I have struggled with body image since I was a young girl. I remember being in elementary school and hearing one of my sister’s friends saying I was chubby. I wasn’t. I probably still had baby fat and experienced swelling because of the constant steroids being pumped into my body (asthma), but I wasn’t overweight. So begins the consciousness of my body. I had never before even thought of my body as fat or skinny, I was an innocent kid living life without a thought to my appearance or anyone else’s. But that seed was now planted in my brain.
Then starts middle school in a new city and school. I was painfully shy. One of the girls that I became friends with for a short time wouldn’t eat more than 500 calories a day. I didn’t even know how many calories I was supposed to be eating. She was confident and acted older than her age, and I desperately wanted to be more like that. I was hungry for acceptance, and thought that if I was skinnier, I could gain that acceptance. It was hard going to a school where everyone knew each other from their elementary schools and didn’t know who the new kids were. I drank only water, would eat only a 100 calorie pack for lunch, and nibble at dinner. Sometimes I’d make myself throw up after. I was probably at most 110 lbs, 5’6. The friendship with that girl didn’t last very long, I suspect I was just someone good for her self-esteem, as I was so meek and willing to please. I don’t blame her for any of it, we were both just kids trying to feel better about ourselves.
I met a great group of gal friends in middle school, too. Most of them were 5’0 and under, tiny little things. I felt huge. I associated having 5 inches on them and weighing 10-20 lbs more than someone of them to me being disgustingly large. It was never their fault I felt large, it was something wrong in my own head. Onward to more occasional purging, more dietary restrictions. Never healthy restrictions, as I dumbly figured less calories = less weight. I think most of my school years, I subsisted off a small bag of chips for lunch and a drink. It never occurred to me that this wasn’t healthy.
This was mostly a secret life for me. My friends always told me that I was beautiful, without prompting. They were just good people who cared about me. They didn’t see me as bigger than them. They didn’t know that a thigh gap, protruding hip bones, and a prominent collar bone were the things I defined myself by. I remember during one of my better years, one of our male friends telling me that I looked good with some weight on me. It never occurred to me that other people thought I might be TOO skinny. Too skinny wasn’t possible to me.
I lost myself in alcohol during the end of my high school years and somehow at the same time, found some self confidence. My weight wasn’t a thought in my head. Probably because I was more concerned with drinking than eating. I found myself in a toxic relationship. We just weren’t good for each other. One of the most vivid memories I have, is being pulled out of bed during one of our many fights and being told that I was fat and ugly. I had never weighed more than 120 lbs at this point. Through the ons and offs of that relationship, I spent the next few years trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t fat or ugly. I went down to 110 lbs, which might be normal for some people, but it was not healthy for me.
My husband and I became friends (and eventually more), and he helped me through the trauma of that relationship. I think some part of my brain is wired to think that the skinnier I am, the better I’d feel. I remember he used to have to turn his air conditioning off in his room because I would shiver uncontrollably to the point of having an anxiety attack as I couldn’t stop the shaking because my body had no fat on it. He definitely has been a vital part in my journey on self-love. He could never imagine me the way that I see myself sometimes. The man has always treated me as something sacred.
It doesn’t help that as women, when we have issues with other women (aka scorned exes,” the other women” or just plain old petty drama), the first instinct is to attack the other woman’s appearance. Most of it have heard it all: we are too fat, we’re ugly, our teeth aren’t perfect, our clothes aren’t expensive enough, you’re a whore. Whenever something like this came about, the thing I zeroed in most about was my weight. I’ve had boobs and hips my whole teen years and on. I’ve never had defined abs. It rarely bothered me if people said I was ugly (with exception of the ex who constantly cheated on me, that caused a little doubt) because beauty is so based on perspective that I know that there’s beauty in everyone. But skinny seemed cut and dry: have a flat stomach, no rolls when you sit down or bend over, boobs should be there but not offensively large. If you can have an ass while being skinny, more power to ya. A body was perfect or not perfect.
Slowly I got to a point of happiness and acceptance… right up until my post pregnancy body. At this point I had never weighed more than 124 lbs. My whole pregnancy, I was told that I’d bounce right back because I was so skinny. I didn’t. I still haven’t. Maybe we should stop telling women that, because it’s pretty disappointing when you realize that you’re not fitting into post pregnancy jeans maybe EVER. It depressed me A LOT. My skinniest during the three years following was still almost 10 lbs heavier than before I had Sawyer. My hips are wider. My stomach isn’t perfectly flat. I could lie to you and say that I’ve lovingly accepted my body because it carried a human… I haven’t. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and I’m terrified that if I have another kid, I’ll never be comfortable in my body again. I’m definitely a work in progress. In my adult years, I’ve focused more uplifting other women, being an ally, seeing beauty in everyone… but I don’t accept it in myself. Maybe it’s instagram, maybe it’s been ingrained through other people’s words, maybe it’s a sickness in my mind. I think I will be working on that my whole life. A kickass woman in my life posted something earlier about how we demean ourselves by diminishing our bodies to baby weight, rather than focusing on the amazing things our body has done and can do. Something as little as that can bring me back to reality, because I’ve been down about myself lately. Thank you, Kathy, for inspiring me more than you can know.
So, here and now, instead of focusing on what’s wrong with my body, I will name a few things I LIKE ABOUT ME:
I am a voracious reader, topping this year out at over 100 books. I’m a big nerd, proudly running a bookstagram, reading Buffy comics, and all the fantasy my little heart desires. I am empathetic. I prefer kindness, and though I am human and make mistakes, I do my best not to follow the mob mentality when it comes to bringing others down. I give the benefit of the doubt first even if it means I’m burned in the end. I cook bombass meals for my family almost every night, usually from scratch. I am pretty dang good at doing makeup and my creativity shows through that. I am an extreme novice with the camera but have an eye for capturing memories. I am loyal, I will always be there for friends or family who need me. I am an imperfect mother, but my kid loves me like nobody ever has in this world… so maybe I’m doing something right. I cry at the beauty of creation so often that it’s embarrassing: movies, shows, plays, music, books, etc. I wake up every day, and even if I’m tired or depressed, I take care of those around me. I keep a house clean (… most of the time), I care for my son and nephew, I feed, I love. I am a kick ass bartender and have a group of regulars who love me as dearly as if I was family to them. I make people happy with my drink creations. My friends know they always have a meal waiting for them, a word of advice, or just a pair of ears to listen to them. My husband loves me so unconditionally and thinks I’m “hot” even when I feel like a sack of shit. I have funky taste in jewelry and am almost always wearing two full hands of chunky jewelry. I can plan a damn good outfit. I throw amazing, obnoxious parties for big and small reasons alike. I have been hurt a lot in life, but I try to work constantly past that.
I may never be a size two again. But I will never starve myself or actively harm myself to be thin. I may not always fit working out into my hectic life (motivation gods, if ya wanna send some my way, I wouldn’t be opposed), but I’m not only my body. I’m a person who is worthy of self-love regardless of my looks. It feels good to talk about my struggles. We all struggle.
Please take some time to think about what you love about yourself. It’s cheesy, it’s annoying, it’s been done before. But we all need a reminder sometimes. Leave it in the comments if you’d like or write it down for yourself, or just envision what you truly love about yourself.