Self Love & Body Image Struggles July 31 2018, 3 Comments
Posting this is hard for me. Trying to get out of my comfort zone & get a little personal with you in hopes that it can help someone else. Maybe you can relate in some way, shape, or form and if not, thank you for reading.
I’m not perfect, nor am I trying to be, but one thing’s certain, I grew up thinking that perfection was tangible. Constantly chasing it, assuming that I wouldn’t be happy until I attained perfection, whatever that may look like to you. To me, at the time, it was to be skinny and fit in with the crowd because that’s how I was raised.
Growing up over-weight, I was picked on by classmates and I wouldn’t tell my parents. I would pretend as if I had a great day & nothing happened. I’d bottle it up. Which, in hindsight, most likely contributed to me leaning on food as a crutch to make me feel better & develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
Being put on fad diets from the age of 10, possibly even younger, was very damaging to my self esteem & confidence. I hated the diets my Mom would put me on. Often times, she would do the diets with me and sometimes the entire family. Some of my worst memories as a child was “dieting” or not being able to eat this or that. I remember forcing down grapefruit for breakfast & I hated them, not just because of the diet, just didn’t like them. Never mind the fact that I was miserable & hated it, which is why the diets were never successful. I’m not blaming my Mom, love her to death, but she didn’t know any better & did the best she could. It instilled some bad habits in me that to this day I’m still learning/recovering from & working on.
Being surrounded by women in the family who didn’t know the meaning of self love, was very damaging to say the least. I always remember my Grandma ( passed away from obesity), Mom, & Aunt saying how “ugly & fat” they were. “Don’t take my picture, I’m ugly” or “I don’t have my face on” meaning they weren’t wearing any make-up. My Grandma would even go to the extent to say that no one loved her, that she had no friends, she’s all alone, etc. She would gossip with my Mom and Aunt about others, even family members, fad diets, who’s on what diet, what so and so is doing, etc. I love my Grandma, don’t get me wrong, but I now know, looking back at it, that she was hurting inside and just wanted to be loved. From a kids perspective, it’s impactful in so many ways you don’t realize and I didn’t know that she was depressed at the time, I just thought that was normal.
I began doing the same thing, unknowingly at a young age. Looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a fat, ugly excuse for a human. Not giving myself any positive affirmations whatsoever, because I didn’t know how to. Tearing myself apart was all I knew. Going through bouts of depression alone. Skipping from one fad diet to another because “My Mom said so”. Not happy with myself & definitely not confident by any means. Envious of others’ happiness and skinniness because I always felt like the odd ball, the fat friend. Always fixated on other people’s weight and looks. None of which is healthy, but that’s what I was accustomed to. When your classmates and family don’t accept you for who you are, what do you do? I turned to food.
Self talk is huge. Even if you don’t voice it outloud, your subconscious will pick up on it & it becomes real. I never voiced it, but you could tell that depression was manifesting deep within me by how much weight I would continue to gain over my teenage years. Hiding under baggy clothes and dressing like a tom boy to cover up. Using food as my crutch, my addiction to making myself feel better, when in fact, it was really killing me from within.
One day something clicked in me and I was sick and tired of being the “fat” kid, getting picked on & teased, feeling like I didn’t fit in or couldn’t do the same things other kids did because of my weight. This time it was different, this time “I wanted it”. I wasn’t doing it because I was forced to, or because I had to, I was doing this for me and only me. I wanted to not only feel better, but I wanted to look better, for me. At the time, the Atkins diet was the craze and my Grandma had tried it, so she leant me the book to read so I could follow the diet. I did just that and lost 65+lbs and have kept it off to this day. I’ve had my ups and downs since then, gained some weight, lost it, gained a little, lost it again. You know, the typical yo-yo dieters mentality, which I could elaborate on later.
In hindsight, that was fucked up!! Who puts a 9/10 year old on a diet when that is a crucial point of a child’s growing & learning stages of life? A point in life where they need nourishment, support, guidance. What signals does that send to the child? It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, like my family didn’t love me as I was, unless I was skinny, or like everyone else.
At first, when I took this picture (see below), I started to pick myself apart like usual. “Your waist could be tighter, your arms and legs could be more defined & less jiggly, look at all that cellulite on your ass & thighs, you haven’t been this thick in quite some time, you’re 10lbs heavier than your norm. As much as you workout & as good as you eat, you should be shredded or look like the models on a Fitness cover.” Really?!? WTF!! I caught myself and instead told myself that “I’m doing a good job considering what I’ve been through, am currently going through, and what I’ve overcome. You work your ass off day in and day out, you eat right and help others live a healthy lifestyle. You’re trying to better yourself from one day to the next, you’re a work in progress. So what if you’re not perfect. No one is.” I mean, what is perfection anyways? Societal standards/norms? If so, barf!! I never liked following the crowd anyways. Strangely, I find comfort in being the loner.
I still struggle with body image dysmorphia, depression, and self confidence. Always a work in progress I say. I’m grateful for the ability to look back, analyze my past and learn from it, while the rest of my family is still suffering & struggling. If anything, its made me a stronger person & gives me something to work on. Strength is not earned without struggle, a true test of chronic strength.
I know this is a bit of a ramble but the point I’m trying to get to is… Be careful what you say and do around your kids, they will pick up on it and follow in your footsteps. Same goes for the group of friends you choose to surround yourself with. Be kind to yourself & others. You never know what someone else has been through & why they may be the way they are, oftentimes by default. Be mindful of your thoughts & those you surround yourself with, it tends to rub off in some way or another. Do what makes you happy, not what others want you to do. Happiness is not a destination, it’s created from within & it’s not always sunshine & rainbows. You’re allowed to have a bad day, but don’t let it continue into a daily routine of self loathing, negative thoughts, & self pity, which spawns into depression. You control your happiness , your thoughts, & those you choose to surround yourself with, good or bad. Be cognisant of that. Learn to love yourself flaws and all because when it comes down to it, no one else will love you as much as you love yourself. How can you love another when you don’t love yourself?!