My Struggle with Body Image
For months, I’ve been meaning to write some articles about body image. This is one of the things I still struggle with, even though I feel like I’ve found balance in most other areas of my life. And because I am a life coach for moms, I feel like I need to have everything under control, so I’ve hesitated to put this out there. But now I’m putting it out there. Forgive me if it is too jumbled or too long or too confusing. It’s time for me to get it out there, though.
I have always felt like I would be happier if I was skinnier.
It didn’t matter whether I was 98 pounds and anorexic or 197 pounds at 40 weeks pregnant (the highest weight I ever reached, and it was exactly 197 with both pregnancies—crazy, right?)
Skinny Will Make Me Happy
No matter how I look, no matter how much I weigh, I always want to be smaller. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been able to run for long distances or where I can do 30 pushups, and I used to dance… all of that has made me feel more confident, but when it came down to it, at the end of the day, I have always felt that if I could just be thinner, I would totally be happier.
You’re So Vain… You Probably Think This Blog is About You
In elementary school, I was really shy. And not much of a looker, either. I definitely had an extreme awkward stage. I was that quiet, weird-ish-looking girl who was kind of nerdy. I didn’t have much of a personality. And I wasn’t the cutest either. I had a few close friends, but I was painfully insecure.
So of course when my hair grew out, I lost the braces and I got contact lenses, I felt beautiful. And people commented on my looks a lot. I remember trying out for cheerleading and someone in the front row was pointing to me and saying, “Look how cute and little she is!!” Something must have sunk in that being little was something to strive for. Thank goodness I was also smart, and I was talented creatively, so I was praised for those things too, or I would have been totally and completely vain. But still, I was shy and ridiculously hesitant socially, so looking good was easy. I didn’t have to worry about the fact that I wasn’t that funny or outgoing, because at least I was damn cute.
I moved to a new school in a new country in high school, and it helped to be nice-looking. Again, I felt like I didn’t have to try so hard to have an amazing personality; I still made friends. It was easy. The pressure was off. In my mind, I didn’t have to have the best personality if I was beautiful to make up for it.
The thing was, I never felt like I looked as beautiful as I could. There were always girls who were prettier and skinnier. One of my friends after college had been “discovered” on the street and started modeling. Why was no one “discovering” me? The thing was, because I had relied on my looks for so long, I didn’t put myself out there. Life came easily to me, and I just let it happen.
How’s that for empowering? It wasn’t. Inside, I was still the awfully insecure girl from 3rd grade with the feathered bangs and the snoopy glasses.
And my body image issues continued. I was still insecure about the way I looked, and as my weight crept up after college, I felt worse and worse about my body. Every time I looked in the mirror, instead of thinking, “I look great today,” I would ask myself, “Do I look skinny today?” When I saw photographs of myself, I would think, “Ugh… I look like a heifer!”
I wish I had some advice here. I would love to be able to add a header that says: 5 ways I got over my body image issues.
It’s Part of Who I Am
One thing that did help was finding things that fulfilled me. In college, I really began to hone my skills and focus on the things I was passionate about. Instead of breezing through an existence where the most important thing was my social life, I really began to spend my time creating art. My paintings came from my emotions and my hand, and although there were insecurities—there were always “better” artists, more “established” artists—my passion for art silenced the self-doubt. I was a creator. This was who I was. I could shake the insecurities and keep on creating.
I bet a lot of you who know me are surprised that I consider myself as having no personality or having been introverted for most of my life. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid to late 20s that I really felt complete. As I followed my passions, I became more comfortable. Maybe not in my skin, but as who I was. My personality was emerging. I was fulfilled by what I did, and I stopped caring what others thought of me. I said and did what I wanted, not what was expected of me.
I’m not over the body issues, though. I still identify as a skinny girl. Like, I add it to my personality. I find it important to tell friends who have only known me post-kids that I used to be really, super skinny. Because I feel like they won’t know the real me if they don’t know that. I want them to see me the way I see me. When I think of myself, I think of my skinny self. And then I look in a mirror and think, “What the actual fuck? How can this be?”
It gets really confusing when I ask myself: Do I truly identify as a skinny girl, or is part of my identity someone who is always trying to be skinny? I’m doing some EFT tapping for that. (More on that in another blog post soon).
I would love to say there are days that go by where I don’t even think about what I look like, but that’s not true. It’s always hovering around me somewhere. I would love to say that I worship my body as the temple that housed, birthed and nourished two amazing children. But I don’t. I can tell myself that. But I don’t believe it. The older I get, the more embarrassing it is to reveal that I still find it important to be a size 4.
The thing is, I am happier now than I have ever been. I am more confident than I have ever been. I am more fulfilled than I have ever been. I am healthier than I have ever been. I am just as fit as I have ever been. I am more self-aware than I have ever been. I feel more connected to other people and to the world than I have ever been. And it has nothing to do with how I look.
So why do I care how skinny I am? I’m working on it, is all I can say.
Do you ever feel like this? Do you admit it out loud? Do you admit it to yourself?