I came across the Thought Catalog article “I Love My Body, But I Still Struggle With Wanting To Be Perfect” written by Ginelle Testa yesterday and couldn’t help myself from nodding along with the author’s thoughts on the subject. “Yes! This!” was the repeated phrase in my mind as I hungrily devoured her words. Like Ginelle, I too find myself having contradicting conversations throughout the day at my reflection: “you’re perfect the way you are” to “ugh, why do you look like this?” For someone who likes to say she’s an encourager of the female body and womanhood, I struggle daily to look like the celebrities I see on social media each day. I love my body, but I wrestle constantly with wanting it to be more. To be better. To be perfect.
Body and fat positivity are important to me. I want to practice body positivity when thinking about my body. I want to celebrate myself as I am — fat rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, and all. I follow a number of InstaCelebs who promote this movement; women who flaunt their own perfectly imperfect bodies with pride as to how they work and what they are able to do. Me, I truly care about melding this movement into my own life but wrestle with the concept when I catch a glimpse of a mirror. I compare my body to what I wish it looked like or what it once was. However, I appreciate Ginelle’s statement that “rewiring my brain is going to take a lifetime.”
I still find myself wanting my body to be different. Three weeks ago I received information on my health which answered a multitude of questions and I have actively been able to change things in my life to start seeing differences in my mental, emotional, and physical health. I have been waking up to hit the gym, and in the mornings I marvel at how strong my body is and all the actions I am able to do — I can walk, bend, jump, lift, etc. Unfortunately I still find myself daydreaming about being a thinner person. Sometimes those daydreams span hours or days of my life, overtaking my happiness and earlier pride. Then I catch the negativity I’m placing on my shoulders and become even harder on myself because I remember my desire to advocate body positivity. This can quickly become a downward spiral.
I know that radical body acceptance is the only way for me. Being the overly rational person that I am, I understand that radical body acceptance is my only path. I must be content with finding peace in the questions: What if my body never changes and this is it? Do I want to spend my life fighting or do I want to grow to accept it? Now, it is okay to want to make changes to my self-care, but I also realize that radical acceptance is my only choice for real happiness. I need to accept and be content with who I am and what I look like presently… for a content and happy future.
Weight loss is completely ineffective. Oh, how this statement stings. Five years ago I dropped 60 pounds and had 21% body fat. I wore a Small in tops and a size 6 in pants — and never had to try clothing on prior to buying because I could make anything work. But was I happy? No. I still saw issues with the skin on my neck, the slack in my arms, and the cellulite on my thighs. And I believed my looks correlated with my happiness in all other aspects of my life. If I was feeling down on my appearance, my self-confidence tumbled as well. I grew dependent on others’ compliments to raise my head. I lost myself at the gym and in unhealthy diets and by acting materialistic. I was not the type of person I yearned to be.
Today, I’ve gained that weight back and I am as unhappy with my body as I was when I was thin. However, I am the happiest I have ever been in all other areas of my life. How can this be? It is actually pretty simple. Weight loss is an ineffective option when it comes to my happiness. I may not always feel confident in how I look, but I have the capacity to square my shoulders and keep my chin held high because I know my strengths lie elsewhere. Now my focus is on setting goals and maintaining healthy habits rather than try to force change.
Diet culture also pummels me with messages. “Despite the fact that weight loss doesn’t work, diet culture is constantly berating me about how I should be smaller.” Ginelle, girl, #yasss. It is so difficult to continuously stay focused on finding happiness in my present when all of social media I am told I am unimportant and unworthy due to my size. Scrolling through posts of thin, exotic women turns my heart green with envy and I begin dreaming of a different body for myself. I am exhausted with this constant barrage of diet culture.
Comparing myself to others gets me in trouble. As with any other woman in the world, I find my mind comparing myself to my skinny friends quite easily. I am aware how I hide myself in photos, not wanting to leave any evidence for others to judge me next to my thinner friends. On days I know I am meeting up with someone, I can sometimes find myself sobbing into a pile of clothes I have tried on and taken off. Once I regain my dignity, I choose the baggiest option… and still frown at the mirror. It is a tiring game to feel as if you never measure up to the girl next to you.
It is inspiring to see girls of my size carry their weight gracefully though. I admire them and their beauty. I have to remember that the world is filled with people of all shapes and sizes, and that thought pushes me to sometimes try new outfits. Some are going to work with my present body and some are not. On my “good days” of body acceptance, I grasp at those outfits which make me feel empowered and beautiful like my body-counterparts and lift my head high. There is no reason I cannot strut like anyone else!
Also comparing myself to where I used to be makes me upset. It is sad how often I compare my present self to my old self. I found measurements a few months back that I took in 2014. The differences were outrageous. I felt gross. I felt lazy. I felt unworthy. Then I remember the lifestyle I led which drove me to my old self. I was a gym rat, working my body to exhaustion and living on a handful of daily calories. My body was thin but it was not healthy. Today, I may not be as healthy as I would like to be, but I am actively working to change that. Most days I know that I am indeed a lovable and worthwhile woman.
Logically I know I’m good enough. Just as Ginelle shares her ups and downs, my own roller-coaster outlook on body acceptance is similar to hers: I know I’m good enough just as I am. My logical mind knows this. I have gone through the pain of having people tell me that I was not good enough, that I was not worthy, that I was not lovable. I have battled those thoughts and gained wisdom and resources to combat them. Yet, I am human and I am going to fail from time to time. When it comes to my body, I may not always think logically and instead allow my emotions to hijack my thoughts. But in the end, I am thankful for a fully-functioning body that gets me to where I need to go and can perform the actions I need it to do.
I may always have a part of me that desires change. Truth be told, I am never going to be a perfect body-positive advocate, friends. I continue to workout and eat healthier for the very simple reason of losing fat. I will keep watching movies with beautiful celebrities and feel that twinge of guilt that I am not good enough. I have accepted I will never get back to my 2014 weight, and that is because I do not plan to ever return to my unhealthy lifestyle. I’m never going to be 100% okay with the way I look and I am okay with this because…
I’m only human — my mixed feelings are natural. As Ginelle admits, I realize this post was a bit of a whirlwind. Can you guess why? My thoughts and feelings on this topic ARE a whirlwind! I am human. I have “feelings, thoughts, and desires that are all over the map.” And most importantly, these feelings, thoughts, and desires are. completely. normal.
Ultimately, I’m going to keep feeding acceptance in my mind and life. Yeah, I’m going to keep having exasperated episodes when I look in the mirror, and I’ll still scroll through Instagram with guilt, and I may find myself researching the latest fad diet. But I will also continue to allow myself happiness for my personal victories and pride in my body’s performance. I am going to encourage myself with thoughts that center around acceptance of who I am. I’m going to celebrate my body — rolls, marks, cellulite, and all. I want to expel body positivity to my girlfriends, my family, and my future daughters.
So it only makes sense that I start with my own.