

xo
Annika

Online dating, sexual assault and pointing the finger in the right direction.

#melonsandcourage

I got this message from a dude on an online dating site: hey sexy one got a big booty

After the punctuation captain inside me did a few head rolls, here’s what this message stirred up in me:

At some point (likely more than once), this guy learned that this way of thinking about and speaking to women works. He saw other guys do it with success, or he just fumbled around on his own and voila, a lady turned her head and actually responded. This way of relating to women was affirmed and proven effective, which is why he keeps doing it.

And that, we can do something about.

Yes, I was very tempted to spend a significant amount of time calling him an objectifying douche face (among 14 other things), but instead, I’d rather explore questions like this:

When was the last time a guy in my family or circle of friends and colleagues said something that I “let him get away with”?

Did I tell myself it wasn’t my business, or my place to challenge him?

Was I afraid he’d turn things around and label me ‘over-sensitive’ or say I can’t take a joke?

Even if we never directly experience sexual assault or harassment, we are all swimming in the same waters, so ignoring that teenager’s “joke” or overlooking your co-worker’s comments about a celebrity’s weight or worse, your weight – these apparent non-actions are, in fact, active.

Every time I don’t speak up about the things happening in my community and circle of friends, I am helping archaic definitions of masculinity and femininity thrive.

We have a responsibility to one another.

The bar doesn’t get raised by some invisible contraption. WE are the bar-raisers. We raise expectations and teach our sons and brothers and lovers how to honor us. We create our standards, and teach our daughters and sisters that they are worthy of their own. And there are ways men teach us, too. We’re all always learning and growing.

It’s so easy to label someone as ignorant and write them off. It’s harder (and the work of true transformation) to look at our own history and behaviors and the ways in which we ever-so-subtly have made certain ideals and actions okay, simply by being silent about them.

We are always making a contribution. Is our contribution raising the bar or keeping it where it is?

Say how you feel. Question someone’s ‘joke’. Point out the hypocrisy, the sexism, the ageism. This is how the bar gets raised. One honest, loving (likely uncomfortable) conversation at a time.

Nobody said this soul centered life would be only puppies and caramel. Some days it requires a deep breath and ovaries the size of watermelons (figuratively, not literally – ouch).

Melons and courage to us all, lovelies. #melonsandcourage

xox
Annika

Being a dreamer does NOT make you lazy. My Future Visualization.

3 min visualization

Years ago I posted something on Twitter about the power of spending time every day dreaming about your future. A friend huffily said, “Dreaming!?! How about taking ACTION instead?”

Here’s what I didn’t say to her then, and I’m saying to you now:

Dreaming of your future IS an action. It’s part of how you consciously create, and plan for, your upcoming reality.

It’s short-sighted to focus only on the boots doing the walking. We also need to pay attention to the brain that told the feet in those boots to move in the first place.

Vision and action go hand in hand. Boot in boot.

I used to think it was enough to casually consider the future I wanted. I would let the whisper of those dreams float across my mind at random, and figured that was just fine.

But that casual consideration of my future made me susceptible to other people’s ideals and dreams for my tomorrow. So instead of making choices that came from my heart, I was floating along with the status quo and ignoring the low-grade dissatisfaction ticking through my days.

That all began to shift when I started spending just 3 minutes every day, sitting with my eyes closed, dreaming up the future I truly wanted.

And boombamshazam. Opportunities, resources and exciting ideas started to roll in.

And to be clear…

It wasn’t that I just sat there in visualization-mode and Life plopped all these shiny objects on my lap. Sometimes, those 3 minutes generated ideas and plans that required hard work and plenty-plenty sweat from me. Sometimes, during those 3 minutes, a person I hadn’t spoken to in years would flash across my mind, and it turned out they were the perfect person to help with a problem I was struggling with. Sometimes, those 3 minutes just made me feel good, so I was a kinder, more patient person for the rest of the day.

Spending time dreaming about the future you desire isn’t some hokey justification for extreme detachment or laziness. It’s a way that you’re consciously and actively creating your life, instead of just passively stumbling around in it.

What does your 3 Minute Future look like?

Let’s do it right now. Set a timer. Close your eyes and spend the next 3 minutes ‘seeing’ the future you want – in your business, in your relationships, in your body, in your joy.

Be open to receiving insights, guidance and encouragement.

Feel it, know it, and activate that future for yourself. Now.

xo

Astrology and the willingness to be complicated and gorgeous.

In most astrological traditions, your rising sign and your moon are considered 2 of the 3 most important signs in your chart. Both my rising sign and my moon are in Cancer.

Cancer feels all the feels. Cancer is soft, loyal and maternal. Cancer wraps you in a blanket and feeds you pie when you’re having a bad day.

When I first had all this explained to me, I latched on. After years of being criticized for being too sensitive, shy, and moody, I finally had language to explain my natural tendencies in a positive, affirming light. It felt like coming home to see myself so clearly inside a category of belonging.

But inside that craving for a label that explained me to myself, I became narrow-sighted. I defined myself by all the tender-hearted Cancer in my chart, and ignored the other important sign in the trio: my sun. My boisterous Leo sun.

Leo goes hard on the dance floor. Leo is a passionate, creative, bold fire. But I spent years denying this part of myself because that double Cancer was running the show.

I thought that I needed a single label; that there had to be one dominant trait that represented me more than the rest.

Because I have a lot of soft in me, I labeled ALL of me as soft. But the truth is that I am Cancer soft and Leo saucy. I am both, not either / or.

Having one characteristic doesn’t mean that you’re only allowed to be that one thing.

You can be fiery and tender.
You can be crass and cautious.
You can be sweet and unapologetic.

You are richly complex. Beautifully diverse. Confusingly (amazingly) paradoxical.

If you’ve been attached to a label that does not represent the fullness of who you are, here’s my advice:

Maybe you’ll need to shed some tears, and get all mopey about coulda-shoulda-woulda for a moment, but once you’ve had your good boo hoo, give ALL your energy to the person you’ve uncovered. The person made up of “both” and “and”.

Pour all your ounces into the vision of your current and future selves. Devote yourself to your complexity and the beautiful alignment of it all.

That old, limited version of you had its turn. Let your present self reign.

xo