Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Loving Yourself.

Lately, I've been spending time with a new friend, who has become a very solid and positive influence in my life. It's always been so interesting to me how there are some people who you can just connect with, and you get that feeling of, "This person is going to be a friend for a long time." I've opened up more to this friend than to many who I've known for considerably longer. 

One of the things that we've opened up to one another about is body image issues. The more open I've become with my struggles with body image, the more I've realized that it is (sadly) not outside of the norm for people to struggle with all facets of their appearances.

For as long as I can remember, I've been incredibly hard on myself. My family always had extremely high expectations of me in all aspects of life - we needed to be put together physically, to excel at school, to excel at sports, etc. They didn't do it to be nasty or cold-hearted, but that high demand for perfection is something that has shaped me in a more negative way. There's nothing wrong with being a perfectionist to an extent, but when it starts to become more obsessive, or when you start beating yourself up for not meeting impossible to achieve standards, that's when a problem sets in.

I can remember studying for a calculus test when I was a junior in high school and getting an 80 on it, which was basically impossible because I was half-dumb in math (seriously, not gifted at all - though now it's one of my favorite things to teach). When I came home, exuberant from this grade that I had never thought would be possible, I said to my parents, "You will not believe what I got on my calculus exam!"

The response from my dad was, "100?" It was one of those stomach dropping moments, because here I was, elated over an 80, and yet that was the expectation - that I would get 100 on a test, even if I was awful at the subject. Soccer was the same demon - if I was set up for a goal and missed it - even if the angle was off, or someone was coming right at me, I would have to hear a run-through on the drive home over what I could have done to make that goal. The next few games I would make winning goals (which led to the soccer recruitment), but it didn't matter- the goals weren't as emphasized as the ones that were missed.

This led into me struggling with my appearance - something that I don't often open up about. When I'm around my guy friends - even ones who are not anything gorgeous by any terms - I hear them talk about women; the fat ones, the ones with a "butter face," the ones who are hot, etc. They are constantly talking about what is appealing, what isn't appealing - and this should not come as a surprise, but 99.7% of the time, you do not hear them say, "God, all I want is an awesome personality or someone who can make me laugh." Or if we see someone who might be a little heavier, you don't hear about the redeeming qualities she might have - instead it's just tearing someone down based on outward appearance.

As women, we get sucked into it as well. Way too often "slut" and "bitch" are thrown around to describe someone who may dress differently from us - or someone who just "looks like a bitch." We feed into it as well, sometimes because of insecurities, sometimes because of confidence. Believe you me, the meanest things I have said about other women are when I am feeling the lowest about myself.

The thing is, those words hold so much weight. I can still remember a comment that was made in high school about my skin. I used to have horrendous acne, something that I do still struggle with as an adult, and I can remember - verbatim - the comment that was made. There are times when I'm going through a particularly bad breakout when that statement comes back at me, and makes me feel even more horrible than I'm already feeling.

We get so angry when we hear about young kids bullying one another and constantly harassing each other - and yet, we're doing the same things to our peers, our friends, and ourselves. Somehow we've got to wrap out mind around the fact that it is possible to bully yourself, or to be a bully even as an adult.

Our words hold weight. You may not realize what an off-handed comment can do to someone, but if you don't know their background, you may not realize the impact that it has.

The friend that I mentioned earlier is recovering from an eating disorder. She's an absolutely beautiful person, inside and out, and I applaud her strength in getting help for her struggles. She has taught me to really watch what I say, especially regarding people's weight. A group of us went away, and I picked up on so many comments that people were making regarding weight, without even realizing it. And, eating disorders were joked about more often than you would realize - "God, I ate so much. If I want to fit into my bikini, I should probably go vomit," or "Ugh, I'm skipping dinner tonight after drinking so much!"

I can also remember in college - after I gained the freshman 20 (the freshman 15 is for amateurs) from a steady diet of 4 meals a day, beer, and lots of pizza - when I realized that I was extremely unhealthy. It wasn't so much a weight issue as it was that I couldn't even do anything - I couldn't run, I felt physically sick when I tried to play intramural soccer. I started doing yoga, limiting carbs (in a good way), and eating more fruits and vegetables. When I started to lose the weight again, which came off easily because I do have a fast metabolism thanks to genetics, I heard more nasty comments about my weight than when I was unhealthy due to the diet/lifestyle choices. The accusations of eating disorders led to me feeling even worse about myself, which led to a complete and total obsession with calorie counting, bingeing, abstaining from meals to make up for the bingeing,etc.  It spiraled into an unhealthy obsession that I did have control over, but that people also fed into (excuse the unintentional pun) by constantly critiquing my weight.

During our vacation away, someone made a comment to my dear friend about how, "You're a size 8, right?" Now, a size 8 is a gorgeous size and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But you do not ask someone what size they are unless you are extremely good friends with them and you want to borrow something of theirs... and even then, just no. The way that this was said though, was almost like a dig - as if there was shame in being a size 8. It came out later that the person who made this comment had also made comments to other people about how intimidated she was to be in a bikini all weekend and how she felt like she hadn't worked out enough before coming along with us. She had taken her insecurities and had then made it an insult to be a size 8, and she had unknowingly brought up weight to a recovering bulimic.

Somehow, we need to start loving ourselves. We need to stop emphasizing what size we are, and start feeling good about ourselves. You can be a size 26, but if you can exercise and feel great, then fuck what anyone says about it. If you're a size 0, and that's just the way you've always been, then good for you too. Everyone in the middle of those ranges is also just perfect as you are. If there's something you want to improve, try it - work out a few times a week, build up strength. Fall in love with your own body, with your own appearance.

I really believe that if we start loving ourselves more - even our flaws (because they will always be there), that maybe we can start working on how we view each other as well. All of us - regardless of sex, race, sexuality - struggle with how we look from one time to another, and by being honest about that and trying harder to give ourselves and others a break, maybe we can start to combat that so the next generation can also learn to love themselves.

It's just been weighing heavily on my mind lately, and writing is sometimes the most cathartic thing I can do. I'm now off to figure out what I can do in my life to love myself a little bit more. 

All images via Pinterest (add me if we're not already connected!). 

Currently listening to: Flowers in Your Hair - The Lumineers


The Dainty Dolls House said...

Hello my lovely!! I can relate to this post lots. Growing up, my mother was mega hard on me, the bad way. She pushed and pushed for me to be as she wanted me to be, that I didn't even know who I was or what I was doing. I was born with cerebral palsey in my legs and people made fun of me & always told me what they though I was & that I wouldn't do anything in life. I got told because of being a girl or the colour of my skin I wouldn't go far, that my family wasn't good enough because we were raised by my mother and on the wrong side of the streets. I was a mess. I developed an eating disorder and self harm. Now that I'm older, I've realised that in this world, you must - MUST stand on your own two feet, you must carve your own path, create your own story, walk where you have to and not where someone else has gone or told you where to go. Life is about creating yourself, your world, your dreams, no matter who you dissappoint or upset because they think they know what you should be doing. The only person you need to please is yourself in your dreams and aspirations. If your doing something because someone else thinks you should do it, stop and go with your heart. You will find so much joy in life when you free yourself from the bonds that the world tries to put on you. The skin you thought you didn't like so much that your in, becomes the best thing in the world. I have learned to find great joy in being me & not listening to what others say, so much more than I did growing up. I wish I had realized these things then instead of now, but it's ok. You'll upset people & that's ok, real love will love you and support you no matter what!! But, it's the love we give to ourselves that really matters, it helps us to see the world through better eyes. Instead of waiting for someone to tell us we're worth it, we know we're worth it before we even step out the door & you are worth it! All of us are!! I hope you love all of you and know in your heart you are worth it & be the best you, you can be :))) HUGS xxx

dani said...

I absolutely love that Roald Dahl quote.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey and your struggles! I can absolutely relate. We are all our own worst critics. I recently discovered this quote, and I think it's so apropos to life these days:
"Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys."

Good luck figuring out the rest of the path! <3

Couture Carrie said...

Thanks for your candor, darling...
We have a lot in common.
Love this post - beautifully written, honest, and with great quotes!


Ashley said...

I can relate to this so much, as I'm sure almost everyone who reads this can. Women, in general, are so critical on themselves. I wonder if it's in our DNA? You're so right, though... We all need to stop hating on our little flaws and loving them instead. It'll make us happier people, right? And I've heard before that happy girls are the prettiest :) Xoxo

Ps. That Roald Dahl quote is my absolute favorite. Perfect.

Sara Louise said...

The older I get, the more I realize it's about being healthy, not skinny. I'd rather be a healthy size 8 with muscle tone than an unhealthy size 4.
And you're right, we all have to stop bullying ourselves.xx.

lauren @ la petite fashionista said...

SUCH a good message in your post today! I couldn't agree more. I think this is one of the things I like most about living in Wisconsin. there is so much less pressure on weight and appearance living here than in florida!

keep on keepin on lady! :) & instill it in the classrooms of all of your students !

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

Love your thoughts on this and I couldn't agree more. I was just talking to a friend about this too - at what age is it that we really start become so hard on ourselves? I mean when you are a kid you don't even give a second thought to what you are wearing or if you are having a "good hair day", etc.

The Dainty Dolls House said...

Have a wonderful weekend my darling girl!! Thank you always for the precious comments, they lift my days xo