I am reading this book called “Things They Don’t Tell Fat Girls” and it’s changing my life. It is written by Jen Baker, who is part of the body positivity movement. The book really looks at all body types, not just fat girls. Society has been very cruel to women, and we’ve been very cruel to each other. She offers a perspective to body acceptance that I have really needed to hear.
Lately, I have been involved in a lot of conversations about insecurities, body image issues and the like. I am a long time sufferer of thinking that my body dictates my happiness, success, and worth. The awareness of these thoughts has come to a head since I’ve been abroad. My career is finally in a place I want it to be and I’m so grateful for that. I believe that because I increasingly satisfied with that, the rest of my life has become alarmingly unbalanced. While it’s a struggle to find my friend niche here in Cambodia, it’s becoming easier now that I’ve joined a gym. 95% of my friend base in the US is made up of people I met while working out.
That doesn’t change, however, these loud, banging voices of insecurity that rises up in my mind. When I was in my teens, I very very (very very very very) often heard the phrase “when you’re thinner, you’ll be”…..fill in whatever. Usually, it was about how beautiful I’ll be, or how I’ll get married, or how I’ll have more friends, or something of that nature. It’s a crushing blow at times when I realize I’m 33 years old, and still overweight. I’ve put my body through a lot of damage, that takes a while to reverse. I’ve restricted calories, I’ve binged ate, I’ve worked out two or three times a day, I’ve gone a month or so without working out. The ease at which this weight went on isn’t the same as it will be for it to come off. The biggest thing that I need to learn is that my worth, my value is not numeric. It’s not based on my gravitational pull to the Earth. Still, why do I think about myself this way? There’s no way in Hell (sorry mom and da, but there’s not another phrase to use) that I would let anyone talk to my family or my friends the way that I talk to myself. At least not without some bodily harm done to that person. So, why is it okay for me to say those things to myself?
There is a line in the book that says,
“A woman that is singularly obsessed with how she looks will never be an independent woman.”
I think I audibly gasped in the coffee shop while I was reading that line. I’m really evaluating what causes me to correlate my worth and value by how I look. This morning, on the way back to the gym, I was talking to my trainer (in the mornings, we do a field workout). He was asking about how I was feeling after the few weeks I’ve been a member. We talked about lifting heavy, HIIT workouts, all those things. He asked how often I came to the gym, and I told him that I try to be there between 5-6 times a week. When he asked how I was feeling, because not many people make it that often, I told him that lifting makes me feel better. Not really so much the changes in my body, but the way I feel on the inside. I feel more alert, happier, stronger, and confident. There’s been a turnaround for me in the last couple months when it comes to body image. It doesn’t last all day, every day. I stopped competing with people in the gym. I stopped taking comparison photos. I stopped being nervous about being the slowest runner, or having to modify exercises because of where my body is right now. Once I started to figure out that exercise is for my body, not done to my body, it’s really changed the perspective of a workout. and I’ve actually lost weight again.
I’m starting to put together the pieces of this shattered self-esteem I have, and move towards being proud of the body and life God has given me. I may not have taken care of it so far, but 33 is not a death sentence. I have plenty of life left in me, plenty of world left to see.
There’s still the struggle when it comes to relationships; that voice that says I’m not good enough is pretty loud then. It’s just going to take time and conscious effort to not listen to the voice and put myself out there. I tend to shrink into my shell a bit. There is also that frame of mind I have where I am more concentrated on the rest of my life, not necessarily how people fit in it. I never really wanted to date, not because I’m asexual (far from it), but because I was far more focused on doing things with my life. Now that I’m more into the future, I feel as though it’s time to start opening up my life for someone to step into it.
Breaking it all down, this whole conversation points to vulnerability. That word alone strikes fear into my soul. The more vulnerable I am, the more likely people are going to see the figurative duct tape holding things together. They’ll see how shaky the structure of my life is in some spots.
Donald Miller said in his book, “Scary Close”,
“Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other.”
And that’s not just love of the romantic kind, but love, period. The more vulnerable I allow myself to become, the more real relationships will get. we’re all insecure about something. no one is made perfect, or we wouldn’t need photoshop.
I really want to have the courage and spirit of vulnerability. be solid in the foundation that I am greatly flawed, but still great.