I especially loved her rawness when she said:
“…there’s this weird pressure–like, once you’ve been called pretty, you owe it to the world to continue providing that prettiness. Like there’s a Pretty Police that’s going to catch you and kick you out of the club, and people will stop treating you like a person. I am terrified of getting old, because what will life be like when I’m not pretty, when my thyroid disease really starts kicking my ass and nothing can keep me from going up a jeans size? What am I going to be worth when I don’t fit the paradigm, when I stop trying so hard to fit it and let the Mr. Goodbars into my house and throw the scale in the trash?
I don’t know if it’s going to feel horrible or like I’ve finally escaped jail.”
I can 100% sympathize. I spent most of my life hating myself because of my body and all the things it was not. Last summer, I remember one painful moment of screaming at my reflection in the mirror, yelling things like “You’re fat! You’re hideous! How could anyone think you’re worth anything?!” I pounded the mirror and cried, wishing that I would die and escape from the pain of self-loathing.
This was my reality: Working out to punish myself for eating. Eating because I hated the way I looked. And blaming others for how I felt about my body. It was a miserable way to live, even for the moments of happiness I found through friends, my family, and various activities.
Even when I lost weight, I still punished my body for ever daring to be curvy and large and taking up space. Pushing myself at the gym twice a day, and eating myself sick daily – I made certain my body to never lost sight of the ugliness it could become again. And guess what? I ended up gaining all of my lost weight back and hated myself all the more.
Fast forward a year. I’m still extremely active, my day typically holds two-a-days, meal prep, and routine. My competitive side is very much present. I am an Armored Combat and Scottish Highland Games athlete – I constantly push myself to be better and put myself in uncomfortable situations. I am 5’3″ and I weigh between 195 – 200lbs, I wear a size 12-14 pants (depends on how much they stretch lolz), and I eat like I mean it.
The reason I do these things? I love my body.
I love my body more at my heaviest than I ever did at my thinnest, but the journey to that place was neither easy nor pleasant. The sole purpose of this post is not to undervalue anyone’s experience with their own struggles, (because body image struggles can be so personal and painful), but to provide some insight into my drastic shift in perspective. One that I constantly have to work to maintain, because I’m human and I fail to give myself grace.
Stop Buying/Watching/Supporting Products That Objectify Women
I used to subscribe to various fashion magazines over the years, and once I realized that these were all one big sales pitch geared towards women feeling badly about themselves, I canceled my subscriptions. It’s been two years and I haven’t missed them.
I make sure to have conversations about women in film, TV, books, Etc. and how they’re portrayed. Are they diverse, deep characters? Or do they all sing the same song? Once I realized how little women are valued in the media, it began to make me aware of the money-making goal behind these productions and the message that was being sent: Women are only valuable if they look a certain way, and that way is small.
As consumers we can change this narrative. People of all genders can begin to demand more respect and diversity for females (not to mention other people who are underrepresented!) on and off-screen, page, and print. Your voice matters – put your money where your mouth is.
One of my favorite resources in the body image conversation is Beauty Redefined. Their 5-Step Game Plan helps women eradicate the damaging ideals ingrained in our culture thanks to our media. (P.S. Check out their article “What Will You Gain When You Lose (Your Scale)?” where they discuss setting actual fitness goals. So great!)
Positivity Begets Positivity
This step was, and is, arguably the toughest in my journey. I had to change the way I talked to myself. Note, I did not say “change how I felt about myself,” I wasn’t ready for that yet. By taking the small step to consciously change the way I talked to myself, I trusted that my feelings would follow eventually.
Since I’ve trained myself to be aware of the words I speak about myself, I’ve noticed a huge shift in how I act. My identity is what I make of it, I choose to tell myself daily that I’m a warrior. That I am a hard worker. That I am valuable. Even on the days that I don’t feel those things about myself, I still tell myself those words and the feelings of inadequacy pass quicker than before. I changed the narrative I was telling myself daily, which put me in control of my feelings and responses.
Take Responsibility for Your Actions
People will suck. The media sucks. This step sucks.
But how cool is it that we have some control over all of these things? I’m not talking about creepy, world domination control, but the subtle shift in our perspective that helps us handle all of life’s sucky little lies.
Growing up around addicts and struggling with addictions of my own, I learned that taking responsibility for your own actions is an important step to freeing yourself from the feelings and patterns that control you. As cheesy and clichéd as it sounds – the only thing you have control over is you.
That excites me. What can I change about myself if I own up to my bad habits? My laziness? My fears? If you read my post regarding waking up at 5 A.M. to train, you know that this is a step I am constantly coming back to. Would I rather blame others and circumstances for my struggles? Hell, yeah! It’s easy to do and far less intimidating for me. Is it healthy? Nope. More than that, it keeps me in a cycle of regret, resentment, and fear.
So I talk to my friends. I make myself vulnerable and tell them my struggles, my fears, and the ugly side of myself. Surround yourself with those who care about your progress and this step remains a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I promise you that owning your choices and feelings is worth the change it produces in your life.
There’s no doubt about it – we are in a war against the media’s portrayal of women. It has taken its toll on us in different ways, and we’ve been in the trenches a long time. No matter where we are in the personal war – in the trenches, climbing out, falling back in – just remember that we’re in this together. As Delilah says:
“No matter how you feel about it [your body], just remember to treat it well. It’s imperfect, but it’s the only one you get. Good food, deep sleep, and lots of hugs feel good no matter what you look like. Find the thing that makes you forget what makes you sad and do that thing regularly. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.”
So this is me, adding my voice to the conversation in hopes that it helps other women fighting the same battle. We’re in this together, and together – through sharing and listening – we can change the conversation.