So this is a bit of a different post. I have been thinking a lot about how I have changed and the process of the last few years, and I have written at length about my feelings, my struggle to be honest with myself, to remain compassionate with a broken heart, to believe and trust people after being hurt, but I have not talked about what all of that meant to me physically. Like most women my relationship with my body is difficult and unhealthy at times, and there is a lot of struggle. Sometimes it is easier to talk about how we feel in our heart, than how we feel about our bodies. Depression and weight issues have always gone hand in hand for me, whether it was a gain or a loss, my body reacts to my emotions.
A lot of this started as a kid, but I have blocked most of that out. Being a teenager was the time where I really started to be more self aware. I always grew up as the guys best friend, you know, the one that guys always want to hang out with, but never want to date because you would “ruin the friendship.” The one girls didn’t like because I often spent more time with their boyfriends than they did, even though it was usually just listening to music, playing video games, or doing dumb stuff they were not interested in. To top that, my best girlfriend was the tall model type that every guy wanted and I was 5’4” with frizzy hair. So, I developed some screwy ideas about love and sexuality and preferred to date casually, because it is easier than having your heart broken by your best friend (which happened numerous times).
When I was in my twenties, I had a fling with a close friend and when he told me he loved me my response was to tell him he didn’t and break his heart. Something I really didn’t understand that I had done until much later. I really just thought he couldn’t love me. I mean, I didn’t even love myself. I apologized to him recently, because it had been eating at me for over a decade (even after we became friends again) and it was probably one of the cruelest things I have ever done to someone I care about. I guess it was just something I didn’t see until I had my heart broken by a nice guy who was maybe just feeling unlovable too.
For most of my life, I was not really in touch with what it meant to be healthy or how to take care of myself. I was not in touch with myself enough to see what I really looked like. When I look back at pictures from the past, I wish I could tell my twenty something self that she was beautiful, but I don’t know that she would have believed me. Anyway, I eventually got to a period of time where I was able to be more comfortable with myself and got into a long term relationship with someone who, lets say…. didn’t love me unconditionally and was not afraid to offer some not very kind advice about it.
I struggled for years with this, but did eventually lose about 60 pounds (most of which I had gained in the bad relationship). Now, I did this over time and was healthy about it and I felt great in the process. Physically it was the healthiest I have ever been, but it wasn’t sustainable. A car accident and a miscarriage later and I gained back some. Then having a child in my 30s did a number on me, but I lost most of that weight quickly. However, I was in a bad marriage and felt awful about myself. In the year before my marriage ended I gained over 50 pounds, shoved all of my pants (I love pants!) into the closet, and spent the next three years wearing sack dresses to hide the fact that I was over 200 pounds and miserable. I told myself that if I were going to find someone, it would be someone who never knew me as skinny, so they wouldn’t be disappointed. Whew, just writing that is intense, but it is the excuse I made to cover the depression.
But after my divorce, custody stuff, and work stuff started to even out, I began to feel more like the old me and started making changes for myself, not anyone else. The past two years have been a process. I have learned that weight does not equate size. I have learned that strength and sustainability is more important than a number on a scale. I have come to understand that being a size 4 again is not a goal I actually want to attain, because I would rather eat nachos and drink whiskey and be a healthy size 8. I still have to work to maintain that, but it is sustainable. I will never be totally happy with my body, but I hope to love it anyway. It will always perplex me and bring some shame and sadness, even with all the pleasure and strength, but it is mine. It grew a child, it crossed cities, it’s made love, it overcame illness, and it has a lot more of those things to do.
As part of my process to get back to me, I started putting myself back in the picture (even if I have to take them myself), because there are years with very few pictures of me. I struggle with them to this day. I often don’t feel the person I see in the pictures I post on social media look like the real me. It must have been a good hair day, or the lighting, or the angle, not that I just look pretty. If the picture is awful, I am more apt to believe that’s what I look like and want to delete it immediately. The big thing I have realized is that this is not about wanting external affirmation, though it is always nice to be told you are beautiful, but the more I take pictures of myself, the more I start to see me. The more I can’t make excuses that it was just that filter or that day. The more I find my own beauty in small flashes in time. Often, what really gets me is thinking about my daughter looking at pictures of me when she is 40 and what she will see. That gets me more than anything. It reminds me to take care of myself, to be happy, to set an example for balance and self care.
So, the kicker (pun not intended) of the process of loving myself, is that I also came to realize that there are parts of my body that I do love. For me that has always been my blue eyes, the shape of my lips, and my feet. Why these? Well, when it came to me it was pretty simple: they have always looked the same, no matter what weight I was at or how I felt about myself, they are parts of me I always thought were beautiful. They are also parts of me that people never really noticed or complimented. Not that it matters when you like them because you can always take a compliment better when you agree what other people see.
It’s not just about being told that you are beautiful (you can talk yourself out of that real quickly with a game of “If They Only Knew”), or about wanting admiration or attention. It’s about the fact that people see something tangible, physical, undeniable in you that you honestly feel is beautiful too. And that is so powerful. It sets a spark that allows you to believe the rest of what they say. And I need that. For the first time in my life, I actually like parts of my body between my ankles and my head and I need to believe that the word sees me as I do, in some form. I have found that when I feel the most beautiful or sexy, it is not out of a desperate need to be seen that way by others, but when I am feeling the most in my skin. When, if even for a moment, I am admired for something I believe myself to be true.
Anyway, I am turning off comments for this post, as I really didn’t write this to elicit public statements of support or compliments, but if this resonates with you or you feel it touches something that you want me to know, please feel free to reach out to me directly and I hope that all of you love yourself a little more tomorrow than today.