I’m recovering from years of negative self-talk:
I can feel the changes when I shave my legs, and when I apply lotion to my body. I know I’m smaller then I used to be because a lot of my clothes are too big. I can see my collarbone, my jaw line is more defined, and I just bought size 4 jeans. I haven’t been a size 4 since college, and that was 15 years ago (before 3 babies and the natural passage of time). Sometimes I feel confident and carry myself with poise, and I’m proud of my appearance when I get dressed, and sometimes I’m so embarrassed that I don’t want to leave the house. When I examine my naked body in the mirror all I see are imperfections – a large ass, thick legs, a chubby belly, and cellulite. And it doesn’t help that my breasts are really small after feeding my babies and losing weight. I don’t see the progress that others have noticed and complimented, and sadly I judge myself with the kind of disrespect and cruelty that I would never accept from another, or even consider saying aloud.
I have a knot in the pit of my stomach and I’m only a few blinks away from a tear sliding down my face. . . this isn’t easy for me to share. I’ve been aware and uncomfortable with my shape and size since I went through puberty. That’s 23 years of wishing I was something other than who I am, comparing myself, jealousy, and feeling genuinely surprised when a man is attracted to me. Feeling unworthy has gotten me into a series of unhealthy relationships, where I sought value and reassurance in another, and lived with a permanent undertone of “I’m not good enough” in every aspect of my existence. Unhappiness isn’t something that can be compartmentalized. The way I’ve treated and viewed myself has influenced how I make friends, how I allow people to treat me, what I prioritize, and even how I’ve approached career decisions. I’ve done my best to cover-up my insecurities, and many people in my life view me as a strong, confident, and independent (which are truths about me, but not the whole truth). I’ve lived with a heaviness and darkness that comes from being misunderstood and wrongly judged, and I’ve suffered in ways that wouldn’t have been present in my life had I simply believed in myself, loved myself, and known my own worth.
I’ve learned as I work to recover from this self-abuse that my physical appearance was the target (or outlet) for my inner turmoil.
I’ve used diets as punishment, telling myself that I deserve to be hungry because of poor eating choices. I’ve treated exercise the same way, telling myself that the muscle pain is necessary to fix everything that isn’t good enough. I believed that if my body was small and sexy I would be treated better, and live a happier life. Stress and inconsistency, mixed with years of eating around 1400 calories a day resulted in regular weight gain, and increased self-judgement, insecurity, and worthlessness. When being hungry and working-out resulted in weight-gain, I gave up and ate whatever I wanted (pasta, pizza, burgers, dessert, candy, and so much soda). Giving up resulted in more weight-gain and I was even more hopeless. I felt defeated and completely out of control.
I believe that our inner voice has an incredible power over all aspects of life. If I don’t love and respect myself, how can I expect anyone else to love and respect me?
Telling my story is terrifying. The tears I was previously managing now fall freely, and I’m sitting in a very busy Starbucks. I should have realized this topic would be so emotional, but sometimes it takes physically stringing the words together to understand the full impact. Living for so many years broken and lost created some lasting negative habits, and very deep wounds. While I’ve dramatically changed my life, exercise daily, mostly eat without fearing food, and practice positive self-talk, the insecurity and fear that previously controlled me reappears sometimes. It’s ugly and unwelcome. I recognize it now, and coach myself through each episode with love and patience, but this is a hard journey! More difficult than escaping an abusive relationship, changing careers, moving across the country from my family, or being a single parent, the process of reprogramming my inner-voice feels like the greatest challenge and accomplishment of my life.
I’ve discovered hope where I was previously hopeless, and share all of this with a desire to encourage those facing something similar. We aren’t alone, even when suffering silently, and no matter how discouraged you may feel, I believe making small changes can radically improve your life!
This is what I’ve done to change my life for the positive: every morning I look myself in the eyes and say “I love you”. Daily I write down 10 things I’m thankful for. I created a mission statement for my life, a vision board that represents my desired lifestyle, hopes and dreams. I say affirmations and “I am statements” aloud, track goals daily that focus on fitness, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and journaling. I schedule time for myself daily, and I’m practicing patience and forgiveness for myself every time negative thoughts surface, to release guilt, regret, and self-judgement.
I am blooming out of the ashes of my broken past. I am a dreamer with faith, hope and love for myself and my future. I rise and fall daily. I am growing and changing, trying and improving, learning who I am and what matters most to me. The other day I said “when I grow up I want to be. . .” and it was an incredibly honest statement. While I’m 35 years old, in many ways I’m just starting the scratch the surface on getting to know myself, and I’m excited to be ME for the first time in my life.