Disclaimer: My intention in this blog is to share my own experience & help even just one person with things I talk about. That being said, I never want anything that I write about to be triggering to any of my readers. If you are struggling with body image issues, thoughts of disordered eating, or have a history of these things, I will provide links to a few resources below. Please take care of yourself & your mental health.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I think this was originally a Theodore Roosevelt quote, but I heard Sophia Bush (love her SO much!) make this statement on a podcast the other day, & it immediately resonated. This statement sums up the relationship that I have with my body perfectly.
My relationship with my body has not always been a healthy one. There have definitely been times in my life where I loathed my body. I hated the way it looked, hated how different it was from my friends’ bodies. I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember; so much so that until recently, & without my knowledge, it was a huge part of my identity.
I grew up being active & playing sports. I was a dancer for most of my life, & spent most of high school in leotards & tights. I have vivid memories of seeing myself in the studio mirrors, & hating the way my thighs were so much bigger than the other girls’; or how my stomach hung over my tights when I was stretching at the barre.
I was surrounded by girls who were so much thinner than I was & I perceived them as being more beautiful for that; I felt unworthy & ashamed. I couldn’t bear for anyone to know how much I weighed, or for my friends to know that the store they loved to shop in every time we went to the mall didn’t even make my size. I would feel the blood rushing to my face as I grabbed the largest size they carried, knowing very well I wouldn’t even be able to get it on my body, & head to the dressing room.
Oh, god, the dressing room. The terrible, cruel things I would think about myself as I tried on clothes. My heart aches for her, that girl in the dressing room. Never in a million years would I say such horrible words to someone else, yet there I was saying those same words to myself as I poked & prodded my stomach & thighs with tears streaming down.
I would use food to cope with any negative emotions that I had. I would eat until I felt sick, gain weight, & hate my body even more. It was a seemingly endless cycle throughout my teens & into my early 20s. There were times I would consider just not eating, in the hopes that I would see the tiniest difference in my body. I would purposely not eat anything on a day that I would go to the beach with friends, because I thought that I would look my absolute skinniest & feel like I fit in with the other girls.
My journey to accept & love my body is a work in progress, but I’m proud to say that I’m the happiest with my body that I’ve ever been. I’m not saying that I love my body every day; I thought to myself just the other day “wouldn’t it be nice to lose 50 lbs?” before I corrected my thought & turned it into “wouldn’t it be nice to be more active to be healthier & feel better mentally?” Instead of focusing on the things about my body that I dislike, I try to focus on the things my body allows me to do. It lets me dance, it lets me explore places when I travel. It lets me live a life filled with so much love. For that I’m thankful!
If I could sit down with my 16 year old self, I would give her the biggest hug. I would tell her that she is beautiful & strong. I would want her to know that she is a whole person, so much more than a number on a scale or the size on the inside of her jeans. That the clothes in those stores that won’t zip or button do not determine her worth.
Most of all, I would tell her to stop comparing her body to other girls. Every single body size & type & shape is beautiful & unique.
Wherever you are in your body image journey, you are beautiful. It is more important to acknowledge your inner beauty. You are a human being with goals, hopes & dreams that your body helps you to achieve. I promise that when one of your loved ones thinks of you, it isn’t your weight or size that they think of first. It’s probably your smile or the way you laugh; what a great friend you are, or how driven & motivated you are in your career, how you have inspired them. That is how we need to begin thinking of ourselves! I challenge you (& myself!) to speak & about yourself the way that you speak to & about your best friend. Be kind to yourself, & don’t let comparison steal your joy.
Sending you hugs,