I would like to talk about a sensitive subject today. It is something that I have been battling with for many years and I finally feel as though I found the missing piece of the puzzle. How many of you out there have something about yourself you are not happy with? For quite a few of us, the list may not be a short one. I am mostly referring to ones self image. Either way, I am sure you will agree that the constant fixation on it can be at times mentally debilitating.
When it comes to the type of person I am, I have extreme confidence that I am a good person, with good intentions and a kind heart. Yet despite this, there are many physical attributes that I spent years struggling to come to terms with. How about you?
It all began in the 5th grade, when a group of kids I went to school with began commenting on the hair on my arms. My biological grandmother passed down her Native American heritage to me in the from of beautifully dark thick hair, not only on my head, but my arms. It was something out of my control, but the target for much name calling and ridicule by my classmates.
By the time I reached high-school, I was bleaching and removing the hair as often as I could and in the time between I would always be seen wearing a cardigan as cover. Eventually it just became routine and I stopped focusing so much on the fact that I had to do it. It was just the same as getting a hair cut or shaving my legs.
That was until I broke up with my first steady boyfriend Freshman year. He had been keeping me on the hook in case things with his new girl didn’t work out (hindsight is 20/20). One day I was at my friend Brittany’s house when he called me to tell me he really needed to see me and that he had something for me. Thinking he may want to get back together, I anxiously waited for him by the door. Constantly peeking through the window at every noise on the street.
When he finally arrived, I rushed outside to see him standing there with a folded up piece of paper in his hand. I should have known by the grin on his face and the group of my “friends” hanging out of the car laughing that I was about to be the butt of a very rude joke, but I didn’t even see it coming. Barely keeping a straight face, he handed me the piece of paper and said something I can’t quite remember about how he had found something he thought would be useful to me and then he ran back to the car.
As I unfolded it, tears welled up in my eyes. It was a magazine ad… for a men’s razor. As I sat there, crushed, he drove away with his buddies (guys who were supposed to also be my friends), cackling at one another and exchanging high fives. I am not sure what they were so proud of. It doesn’t take talent to be cruel and that is all that was, pure and utter cruelty.
After years of regular bleaching and hair removal, you can hardly tell that this is something I used to struggle with, but the emotional scars are still there. Creeping up in other struggles I have with my self-image. Most recently, it has been my weight.
When I was in my twenties, I wore a size 4/5 jeans that hung loosely off my waist. I was raw vegan, with absolutely no muscle mass and no real curves to speak of, but I didn’t care because I thought I was skinny and therefore beautiful. A delusion set in motion a long time ago.
And then everything changed. Several major life events happened in the span of a few months that sent me on a downward spiral of self loathing and neglect. The most notable of which was the passing of my grandfather, which sent me into a very deep depression. I pulled myself out of it, but in the years that followed it was as if I had forgotten how to be kind to myself. I put on about 50 pounds, took up smoking and stopped doing almost all the things that once gave me such joy. At times, I barely recognized myself.
The turning point came, just before I moved to Colorado. The tale of which can be found here if you are interested. Since then, I have given my life a complete make-over! I have cut out unhealthy people and habits and reconnected with myself in a way I had only hoped would be possible.
The only demon, I have not yet been able to fully shake is the monster in my head who still ridicules me about my weight. Sure I have lost a great deal of it already, but for him it is not good enough. I work out 4 times per week, gave up soda & junk food, tripled my intake of water (something I never even consumed before!), eat right, drink less and I still just can’t seem to jump this last hurdle. Which is so frustrating! When we put in a great deal of effort without noticable evidence of results it can be mentally trying to stay on track.
A few months ago, I went back home to visit, armed with the knowledge that I had dropped close to 10 more pounds since they had all seen me last and was met with utter disappointment when no one really noticed. I ran into a crush of mine, who hadn’t seen me in a year, who no longer seemed interested, which I of ‘course attributed to him not being attracted to me because of my weight. Silly, I know, but when you have these deep seeded issues with self image it is where your mind always goes. No matter what the rejection is, you find some way to attribute it to the thing you are most self-conscious about.
I have decided, enough is a enough! I will jump this last hurdle when my body is good and ready. I know I have made the changes necessary to do so and thinking about it all the time is not going to speed up the process. Nor is it the motivation I need to keep moving towards success.
What is the point of living if we are constantly limiting ourselves, picking ourselves apart, and comparing ourselves to others all the time. Where is the joyful experience in that? How are we to grow? To love? To find contentment?
Not one of us out there is perfect and we never will be. So what a waste of time to be constantly striving for perfection. It is an impossible journey and will therefore always leave us unfulfilled.
There is great freedom in appreciating and accepting ourselves for where we are. Who are we if we are not ourselves wholeheartedly… full of beautifully unique imperfections that make up the intricately woven canvas of our beings.
After all, do I really want to be with someone who will only befriend or love me based on my physical appearance? I think not. There is no value in a relationship/friendship like that.
For anyone struggling with similar self image issues, I urge you to remind yourself daily that you are beautiful and you are powerful. Encourage yourself rather than degrade yourself. As those feelings of unworthiness and self doubt begin to creep in, fight back with reassurance and confidence in all that you have overcome.
Find a way to let go and love yourself just as you are. Only then will you truly be free to live the life you were always intended to.
Stop being your worst critic and start becoming your biggest fan!
Image courtesy of nixxphotography at FreeDigitalImages.com