Even though the majority of this blog is directed to my Fulbright story, traveling and teaching adventures, I did want to write about something that is fundamental to the person that I am now.
It seems you cannot talk to a person today that is completely satisfied with their body…the hateful words that pour out of mouths surround us every day. As much as I don’t like clichés and I don’t want this post to be another “this is me” or “body confidence” post that you read on the internet…it might end up being just that. And if that disappoints or falls on deaf ears, I am sorry! But here is where I am….so far.
Ever since I was a young girl, the importance of image was something I was introduced to quickly, but didn’t necessarily have a complete grasp on until later in adolescence. I grew up with people telling me that I look older than my age (something that only hurts you in the end, trust me!) that people would pay top dollar for my hair color and that my eyes were such a pretty green BLAH BLAH BLAH. Trust me, as an adult (feminist) woman , these compliments make me cringe. There was only one thing wrong with me. My weight. I was a pretty normal sized child from what I can remember until I hit fourth grade. That year I experienced a lot that shaped my future and I didn’t even realize it until I was older. When I reached this age, I remember never wearing anything that was cute, opting for the big t-shirts, hoodies, and basketball shorts. This was the year that I remember learning the lesson (that I have since been trying to prove wrong all my days since) that “being thin will not make you happy, but it will gain you attention” Over time, I have gone back and forth on my feelings on that lesson, but what I am left to believe is that it shaped who I am today and I truly love myself, so I cannot completely hate learning it. I’ll get to more about that later. Anyway, it is what I was taught and what I was lead to believe growing up. Commence the never ending years upon years of dieting to “be thin,” but also, trying to prove that statement wrong
The truth is, I was in a constant state of frustration with my body. I was told at age thirteen, by the mother of a big crush of mine, that “he would like me if I lost 20 lbs.” (DAFAUQ?!) And let me tell you, this wasn’t the only time I was told insane statements like that and I know so many women who have been told similar too! Infuriating. Looking back, I am constantly in awe that I did not turn out differently as a human being….needless to say, I would look in the mirror and hate everything that I saw, but yet, hated the idea of changing it even more. I didn’t want to become the stereotype, “fat girl looses weight, lives better life.” Everything about that story I hated and I refused to have that be mine. So I decided to pour my life and soul into sports. I became a basketball fanatic and was set on playing for the rest of my life….athletes can eat what they want and they magically obtain that athletic body, right? Wrong. It never happened for me. Yes, I lost weight. Yes, I gained confidence in who I was due to athletics. Yes, I was a decent basketball player (somedays). But sadly, I wasn’t in love with it by the time it started to become serious. When college came, I threw in my towel and got a meal plan.
I wish I could say that in college I only gained the infamous “freshman fifteen” but, lets be honest, it was really the “Mizzou Twenty-Two” and then some. I didn’t realize until the summer between my senior year and super senior year, that it was out of control. Let me be clear, it’s not that I didn’t know I was gaining weight and was not being the healthiest, oh I knew…but with college comes months to years of living and trying to figure out who you are. Throughout that time I was dealing with a ton of emotions (enjoying college!) and learning how to cope with my past and present but also how I was going to define my future with or regardless of that. It was deep and a lot of the times hidden. I’m a listener by nature. The point is, my same drive to undo what I was taught about my body and appearance was still there, but it was on the back burner. However, I finally hit a moment when I could not stand what I was looking at in the mirror and I equally could not stand the constant nagging in my head that said I had to deal with these emotions now. So I joined Weight Watchers in May 2015.
When I walked into Weight Watchers I was pretty skeptical and frankly, felt pretty pathetic. A bunch of women, who were 10+ years older than me, were all sitting around talking about husbands, kids, and of course, FOOD. I was intimidated. Now, I am not going to sit and try to convince you to join, I promise. But one thing I learned from Weight Watchers, was how to do what makes your inner-self happy. And I can assure you, I did not learn this on my first day walking through those doors! In fact, a year and two months later, I still struggle with this concept.
But here is what I’ve learned/am learning. I appreciate every part of my body. I am immensely grateful to the lungs that are able to push me through my four mile runs and my mind that is somehow able to still during yoga. My shoulders are broad, but I think they make me look strong. My legs are still athletic and bulge, but I love wearing shorts to show them off. Aesthetic things, I know and not inclusive of the emotional change of loving myself, I know…calm down. One aspect I wasn’t expecting was that I also have learned to love the person and the body that I had a year and two months ago. This took me a long time to do. For the majority of the year into this experience, I would see pictures of myself from the past and cringe, “SO FAT.” Now, I love who I am and who I was.
With these positives, I have learned some deeper parts of who I am and it’s not as great. I learned that I hold onto a ton of hate in my heart for certain people that warped my vision of what beauty is. This has probably been the hardest part of my endeavor and I struggle every. single. day. When I interact in daily life, I constantly find myself measuring myself up to others, “she has thinner BLAH than me, I wish I had that” “He will never look my way unless I loose BLAH” It’s intoxicating and I have been living my life with those thoughts in my head ever since I learned my warped version of beauty…and I hold hatred for those thoughts and the people that planted those thoughts (i.e. Mother-of-the-year of BOY CRUSH). I wish I could get to a place in my heart that I don’t carry that hate, but as of right now, it’s sticking around and I am letting it be. I have bigger fish to fry. Mainly, the statement that I was taught as a young adolescent.
“Being thin will not make you happy, but it will gain you attention.” This has haunted me all my life. It whirls around in my head every time I go out with a tiny friend and she has drinks and guys everywhere. Every time that I am at a grocery store and see a cute guy walking down the aisle. Working out at the gym trying to lift weights next to an extremely athletic person. And the stupidest of them all, every time I try to “blind date,” (yes, I mean Tinder…haters gonna hate). I have been terrified to ever show interest in someone because I am terrified I am not worthy of their attention, I’ve never been “thin!!” I cannot deserve their attention! It hurts. It makes me cry. I thought I was above those feelings. I’m not. It sucks. But here’s what I have learned.
First. I am almost at the lowest weight I have ever been (even during basketball season!) and I am still not the girl you pick up at the bar (and I could talk your ear off about why THAT is #strongindependentwoman #singleandhappy) And second, the statement needs to be amended to say, “being thin will not make you happy, but it will gain you attention, and if attention from others is what decides your happiness, it will make you happy.” And that is absolutely NOT my truth. I have learned what makes me happy has no dependency on the attention I gain from others. My worth is not decided upon someone else’s attention. I actually like who I am and being alone with myself is fun. I love to do things, read books, listen to music, laugh at movies…all by myself. I love my family and my friends, they contribute immensely to my happiness, but not because of the attention they give me, but because of the people they are. I love living the life I was given and I try to appreciate everything that comes my way (good and the bad). The people in my life that are truly the most beautiful to me, are the ones who love their own life, but radiate that out of every pore of their bodies. That’s beautiful to me. It fills my entire body up with warmth and happiness and I aspire to live like that. That’s my own new-warped perception on beauty.
This was quite the long post and extremely personal. I am still learning and I never intend to stop learning for the rest of my life. I hope my cleanse can help someone write/express their beauty, but if not, it has certainly helped me. More ramblings to come, I am sure 🙂