It makes me want to scream when I look back on old pictures of myself and remember that I thought I was overweight then. But I can’t help but wonder, “Was there ever a time when I truly loved my body, or are we, as women, programmed to always find faults?”
Growing up, I was drawn to sports and athletics. My parents say it’s because I could never slow down. Perpetually bruised and scraped knees were my main look. I was part of a gymnastics team from about the age of five until eleven-years-old, when my knees pretty much gave out on me.
I have fond memories of my gymnastics days. I had power and no fear, but if I’m being honest here, not a lot of finesse. As much fun as I had flipping and twirling through the air, this is also my first memory of feeling shame towards my body. The realization that my pudgy, pale thighs didn’t belong in the world of fine lines and leotards. I didn’t understand why my teammates mom wouldn’t allow her to have Goldfish, while I was off to the side enjoying my after-practice snack of Bagel Bites.
Fast-forward a couple of years and I found myself on a competitive, year-round swim team (why I continued to choose sports with very little clothing, is beyond me). I was an average swimmer, and I enjoyed it for a time. My pudgy thighs followed me into adolescence, a by-product of genetics, not unhealthy eating. When summer came around, I always yearned to be one of the girls that wore racing bikinis to practice. But the pressure and judgment I placed on myself were too severe.
What troubles me is the unknown of what drives that pressure. Is it simply the society we live in that as a ten-year-old, I already knew I didn’t belong? Why was I painfully harsh on myself when I compared my body to another’s while standing on the pool-deck?
I have carried these feelings of inadequacy and torment with me most of my life. I’ve never truly felt comfortable in my skin, excluding a couple of years in college when my metabolism was on point. I am relatively happy, I have a great family and friends, yet I am horribly cruel to myself.
2016 was a difficult year for many, myself included. The previous year my husband and I went through fertility treatments, and I was left with extra weight, anxiety, and no baby. We have reached a point where we are okay with not having a baby, and when the time is right, maybe we will try again.
So why did the feelings of inadequacy come roaring back? I returned to that place of insecurity and fear. I had no control over my body, and my mind was a traitorous nag, continually firing ugly thoughts.
To be free of the pain I was carrying in my soul, I realized that I needed to make some life changes. I reevaluated my career, knowing it was a huge source of anxiety. I started focusing on my mental health, finally understanding that it is just as important as my physical health. And I am working on forgiveness. Mostly, forgiving myself for a lifetime of body-shaming.
I know that this will be a continual struggle. To wake up every day and appreciate the body I have. To stop avoiding the mirror when I get in the shower. To feel free enough to be myself. To love the skin I’m in.
Every day I have a choice, and I’m finally choosing me.