Yes, I am going to go there: body image.
Who in their right mind ever wants to be the fruit-shaped designs?! An apple? A PEAR? For crying out loud. My mother compares our family’s female shape of our family to the Irish potato.
Pass the bucket of vegan chicken now, please.
In all seriousness, I struggle with negative body image. I know that many of you reading this feel the same way. What prompted this post was the re-emergence of the inner evil voice this past Friday morning. Here’s how it unfolded:
- Step into black dress to prepare for a full day workshop presentation.
- Look at myself in the mirror, forward facing – ok, I can do this.
- Turn to the side and look in the same mirror.
- What is that? A belly? Why did I have two beers last night? I should have only had one. And then I ate falafel? IN A PITA? WHAT WAS I THINKING? WHY DID I DO THAT AND NOT WORK OUT THIS MORNING AND WHY DO I MAKE SUCH TERRIBLE CHOICES.
I have carried shame and hate towards my body as long as I can remember. As a child (we’re getting into some personal baggage right now, so buckle up), I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and berate myself: verbally and physically. I would tell myself that I was fat; I was ugly; I would hit myself on my thighs or my stomach with my hands, a hairbrush. This behavior would continue until I shocked tears from my eyes.
Why was I so viscous to myself? I was raised in a supportive, loving household. I recognized that I was heavier than other girls my age (as my mother reflected as I grew older: I wouldn’t be easily knocked over in the wind). But, what would drive a nine-year-old to treat herself with such disrespect and hate? Because it was hate. A unjustified self-loathing that consumed rational thought and compassion.
It would be overly-simplistic to point to teasing as the main culprit. Granted, I did receive my fair share of schoolyard taunts during my formative years. I was not above returning the favor, either. Did I start reading Seventeen too early? Did the own bodily insecurity of other women in my life plant those seeds of doubt within me? I liken it to the cocktail: external and internal forces at play, festering within me. At some point: the energy had to escape. Unfortunately, it escaped in a destructive, unhealthy manner.
I grew out of such disturbing behaviors. But, the little voice tucked in those inner recesses of my mind burrowed in, poking its nasty head out at some of the most inopportune moments: before a date, during times of peak loneliness, swimsuit shopping. In her book Yes Please, Amy Poehler talks about her own battle with this voice – the one that drips in doubt and turns sane women into monsters.
I am not alone in this struggle. It’s not unique to women either. And, I thought (and hoped) that as I changed my lifestyle, whether increasing my exercise or eliminating products, my body image issues would gently fade away. I would be happy with me.
Some days that happens. And there are some days, like that Friday morning, where I dismiss my hard work, try to ignore the enjoyment of living, and be my own worst enemy.
I am not writing this to elicit positive feedback or encouragement of “oh, but you look so X, Y, Z.” No. See, this inner voice – it’s inside me and my own head. External factors may have helped to plant that voice, but I’m the one who has to find and use the tools to extract it for good.
I write this because I want to be open with this struggle. This isn’t my only struggle. But, I feel like it can be one overlooked.
I hope this public discourse instills in me a sense of accountability greater than myself. At the end of my life, whenever that time may come, the memories and impacts of what I – or any of us – leave behind will have nothing to do with whether we were categorized as an apple, a triangle, or an Irish potato. It is about the gifts we give to this world through our talents and energies; it is about the relationships we forge and challenges we face head on; and it is about those moments of levity, of laughter, of love, and adventure that we experienced with others.
Time to press reset on self-love. I will acknowledge these negative feelings, and then I will change my self-narrative, one day at a time. I invite you to join me, if you are not there already. If you are: thank you. You are modeling what it is like to live and love fully.