I press down on the shutter button, capturing a picture of the woman standing before me. As I reach out and push a strand of hair out of her face, I notice her discouraged expression.
“Are you okay?” I ask worriedly.
She pauses uncomfortably, takes a deep breath, and says, “These pictures are going to turn out terrible. Every time I try to smile for the camera, all I can think about is how fat I am, how much older I am going to look, and how much my scars and wrinkles are going to show.”
My heart drops to my stomach because standing before me is an incredible woman. She is amazing, sweet, and kind. Her beautiful smile lights up her face.
I am heartbroken that all she can focus on are her insecurities and that she feels completely worthless. But I get it. I too have spent so many years of my life absolutely hating myself and my body. But, after years of misery, I am now working to accept myself and my body.
Can I love my body?
Yes, loving your body is totally possible, but the thought of loving my body the way it looks right now is too overwhelming for me. The process of going from hating my body to loving it feels like an impossible goal. I hate eating peppers and no matter how many ways I cook them I still hate them. I cannot imagine ever getting to a point of liking peppers let alone loving them. And that’s just food!
The truth about body positivity.
With the help of my therapist, I discovered that the goal of loving my body is not the next step in the recovery process. Body positivity is talked about a lot, but sadly, most people struggle to relate to the idea of embracing their body. Instead, we can recognize that loving our body is really hard work. We do not have to love the way we look all the time. Instead, the next step is understanding that our appearance does not determine our value.
I am still the same person whether I have shaved my legs or not. I will still have value even if I gain weight. No amount of sagging skin, wrinkles, and stretch marks are going to change my worth.
Why it matters.
Again, I still have a long way to go before I will feel completely comfortable in my own skin. But even though I am the heaviest I have ever been, I am the happiest I have ever been. And this happiness lasts! In the past, the satisfaction of losing weight or finding a new beauty product never seemed to last and it was never enough.
I am done letting my body insecurities control my life! I am over constantly being miserable! I am so tired of listening to women only focusing on their negatives! So often when I take photos of women, they do nothing but criticize themselves. I just want to give them a hug and tell them I have also been in that black pit of despair and there is hope.
Life is truly freeing now that I understand that my body does not need to look good, because my body is good regardless of how it looks. I am now able to live my life. I have a better relationship with my husband and family. I can work a job I truly enjoy with coworkers that I love. I have made so many more lasting connections with people because my constant focus is not on my body and how people are perceiving it.
I still struggle with criticizing myself and my body. Just the other day I hid at the grocery store from an old friend because I was embarrassed with my appearance. So, recognizing that I am more than my body is a continuous effort. Some tools that have really helped me are:
- Practicing gratitude for what my body can do.
- Surrounding myself with positive people.
- Taking breaks from social media.
- Unfollowing those who promote negative body messages.
- Following those who do promote body neutrality and body positivity.
- Recognizing when the voices in my head are criticizing myself and body.
- Wearing clothes that fit, are comfortable, and make me feel good about my body.
- Practicing self-care.
- Using the time and money that I would have spent on trying to change my body to instead serve others.
If you find yourself thinking about your body most of the day, then I would recommend getting some professional help such as a therapist or even looking into eating disorder treatment. There is never any shame in getting the help we need.
We are loved by so many. We have so much value and worth! Whenever I need a reminder of this, I read Kirsten Ackerman’s quote, “Body acceptance IS NOT about trying to like the rolls on your belly or the cellulite on your thighs. Body acceptance is about LIBERATING yourself from the idea that what your body looks like says a damn thing about your worth as a human being.”
Books that I have found most helpful and highly recommend are: