One of the challenges that I was put on this earth to work on is self love. I actually think this is a journey that most of us have come here to work on, and so I do not believe myself to be a unique soul in this capacity. My journey of self love also connects to self worth and my body. From the time I was a small person I can remember thinking my body wasn’t okay. I have a specific memory around 7 of me in my room, getting dressed and I looked down and pulled at the skin around my torso, and told myself, “You are too fat”. This is a voice that has followed me throughout my life; it no longer has the power it once did, but it still camps outside my front door, waiting for me to invite it in. I picture that voice looking like the mean girl in high school, only with stringier hair and more haggard now, (I mean she is camping outside my house and continuing to bully a grown woman, she can’t be doing that well).
The story of the ups and downs throughout my life and the moments where I can remember other people commenting on my body (good and bad) are not special or that interesting. There are just a few that I think have followed me around like an old scrapbook. The time my slim French grandmother told me I was not thin, the time I opened a social studies book in the 5th grade and saw a stick figure with giant boobs drawn on it with my name underneath, the one time a mean boy in my 6th grade art class called me fat, the countless times my mother was on a diet and although she never commented on my body, constantly yoyo’d up and down with her own, never satisfied. These early moments shaped how I saw myself, and although, as an adult I can rationally disconnect from them, they all still hold an emotional weight in my heart.
I eventually grew into my body and started to get noticed in a totally different way around 8th grade; I was cute (not hot) and had developed early and significantly. Meaning, my breasts were unusually large and I had finally thinned out a little. Boys came a’running. I loved the attention but for all the wrong reasons. I think a lot of young woman can relate to this experience; after being told for your entire childhood/adolescence, there is something wrong with you or undesirable, and all of a sudden you are receiving the opposite message, holy shit, you have just entered the motherland of all highs.
Throughout high school and college I realized thin equated to better, and so I ran a pattern play that many women resort to, which is restricting food intake. I became addicted to diet pills (when the good ones were still legal to buy OTC), I lost my damn mind when ephedrine became illegal when I was 18. Whenever I hear any medication or countries that still allow ephedrine to be used, my mind goes immediately into addict brain for a millisecond before I come back to rational thought. This is something I rarely share with people—not my parents, not my friends, probably just my therapist and now here. But it was very real—I was addicted not just to OTC speed, but also to the idea of what being thin meant, the attention and power I thought it gave me and the fallacy of happiness.
In college I met the man that was to be my ex-husband. He was funny, nice and safe. I felt like I didn’t have to try with him. I hid in our relationship. The dynamics between us suited both of us for awhile; my main awareness was that I got to feel more powerful and hidden at the same time. My body weight fluctuated more than it ever has in my whole life in this relationship, I gained so much weight and then would lose it. Gain and lose. Gain and lose. I was the most unhappy I have ever been with myself. This wasn’t his fault; this was my subconscious way of hiding. He ate a certain way, and I took implicit permission to do the same. I hated myself. I knew I had to make a change. Right around the time I completed my graduate program, I committed to myself the following: 1.) I needed to find a sustainable way of living and loving myself, and 2.) I needed to start now. I began to revamp my eating habits significantly; I quit drinking as much, I began to talk to myself differently. I joined the same gym as my girlfriends and started going to fun group fitness classes with them. Never in my whole life had I made such a huge shift that allowed me to regain control in such a short time period.
My body began to change, slowly and then quickly. I could wear cute jeans again, I cared more about what I looked like (in a healthy, proud way). The more I exercised, the more I wanted to move. The thing with change is that it is a ripple effect. You cannot just expect to change your body and stop there; your relationships change, your attitude, emotions and beliefs change, your values and words change. Holy shit, life is actually kind of awesome. My relationship with my husband also changed; it began to deteriorate quickly as we grew further and further apart. Many might not say the reason that we inevitably broke up was because of my body revolution, and it absolutely was a player. I was confident, I reconnected with my needs and wants, I stopped hiding. We had outgrown each other.
I look back on the choice to prioritize my physical health and how much that played a role on my mental wellness, and the connection is undeniable. My ability to move through difficult moments, elated wins and everything in between has been made more conscious and meaningful because I am connected to myself. I am fully connected to my body, my beautiful vessel that moves me through this life. I am more connected to my thoughts, emotions and words and how powerful they are and how much influence I truly have over them. My personal and professional growth have all been powered by the decision to invest in myself first. Those memories from when I was a little girl still tell a part of my story, and they no longer influence my beliefs about who I am and who I get to be. I am the queen of this hive and I GET to decide how I feel every single damn day.
This is not a story of reaching the mountain top, putting my hands on my hips and declaring “I’m done!” There is still work, there are days that are hard for me, where I need to consciously decide to love my body, love myself, and love fiercely because if I don’t, no one else can or will. I hear the echoes of that mean girl, and that chick can be so loud sometimes. I am beyond blessed to have to tools to not react, not attach and not judge (myself or her). I simply come back to asking myself “What is right about you?” “What do you love?” “What can you do to move through this with compassion?”
I know there are more mountains ahead of me and my body: aging, pregnancy, shifts that I cannot predict or anticipate. I am armed like a warrior, though; I feel prepared for whatever is to come because I am strong, physically, mentally and spiritually. When I wake up each morning and make a commitment to practice love, towards myself and others, I am walking my most sacred, challenging, holy path. I may trip and fall, but my body and mind are agile and I catch myself before I hit the ground.