It’s been a while since I got heavy around here and opened up about my body image struggles. If I’m being completely honest, it’s probably because they aren’t struggles I think about or face that much anymore. For the first time in my 25 years, I’m finally in a place where I can say I feel 100% comfortable with myself and with my body. I cannot even begin to explain what a relief this is.
My hope with sharing this post is that I might pass on some wisdom or advice to help you get to a better place with your body. It has been one seriously long road for me to get to this here and this journey has been mine and mine alone, but perhaps my story might inspire you to have a healthier relationship with your body and love yourself exactly as you are.
For many, many years I struggled with loving and accepting myself. I wish I could tell you why or that there was some event that instigated it all, but I can’t. It stemmed from a deeper place of self-judgment and doubt. While, my issues were clearly internal it was easier to focus my energies on the external.
Despite always being a healthy weight, an active person and following a relatively healthy diet (minus that one summer I took the McDs tour across Europe…), I spent a lot of time nit-picking the way I looked. I wished for a smaller butt, straight hair, bigger boobs, clearer skin etc…I couldn’t for the life of me see any positives in what was staring back at me in the mirror. And I spent a lot of time staring at that mirror.
Mass media, friend-groups, and a lack of information eventually took its toll and I found myself being completely and utterly obsessed with perfecting the way I looked. It consumed my life and I saw results. But I soon discovered that my quest for the perfect body didn’t bring with it the happiness that I thought it would. It wasn’t until I realized that the problem wasn’t my body at all that I learned how to love myself inside and out.
It was one hell of a ride to arrive at this destination, and I would walk it a million times over to be where I am at today. Not for a second do I wish for a smaller butt, straighter hair, bigger boobs or clearer skin. This is me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
With that, here’s a window into how I learned to love my body.
I accepted my reality.
I am NOT and will never be a Victoria Secret Model. These are the genes I was born with. I’ve got my father’s afro and my grandfather’s ears. They won’t be walking down a runway any day soon, and I’m okay with that. I don’t intend to spend my life trying to live up to society’s definition of beauty. A) I only have one set of genes that aren’t changing and b) because I know the work that goes into fitting a size 0 jeans and I am SO not interested in going down that road again.
I got injured.
While I would never ever wish injury upon anyone, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I chose not to talk too much about it here, but for over 2 years now I have been dealing with chronic leg and back pain. It started with a run that botched my knee and with a lack of rest and check-outs from a doctor, it got so much worse. Reading back on this post is absolutely terrifying. It was so clear my body needed a break but it took 2 ER visits for me to come to that conclusion. I learned what it was like living with pain and it gave me a whole new appreciation for my body.
For about 6 months I lived with zero limitations or expectations on my body. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted it and exercised only when I felt like it. From this I learned that just because I can eat ALL THE COOKIES, doesn’t mean I will and that life that doesn’t revolve around food and exercise is kind of awesome. I also didn’t blow up like the oompa loompa I had envisioned in my head.
My passion for health was reinvigorated because I was reminded why I choose to eat healthy and move my body. I feel more energized and present when I do. This shift in perspective is subconscious now. I don’t crave cupcakes because my body just knows I’ll feel better without them but it also knows that they aren’t off limits and without this pressure of scarcity, I am far less inclined to reach for one. I eat healthy and exercise because I love my body, not because I hate it.
I stopped looking in the mirror.
I broke up with my mirror. Cold turkey. Sayonara. I didn’t want to stare at my mirror and tell myself how awesomely perfect I am either. I just wanted the way that I looked to not matter at all. So I minimized the number of mirrors in my home and spent as little time as possible looking into them. Yes, this was a conscious effort and it was very difficult but I now almost never do except on the rare occasion I’m putting makeup on, or while brushing my teeth!
I found my passions.
I finally took the time to deal with the root of the issue, my lack of self-confidence. Much of this stemmed from feeling like I wasn’t good at anything and had no purpose in life. Instead of focusing on how to perfect my body, I took some time to figure out what drove me to be my best self and what made me wake up everyday and kept me motivated until bedtime. I focused on how to turn this blog that I love so much into something I could do every single day. I fell in love with photography and writing and mentoring other bloggers to go after their passions as well. I am so proud of how far I’ve come and my days are filled with so many activities that I love that I honestly don’t have the time or energy to care how my body looks. As corny as it is, once I came to love who I am inside, I actually learned to love myself a whole lot more on the outside.
I stopped with negative self-talk.
You will never find me saying things like “I feel so fat” or “I wish my ________ was smaller/bigger.” I just full-out stopped saying it. At first it was hard because the thoughts were there and I couldn’t vocalize them. But eventually once I stopped making my thoughts a reality, they went away. Now when I hear people bashing themselves, I get totally irked. Girls, STOP being so damn hard on yourself.
I grew up.
The person who I wish would read this post and take something away from it is me 5 years ago. It’s the young girls (and boys!) in high school and college who get way too wrapped up in the idea that the way you look is the be-all and end-all. Ironically, if you would have sent me this post 5 years ago I probably would not have cared. It seems silly to me now that I spent so much of my time preoccupied with achieving the perfect body, or that I thought other people actually cared about the way I looked (for the record, they don’t.) but it felt very real then. A part of the reason why I came to love my body is because I’ve learned so much about the world that only comes with age and experience. While I have a long way to go, as I navigate my way through the world I am learning what’s truly important and not surprisingly, having flat abs is not on that list. BTW, neither are crop tops…thank god.
All of these things combined are what brought me here today. I’m learning to embrace my genes and rock my jeans, no matter what size they are.
I am proud of who I am, inside and out.