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Feelings, Fears, and First World Problems

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My deepest fears are made of the stuff that people these days consider “first world problems” (a term I’m growing increasingly tired of).

So I’ve judged myself, hard, thinking that I should shut up, be grateful, and focus on helping people with “real problems.”

Today I’m here to tear apart my previous belief system around all of that because it’s not true.

What IS true for every single one of us is that our fears and feelings are valid. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, if you grew up with trauma and abuse or a with a team of nannies and a private butler.

My new belief system is this: You’re allowed to feel what you feel and fear what you fear. And the common desire we can all rally around is not letting these things run our lives or define us.

I’m about to share a few stories and some of my deepest fears and insecurities with you. You might read them and think, “get some real problems, Liz” and the issue there is the term “real.”

Everything is real.

I’m no longer willing to tolerate this culture of “my body and therefore I, am not good enough” that we live with as women and the judgement and comparison habits that come with it.

I’m not here to teach you how to lose weight or get toned. I’m here to teach you how to fall in love with yourself from the inside out and feel like the beautiful, wise, sensual being you are regardless of what size jeans you wear or whether or not you look perfect in a bikini.

Perfection is relative anyway.

It’s time to get to the truth of what feels good and what really matters to you.

Here we go.

You may or may not know that a lot of what you read on the internet, even on people’s personal websites is not actually written by those people. Don’t freak out, this isn’t to deceive you. Some people don’t have the time or writing isn’t their strength so they hire help. It’s common practice, nothing ugly about it. In fact if you’ve ever read a book by a celebrity, chances are they didn’t write it.

I am not one of these people, so I’ve been writing a lot over the last few weeks as we prepare to release my new website this month (May 2014 in case you’re reading this way later).

As women, at some point or another we’ve all been made to feel not good enough or uncomfortable in our bodies. I was drafting a personal story on this topic and ran it by a friend. She responded that most women probably wouldn’t connect to it. Her reaction really upset me. Not because of the underlying treatment of my pain and fears as invalid, but because she was right.

Here’s the story…

I spent most of my life feeling really annoyed with my body. I felt like it was inconvenient, inappropriate and unsafe so I was always trying to cover it up.

In 2011, I was in the best shape of my life working as a personal trainer at a prestigious private gym in New York City when I was invited to be in a video for a major magazine’s website.

It felt amazing and validating to be recognized for my work, until I arrived on set and realized they weren’t interested in seeing me. They put so much make up on my face you couldn’t see my freckles, poofed up my hair, and worst of all, the make-up artist actually painted contour lines on my stomach to look like I had nicer abs.

Do you know how hard I worked to get my own freaking abs?

It was a completely demoralizing experience. I wanted to cry the entire time.

The message was loud and clear, “Even in the best shape of my life, I’m still not fucking good enough.”

I can see where my friend thought people wouldn’t relate or connect to this story. It wasn’t about my struggle to lose weight, my battle with an eating disorder or how I learned to love myself after being abused. My story was about falling prey to the ideals of big media. An opportunity most people don’t even get in their lives.

Here’s the other relevant story…

I was at a women’s gathering and one of the partner exercises was to share what you hide, so essentially, what you fear and avoid. The way to share was to proclaim you hide in an “I am” statement. So let’s say you hide being messy, you would say, “I am messy.”

My statements were, “I am powerful. I am infinite. I am deep, deep love.”

And my partner thought I was confused with the exercise so she said, “No, what do you hide?” And I said, “That’s it, I stuff those things or try to play them down so I don’t seem like too much, intimidate others or make them feel insecure.” (All feedback I’ve received in the past.)

And her reaction was, “Wow, those are great things,” and I felt that familiar sting of guilt for my “problems.”

This conversation reminded me of something I wrote in a blog a few months back:

“While we’ve taken many strides as a gender and a society, we’re still operating with lots of tacit patriarchal agreements. One of which is the preference for women to be in constant pursuit of self-esteem, but very careful about expressing it once they acquire it.”

The suffering, struggle and pain in my lifetime is mine to navigate and so is yours. Our collective “stuff” is packed with the lessons we need to learn, the things that make us better humans and the strength to do what we dream of doing in the world.

Judgement and comparison have got to go, or we need to get better at handling them. -Click To Tweet

This invisible scale we’ve fabricated as a society that deems certain pain, fears and insecurities more valid or meaningful than others is total fucking bullshit.

So many of us keep things to ourselves because we feel guilty or don’t want to seem ungrateful. I propose that we can be grateful, human, accepting of our whole selves, and do it all with trust, compassion and open-hearts. In other words, I propose that instead we put our energy towards connecting with, seeing and accepting each other, so we can all rise up together.

Who’s with me?


Feelings, Fears, and First World Problems
  • Rhonda


    it is Rhonda, aka Pepper from the Private Soul Movement Salon – I love this! well done – keep speaking your truth whether people like it or not! KUDOS and HUGS

    • Liz DiAlto

      I never knew your name was Rhonda!

      Thanks, Pepper 🙂

  • Jen Comas Keck

    I have so, so much I want to say about this.
    First, well done. This is a beautiful post, and I share many of your same sentiments.

    I believe it was something Danielle LaPorte wrote, but it essentially said that our feelings are real. Just because somebody doesn’t agree with how we feel, doesn’t mean that we feel our feelings any less. Our feelings are our reality. Period.

    Next, I love what you said about the constant pursuit of self-esteem, but then feeling like we must be careful about expressing it. So much truth there. We (myself included) push women so hard to love themselves, but the second a woman *does* love herself, and oozes self-confidence, many people think she is full of herself. Additionally, feeling sexy – and God forbid, saying so – causes an audible gasp. It’s such an obnoxious paradox. It’s like saying, “We want you to KINDA feel good about yourself, but not enough that it shows.” Grrrrr!

    And last, I am so sick of hearing people retort with “first world problems, honey” whenever I actually express that I had a bad day, I could scream. Those are fighting words!

    Great post, Liz!

    • Liz DiAlto

      Mmm…I really enjoy this fiery response, Jen.

      I get really worked up about the be confident but don’t be too outspoken about it piece. It’s like, hey, let’s make some progress as a society….but not too much!

      And that’s what WE’RE here for 🙂

  • Bex

    Hmm, lots to say here. I agree and disagree. First world problems – while it has become a silly meme – is a real thing… just as real as the disdain for it. All feelings are valid because they exist. Are some problems more problematic than others? Sure. Low self-esteem can lead to bad shit (like my abusive marriage), but it doesn’t kill you by itself (like poverty and hunger – been there, too). In an effort to legitimize and equalize our problems, we can quickly fall right back into a victim mentality – we are entitled to the bigness and importance of our “problems”, no matter how truly consequential they are to our health and well-being. I would say that my son’s challenges with being blind are greater than his sister’s disappointment with not excelling at lacrosse this season. Both situations suck, but one has more lasting and complicated implications – and that’s ok. It’s ok for them to know that, to have perspective, and to appreciate the difference between DIFFERENT problems.

    • Liz DiAlto

      As always, I dig your perspective, Bex. Thanks, mama.

  • Michelle

    Well said Bex, I agree that its a sticky topic because certainly every problem for any person is real and their individual experience is unique. What may seem mundane to one person is life altering to another; there is no argument with that. Feeling trapped by the weight of our perceptions is no less real than being trapped under the remains of a house torn down by a twister. But the reality is, the outcome and total impact is different, dare I say that there are degrees of devastation, and some, well, they are worse than others. If we think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one must have the basics; food, air and shelter- before belongingness and self esteem can be achieved.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I like your reference to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…very true.

      •,, Rennie

        Some problems are bigger than others and some have a solution and some don’t. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts it all in perspective and enables me to explain to people how it feels (for me) on any particular level. I have been on the lowest level of the hierarchy for a significant period and have now gone up a couple of levels.
        So imagine you can’t put food on the table for your children – THAT’S A BIG PROBLEM! So you wouldn’t be worrying about sexist remarks in the workplace or whether your TV was playing up until you had solved the food problem.
        Notwithstanding any of this all problems are valid.

  • Kirsten

    I love this article. I’m a nutritionist, and for a long time my weight did dictate my self worth. However through self love I can now see the bigger picture and my weight is not my worth. I have learnt to love myself, flaws and all and at time i think this fact can intimidate people. I believe this is Because some people associate self love with Narcissisim.

    Women of the world we need to lift each other up. Embrace and love our bodies and strive for health not skinny thighs!!
    Love the skin your in!!

    Girls envy …. but women empower one another.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I think you’re right, people can’t distinguish between healthy self-esteem/love and arrogance, but that’s a judgement reflective of that person’s stuff, right?

      thanks for the comment, Kirsten 🙂

  • Kari

    I love love love this article. Feelings are valid no matter what and we need to SHINE so we can inspire others. Love you!

    • Liz DiAlto

      love you too!

  • Annalicia Lynn

    Thanks for your vulnerability, Liz. I’m inspired by your courage to speak your truth. And, I happen to agree. In “A Course In Miracles” it says, “There is no order of difficulty in miracles. One is not harder or bigger than another. They are all the same. All expressions of love are maximal.” In other words, we create the levels and continuums in our own minds. There is only one problem (fear) and one solution (love) regardless of the millions of different forms they show up in. So, I think whatever “problem” bubbles up in our own worlds (regardless if it’s “first-class” or otherwise) deserves our full attention so it can be healed instead of suppressed. Liz, thanks for this reminder and for your courage!!

    • Liz DiAlto

      ahhhh, I breathed a sigh of deep relief/relaxation when I read this Annalicia. Very beautiful point from ACIM, thank you.

    • Tonette

      I agree! Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    • Hannah

      Annalicia, my thoughts exactly! 🙂

  • Stephenie Zamora

    YES, freaking LOVE this Liz. So relate to what you hide. I’ve also been told (and felt) I’m “too much, to passionate, and too deep” for people. I’m “hard to be with” because I’m challenging and constantly changing. All things I’m working to embrace more fully because it’s who I am and it’s those things that will help me create the changes I’m here to create. Loads of love to you! xoxo

    • Liz DiAlto

      the more I stand firm in who I am, the more people I bring into my life who fully support this version of me. It feels amazing – let’s keep going!!! <3

  • Micaela Barrios

    One of the best things I have read from you!
    “You’re allowed to feel what you feel and fear what you fear.”

    It’s amazing how many times I have unconsciously denied myself from feeling something, much less expressing it, for fear of judgement. But I will say it here. I am scared to shine. I am scared to burn the brightest I can. I am scared to grow too big for the people around me. And that fear has the potential to prevent me from realizing my own true potential. I’ve always been someone who sabotages success, and it took reading this piece to truly understand why I could never talk about it with anyone else, much less admit the fear and let it exist out in the open.

    I so so relate to being terrified of shining brightly, and I have to thank you for legitimizing that fear for me, and I’m sure many many other women.
    Good stuff, Liz. Good stuff.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I feel you so hard! Make sure you do #ishineyoushine with us starting next week Micaela – we got this 🙂

  • Jacinda Meiklejohn

    I love this post Liz it’s a great reminder & I can relate on so many levels.
    Personal struggle (and suppression of) often lead to deep unhappiness, isolation and depression. The more we judge or deny our struggles we give power to the fear and stay stuck within it. Accepting it, owning it, feeling it and expressing it is what allows us to shift and expand. In my opinion the more people feel safe to do this the better. It is a challenging process to learn not to dwell on and become a victim to our internal personal struggles. You Inspire me (and many) to continue acknowledging, accepting and expanding – thank you!

    • Liz DiAlto

      Mmm. I love this comment, thank you Jacinda.

  • Tonette

    Aaah. I really admire your courage. First world problem or not, I think this matters. Thank you for talking about this. Somebody somewhere, from “first” to “third” world, would find this useful. 🙂

    • Liz DiAlto


  • Melissa Maher

    I love this Liz. I believe some of the greatest, deepest, most important work we can support one another in as women in this life on this planet is to give one another permission and confidence to have (and trust) whatever genuine experience we’re having. Any human being could choose to live a mindless, self-centered, ego-driven life in EITHER a first- or third-world environment. The circumstances aren’t what matter; our choices in how we respond to them are. So we can just as easily choose to consciously “wake up” and step more fully into our most authentic, loving, compassionate selves right here with our “first world problems.” In fact BECAUSE we have our most basic needs already met, we’re in an even better position (and might even feel we have a healthy obligation) to serve as valuable models of conscious, heart-centered living. Dismissing feelings based on circumstance is backward logic. We can drop the judgment in invalidating “first world problems” and instead cheerlead one another in making amazing use of that first world status to elevate the vibration of love on this planet. Thanks for getting an important dialogue going.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I really love this comment, Melissa. Been thinking about infusing words with love and compassion a lot this morning and I feel like that’s exactly what you did. Thank you!

  • Lara Eastburn

    Thank you for this post. Such brave, honest reflections. I respectfully disagree with Bex. Low self-esteem CAN kill you. I have a friend who is a two-time rape victim. She maintains that her pain is no different from a little girl who’s father didn’t pay enough attention to her. Because Pain is Relative only to our own experience. If it’s all we know, it is the worst pain there technically is.

    I love the attention you’ve given to a guilt and dismissal so common it has its own hashtag (#firstworldproblems). Thank you.

  • Hannah

    Liz, love this! Makes me think of the Law of Polarity (or Opposites)… Learned about it in my coach training. If we’re struggling with the idea that we aren’t enough, we’re probably also struggling with the idea that we’re too much, too big, too powerful! And I just committed this quote to memory: “God is above the opposites.” So like Annalicia said, there is only one problem (fear) and only one solution (love), so when we choose toward love (aka God), we can rise above the Law of Polarity. Pretty cool shit! 🙂