“I’ve gone through stages where I hate my body so much that I won’t even wear shorts and a bra in my house because if I pass a mirror, that’s the end of my day.”
― Fiona Apple
I did it again. I tried on a pair of pants that are probably a decade old and they did not fit (shocker!). This, I am certain, is an act of self-harm. I tried to shove my poor body into these pants and when they did not fit, I felt my eyes well up with tears and could not stop the emotions. I hold on to the pants with the hope that they will fit again one day. I need to donate these pants.
I am so tired of hating my body. My physical body has held me up when my emotions would have me collapse into a ball on the floor. My legs (the part I hate the most) move me through my every day with ease. My arms hold my partner while we sleep and hug the people I love. My stomach holds nourishment and keeps me alive. I’m so incredibly grateful for my body.
I am exhausted by the inner dialogue and comparison. “If I had her legs, I’d feel better” and “She’s so much prettier than me.” I am weary from this life-long battle against a body that has done nothing but love me.
I could never restrict my eating (I get hangry) but I did have a good run with bulimia. I remember the first time I was “successful” at this task. It felt like shame and power at the same time. I have also tried every diet and trick in the book to lose weight, even as my body begged me to stop (hunger pains, head aches, crabbiness). And, no matter what I tried, I stayed about the same size. I raged against my body. If I am honest, I still rage against my body. For example, trying on those pants.
It is curious to me that people tell you they don’t understand why people develop eating disorders. Or, that you should let the battle go “love yourself.” It’s that easy? Really? We are bombarded with heaps of absolutely impossible images of beauty every single day. We are explicitly and implicitly told being skinny and pretty are the most important things. To be “fat” makes you the object of ridicule.
I know men experience these pressures, too. I understand that men are subjected to cruel comments related to weight and appearance. In fact, I think this is getting worse for men. I know more and more men struggling with disordered eating now than I ever have.
Also, there is a fine line between supporting someone pursuing a healthy lifestyle as opposed to developing an eating disorder. I want to be healthy. I want to live a long life with few health challenges. I understand that this involves mindful eating and regular exercise. So, of course I want to commend the people I love for engaging in these activities. I want to be able to compliment their hard work without reinforcing unhealthy ideals. I want them to live long healthy lives, too. Where is the line? How do I know if you are struggling with body image and eating disorders. I can’t unless you tell me and you probably won’t tell me.
Truthfully, if you spend a day just observing your world (the real world around you and not media’s representation of the world), you will see that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. We also have to be careful not to persecute naturally thin people and assume their lives are easier. Even beautiful celebrities struggle with body image issues. No one is safe.
When I find that I’m obsessing or crying over pants that don’t fit, I remind myself of what I think makes a beautiful person. And, it is never about how they look.
The people I find beautiful are the ones that offer tremendous love, compassion, and support.
The people I find beautiful encourage others to set goals and support all efforts for someone to be the best version of themselves.
The people I find beautiful laugh loudly and proudly.
The people I find beautiful pursue wild and crazy passions.
The people I find beautiful love their children and grandchildren.
The people I find beautiful have the courage to live a life they love. They go out and do the things they want to do and the world is better and happier because they’ve done this.
The people I find beautiful openly show affection in public to the people they love.
The people I find beautiful stand up for people that have less than they do. They speak out against discrimination, prejudice, and hate.
The people I find beautiful sing out loud to songs they made up in their heads.
The people I find beautiful have the courage to live honestly.
The people I find beautiful love animals. They love to cuddle a dog, cat, pig, horse, or elephant.
The people I find beautiful love themselves. Or, they are always trying to love themselves (this is probably more fitting).
Ultimately, what you look like doesn’t concern me much when we’re talking about beauty. That is the salve I use to comfort myself when my pants don’t fit. Even if I don’t fit the image of beauty set forth by society maybe I can still be beautiful. It doesn’t always work but it’s the best idea I’ve had so far.
My lovelies, I wonder, if you close your eyes and think of the most beautiful person you have ever known, does what they look like matter much?
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross