It all started in high school.
I was a sophomore who had just suffered a volleyball injury as well as a break-up. I was your typical emotional teenager who just so happened to be a control freak, and much to my amazement, life was not turning out exactly as I had planned. I was struggling to deal and see past the devastation of being sixteen, so I took matters into my own hands.
It was about control for me.
I began to skip meals at random, feeling so confident and strong in my ability to abstain. When I began losing weight, I felt a deep sense of pride, knowing that I had full control over my outcome. What started as a few meals a week turned into several meals a day, until my habits began to alarm those around me. First, my parents voiced their concern over me skipping dinner, to which I hurriedly denied as being a problem at all. Then, my friends at school started to notice. Several of them asked me if I was ok, but I always gave the excuse that I simply wasn’t hungry.
I convinced myself that I had fooled everyone into believing me and my feeble excuses, when in reality, I had only fooled myself.
The thinner I got, the more obsessed I became with my outward appearance. I spent my time analyzing my interactions with others, yearning to see admiration in their thoughts towards me. Gone was my control, as I allowed comparison to flood my senses until all I could see was my imperfections. I became ruthless in my thoughts towards my body. The continuous onslaught of lies barraged my mind until I became their slave.
Flash forward twelve years.
I was eleven months postpartum with baby number two. I had just stopped breastfeeding and was in an awkward limbo of mourning the end of a beautiful connection while also embracing my independence. I determined that I would move forward as I had before, and so began a new round of Whole3o as well as a vigorous exercise routine.
Disillusionment set in as my expectations crumbled; my body wasn’t changing the way I had hoped it would, and it wasn’t long before I abandoned my newfound routine all together. My days were spent on obsession, comparison, and self-hate. I despised my lack of commitment, and I loathed my body for abandoning me when I needed it most.
I didn’t realize that the dreaded state of mind from my teen years had snuck past my previously raised defenses and had lodged itself into those hard-to-reach crevices.
It looked different this time. Uncanny as it seemed, I had fought the cycle of starvation for so long that the resolve to “do whatever it takes” was no longer there. I was eating, I wasn’t withholding, but the thoughts were all too familiar. I found myself in a deep, dark space that I could not shake, as the lies from my past began to infiltrate my mind once again.
It wasn’t until one evening when my husband confronted me that I realized the reality of body hostility I had been living in. He gently addressed the negativity and verbal abuse I had been pouring over myself, day after day. It was then that I saw my self-worth had, once again, been based on those all-too-familiar ruminations.
And so, I cried.
I cried for the loss of time, time I had spent on tearing myself apart, in front of my kids, no less. I mourned the mother that I so longed to be, but knew I had abandoned for the sake of self-pity. I grieved my emotional health and the return to that old state of mind. And I wept for the self-hatred I could not deny.
Because it was still there.
Deep in my soul, I felt incapable of believing truth. No matter how many times my husband told me I was lovely, no matter the positive self-talk, the Scriptures I had memorized, the exercise, the encouragement from friends . . . the lies were stronger. But, that night, I resolved deep within myself to shift my perspective.
People often seem surprised when I share my struggle with body love. How could I, a pastor’s wife, a size six, a nurse, a mama to two littles, someone who always seems so confident and surrounded by so many friends . . . how could I possibly feel this way? It’s because of this:
Body shame does not discriminate.
It holds you hostage regardless of sex, size, race, status, athleticism, age, the list could go on.
It’s been two months since that conversation with my husband, and to be honest, I’m still struggling with embracing my body. Body love isn’t something that happens overnight, and I have, by no means, discovered the secret to staying confident in my identity as a wife, mother, or as a woman. But, as my journey is ongoing, I am choosing to be encouraged that what was once in the dark has been brought to the light.
I have found solace in admitting my weakness.
Rather than hiding behind a facade of what others might think of me, I have chosen to step out in vulnerability and confess my struggle. Friends have been gracious; we have laughed and cried and shared our body pains, each of us acknowledging that this transition from woman to mother is hard. I have discovered that by coming alongside others on their path to body love, I, too, have found healing. No longer are those impenetrable thoughts plaguing my every move. Rather, by admitting my struggle, I have been embraced and surrounded. I am not alone in this fight.