the body loves me even when I don't love it this animal spirit inside is fighting tirelessly to keep me alive Intricate networks of blood vessels and veins muscles and sinews and breathing stardust cleverly conspiring to keep me safe I poison its efforts with casual harm cutting and gagging and straining its limits imperfection is not justification for punishment blinded to the enormous, exhausting efforts of a body trying its very best This quivering creature that cradles my soul only craving compassion and care the bare minimum of reciprocation for non-stop, selfless service offered in a myriad of unnoticed ways I cannot fault it for not following vanity and dangling me just above death to fit in a smaller dress it doesn't understand that desire true love is keeping me healthy The fierce physical innocence of this form continues to create blood and breath and bone to buoy me forward in this life without thanks the precious animal that is also me doesn't deserve such callous disregard The mind and the body are wards of one another it's time my mental faculties begin carrying their own weight in the ways of consistent loving-kindness for this creature doing the best it can
This body is not an ornament or a toy to break and replace it is the holy vessel that holds me and tethers me to this world A useful container that houses the soul perfect and precious because it is uniquely mine the one thing I fully own, my true home the most important gift I could be given How ungrateful I've been for the mortal flesh that supports me my personal window into reality an unconscious effort that keeps me living Belittling all that this body does based only on shallow self judgement centered around outward appearance as if that even matters The frightened animal form my consciousness has been assigned to protect and take care of offering only criticism and neglect May I be a better steward to this living temporary temple and learn to speak to it with gratitude and soft caresses of loving kindness
Trying Too Hard
I can feel myself getting frustrated again. Picking at all of my perceived imperfections. Comparing myself to everyone I see, and feeling like I come up short. This cycle has become so familiar, but it doesn’t get any easier with repetition. One week I’ll feel good, motivated, like I’m making progress. Then the next I’ll feel utterly desperate about the futility of all the work I do for personal growth and self improvement. It’s particularly pronounced when it comes to my life-long struggle with body image.
Despite my best efforts to avoid the triggering, toxic images I used to purposely flood myself with online, somehow they’ve started creeping back in again. Perfect little vegan fitness models and casual yogis. It’s bad enough that they have bodies I could only dream of, but it stings in an especially painful way when I see just how much MORE work I put in for so much less satisfying and aesthetically pleasing results. I know I have a distorted view of my appearance to some extent. And I don’t think I look bad. But after years of diligent, intense, advanced exercise routines, I expected to actually look like someone who prioritizes fitness in their life. Not just someone who works out for 20 minutes once or twice a week.
Even when I’ve felt for years like I couldn’t possibly do any more exercise in a day, I’ve slowly added on more and more things. It never makes any significant or noticeable change though! All it does is make me feel obligated to continue at this more draining routine for fear I’ll somehow gain weight if I stop, even though I didn’t lose any when I started. I’ve recognized for a long time now that this is an extremely unhealthy mindset that impacts my self-esteem, my physical health, and my social life. Still I feel helpless to change it. My fear of looking worse than I do now is all-consuming. I feel resigned to this unsustainable, ever increasing physical workload that will never do anything for me besides keep me where I already am. A place that does not even bring me satisfaction or happiness. It’s no longer about progress, it’s about avoiding an even more pronounced level of self-hatred and disgust.
One thing I have been trying to convince myself of, is the importance of slowing things down/lessening my reps and speed in order to focus on truly good, mindful form and activating the right muscles when I’m moving. Logically I do believe this would be more beneficial. But that disordered, self-hating, fearful side of my brain panics at the thought. But what if I slow down and gain weight? What if I can’t pick it back up again? What if I do go back to what I’m doing now, but am stuck with whatever weight I may put on forever?! It’s these unhealthy thoughts that keep me from changing anything despite my dissatisfaction with my results or lack-there-of.
In the last ten or more years, I’ve never allowed myself a proper “rest” day from exercise. There have only been a handful of days I haven’t worked out, but even those days are not true rest because I workout extra the days before and after to “make up for it.” My ego takes some form of pride in this fact, while also cursing all the people I see taking regular rest days multiple times a week and looking 50x better than I ever have. I’ve just been believing that there is something wrong with me. Their bodies just work better than mine does somehow. Surely if I took rest days, I’d have made even less progress.
I’m beginning to finally open myself up to the possibility that isn’t the case. I was already toying with the concept of rest being valuable and important so that my muscles actually get a chance to heal and build themselves up stronger. I don’t really notice myself gaining muscle mass or strength with the way I’m doing things now. I basically stay where I am. In addition to that, I’ve been reading a lot about the effects of cortisol and weight gain.
I assume I have ridiculously high levels of cortisol in my body at all times, just based on my stress level. What I didn’t realize is that this may not be solely due to my anxiety disorder. Exercise naturally raises cortisol levels, which isn’t a problem in moderation and can even be beneficial. However, excessive exercise can lead to unhealthy levels of cortisol. I don’t think it’s up for debate whether the amount of exercise I’ve been subjecting myself to for the past ten years is “excessive” or not. Have I been shooting myself in the foot this entire time?
It seems too good to be true to imagine that I could do less and have the same or an even better body. My self-flagellating mind simply cannot accept that possibility. Then again, working harder hasn’t seemed to work out at all the way I thought it would. Maybe I really am doing myself a disservice by pushing myself so much. What if I was able to do less, better quality exercise, enjoy my workouts again, have more free-time, feel less tired and stressed, AND look/feel better in my body? It’s so difficult for me to contemplate, let alone begin to test.
I know if I really want things to change in my life and in my body, I’ve got to actually start doing things differently. One of the big road blocks in my way is the fact that to truly know if the changes I implement are working, I need to see where I am right now and monitor that moving forward. It’s so unbearable for me to weigh myself or, god forbid, take photos or measurements. *shudder* But I’m afraid if I don’t, I’ll be too afraid to change anything because I might gain weight without realizing it. Dear god, I need a therapist so badly. Unfortunately I live in the greatest country on earth and that isn’t a feasible option for someone working full-time in the MENTAL HEALTH INDUSTRY!
My sheer ability to ramble on for so long about this topic is evidence that there is a problem. I want to follow that little spark of excitement and curiosity that tells me to switch things up. I know it’s worth it. I know it would be good for me mentally at the very least. I wrote something that struck me as profound last night while I was journaling: Fear is a powerful motivator. I am just afraid of the wrong things.
Deep Belly Breaths
The hardest part of yoga is letting myself breathe after 7 years of practice it still feels impossible I've heard that meditation can turn toxic if you let yourself spend it ruminating on the negative listening to that hateful little voice inside I don't know how to avoid that sharp pang of self-criticism and still breathe into my belly to find deep, full, relaxed breaths I've spent my whole life disassociating from that area avoiding myself even in the internal mirror of my own self awareness Only on my back can I let myself fully expand and take up space with the help of gravity to hold me and keep venomous thoughts at bay How can I learn to love all of myself when some parts cause me so much pain this undercurrent of overwhelm at the idea of accepting it's something I cannot change
An End to Social Media
I honestly can’t remember how long it’s been since I decided one day to never post on or even open my social media apps again. It was definitely a pre-pandemic impulse. I can only imagine how much worse my mental health would have been at that time if I had remained on Facebook and Instagram. I really lucked out with my random timing because I don’t think I would’ve had the willpower to take that plunge during lockdown. I’m just going to estimate that it’s been around 3 years now since I’ve been a part of that online hellscape.
Right away I noticed more space open up in my day as well as in my head. There was no more mindless scrolling for hours or trying to mentally curate the perfect status update. I also didn’t feel the need to look perfect for even the most mundane events so that I could take tons of photos for strangers. I knew from the beginning that it would be more isolating to not have an active Facebook presence, but the pros far outweighed the cons for me.
Fast forward to now and I’ve started to feel that familiar itch for validation. Part of me does miss showing myself off and feeling important. Sometimes I miss knowing how people I went to school with are doing and always having an endless supply of people to message and get attention from if I’m feeling lonely. There have been a couple times I’ve considered trying to go back, if even in a much more limited capacity.
I had to remind myself of all the reasons I left in the first place and ask the tough questions about what I was really missing. The thought had occurred to me a few times for finding a way to have Instagram without all the other people. That might sound strange, but hear me out. I really loved posting on Instagram. It was my favorite when it first came out. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but even more than that, I enjoyed looking back at my own photos. It was my own personal little scrapbook of my life. I still look through my old feed sometimes to find a specific picture I want to show someone. It always fills me with such tender feelings of nostalgia.
At the same time, Instagram may have even been more toxic to me than Facebook. I followed so many beautiful, skinny, perfect women. It was one of my guilty pleasures to just gorge myself on these flawless images every day for hours. At first it really felt inspiring and motivating. That didn’t last long though. It quickly devolved into yet another way for me to feel like I could never be good enough. I would never look like those girls behind the screen. No matter how hard I tried. I truly believe (and many studies suggest I’m accurate in this belief) that those images on Instagram as well as Tumblr contributed greatly to my disordered eating and unhealthy relationship with exercise and my body in general. I was always a little messed up in that regard, but social media sent me over the edge.
While things are still not perfect, I feel more mentally healthy without these influences in my life. I feel like I have more time to form genuine connections with the people that truly matter to me. I don’t feel distracted by all of these shallow, phony imitations of community. Now for the first time in my life, I have been actively working to create a real community for myself. I even found a solution for the things I was missing about social media.
Having Apple products, I am constantly being bombarded with iCloud pop-ups trying to get me to pay for more storage. While it is endlessly infuriating, it has led me to realize just how stupid these paid cloud storage spaces are. Why should I pay to store this in one place when there are literally thousands of free platforms that offer unlimited free storage to every user? Instagram doesn’t ask you to pay to save all your posts from the last ten years. Facebook doesn’t have a limit of things you can upload or share. Even this blog affords me unending space to post or upload as many files as I see fit.
I mentioned earlier my longing to have a private Instagram vacuum. I don’t want to get sucked into looking at anyone else’s feed, nor do I want to become obsessed with a public image and getting likes. Some people have told me their camera roll is like that for them. But as I don’t have unlimited backup storage, I don’t feel safe relying on something that could ultimately become lost. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Plus there isn’t really a way to organize photos on there in any kind of meaningful way.
A few months ago I had the brilliant idea of using my other blog that I never actually post on. Having a private blog is the perfect way to keep a little digital diary with photos, journal entries, or literally anything you might want to share on social media. So I switched the blog to private and make sure that I also set every post to private before publishing. Now I have a lovely little collection of moments from this past year just for me! I still get to take cute photos, edit and arrange them, but I don’t have to worry about tags or likes or who is going to see them. I can even add little excerpts about what that day was like or how my life was going during the moments these photos were taken. Uncensored, raw, and real. Memories stored forever, for free, for just me.
I would highly recommend this method for anyone who may be tempted to immerse back into the dark waters of these online spaces. It could also be an excellent substitute for people that want to extricate themselves from social media, but feel unable to do so. It has definitely scratched that social media itch for me. Even if you don’t want to stop getting on Facebook, another important takeaway is: The internet is the cloud. The internet is free, unlimited storage. Don’t pay for that shit. Anyway, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Have any of you tried this method already for yourselves? Do you have any experience trying to get off of social media? What has it been like for you? Do you think my solutions would be helpful in your situation? I would love to hear about any tips or tricks other people might have. Hope everyone is staying mentally healthy out there. Whether you ditch the apps or not, always know that you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are enough exactly as you are.
The Searing Pain of Self-Hatred
Some days I am really surprised by just how much I still hate my own body. Objectively I know that it isn’t even an unattractive one. It seems like people have complimented and enjoyed my appearance for my entire life. Yet I have never been able to accept my own image staring back at me in the mirror. It’s honestly impossible for me to even imagine being okay with myself. I have been counting calories, dieting, and despising my stomach since I was young enough to still call it “baby fat.”
Today as I moved through my yoga flow, it actually brought me to tears to realize how incapable I am of connecting with my core. I am only able to hold my awareness on those lower ab muscles for a few seconds before diverting my mind elsewhere. I feel such violent disgust and hatred for my belly that I’ve disassociated from it entirely. I find it terribly challenging to deepen my breath in any position other than lying flat on my back, because the expansion of my belly is repulsive to me. My breath stays shallow, high up in my chest. Even making the effort to deepen it brings me no peace as then I am overwhelmed with negative thoughts about myself. The ironic part is, because of that, no matter how many crunches or ab workouts I do, I can’t effect that area at all. The rest of my body’s muscles compensate because my brain has all but severed any connection with my midsection.
There have been many times in the past where I’ve tried to keep engagement and awareness in my core throughout the entire day. It is utterly impossible though. I end up tensing my lower-back and hip flexors instead. It is just too painful for me to notice my stomach for any significant amount of time. Even writing this down feels so pathetic and frustrating. It’s hard to even acknowledge.
Instead of softening and feeling compassion for myself, I hate myself for hating myself, as stupid as that sounds. I feel as though I am in an impossible position. I know that in order to ever have any hope of having a flatter stomach, I have to first accept myself so that I can consciously connect to and strengthen those muscles. However, this is an absolutely atrocious concept for me to even consider. I can feel my entire body tense at the thought. I begin to hold my breath. My heart seals closed.
I desperately want to love myself and feel okay in my own body. Even though I believe that everyone deserves that, somehow at the same time I still believe that I don’t. It truly makes me afraid of how I will be able to cope with the inevitable aging of my body. If I can’t love it when I’m young and healthy, what will happen to me when I am older, heavier, disabled, or ill? I am so utterly fed up with my fixation of my appearance. Of all the trillions of things in the world to focus on, I waste so much time and mental energy hating myself for something I clearly have little to no control over. Do other women feel this way? Is this the reason that my grandmother’s core muscles have actually atrophied over time? I don’t even know where to begin to address this issue.
The power of our own self-perception is staggering. It’s crazy to know that my own (possibly grossly distorted) self-image vastly outweighs what anyone else thinks about me. Despite all the people in my life that have told me I’m pretty or even sexy, never once have I truly believed them. If anything, my initial instinct is one of wonder and suspicion. Why would they say that to me? Are they just trying to be nice? Are they attempting to flatter and manipulate me? Occasionally, I even become angry by these kind of comments because I feel them to be blatant lies that I cannot comprehend.
I guess I’ll just try to visual that someday I’ll be able to love myself and my belly exactly how it is. Because right now, the idea is laughable and unimaginable to me. Then maybe once it doesn’t sound so ludicrous to see that as a possibility, I can work towards making it a reality. All I hope is that there comes a day where I don’t feel I have to avert my eyes each time I step in front of a full length mirror, a day where I can calmly observe my own reflection if not with love, than at least acceptance and an absence of desperate, frustrated tears.
Despite my many flaws, I do have at least one thing going for me: consistency. Since I was probably around 18 I have always had the same lofty goals laid out at the beginning of the new year. I suppose even earlier than that I was fond of including “losing weight” on that list. I have a lot of nostalgia tied to that idea of weight loss. It was always exciting to start out on a new path with high hopes of finally achieving my “dream body,” even though it usually ended in devastation, self-hatred, and disappointment. Yet now, having recently pulled myself out of a debilitating eating disorder, I am at a bit of a loss as to what goals to set for myself.
As soon as I sit down to contemplate what I’d like to improve on, the first things that immediately pop up are diet, exercise, and weight loss. While the wording of these goals is no where near as toxic and self-shaming as they used to be, I still worry they are unhealthy. Even when I feel like I have the best intentions and am coming from a self-loving, health conscious mindset, I fear that subconsciously there may be something more sinister at play. It honestly feels like I have a mild form of PTSD from what I’ve made myself go through with food. Now even my goal of switching back to black coffee so I stop using artificial sweeteners sparks fear. Any mild analysis or consideration of my eating or exercise habits has become a huge stressor for me.
Trying to set new goals for myself has really emphasized just how much my life has been centered around food for basically as long as I can remember. Now my only options seem to be feeding my negative body image with unhealthy expectations or utterly disregarding the idea of physical health and nutrition. Both seem like terrifying extremes, but I don’t know how to find a healthy middle ground. Even setting small reasonable goals makes me fearful I’ll end up taking it too far or start paying too much attention to my appearance again.
The holidays (especially this year, having gone to TWO immaculate vegan Thanksgiving feasts) has not been very helpful. Although I am quite proud of myself for not even entertaining the idea of throwing it all up, despite being so stuffed I felt like I was going to die on Thursday. Even so, looking back on all of the bread, pastries, and wine I’ve had has me feeling puffy and grotesque. I’m trying really hard not to care. Still I can’t seem to shake this gnawing sensation of dread from creeping in again and again.
I have been wanting to deepen my yoga practice, particularly regarding the philosophy, and I’m hoping that will help me overcome this dilemma. While brahmacharya is traditionally interpreted to mean sexual abstinence, in my yoga teacher training we used it to mean moderation. While I struggle with most if not all of the yamas and niyamas in yoga, brahmacharya is a particular challenge to me. I believe total abstinence of something is easier than practicing balance and moderation. I find it far easier to never eat potato chips or cookies than to have just a few. Despite the deliciousness and various health benefits of nuts, I absolutely never buy them because the serving size is so ridiculously small. For this reason, I usually don’t even keep snacking foods around my house. If I’m going to eat them, I’m going to eat them all, and anything less almost doesn’t seem worth the effort.
I am hopeful that altering my eating habits through the guidance of my spiritual practice will help me maintain mentally healthy expectations and intentions. And I suppose I have good cause to believe this may be true. Practicing mindful eating for at least one meal a day has helped me foster a much better relationship with food and the hunger/satiety signals my body sends me. Unfortunately I’ve fallen out of eating everything mindfully simply because I so enjoy that cozy, brain dead state of watching Netflix while simultaneously stuffing my face. That has been a cherished eating tradition since watching TV from my childhood dining room table.
I suppose like most things, navigating this delicate situation is going to require a lot of trial and error. For now, I am going to do my best to stay mindful and not be too hard on myself for the hiccups and stumbles I encounter along the way. If anyone reading this is struggling in the same way or perhaps has had experience with this issue in the past, I would love to hear any suggestions you may have to offer.
Advertisements & Mental Health
Even as a young child, watching TV in my living room, I couldn’t stand commercials. Most of my life, I assumed that was just the obvious reaction to people trying to sell you shit you don’t want. I thought everyone saw them as annoying, if not infuriating. My anger towards advertisements has only grow as I’ve gotten older. Only recently have I begun to realize that not everyone views these ads the way I do.
A friend of mine always seems confused or surprised when I start ranting and raving about advertisements. I’m usually the one to get overly animated about topics that anger me, so I figured she was just put off by my fiery passion. But since then, one of my new coworkers has repeatedly shown me ads on his phone that he found funny. That really threw me. Why would anyone purposefully show me that? Why would anyone watch an ad intentionally? This bizarre interaction is what led me to realize that some people actually don’t mind ads at all, some even enjoy them, or at the very least, accept them as a necessary evil of a capitalist society. I guess I should have realized this sooner given that so many people inexplicably love to watch the ads during the Super Bowl.
Today I would like to address those people out there that have been fooled. Advertisements are not cute, or funny, or interesting. The advertisers are not your friends. Advertisements are not “necessary.” I’ll start there. I can still remember asking my mom why the radio was free as a little girl. I’ll never forget what she told me: The radio is free, because the advertisers pay to broadcast their messages. From there, it didn’t take me long to make the obvious connection to television. I simply couldn’t understand why we pay for cable AND have to watch advertisements. Shouldn’t it be one or the other? The answer is yes, and it used to be that way. Now despite the laughably high cable rates, the commercial breaks continue to get longer and longer.
I haven’t paid for cable since I’ve lived on my own and never plan too. Yet, I see this exploitative business model playing out in Hulu and other streaming platforms now. I was newly enraged while reading the message displayed on Hulu because of my ad blocker. “We are unable to show a message from our sponsors.” Excuse me? Fuck you, Hulu. I am your sponsor. When do I get to broadcast a message? Luckily I just get to sit in silence while my ad blocker does it’s job.
Some of you might be wondering why I wouldn’t just watch the ad, given that I have to wait the allotted amount of time anyway. I have a very good answer for that. I refuse to be brainwashed and manipulated. Advertisements aren’t just annoying, they are an assault to the senses. There are countless studies showing the negative mental health effects of advertisements, particularly on children. Children subjected to advertisements are more likely to eat unhealthy foods, be materialistic, and have body image issues. And that isn’t a side-effect, that’s the goal. That’s how marketing works.
The unspoken goal of all advertising is to make you feel like you don’t have enough, aren’t happy enough, aren’t liked enough, that you simply aren’t enough. The promise is that if you purchase their products, then you’ll be happy, popular, and fulfilled. Not only does that messaging deteriorate your mental health and wellbeing, it is also contributing to the climate crisis. When everyone continuously feels unsatisfied and feels they need more and more stuff to be happy, it takes a toll on the Earth’s resources. Sadly even if you are aware of all this, it doesn’t make the negative mental health effects of consuming this content any less damaging. It’s a mild form of brainwashing in my opinion. Especially when it comes to the impressionable minds of children. To make matters worse, with most of the content children are exposed to coming from the internet, there are even less protections in place to combat this, like there are on cable television.
To me, advertising is no different than the government allowing companies to pollute the air and water (which of course they do allow.) The reoccurring theme of capitalism rears its ugly head once again. Companies are encouraged to make money at the expense of the consumer’s health. Those companies aren’t my friends. They are my enemies. And I refuse to listen to their propaganda. So if you’re someone that doesn’t get mad about advertisements, maybe it’s time that you start.
It’s awfully odd how much we as a society fixate on our bodies’ outward appearance. We even go so far as to prioritize this over our overall health and well being. It’s almost as if we see our bodies as something purely aesthetic. As if it serves no other purpose besides looking nice. When we consider whether we like or dislike our own body it is primarily physical appearance that we are judging. Are we thin enough? Curvy enough? Tall enough? Short enough? Do we like our eye color? Our hair? Are we displeased with the way we are aging? The way our nose looks? Are our teeth white enough? Straight enough? I could go on and on.
There are so many different little details to nit pick at. Only yesterday did it dawn on me that there are far more important aspects of these vessels we are blessed to inhabit than how they look. Why do we not take anything else about our bodies into consideration when contemplating our opinion of ourselves? From an outsiders perspective, say a being from another planet, this must seem utterly absurd. I mean just take a moment to think about all of the amazing things our bodies do that we take for granted.
These incredible bodies of ours are doing dozens of miraculous things for us each and every moment. Without even having to think about it, these bodies breathe in the air around us, converting it into the very things we need to survive, distributing it throughout our cells. If we’re lucky enough, we also have five different senses constantly interpreting everything in the world around us, helping us to navigate through this life, allowing us to see and hear and hold our loved ones. Our hearts are working tirelessly at this very moment and every single moment we are here to pump life giving blood throughout our veins. Our digestive system is dissolving, absorbing, and distributing essential nutrients. Our immune system is endlessly battling against potential diseases, viruses, and infections to make sure that we stay healthy. There is never a true moment of rest for these bodies of ours. They are constantly growing, healing, changing, working to allow us to experience and enjoy the beautiful lives we lead.
It seems like an absolute crime that we only seem to care about the way they look. We take these bodies for granted. Failing to realize that we were not guaranteed any of this. So many millions of people in the world would kill to have the perfectly functioning, healthy body that I have. Yet all I do is demean and berate it at every chance I get. I starve myself to look thinner with no regard for the unnecessary strain that puts on every system inside of me fighting to keep me alive. I am so sorry, body. I am sorry for not treating you with the love and respect that you so clearly deserve.
Even my brain, that I constantly despise for the anxiety I experience, is doing so so much for me that I never take the time to appreciate. I focus on the one flaw without being grateful for everything else. So what if my brain has a small issue with serotonin and dopamine? So what if it sends me warning signals without cause from time to time? Despite that it is still interpreting, analyzing, and observing everything. It allows me to learn new things. It stores valuable information for me, precious memories. It directs the intricate machinery of the rest of my body without even using my conscious awareness. It allows me to experience a rainbow of emotions and feelings. It even produces wonderous inner movies for me to enjoy as I sleep.
How could I ever claim to not like this body of mine? I love it. It is literally everything to me. It is the one thing that is truly mine in this world. The way that it looks couldn’t be of less importance. And besides, it looks perfectly lovely. I have been rather lucky overall in that regard as well. I’m ashamed to think of how many moments I’ve wasted being so ungrateful. I am going to work hard to build a better relationship with my body. It does so much for me, the least I can do is be grateful, respectful, and treat it as well as I’m able.
Body Image Double Standards
Growing up, I was always the heaviest of my friends. It isn’t even that I was necessarily overweight, I just happened to have very skinny friends. Because of this and many other factors, I have always had a negative relationship with my body and physical appearance. I’ve been dieting and striving to be skinny for as long as I can remember. Yet even after beginning a workout regiment in high school and losing 50lbs. I’ve never quite liked my body.
As my friends and I got older, a lot of them started to gain weight. This isn’t surprising. Our metabolisms naturally begin to slow down after adolescence. Now that my friends are all heavier than I am, it’s brought to light some interesting double standards I hadn’t realized I had before. My very best friend has been very upset about her weight recently. Seeing her worry about it absolutely breaks my heart.
To me she will always be beautiful inside and out. It upsets me to think of her not loving and accepting her body exactly the way that it is, no matter what it weighs. Obviously to me she is just as worthy of love and happiness as she was when she was 100lbs soaking wet. I’ve never seemed to offer myself that same kindness, though. In my mind, I’ve never been “good enough” to deserve my own love, let alone the love of anyone else. I always tell myself that someday I’ll love myself once I lose enough weight or look a certain way.
I think this toxic mindset is one of the reasons I worry so much about my best friend. I’m afraid, terrified even, that she might think the same hurtful things about herself. I just couldn’t bear for her to think of her body the way that I think about mine. This has made me realize just how cruel and hurtful I’ve been to myself all these years. If I wouldn’t want my best friend to think and feel this way about her body, why have I been allowing myself to feel this way for so long?
It is so strange to me how vastly different the standards are that we hold ourselves to compared to those we hold other people to. Shouldn’t they be the same? If I truly want my best friend to love herself, every bit of herself, exactly as she is, wouldn’t the best way for me to ensure she does that be to lead by example? If I want other people to love me and accept me for who I am as a person rather than what I look like, doesn’t it make sense to show myself the same level of love and respect that I hope to receive? I pride myself on being a rational, logical person, yet I continue to live my life following a nonsensical set of personal rules and expectations.
Although I’m sad my friend is struggling with her self-esteem recently, at the same time I am grateful that she has given me unique insight into my own self-esteem issues. Now I not only want to change the way I think about and talk to myself for me, but for everyone else I love as well. I’m tired of sounding like a hypocrite when I tell her that she is beautiful and wonderful even though she may be overweight. How can I expect her to believe my words are genuine when I am simultaneously hating and berating my own, thinner body?
Sometimes it takes a good friend to help us realize how we should be treating ourselves. When we take a step back and look at ourselves as friends, it becomes quite obvious how unacceptable and unrealistic our own standards are. I am going to work hard to be a better friend. And that starts by being a better friend to myself.