I’m really not unique.
Let me clarify, my desire to manipulate and control my body’s shape and size was not unique. In fact, I’m pretty sure almost every woman and most men have wanted to change how they look at some point.
I’m not telling you anything special or new here.
A huge part of living in our society means feeling the pressure to look a certain way. Especially as women, we’re told explicitly and implicitly from a very young age that our perceived beauty and our bodies are our most valuable assets.
So is anyone shocked that the diet industry thrives, that eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are normalized.
Nope. Still nothing new or shocking here.
What I want to talk about today, which might resonate, remind or ring true for you is a perspective shift I’ve been really working on practicing.
I like to call it “It’s not the body I asked for, it’s the one I have.”
If I were given some weird Matrix-esque situation where I could, you know, pick which pill I wanted and then decide exactly how I would look, I don’t know, I’d probably pick it right?
Because that’s what we’ve been told all along. If you’re beautiful/thin/the right kind of athletic/fill in with your desired adjective/ then we’ll finally be happy. You know the kind of happy you tell yourself that @suzybadassbabechick from Instagram must feel every day.
But I have a not-so-secret to share about this whole “dream body” situation. It’s probably a sentiment you’ve heard in a clique quote, so I’ll do a little remix and tell you a story.
That One Time I Got Exactly What I Wanted…and it Was the Worst
In my junior year of college, I had relapsed back into my anorexia. I was close to my all time (scary) low weight. I was cold all the time, I had lost my period, I only thought about avoiding food. This translated into being an anxious wreck whenever I went out. Instead of enjoying the time I had with my friends, I was too busy pretending like I was eating or drinking, wondering if anyone noticed how skinny I was, and ultimately feeling alone and disappointed that no one cared about my body as much as I did. I was taking too many classes, working too many jobs and running too many clubs. You guys, I had it all! (You know, minus the joy and meaningful relationships bit).
One day, I looked in the mirror and thought, “wow I guess this is what I wanted to look like.” It felt like the first time I saw my real reflection in months. I saw how skinny my normally plump cheeks had become, I saw how my “horrid” love handles no longer tugged at the sides of my jeans and threatened to spill over if I didn’t keep the jeans hiked up.
I got what I wanted…. right? right? I even got some compliments too. This is the good life right?
Spoiler alert: nope. It’s not. It sucked. I felt empty and disconnected. I felt disconnected from my body. All the things I thought my dream body would bring me never arrived.
- Where was that confidence I thought would come?
- Where were the line of eligible bachelors waiting to woo me?
- When were my deep and meaningful relationships supposed to arrive?
Did I put the shipping address in wrong or something? Did the universe not get the memo?! I’m skinny now!
I got what I wanted and realized how truly meaningless it was.
On my journey to “perfect body-hood” I had starved the best things about myself. My sense of humor, my deep empathy, my insatiable curiosity. They were too hungry to function and my brain was too full of thoughts about keeping myself thin to think about anything else.
Fast forward almost 5 years. I’m probably (and I say probably because I haven’t done the actual numbers in a while) 30-40 pounds heavier than I was then.
Turns out, I’ve never been happier in my life.
I’ve never felt more creatively inspired or connected to people I love. I’m with a man I love dearly. I work on a blog and podcast that fill me with so much joy. I’m not afraid of food. In fact, I barely think about it other than when I’m enjoying it. I don’t worry about the calories or the macros or whatever I’m supposed to be worrying about these days.
I’m not saying the extra weight is WHY I’m happy. Instead, allowing my body to serve it’s purpose and be a vessel allowed me to do the things that do make me happy. There’s no magic number I needed to hit to get there. It just happens that at this point in my life these are the pounds my body wants in order to do it’s thang without me obsessing – it’s different for everyone and it’s subject to change.
Right now I feel at home in my body.
It’s not the body I asked for. It’s not the body I would have picked out in a catalog. There are plenty of things that sure, it would be nice if they were different. But they’re mine. And for that, I love them.
I don’t have kids so I don’t know if this is a good comparison. But I imagine it’s a little like this… you probably hate poop and boogers and burps and all those gross things that we humans do. But I’m sure when it was your baby it was almost charming. Like holy fuck I created this little monster who can poop! How cool is that? Like gross and annoying but also adorable and cool.
My relationship with my body is kind of like that now. I’ll breakout or I’ll notice the way my thighs just love to giggle or I’ll see a less than flattering picture of myself. Rather than spiral into a doom storm of negativity (a normal occurrence 2-5 years ago) I now see those things and think “it’s not what I asked for, but it’s mine, and for that I really love it.”
I don’t think self love and body confidence is about thinking you have a perfect body. Or about thinking your body is better or worse than anyone else’s. I don’t think it’s something you can just get to overnight, or set on autopilot.
Instead I think self love is just accepting that the body you were given is enough.
That taking care of it isn’t the same thing as obsessively manipulating it. It’s what you’ve been given. And if you’re able bodied and don’t suffer chronic pain, isn’t that kind of a fucking miracle.
Self-love is taking care of yourself because you’re so damn grateful to be alive.
It’s tempting to think that if I just lost 10 pounds or did my hair differently or tried a different kind of diet then I would be happier. But I’ve been there and back and I know it’s not true. If the change is not from a place of peace I’m not going there anymore.
It’s not the body I asked for, it’s the body I have and that is enough.