Episode 57 | Kathryn Budig | How To Gain Confidence In The Way You Look
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Recently I saw Amy Shumer’s movie, I Feel Pretty, and it deals with a woman struggling with her insecurities and inadequacies on a daily basis. Then there’s a shift where she finds her confidence. How looks are valued in society puts pressure on women at all stages of life, from teenagers, through your 20s, your 30s and it doesn’t end. And even in your 60’s, there’s pressure to look younger, ageless, and wrinkle-free.
The reality is that expectations for the way a woman looks have never been higher. It’s just not politically correct to admit that. But it’s time to talk.
When I lived in Santa Monica. My weekly routine was to go to a 7am yoga class. Our next guest is the instructor who inspired me to get up and out of bed at that early hour!
Kathryn Budig is a powerhouse in a tiny package, with a huge heart and spirit that comes pouring out of her. Since those early morning yoga classes, Kathryn has become an internationally celebrated yoga teacher and author known for her humor, and her ability to empower her students through her message of “aim true”, which is also the title of her best-selling book. What does it mean to aim true? Well, as she describes it, it’s a verbal tattoo that lives in your heart, showing you how you want to live your life. In Aim True, she inspires women to naturally shift their confidence through daily habits and self-esteem boosters.
In today’s show, you’ll discover…
• How to give up letting a number on the scale determine whether you’re worthy of a good day
• Why women over 50 are saying “I feel invisible” …and what you can do about it
• Anti-aging myths you need to stop believing that are sabotaging your courage
• How to strike a balance between taking pride in the way you look, but not becoming obsessive
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Follow Along With The Transcript
Kathy Smith: Hi, Kathryn. It’s so great to have you on the show today. Welcome.
Kathryn Budig: It’s so good to hear your voice. It’s been forever. I only wish we could do this in person.
Kathy Smith: I know. Me too. I know. So listen. During that period when you were teaching at YogaWorks, you were just beginning to start doing your photo shoots and your videos and all your media interviews, and I remember sitting with you after class and talking about some of the issues that were confronting you, including body image insecurities. These are some of the things you wrote about in Aim True, and I wanted to just start us out by reading a part of your book, because you did such an amazing job of explaining how you were feeling. It starts when you were living in L.A. And so, here’s the quote: “I was finishing up year seven in L.A. – the city of perfect, pretty, skinny people. Well, I have amazing memories of that city. Being in the health industry, it felt even more intense and cutthroat. And I suffered from body image issues. I’d reached a point where I was being incredibly harsh on myself and found endless areas of my body to critique. I’d stand in front of my bathroom mirror in profile, sticking my stomach out and sucking it in. I’d grab handfuls of flesh and make my belly talk, and the list goes on and on. And even though it’s embarrassing to admit, it’s where I was emotionally. Beneath this ridiculous and demeaning mirror act, what I would do to myself is I started hating myself for hating myself, which became a descending spiral of habitual negative thought patterns. I knew deep down I didn’t want to feel this way. I reminded myself that I was the only one in charge of my own happiness, and I decided to take action.”
So, again, I think everybody, whatever it might be and whatever their insecurities are, whether it’s young, aging, whatever it might be, they can relate to that paragraph. So you said, “I decided to take action.” What was the action that you took?
Kathryn Budig: Well, I think–I would assume that everyone listening to this right now is nodding their head in some kind of capacity like you said, whether it’s aging or body image or what have you. We all have our internal struggle in that kind of ticker tape that goes around our head of self-deprecating thoughts. And it’s exhausting. It’s a really, really horrible place to live, and that ticker tape can often go around your head every 30 seconds or every minute. That’s just my definition of living a good life or even experiencing a good day is not saying something horrible to myself every 30 seconds to a minute.
So I think I just had endured it for such a long time internally. And mind you, this my own internal dialogue. This is not necessarily people attacking me. This is just my own crap that I’m dealing with is that it just was interfering with my ability to enjoy myself and to exist in the world that I wanted to exist. So I think you sometimes have to reach that limit before you realize that there needs to be some massive change. To absolutely clear, it’s not something that I no longer struggle with. It will be something that is alive forever, but I like to think of it as I have tiger that’s kept in a cage inside of my body, and I’ve become very proficient at keeping it sedated.
And then, every now and then, the tiger gets out of its cage, and when it gets out of its cage, it wreaks chaos and it breaks things and it goes nuts and it takes a long time to get it back in. But then I get it back in. So my goal at this point in life is keep the tiger sedated and do whatever I can to remember what actually is important in my life versus these superficial things that can really ruin our perspective.
Kathy Smith: Well, one technique you talk about in your book, which I think is brilliant is you put affirmations on your mirror. When I read that part of your book, I ran to the mirror and I put on my affirmation, which was, “I am creating happiness.” So the idea is when I get up in the morning and I head to the bathroom, I see that on the mirror, I’m creating happiness. And it puts a smile on my face, and I love creating happiness for other people. It’s kind of a fun technique. What made you think of it?
Kathryn Budig: It actually came from one of my best friends. Her name is Ash Savoca. She’s just full of magical, wonderful ideas, and she also likes sparkly things. So she got me a metallic Sharpie and she was like, “You have to go to your mirror and you have to just write whatever it is you’re working on, and it’ll be really pretty.” So it’s been a cycle. Aim True is always on my mirror, but then depending on what I’m going through in my life, I’ll switch it up and it’s great.
It’s also nice if you have company over. When they go to use the bathroom and they get to see these things, it’s inspiration for people to perhaps go back and do the same thing. It’s all these little, tiny things that you can do that hopefully builds up into one powerful way to get over the things that bother you.
Kathy Smith: So what does aim true mean to you?
Kathryn Budig: It’s evolved. It originated with my love for the Greek goddess, Artemis. She’s the goddess of the hunt, and I’ve found a prayer that was written to her. And the opening of the prayer was, “Artemis, huntress of the moon, make my aim true.” And so, that was the impetus to, okay, make my aim true. What does that even mean?
So in the beginning, it was this concept of, okay, aiming true is this ability to set these goals, lofty or not, but to stick to them. As I’m sure you can relate to, sometimes we really get this idea in our head of what is going to create success and happiness. And when we don’t reach that specific goal, then we experience disappointment and pain. When, if you step away from it, that specific goal–there’s very few things in life that are specific or tangible that are actually going to create happiness. And so, the evolution of aim true for me is regardless of what I think is going to–like, I don’t focus on the tangible. I focus on the ideas and the energy and what are my core values and what are the things that when you strip me down to my bare bones. Like, this is the makeup of exactly who I am.
And when I can remember those kind of things, that washes away all the superfluous noise out there, and then, I can really hone in on what it is that makes me happy.
Kathy Smith: I think sometimes it’s easier said than done as you mentioned earlier. Recently I saw Amy Shumer’s movie, I Feel Pretty, and it deals with a woman struggling with her insecurities and inadequacies. And she’s doing it on a daily basis. There’s this shift–I won’t give away the storyline, but she finds her confidence. I think, as I stated up at the top in the opening, this is a subject that when it comes to looks–and it’s not necessarily politically correct to talk about. But how we value looks in our society and the pressure it puts on women at all stages, from teenagers, through your 20s, your 30s and it doesn’t end. It’s not like when you’re 60, it’s like it’s over. There’s always this pressure. So what is the solution? I know we’re talking about it. I’m trying to delve down one step deeper because it does feel like–it can feel a little bit of a throw-away line by saying just, “Don’t let it bother you.”
A couple of things that come to mind for me is I practice gratitude. And one of the things–I have little–as you mentioned, you have your aim true. You put it on your mirror. I have a gratitude prayer that I say in the morning, but I also just go through a list of what I’m grateful for. In doing that and as you mentioned, shifting the negative thought pattern to, “Oh, my gosh. I am so lucky to have this and this and this. And thank you, Lord, for this and this,” or whatever, whoever you’re speaking to. And that shifts perspective.
So I think part of it–one of the big things is whenever possible, shift perspective. But what are some other tricks that you have?
Kathryn Budig: I completely agree with you. With gratitude, just finding a meditation that works with you in the same way that I write affirmations on my mirror, working with whatever mantra is personal to you that helps you settle into your skin.
So, it’s just the simplicity of–I used to like to meditate at the end of yoga practice, and now, I like to meditate before yoga practice or any physical activity for that matter. Because if I can take five minutes to kind of clear the cobwebs of the story that I’m telling myself that often makes me feel bad about myself, I can shine it up a little bit, then I can move into the physical activity from a place that I’m doing this to feel strong. I’m doing this to take care of myself. I’m doing this to feel better as opposed to, I’m doing this because I want to be skinny or I’m doing this because I want to look better in my clothes, which is undeniable. It’s just–obviously, that’s always going to be something. Part of the reason why we work out is because we want to look better, which means we feel better. But how can we sart to untangle, feel better and look better? Those have been so closely aligned for so long.
So that kind of leads me into this place where–I’m 35, almost 36 right now. So I’m kind of in that like, I’m not young anymore, I’m not old, I don’t know where I am, I’m kind of–my body has changed a lot in the past five years. And this place of trying to find peace, it’s like what you said. It’s how do we make peace with this evolution of our body and the fact that it ages and it changes and often in ways that we don’t particularly enjoy? I think for me as an individual, I’ve been looking enough and often stressed out about it to have a platform where people look to me to feel better and to feel inspired. And me being absolutely perfect and flawless and beautiful isn’t helping anyone.
So in those moments where I feel that, “Oh, my God. If someone puts me in a bra top right now and photographs me, I’m going to sob.” Or “If someone sees this cellulite, I’m going to feel bad about myself.” Those are the moments where it’s like actually this is reality, and we know what the world needs more of is reality because we’ve just been spoon-fed these perfect bodies and flawless and smooth and wrinkle-free and cellulite-free. And then, we think that these are the standards that we have to live up to.
So in those moments where you look at yourself and feel like you’re lesser than, I think you can flip the dialogue and be like, actually, by being me and being whatever my meat suit is in right now and being this really lovely human who has a soul, who is infusing the meat suit and going out into the world, I feel like that’s where we can really make a difference, and then you can start to make peace with where you’re at. Because you’re helping the world by just being you and–I don’t know if that makes sense or not.
Kathy Smith: It makes perfect sense. And I love it. I just want to make sure I heard one word right. Are you saying me suit?
Kathryn Budig: I call my body my meat suit. M-E-A-T. I know it’s kind of a weird way of saying it, but it’s just our physical body. That’s what it is. It’s just this thing that we’re given that eventually, yes, it’s going to fall apart, it’s going to decay. But we have this soul that is animating our meat suit. And we get so hung up on what will we look like, and then, “Oh, God. My body’s changing, and I don’t want it to change,” when that is what it was meant to do. It was designed to change.
It’s absolutely natural that our body is constantly evolving, and so when I focus more on being the best version of me, which means my spirit versus being the best version of me which means how do I physically look, then I can let go of some of the anxieties that make me feel bad.
Obviously, this does not take away from the fact that I think you do have to take care of your meat suit. It’s important to keep up your physical health, but it’s that really fuzzy line with where am I physically taking care of myself versus I really am attached to how I look. That’s where it becomes a very slippery, slippery slope.
Kathy Smith: Right. Striking the balance between taking pride in the way you look but not becoming obsessive about it. One of the ways that I’ve done it for myself, my messaging through my work and especially since I have two daughters is I focus on concentrating on performance. So when you think about your body and how your body can serve you to live a fuller life, whether it’s sports or being in the great outdoors or being energized and pain free so you can accomplish all the wonderful things you want to do in your life. So it’s really shifting the conversation from how good do we look to how good do we feel and how well our body’s functioning so we can be so we can be the best version of ourselves.
I really see that as we age, it’s really easy to concentrate on the belly pooches, especially if you’ve had babies and the saggy boobies especially if you’ve been breast feeding and all the stuff that all my demographics are talking about, which is the wrinkles and age spots and the crapy skin and the necks and this and that. And yet, you could also shift to, “Oh, my gosh. I just climbed Baldy Mountain.” And “Oh, my God, the sunrise was amazing!” Whatever your dreams are, that’s what I like to focus on. And I love this about you, Kathryn is that you do bring this message of a real–I think what people love about you and as I said, why I love you, is because you bring this message of reality and real-life experiences, and then you bring it especially to your yoga classes with humor and a lightness.
Let’s switch over to yoga because that’s how we met – through yoga – and you’ve done amazing work in the yoga world. How has yoga served you specifically with these types of issues?
Kathryn Budig: Well, I think what you were just saying – focus on what your body gives you. You know what it’s capable of doing. Yoga is such an amazing barometer for that, because all you need is a yoga mat. And technically, you don’t really even need a yoga mat all the time. So it’s this amazing, physical practice. Well, it’s obviously way more than a physical practice, but the physical component is learning how to completely be in tune with your body without any weights, without any tools, without anything else. That’s what I adore about it the most is I’ve learned how to lift my body up, pick it up, shoot it around different places, move it into different positions and to truly know my capacity. I know my limits. I know when someone might say, “Hey, why don’t you go deeper into that backbend.”
I’m like, “I know my limits and I know that might ‘look pretty’ but this is what feels good.” Once you kind of understand the parameters of what your body likes and what it doesn’t like, then I think that’s another step in the love affair to being content with yourself. You just know that, yeah, this is me. This is what feels good. And yoga has a way of allowing you to truly know yourself. And out of all the physical activities that I’ve explored, I feel like that is the most direct track – yoga – to getting to know yourself.
Kathy Smith: Yeah, I must say that the gym transformed my body, but yoga transformed my being and my mind and the way that I look at life. Once again, I credit you for discovering my core. Because even though I have done so many sit-ups and planks and all kinds of core work, until you try to go into an inversion–and for people who don’t do yoga, an inversion is when you go upside down and you’re typically in a handstand or your typically with your legs above your butt and you’re trying to balance in some way. This really teaches you whether you are using your core or not.
Those early morning classes that I mentioned at the top of the show, that’s where I first got introduced to arm balances through Kathryn. And the idea that it’s a whole other way of looking at life because you change perspective, you have to go upside down, you have to look at your fears. Because it’s like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m going to fall,” and the way that you go through that process, and then when you finally succeed in just a little bit, how fulfilling it is. But tell me. Why did you get so addicted and so proficient at arm balances?
Kathryn Budig: Well, it’s like you said. They’re multifaceted. I think step number one, they’re fun. They’re actually–if you allow yourself to be in the moment and get past that hump of fear, which is another big part of it is that lesson of fear where is fear something that is simply holding you back? Is it something that’s keeping you from evolving or is it something obviously that’s keeping you safe and protecting you?
For inversions, obviously if you are supported by someone, you’re getting spotted, you have a good teacher, you can not worry about the getting hurt part, and then it’s just like, “Okay, this is mental.” To me, I love that. That’s part of the reason why I love things like martial arts is that combination of that mental agility with the physical.
So when you go upside, it’s this puzzle that you’re trying to put together. You have to get your shoulders to be the platform, your core has to fire, your legs have to be turned on. It’s like you said. If one part goes away, you fall. You turn into this wet noodle. So I love that you have to be 100% present in the moment to do a pose like this. You can’t be thinking about that person who pissed you off. You can’t be thinking about what you want for dinner. You have to be in that moment executing your handstand; otherwise, you’re going to be all over the place. So it’s playful, it’s a puzzle, it allows you to be present, which I think we could all say, “Yes, more of that please.” They’re invigorating. I absolutely adore them.
Kathy Smith: I know. I go upside down every day now. Every day I do something. Speaking of eating–not thinking about what you’re eating for dinner, let’s talk about what you’re eating for dinner. Because on your Instagram posts, one of the things I love most are all these recipes and all this food that you talk about.
What’s your favorite snack food right now? What are you experimenting with right now when it comes to food?
Kathryn Budig: I always like to try to do some things different. My girlfriend, on the other hand, will find a recipe that I love and she wants me to make it every single weeknight. I like to find a good combination. I always want vegetables on my plate, because my big rule of thumb is eat something green every day. The other rule is that we all need to be consuming more veggies than we already are. So I always like there to be a vegetable component.
I like there to be a good protein component like I’m going to be roasting some cod tonight, is what’s on the menu. I’m making a kale jalapeno custo to go with it. I’m making this big, bright salad with tarragon and I’m trying to mix in some sunflower seed brittle. It’s like little croutons. I like everything to have some kind of nutritious element, but at the same time, I think food should be fun. I really think food should be something you look forward to. I don’t get to eat a meal because it’s too late or sometimes I’ll get off a plane and I can’t get to any food and all I get is a bar or something like that, it legitimately makes me sad because I’m missing out on the experience of a beautiful meal.
Yes, I think it’s important that you’re eating your veggies and getting the nutrients but also just hopefully it’s something that you’re excited and you look forward to and it brings people together. So that’s really defines my cooking and the recipes that I write for people because I’m hoping that’s bringing them joy.
Kathy Smith: One way that I get a little bit more joy in eating, I did a silent retreat this weekend. Oh, my gosh. And eating without talking, even though it doesn’t sound joyful, you experience every flavor, every crunch, every nuance. That was my little joyful eating experience.
Okay, so let’s switch gears for a second. You went through a period that you talk openly about where you kind of had lost your way. You didn’t know what was the next step, and then your life resolved itself. It turned into this what seems like almost like a Cinderella story right now. You found your partner who you mentioned – Kate Fagan. I know you guys were up here in Park City where she was promoting her best-selling book, What Made Maddy Run. Is that correct – What Made Maddy Run?
Kathryn Budig: Yes.
Kathy Smith: Can you take us through when you were going through, “I’m lost. I’m confused. I’m not sure which direction to go.” Once again, how did you resolve it?
Kathy Smith: Is that too deep of a question? Maybe I should rephrase it.
Kathryn Budig: I will do my best. I think what makes me laugh is that I still don’t feel like I’m completely in a resolved place. I still feel like I’m kind of living in this land without answers. But I also feel like, funnily enough, that that’s life, is that we’re constantly hoping to be given some kind of security blanket. But that’s just not what life is about. It’s constantly having that blanket be shook out.
I went through a phase in my life where I used to have a husband, and we had a very public engagement and got married and we separated about a year after we were married. And a lot of things came up for me emotionally during all that because, A, I had to realize that I numbed myself out during a lot of our relationship because it wasn’t right. It just wasn’t my person. And I’m not saying that I regret it because I learned so much from him, but it’s a hard wake up call to realize you’ve been in a relationship where you’ve been on autopilot.
And I know a lot of people experience that and because I was on autopilot in my relationship, I started to go into autopilot and work. And I was really fixated on the concept of finding my happiness through being successful. And it was a big wake up call to realize that it’s completely the other way around – that my success comes from my happiness. And I was wondering why things weren’t clicking.
So when I finally woke up to the fact that I wasn’t happy in my relationship, not only was it embarrassing, oh, I was only married for a year. What a failure. What are people going to think? And by the way, I fell in love with a woman. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.
It was just one of those things like, what am I going to do? This is what’s happening. I know I’m not happy in this marriage. If I stay in this, I’m going to be miserable. I think humans are amazing and I just so happened to fall in love with a woman, and that’s my person. And I know that through being honest with everything I’ve gone through, my hope is that it’s giving hope to people who feel stuck in a relationship or feel numb or unhappy or don’t feel–they’re afraid if whether it’s about sexuality or whether it’s just a relationship. And I’m hoping that people can look at my experience and be like, “Okay, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It was rocky and horrible, and divorce is miserable. Anyone is listening to this who has been through a divorce, I’m sure you understand. It’s brutal, but it’s also just–I wouldn’t change a thing because it’s made me a better teacher. It’s made me a more empathetic human. It’s allowed me to sit down with people and truly understand what they’re going through. And as a teacher, that’s what I want in life. I want to understand people’s experiences and be able to help serve them in the best way possible.
So that’s a long-winded way of saying, “If you’re in a really crappy, stuck place, give it time. This will serve you,” which is absolutely impossible to realize when you’re in the middle of something because that’s when it’s just bad. Find the things that do make you happy whether it’s cooking a meal or taking a yoga class or listening to Kathy Smith’s podcast. Just find the things that make you happy and sprinkle those throughout your day as much as possible until you get out of this place, because it will pass.
Kathy Smith: Right. I think your honesty is healing for everybody, and it gives hope to everybody also. I also think another part of what you talked about in your book and you’ve mentioned it but this idea of being honest of who you are. We tend to compare–the comparison game that we all play. Sometimes it can help motivate us to be better I guess. But often it leaves us feeling like we’re not measuring up. We’re not accomplished enough, we’re not attractive enough, we’re not worthy enough.
By liberating yourself from that comparison trap but instead getting into what are your core values? What’s bringing you happiness? And then redirecting your energy in that direction can be, as you mentioned, life changing.
Kathryn Budig: Yeah, absolutely. And I think comparison–you know the famous, I think it’s Eleanor Roosevelt quote, that “comparison is a thief of joy”. I think about that all the time and especially in the social media era. I’ve unfollowed so many pages, not because anyone’s done anything wrong to me. But I know how certain pages make me feel.
It will start innocently enough. I’ll go to someone’s page and be like, “Oh, wow. Look, they’re in Morocco doing blah, blah, blah.” And then 20 minutes later, I’m like, “I’m a failure at life.” You’re getting this glossy, filtered version, highly curated version of someone’s life and you don’t know what’s going on behind the doors. You’re just seeing all the pretty stuff. Then you’re making yourself sick and that’s energy wasted on someone else’s life that has nothing to do with you that they’re going to do them. You’re need to go do you. There’s enough work and success for everyone.
But I think it’s also the slippery slope of looking at someone and thinking that is success. I mentioned it earlier. I’m really focusing on my success coming from my happiness. And it’s not like, “Hey. When I get this job, I’m going to be happy,” or “When I put out this book and I get on this list, I’m going to be happy,” because that’s BS. I’ve been there before. I’ve been very blessed to have achieved a lot of things. They don’t make me feel that much better. That’s not where I garner my happiness from. So I just try to be careful with that.
Kathy Smith: Right. Well, I do know where you get some of your happiness from, and there was a little noise at the beginning of our podcast. So let’s talk about your non-profit and how much love Poses for Paws. Is that–?
Kathryn Budig: Yeah.
Kathy Smith: Tell me about your doggies.
Kathryn Budig: Oshi and Keona. Oshi is my little 12-year-old. She just turned 12 a couple weeks ago. Keona was actually my ex-husband’s dog, but I kept her. She’s a big fluffy, fluffy husky, and I vacuum twice a day. I just love them so much.
Dogs, for me, it’s my Achilles’ heel. If I see any injustice happening to dogs, I lose it. So Poses for Paws was created–I created it in 2008 and it’s had different evolutions, and I’m currently trying to do a little reworking it right now. Because I would love to eventually have some kind of brick and mortar or something established in Charleston, South Carolina where I live.
So we’ve been talking to local organizations and just trying to figure out where we can do the best work and how we can serve. Because it used to be yoga retreats, I would take a percentage, or products that I would make, and a percentage of that would go back to Poses for Paws. And I would sponsor or spotlight certain organizations that I thought were doing really good work. And I continue to do that, but I just–I’m trying to figure out what does it mean now? Hopefully, in the next year or two, there will be more noise about that in my world and hopefully something that people, if they want to contribute or help out, they can do that.
Kathy Smith: Perfect. Well, I hope the next time we get to see each other–I’ll have to fly down to one of your workshops or I’ll have to get some more arm balancing with you because–
Kathryn Budig: Yes, please.
Kathy Smith: Thank you so much for spending your time. I know you’re a really busy woman, but I just loved having you on the show. I just want to close with a little part from Aim True where you say, “Our perceived flaws, whether physical or emotional, are what make us unique. Strong doesn’t mean fitting media’s version of healthy. Beauty doesn’t mean flawless and eternally young. Smart doesn’t mean making safe choices.” You go on from there, but for everybody listening, if you’re interested in learning more about Kathryn, then pick up Aim True. You can get it wherever books are sold.
My big take away today was when it comes to aging. It’s not about aging better; it’s about aging smarter. So when you look happy, you feel happy. Always remember that aging is inescapable. We’re all going to get older and we can’t avoid–or we don’t want to avoid that because that’s the pleasure, that’s the process of life. But we can control how we grow old. We can indulge in depression and vices and comparisons and unhealthy choices and perhaps regret those later in life, where on the other hand, we can make healthier choices starting at a younger age and age more gracefully.
The choice is yours. Here’s to feeling young forever. Thank you very much, Kathryn. I love you so much and I love what you do.
Kathryn Budig: Cheers to that. Love you. Thank you.
Kathy Smith: Thank you.