I was reading a post the other day on We are the Real Deal (great body image blog if you haven’t found it yet – go read!) asking what do you love about your body. I stopped to think and for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything at that time. Everything I came up with was followed by a negative almost immediately.
I love my small waist but I’ve gained weight and now it’s not so small.
I love my strong arms but they’re still flabby and I hate the bingo arms.
My legs are really strong but I hate the cellulite I have and they’re short and stubby legs and I have cankles.
You get the drift.
And it made me sad. I do love my body. I’ve fought the battles of body-snarking and loathing. I’ve built muscles and strength and health. Other than my hip (or really lower glutes) hurting and getting tight, right now me and my body are getting along. We’re working together so things should be all unicorns, butterflies and rainbows.
And yet it’s not. I’m sabotaging myself. I’m eating crap, justifying everything, feeling like crap because of the crap food and self-medicating with more crap food. Sounds like a fun cycle doesn’t it? I look in the mirror and, depending on the time of day, I either grudgingly accept my body or I find a million flaws.
I feel fat and bloated. My thighs rub together. I notice the flab on my arms. I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’m a slob. I no longer fit into my smaller jeans and sometimes I feel that I don’t fit into my normal jeans either. I see myself in the gym mirror and I can’t believe how wide my hips are. I have days where I look at my belly in the mirror and I’m surprised nobody’s asked me if I’m pregnant.
And yet, when I go shopping, I constantly have to get the assistant to get me smaller sizes because I instinctively pick up the bigger size. I had to get a dress taken recently because it was too big in the back and they had no smaller sizes. It was an extra small. I was too big for an extra small.
I’ll let you sit with that for a minute.
How is it that my body and my mind are so far apart? How do I feel so awful but my body doesn’t reflect that? How do I get back to normal?
I want to get back to the me I used to be, where I loved my body for the strength, where I could revel in the weights I was lifting and the shape I had cultivated. I want to admire my muscles, my health, my vitality, myself. I want to nurture myself and stop pretending that popcorn and junk is nurturing.
I want to get back to me again.
If you had told me 2 years ago that I’d be doing unmodified push-ups and lifting weights twice a week and joining a volleyball team, I would have laughed. I would have told you that I couldn’t do that, that weights are frightening or that I don’t do team sports (I probably still shouldn’t be ssssh).
But I made a decision in September 2007. Two decisions actually – one small and one huge. The first decision was that I was going try to stop caring about what other people thought and listen to myself first. That was actually the small decision. The huge decision was that I was going to move overseas in 12 months. That was huge, admit it. But my small decision was hardly that small either. I realized that I was (still am in some ways) totally hung up on appearances and possible judgements and perceptions that I shied away from doing things in case I screwed up. In case I didn’t do well because 15 years ago I screwed up when I tried that and I’m never doing it again.
Case in point: I got my learner’s permit at 16. I went for a driving lesson with a complete idiot as my driving instructor. She had me going at a snail’s pace in 2nd gear for the entire time and leant out the window yelling “get out the way! Learner driver!” No I’m not joking. I didn’t get back into a car for a year.
Case in point 2: I tried out for my school’s netball team in grade school (yes, I am going back that far!) – my school was huge and had 5 teams per grade, A through E. I tried out and some stupid mother told me that I wasn’t even good enough for the bottom team. I was worse than the girls who were cross-eyed. I never tried out for another team sport again.
I could come up with a million different examples but you get the point. I struggle with not embarrassing myself; with expectations and with perceived judgements. Because they are really perceived now. Nobody tells me that I “can’t” anymore – I do that myself. But I made the decision to stop doing that.
So I lift weights and strive for the heaviest I can lift and still be able to get 3-4 sets of 12 out. I push myself when I realize that I got to 12 easily. I am working on banishing negative self talk when I’m playing volleyball (that’s a challenge and I’m aware of it). But the fact that I signed up for volleyball is a huge step in itself: I opened myself up to potentially screwing up and embarrassing myself in front of people I work with. Huge step.
So I’m proud of myself, even though I STILL can’t serve and get the ball over the net. I’m proud of myself for being a work in progress and becoming someone who tries things instead of wussing out. I’m proud of myself for becoming someone that people ask advice from. That’s kinda huge. I need to remind myself how proud I am when I start letting things get me down and wishing I could hide.