Loving Myself: The Path to Self-Acceptance

Today, I wanted to write about body image and the journey towards self-acceptance.  

You see, my whole life I have struggled to feel worthy, to feel good enough, to feel like I mattered.  I grew up poor and was from the "wrong" neighborhood.  I was the short kid, the mousy, nerdy kid in glasses.  I was the kid about whom other kids whispered, and I would often overhear.
1991 (Age 13) - Bad 80s hair and glasses :-)
I've always been very confident in my intelligence, maybe even a bit cocky, but at different times in my life, especially in college, I have severely lacked body confidence.

I have struggled with my weight most of my life.  My German-Armenian ancestry has worked against me in that department, and my Midwestern U.S. upbringing and fast food lifestyle certainly hasn't helped matters. 
1995 (Age 17) - My Grunge Days, About 120-125 pounds
During my sophomore year of college, I gained a lot of weight.  I'm a very picky vegetarian, and my school cafeteria just wasn't cutting it.  I lived on cheese pizza and french fries during my sophomore year -- something that wasn't very good for my waist line.  That said, I was happy and felt generally confident in myself.  I knew I wanted to do something about my weight though.  During that following summer, I started busting some major ass and started getting myself in shape.  
Fall 1997 (Age 19-20) About 100 pounds
1998 (Age 20-21):  97 pounds (my lowest weight)
The problem is that I tend to be rather OCD and can get overly passionate about things once I really get into them (that's where my clothing addiction comes in :-P).  I started working out more and more and eating less and less, especially food that had even small amounts of fat (virtually everything). 

As I started to look more and more like what society tells us is ideal, I started to get harder and harder on myself.  My flat stomach still had cellulite; my thighs still touched; my arms were still too big...I became more and more self-conscious about my body and more obsessed with losing weight and toning.  I grew increasingly frustrated in not achieving the "ideal" as my efforts grew more and more intense and drastic, not realizing that I was actually overworking my body and depriving my body of needed food and nutrients. 

My main staples were rice cakes, pretzels, apples, and fat free yogurt, simply because those foods were free of fat.  I annoyed my then-boyfriend by always insisting that we buy two kinds of ice cream - the creamy, delicious full fat ice cream for him and the bland fat free ice cream for me.  I even chose fruits based on how many calories and grams of fat they contained (bananas were a worse choice than apples because they had a gram of fat per banana and had more calories). I knew the nutritional content of virtually every food and kept resources nearby just in case I encountered something unknown.

I became terrified of fat in all its forms, vowing that I would never be chubby again and lying to myself that I was behaving in a healthy manner.   Looking back, I realize that I had an eating disorder.  It was easy to overlook it at the time though because I looked healthy and some people, in their efforts to help I suppose, were even suggesting areas that my body could still use improvement.

My quest to be "perfect" was so severe that I refused to tell people I met while I was thin that I had ever been heavier.  I wasn't proud of all the hard work I did to get lean.  Instead, I wanted to project a false image of a naturally thin person.  Somehow that lie seemed to suggest a more morally superior and more "perfect" me than the truth.
1999 (Age 21); 103 pounds
Eventually, I grew tired of depriving myself and always working out so much.  I started cutting back, and the weight started gradually coming back on.  At some point, I had stopped working out completely and was back to eating as much fat as I wanted whenever I wanted.  At different times since, I have lived very healthfully and organically, other times not so much.  After having two caesarean sections, my stomach has changed drastically, and my body has started to show some signs of aging and gravity.  I am currently close to my highest weight ever.

I won't lie...I still struggle with body confidence.  I choose my clothing wisely to hide my tummy, the area about which I'm most self-conscious.  That said, as I've started to get older and wiser (I'm 35),  I'm starting to realize how great my body really is.  It gave birth to two beautiful, funny, intelligent children; it takes me wherever I want to go; it's capable of multiple orgasms and intense pleasure; it aches to remind me that I need to take better care of myself.  I have great curves, amazing breasts, muscular legs, and a tight ass.  I have scars that tell the memories of my life; I have grey hairs that remind me of how lucky I am to have lived as long as I have.  My body may not be everything I want it to be.  I definitely need and want to lose weight, but I've learned to appreciate my body, to love my body for all of its beautiful flaws.
2012 (Age 34-35); 160 pounds
Writing this blog has been one major step in that journey towards self-acceptance.  As I post pictures of myself on good days and bad, in outfits that are flattering or not-so flattering, I have put myself out there publicly to be judged and possibly ridiculed.  Forcing myself to put myself out there, to show the world (or my small, but growing, following) that fashion isn't just for the tall, thin, and rich has been an amazing growing experience.  For the sake of fashion, I have started wearing skinny pants and jeans - before I always felt too fat.  I have started wearing more sleeveless tops and dresses even though I have hated my upper arms for years.  Writing this blog has allowed me to love and accept myself a little more each day.  It has also allowed me to get back to "me" - a person who may be a little ego-centric (as all humans are) but who isn't as focused on myself and all of my flaws - real or imagined.  I have become more focused on my children, more focused on my partner, and more focused on my blog and how I might use this platform to help others in some small way.

You see, hating ourselves is incredibly self-absorbed.  We become so obsessed with ourselves that we can't look outside of that.  When we tell ourselves we aren't good enough in some way, when we allow ourselves to fill up our time with negative self-talk, we aren't just hurting ourselves.  We are depriving others of the greatness of ourselves.  We are wasting time when we could be helping society in some way - helping those in need, protecting children, standing up for equality, creating new inventions.   We are teaching our children to criticize their own bodies; we are naturalizing body hatred to our friends (it's not natural).  We are perpetuating a toxic cycle of self-hate that hurts ourselves and the world.

We are all works in progress, finding our way on our own paths in the journey of life.  We're humans, and as such, we're all incredibly, wonderfully flawed.  It's time we embrace those flaws and use them to our advantage and for the betterment of those around us. 

Love yourself. Life is too short and precious for self-defeat and deprecation.

Thank you all for the love and support over the last eight months.  I hope my words help some of you, any of you, in some small way.  You all have certainly helped me!!!

That is all. 

Back to more fashion later today!!  :-)

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