Disclaimer: This is long, but I think it's worth a read....
On Saturday night, as I was changing into my pajamas, I had a bit of an epiphany. I had been wearing a dress and when I took it off I stopped and looked at myself in the mirror. I just looked - without judgement or negative thoughts. And you know what? I felt good about myself. I actually thought, "I do look pretty good."
This is a huge thing for me.
Lately I've struggled with body image. It hasn't been bad to the point that I'm consumed by it or it's interfering with my daily life. It hasn't been good either.
For anyone seeking more information on body image, I like how the simple explanation on the NEDA website.
I have had a tendency to focus on the things I don't like rather than the good things. Sometimes it's like I don't see how far I've come. I do not still see that (over) 300 pound body (looking in a mirror then was rare). I don't see "fat" anymore. Now the things that I don't like are different...
The loose skin on my stomach.. Even though I had a tummy tuck and a huge amount of skin was removed, I still focus on what's left. Sometimes I have to tell myself, "you hand an entire skin fold removed. STOP IT. Your stomach IS flat. Yes, there is still some loose skin on there, but you do not need to be perfect." Yes, I can have a revision at some point in time, if I want it... But do I need it? NO. The bulk of the skin is gone. My surgeon took a lot off and because there was so much of it, there's still some left. It's just a little and it's hard to see when covered.
My thighs. Okay, I hated my thighs before because they were so incredibly big and had gross cellulite. Now, like in other areas, the excess skin makes them look horrible...In my opinion. My thighs are probably the area I focus on the most. I can't wear shorts. Well, I can but it damages my self-esteem because, of course, I only see what I perceive as ugly. The thought of wearing a bathing suit makes me nervous - because of my thighs (and hips, which I will get to in a minute). I love dresses but usually wear them with some kind of thighs, which smooth the appearance of my thighs. Now that it's warmer, the days of tights are gone. Now it's just me and my ugly thighs. Sometimes I look in the mirror and they seem to look worse than they do other times. I know that's just my perception of them at the moment.
I'm having more cosmetic surgery with the hope that the appearance of my thighs will be improved. I know that they will look better but I'm not sure how much. I have visions of smooth thighs in my mind, but the truth is that they may not end up as smooth as I see them. I think going to my appointment this week will help me to better visualize what to expect. At this point, any improvement will be a good thing. I am not expecting that surgery will change me mentally. No amount of surgery will improve how I see myself. That's up to me.
My arms. I am actually not as disgusted by them as I used to be. There's loose skin on them, which will be removed in just over a month. I still find it gross, but I've become a bit more accepting of it than I was. They really aren't that bad. I will, however, be happy to see my muscles without being distracted by saggy skin. Definitely looking forward to that!
My hips. These rank right up there with my thighs. I don't know if it's skin or fat, or maybe a combination of both but I do not like them. Any type of swim bottom, other than high-waisted, gives me "muffin top." I can't wear lower rise jeans and have to tuck it into my pants. It's basically like my old abdominal fold. I do what I can to conceal it, but it bothers me. I would really love smooth hips. I'm curvy and I'm okay with the fact that they are big/wide. I just would like for them to look a little nicer.
My stretchmarks. Obviously when I gained weight my skin stretched. I've been left with light colored stretch marks on various body parts. The ones I hate the most are on my sides. Mostly because they prevent me from getting a rib tattoo, which I really wanted.
Those are the things I usually focus on when I look in the mirror. They're the things I don't like. On Saturday night I just stopped. I didn't even have to tell myself "quit hating yourself." I looked at my small waist and was happy. It's hard to tell because of the extra skin but I THINK I saw part of an ab muscle line when I looked in the mirror. Instead of focusing on the skin on my arms, I focused on the muscle. Instead of immediately looking at my hips and thighs and thinking of how horrible they were, I focused on how they really aren't insanely large. It really is just the fact that they're not smooth that bothers me.
I looked at myself and for the first time I was accepting of the reflection staring back at me. I finally took a moment and said to myself, "wow, look at all that you've done." I realized that I need to start loving myself for who I am and how much I've accomplished instead of beating myself up over what looks "disgusting."
Some of the negative thoughts comes from other people, but mostly it's come from myself. I often think that others are seeing me and thinking the same things that I am.That they are judging me based on the parts of my body that I don't like. This may or may not be true. Someone might say "she shouldn't be wearing that dress; look at those thighs." I'd guess that the majority of the time that I wear something and am afraid someone is saying that is because I am thinking it. Sometimes we create so much in our minds that we automatically think that others are thinking the same thing. Sometimes they are.
We are so judgemental. How many times do you see someone and think, "wow, she should NOT be wearing that..."? Do you ever see someone overweight and think, "he should go on a diet..." or "she shouldn't be eating that..."? The fact is that we are human. We judge. Some of us are more harsh than others. There are people who will say these things to others. Usually it's done indirectly; loudly enough so that the person can hear. Some of us think things but don't say them. That's the one I'm guilty of. When I do, I remind myself of how mean it is to judge others in that way. Not everyone is able to recognize that what they think (or say) is judgemental and hurtful. Quite frankly, for whatever reason some of them really don't care how they come across. They like being judgemental and mean. Good for them... I'm sure their lives are just overflowing with happiness (and there I go being judgemental).
I think I have a better ability to see this than some people do because I've lived on the other side of it. I've been subjected to words that haunt me years later. I never said anything... I always walked away quietly and cried when no one would see. And then I'd feed my emotions. Strangers judging me has happened throughout my life. And it will always happen because that is how people are. We SHOULD get to know someone before forming an opinion, but we don't. We judge based on what someone else has said or what we see. We judge without knowing.
I think that a lot of the time, people who make negative comments are people that have insecurities about themselves or a particular situation. I know that I have improved (and am still working to do better) on that. Now that I'm less insecure about myself, I'm a lot less judgemental toward others. Some say that being so judgmental and insecure stems from jealously, which is definitely true in some cases.
After Saturday night I started seeing my physical self differently; more positively. Even last night, in pajamas, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and though, "huh....I almost look thin." I struggle with descriptive words.... Skinny to me is skinnier than I am. Thin is thinner than I am. I just couldn't think of a better word to describe myself at that moment. Healthy is the one I usually go to the most. And it's one that makes me feel the best. But at that moment, I looked acceptable.... Pajama pants and all.
Sometimes it's not just the mirror... Sometimes it's the number I see on the scale. I ALMOST got upset and allowed myself to have a bad day because my weight was up a little from the weekend. Despite tracking and working out, it was up. Um...That's to be expected. I ate some meals out (stayed within calories though!). Restaurant meals are full of sodium (seriously, even healthy ones!). I know how my body reacts to extra sodium. I also need to keep in mind that Monday is not my weigh-in day and that it is earlier in the day than my Saturday weigh-in. I reminded myself of those things and decided that I just need to have a healthy day and forget about that damn scale. I really need to get back on track with limiting my weigh-ins to only once a week. That in itself can be damaging.
I have come to realize that many of us spend far too much time worrying about how we look. We usually see ourselves differently than others. I know that I have avoided situations because I'm not wearing make-up and might look "gross" because I just worked out. There have been certain times that I don't want someone to see me looking less than (what I feel is) my best. I didn't want someone to think I looked ugly.
I've heard about the new video that Dove created about how women see themselves... It's much different than how we view ourselves. I would love to do some kind of experiment like this with women (if only I could sketch!). I think it's a good way to illustrate that many of us do not view ourselves as others view us. I think that something similar could be done with descriptive words. I'm not sure it would have the same impact as seeing the images, but it might cause us to stop and think twice when we are about to engage in negative self-talk.
It doesn't matter how you look now or how you look in the future... What matters is that you embrace your beauty and you love yourself. I'm not saying that the words of others won't hurt. They will. You just have to be strong enough to defeat them. And you have to be even stronger to defeat the negative words that you say to yourself. You also need to remember that you're probably more beautiful than you realize. Start taking those compliments seriously and appreciate those who give them.
Even if we are working to change and become healthier we need to cut out the negative self-talk. We are worthy of much more love than we give ourselves. I know that I will be working to change my thoughts. Are there things I want to change? Yes. Do I want to lose more weight? Yes. As I continue to work toward my goals, I'm going to do it in a more positive way. Instead of looking at my thighs and thinking about how ugly they are, I'm going to look at my muscle definition and think of how awesome it is that I've worked so hard.
It's so hard to change thought patterns, but it can be done. The biggest factor in my weight loss was changing my way of thinking. I need to institute this with my body image. I think that Saturday night was that turning point for me. I'm done... That's it... I deserve to feel good about how I look. I can't change what others think about me but I can change how I see myself and feel about myself. For me, my appearance is the area that shakes my confidence. I'm totally confident in other areas of life (intelligence, work, in my relationships with family and friends, etc.). I need to allow myself to see myself for who I really am.
And I? Am freakin' beautiful.
Go check out your reflection in the mirror and only look at the good things. When those negative thoughts come into your mind, banish them. Just see what happens. It may not "click" for you today, but I hope for you that eventually it will. I hone day you will look in that mirror and see yourself as you really are instead of picking out the things you don't like. It's okay to not like things; just don't focus on them. Focus on the good.
Have a fantastic week!!!