A lovely friend of mine recently asked, “What makes you feel stuck?” She asked it with the intention of sparking a public conversation about how we all get stuck at various points in our lives, and how we all likely have many different methods to getting unstuck. The feedback she receives will be turned into a series of illustrated blog posts, and because I have an abundance of experience with the topic, I decided to respond.
I knew going into it that she had asked a very poignant question. The second I read her prompt and questionnaire I thought, “Oh shit. This is me.” What I didn’t realize is that by responding I would open a floodgate of awareness and suddenly be confronting my demons head-on.
You see my friends, I’ve been struggling again (or maybe it’s still?), and it’s increasingly uncomfortable. I am discontent, and I’ve been wading through the ick trying to figure out what the hell the problem is—is it homesickness? adjustment to expat life? lack of fulfillment with motherhood? starting a new career path? hub’s longer hours and busy schedule? Sure, it’s touches of all of those. But it’s a lot more than that, too.
Several months ago I posted some pieces about my long history of body-shame, weight fluctuations, extreme dieting, and body dysmorphia. I’ve fought those demons for a solid 25 out of 32 years of life on this planet so far, and unfortunately they’ve returned. It started at the end of pregnancy when I suddenly went from very-round-but-still-beautiful to HOUSE BOAT in approximately two weeks (weeks 36-38, to be exact), and though there was a slight reprieve a few weeks later as some of the baby weight started to fall off, it picked right back up once I started working out again. It was that subtle, nagging voice that said,
“Look at your stomach in that shirt. Look at it.”
“Yep, those are size 16 shorts and you still have rolls when you sit down.”
“Ugh my arms squish out so much when I relax them.”
“My boobs are gonna be down to my knees by the time I’m done breastfeeding.”
“I can’t wear this. I look ridiculous. It doesn’t fit right, nothing fits right. Will anything ever fit right?”
And they haven’t stopped.
I might get a reprieve now and then, but they always come back, and sometimes they majorly catch me off guard. Today was a perfect example—I made a recent decision to pursue my ACE Personal Trainer Certification (something I’m very excited about and promise to touch on again soon), and today was the first day of my official study plan. I’ve already had some concerns about my current figure, wondering if people will want to work with a personal trainer who doesn’t have abs, but I’ve shoved them to the side because this is something I really want and truly believe I could be phenomenal at. But, my head apparently doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I believe I could be good at, because as I sat down and started reading, started seeing all the pictures in my book of fit, cut trainers working with people, I swear to god all I could think was, “I’m too fat to be a trainer.” And then every single part of my body suddenly felt dark and hollow and alone.
Those are just the thoughts that actually come through with words. There are still others that lurk in my subconscious, darkening my mood and stomping on my spirit day after day after day after day. I start to doubt myself more and more, and I don’t even realize it’s happening at first until one day it hits me, BAM! I hate my body again.
AGAIN. AGAIN. AGAIN.
Do you know how many effing times I’ve gone through this?! WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK. WHY IS THIS STILL A PROBLEM?!
Am I eating wrong? Am I not working out enough? Would those things make me feel better? Am I just not capable of loving myself at a curvier weight? That can’t be the case, because I don’t know if I truly loved myself even at my tiniest weight.
It’s not that.
It’s none of that.
It’s obsessing over doing/looking/being/feeling “perfect.” It’s the insanely deep-rooted belief that I am not good enough, and that the only way I will ever be good enough is by following some exact specifications of how to live my life.
I have obsessed over food, clothes, workouts, diets, people, boyfriends, bathing suits, opinions, MOTHER-EFFING MEDIA, societal standards…all of it. My whole life. And I can’t pinpoint a single lasting feeling of being good enough. Where there some fleeting experiences with it? Sure, but they were heartbreakingly temporary. And what I’ve found over the years is that I never realize what I have in the moment—I’ve looked back at countless pictures and seen a strong, beautiful, badass little lady, but I know that in my mind in those pictures I was still tearing myself apart from the inside out. And that is so, so sad to me. I have been in constant pursuit of external solutions to an internal problem, always convincing myself that THIS THING can fix me, and THAT THING is finally the answer. But it never is.
And I’m exhausted.
I’m so sick of not feeling good enough.
I think about all the energy that’s been poured into this seemingly insurmountable issue and it’s mind-boggling. The amount of hours I’ve spent agonizing over what other people must think of me and wishing so hard that I could change it. I have wasted so much of myself over this, and it has become the single worst habit I think I could ever have, because it’s entirely in my head. You can’t take away a drink or a drug this time; you can’t take away certain foods to fix it; you can’t just stop thinking. So what do you do?
What do you do.
I am going to stop giving energy to the things I’ve always treated as solutions, the things I’ve taught myself require obsessive perfectionism, which are fitness and food. I’ve fallen into the trap recently of clicking on every single “body transformation” workout post I’ve seen, be it within the Beachbody world or BBG or TIU or whatever the hell else is out there, and I always think, “There it is, that’s my solution! If I just work hard for 12 weeks then I’ll have the body of my dreams and I’ll be so happy!” And while that may be the case for a lot of people, my experience is always that I set extreme expectations, and when they aren’t met I feel like a failure. I do not do well with anything that causes me to have expectations of my physical results. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, so the only solution I can think of is to not have a plan at all. I know that sounds crazy to some people, especially some of my fitness friends, but the more detailed my plan is, the worse I feel when something falls out of place. The plan with the least details is no plan at all, so I’m going to keep working out but only commit 30-45 minutes a day to it (unless I feel like doing more that day), and I’ll just do whatever sounds fun and freeing.
I’m not going to limit my food in any way, though I will still be making a more concentrated effort to cook and savor healthy meals on a regular basis because that makes me genuinely happy. I’ve been keeping a food journal, and while I originally thought to nix that, it’s actually been helping because I’ve been able to see that I’m not as “bad” as I think I am (I struggle hard with constantly feeling like I’m failing in the food department). I’m not tracking calories or macros or anything like that, just noting the time and the item (like “12pm – string cheese”). If that ever starts causing me stress, it goes out the window.
The most crucial change I could possibly make though is that I am going to be dedicating as much time as I can possibly spare to personal development and confronting these demons that have been overpowering me my whole life. In my searches for helpful tools so far, I’ve had to come to terms with the real names of my afflictions, self hate being the most powerful one. I would never think of or judge someone the way I think of and judge myself if there wasn’t hatred involved, so let’s call a spade a spade and quit sugar-coating it with terms like “low self-esteem.” No. I judge myself to the point of tears and heartache. That’s hate.
One of the hardest things for me to comprehend about all of this is that I am damn proud of many of the things I’ve accomplished in life—sobriety, college, starting my own business, motherhood (sometimes)—and I know that I’ve made a really big impact in a lot of ways and have some wonderful talents that I am so grateful to be able to use on a regular basis and even share with others. I also do love some things about myself, like my face—birthmark and all—and my hourglass shape (I just judge the life out of the components of that shape). I know, on some level, that I have an abundance of good about me, but that is not what keeps me up at night. That is not the recurring theme of my life. The good never outshines this, and if I don’t take steps to right myself, that may never change.
I don’t say any of this for pity or prayers or whatever else people generally throw at things. I don’t say it for attention. I don’t even really say it to be heard by the general population. I say it because it’s my truth, and because it needed to be said somewhere. It needed to be called out by name and given residence somewhere other than just the fatigued confines of my brain.
I also say it because I know I’m not alone.
For the girl who’s hit her “goal weight” and still hates the way she looks in fitted clothes…
I see you.
For the girl who is loathing herself because she just ate another row of Oreos…
I see you.
For the girl who is trying her fourth brand of diet pills because she’s sure this quick-fix will work…
I see you.
For the girl who’s hoping she’s invisible when she steps out in a bikini…
I see you.
For the girl who can’t look at anything below her face in the mirror for longer than a passing glance…
I see you.
I see all of you, and so many more. I am you. We are in this together, but I will be damned if I’m going to live the rest of my life like this. I have beautiful baby girl and I don’t want to raise her with the right words; I want her to see confidence, self-esteem, and ferocious, unstoppable self-love. I want her to know that she is the most incredible, worthy, empowered woman on the planet. But before I can do that, I have to find it in myself.
Stay tuned xo
If you would like to participate in the conversation about going from Stuck→Unstuck, head on over to J Clement Wall’s blog and follow the links.