My husband has used this site to speak a great deal about his beliefs and thoughts. It’s very exciting to see him making known his feels with his natural articulate expression.
I also have beliefs and thoughts. Sometimes, I think about them, and I consider writing them because I feel strongly about them. However, I’m also a flake when it comes to self-made commitments. I don’t have a blog, and I don’t particularly want my own. Instead, I’m just going to commandeer my dear’s.
You Don’t Have to Love Yourself: My Self Image Epiphany
One look in the mirror, and I can immediately point out eleven things wrong with my body. Too fat, too pale, too frumpy, too blah. I may feel more glamorous on some days than on others, but for the most part, complete satisfaction is never achieved. No matter what my weight or muscle tone, what’s now is simply never good enough. I must be better. There must be a way to look the way that I always wish I look.
This has been a routine for me ever since I can remember. Whenever I became cognizant that I was nowhere near the smallest girl in my third grade dance class was the moment I began my lifelong battle with my body image. I knew from a young age that I was different. Girls in my class were athletic, skinny, blonde, toned. Not to mention, those girls were popular. Oh, what it would have been like to be popular. I remember once walking into the school cafeteria as a fifth grader at my private Christian elementary school at the beginning of the school day, and a cool-guy-sixth-grader looked straight at me and said, “Hey.” I thought for sure he was talking to someone else, and I’m pretty sure I just stared blankly and kept walking, beating myself up the rest of the day for not taking that miraculous opportunity to have a whirlwind romance with Mr. Perfect.
I was not blonde. I did not have board-straight hair. I was not skinny or athletic. No matter how many times my mom took me to chiq stores and bought me clothes to make me feel better about my style, I just never felt up to par. My excitement at showing off my new lime-green glitter jeans and super-soft blue sweater the first few days would fade, and I would find myself looking at Seventeen magazine just knowing that if I could be that stylish and be interested in make-up and dating that I would finally be happy. I did everything short of bleaching my hair to fit in. I constantly obsessed about my weight through high school and college. It was more than disappointment of who I was, it was hate. I amassed other people’s interests into my own because it helped me find commonality. I lacked the courage to stand up against judgment for my natural likes and dislikes, and I lost myself in other people’s personalities. I didn’t make the cheerleading squad. I took karate because my friends were doing it, and then I quit because my friends quit. My parents fortunately made it through my “obsession” with horses without buying me one, and I finally came to terms that I was just afraid of their immense power. Sure, I followed my passions of band and theater, for which I am proud. However, my lack of self-knowledge crushed my self-esteem. I searched for it in others, ruining possible relationships by relying on them to create my personage and ease my insecurities. I knew I was lost, and I hated myself for being unable to discover my way.
One night I pulled out a photo album and shoved it in my then boyfriend’s, now husband’s, face hoping that he would take immediate interest. I forget sometimes that looking at baby pictures are not a guy’s favorite past time. As I stared at my high-school self I noticed something. I was thin. I was tan. I was gorgeous. Every bad thing I had harped on through those tumultuous years had evaporated. Now that I weigh my heaviest, a good twenty pounds more than I was in high school, that girl in those pictures would be my absolute ideal weight. I got jealous of High School Robbie. She was amazing and sexy, and she was entirely too ignorant to notice. Her body image was completely distorted.
I balked. “Look at this!” I yelled in high-pitched surprise. “I was so THIN!” He glanced from the television to my picture, and merely said, “Yeah. You’re thin now.” He had become used to repeating this phrase. His reassurances were sometimes all that pulled my out of my self-deprecating slumps. Whenever someone said to me, “I promise you, you’re not fat,” I took it as a courtesy. I could see myself. I knew.
Now I was flabbergasted. The entire image of myself that I had burned into my memory was false. I had been lied to by myself.
All of a sudden, I realized. I cannot see my true self. I have the filter of being an expert on me. I looked at myself in the mirror at least twenty times a day. The more a person gazes at an object or painting or person, they will begin to see imperfections. I had been gazing so long that I could did not even see the overall picture anymore. I saw each and every wrong and completely assumed that everyone else saw the same. How could they not? It’s all that stuck out to me.
For the first time, I asked myself with all sincerity, “Am I really not as fat as I think I am?” Yes, you always tell yourself that, but now I legitimately wondered. When you’re surrounded by beautiful friends and gorgeous models in every ad you see, you’re automatically a zero. Now the thought entered my mind. Maybe I wasn’t a model, but maybe I wasn’t a loss, either. I realized some time in college that I would never have a stick-thin body type. My type was voluptuous, and I accepted that that, but I still envied the leaner types. After seeing that picture, I went into the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror. I was not as thin as High School Robbie, but now I saw that I was not as unattractive as College Robbie told herself she was.
It’s still a daily struggle. I have my good days and not-so-good days, but now I know that I am good enough. My baseline is acceptable to me. To some that may sound like resignation or defeat. I see it as a huge accomplishment.
You see, women (and men, I’m sure) are not simply pressured to look better than they are, but they are also pressured to love their bodies. That is a complete contradiction. Weight loss ads ask you, “Don’t you wish you wouldn’t be ashamed to wear a bikini on the beach?” while empowering magazine articles say, “You go, girl. Your body is fantastic the way it is. Show it off to everyone, and never say anything negative about it. You must LOVE your body.” Both of those statements are negative. The first implies you are defined by your weight, while the second implies that you are defined by your mentality about your weight. So many people identify their self-worth through what size clothing they wear, especially in our society.
I do not feel strongly about my body, and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. Yes, I strive to be healthy, and I still focus on improving. I believe there are some people in this world that will never love their bodies. They are simply wired that way. If you feel like your body is the best it could ever be and you love it unconditionally, I applaud you. It has never been something I’ve been able to accomplish, and I’ve felt like a failure for much of my life because of it.
I am speaking for those of us who have hated ourselves for so long that it’s become the norm. Loving yourself is definitely the goal, I admit that. What I implore of you is simply to like yourself. Accept your flaws, and admire your positive traits. Know that you are good enough.
And when I say good enough, I don’t mean just barely. It’s not in the sense of, “Meh, well, it ain’t perfect, but I suppose it’ll do.” I mean it in the sense of you are good and not bad. No one is seeing these horrible things you perceive. You can relax. That strand of hair that won’t stay in place is no one’s focus but your own, and you’re missing out on the world around you because you can think of nothing else.
I am no longer ashamed to tell people my opinions or likes and dislikes. If there is judgment or a negative reaction, I realize it has nothing to do with me. That other person has their own opinions and affinities, and they see me as an extension of themselves. We all live in our own egocentric reality. We cannot help it. It’s the way our brains are wired. We are the narrators and stars and directors of our award-winning film. It’s easy to be your own worst critic, but seriously. SERIOUSLY. No one sees in you what you see in you, because they are focused on them. Take how often you think about yourself and apply it to everyone you know, only switch the main characters. That’s their focus. You are but a passing thought.
That’s not to say you are not important to others or that they never think of you, but they are definitely not analyzing your chipped nail polish from yesterday or that dumb thing you said last week. They can’t believe they wore that outfit yesterday. Surely everyone was thinking about it.
Here’s a secret. They weren’t.
Own yourself. Know yourself. Accept yourself.
It’s okay that you don’t love yourself yet. Acceptance is the building block of love, the base of it. Acceptance is knowing that not only do you not have to be perfect (nothing is), but also that you do not have to despise yourself for not reaching perfection. In fact, your awareness is an amazing trait. You see yourself and the world around you. You just have to take off the drunk goggles and see reality. Stop being so hard on yourself. Look at how unique you are. No one is like you. Take care of yourself, and do your best. But never, ever, feel like you’re not good enough.
The image you see of yourself may not be the one you love, but you should do the courtesy of liking it and accepting it for what it is. You would never go from hating someone to loving them overnight. You will never be able to do this for your body. Acceptance is the first step. I do not yet love myself, but I like myself, and that’s a huge deal. For the first time in my life, I don’t look in the mirror and see “too fat, too quirky, too awkward, not enough.” I look in the mirror and see curly hair, freckles, a curious fashion sense, and a woman who knows herself.
Perhaps one day I will look in the mirror and love my body. I’m sure that will be a nice experience. Right now, I’m ecstatic to simply not be obsessing over it 24/7. It’s refreshing and much less stressful. I do not define my worth or my identity by my weight. It’s okay not to love yourself. Just don’t hate yourself, and you’re making amazing progress.