Raise your hand if you’ve worn a swimsuit this summer!
Now raise your hand if you’ve thought some not-so-nice thoughts about yourself while doing so.
Yeah, we thought so. And Erin Kiernan, a 42-year-old news anchor from Des Moines, Iowa, is asking you to cut yourself some slack.
On July Fourth, Kiernan wrote a refreshingly honest Facebook post that has since received nearly 8,000 likes and 1,500 shares. She begins the piece with a relatable anecdote about feeling ashamed of her body while swimsuit shopping … and then subsequently feeling ashamed of her shame.
The post includes a photo of Kiernan taken two summers ago, which she remembers viewing with critical eyes at the time. “Two years and several pounds and stretch marks later I'm wondering why I've felt this way about myself for so many years,” she wrote. “Why do so many of us feel this way?”
“People were always telling me how good I looked, but I was really miserable,” she told TODAY of her battle to maintain a “perfect” physique. “I finally said, ‘I’ll take the 20 extra pounds.’”
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In the popular post, Kiernan explores the ways that negative self-talk has infiltrated her past and present, and declares her intentions to change. It’s a popular message that resonates with many people — but silencing that critical voice is easier said than done.
So what was the turning point for Kiernan, who — as a public figure and fitness instructor — has toed the line between health consciousness and disorder? In another Facebook post from April, Kiernan offered perspective with tongue-in-cheek before and after photos that celebrate her journey of gaining pounds … and life.
She continued, “I think (the change in mindset) stems from finally having had a baby, which is something my husband and I tried to do for many years unsuccessfully. I approach life in a different way. My son is my priority. I can’t be all things to all people and do all things for everyone.”
Kiernan also pointed out that whether or not she had been ready to let go of her figure, time would have taken it from her anyway. “From the minute we are born, the body is deteriorating,” she said. “It’s so fleeting. Let’s take care of ourselves, yes … but there are so many better goals that we can focus on.”
All of that is easier said than done, of course. Kiernan prays and meditates to help retrain her brain against negative self-talk. “It starts with that inner dialogue,” she said. “If I can’t shut it off completely, I’m at least trying to tamp it down.”
Part of that is refusing to participate in the all-too-common social ritual of self-deprecating “fat talk.” “It almost becomes a contest,” she said. “One person says, ‘My thighs are huge,’ and then you pretty much have to say what you don’t like about yourself. It’s a very negative, very unhealthy cycle.”
In recent months, Kiernan has taken a different approach. “If I’m in the dressing room with my co-workers and they say those things … I disagree and tell them that they are beautiful,” she said. “Even if I’m thinking the same thing about myself, I don’t let myself give voice to those thoughts.”
And Kiernan continues to work on stopping those thoughts before they start.
“I’m finally reaching a point where I value not having to push so hard, not push others so hard," she said. "I’m asking, ‘What are you afraid of? What’s stopping you from enjoying your life? How can you start to chip away at that and find meaning in other ways?’”