Throwing Shadows: It’s all in my head

It is so frustrating to look at myself in the mirror, and after more than two years of hard work, think to myself I hate the way I look.

Every once and a while I have a night like tonight. I look in the full length mirror in my room and analyze every inch of my body. My thighs are too chunky. My legs have cellulite. My arms are too flabby… What is with that fold of skin where my arms meet my chest?  My abs aren’t defined, and the area above my belly button is still stubbornly fatty. I look at all of these imperfections and I break down. I either get angry and punish myself with more sit ups or I cry. I feel like everything in my life has gone wrong, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Sometimes I even have a panic attack. I drop down to the floor and hyperventilate, thinking to myself that I don’t want to go back to the way that I was. I so desperately don’t want to gain those pounds back… but I’ve worked so hard and this is what I get? This?

After a minute or two I calm myself down enough to go to bed with tears still in my eyes. I fall asleep promising myself that I’m going to do fifty squats in the morning. Match that up with a run and a kettlebell workout. Maybe even some yoga. And I do. And I’m sore for a week for overworking my body.

This is nothing, however, to how it used to be. When I was younger, I would do this every night. I remember once in middle school, I was so upset with my reflection, that I unrolled the yoga mat and attempted an extremely difficult workout on YouTube. When I couldn’t complete the first set of exercises successfully, even though they were way out of my league at the time, I sat on the yoga mat and cried, looking down at my thighs. They look like beached whales. I repeated this in my head as I punched my legs over and over. I hit them so hard that my legs buzzed with pain. I woke up with a bruises in the morning.

This was not one of my finer moments, and there were certainly many more nights like this. It’s difficult to think back to how miserable I made myself back then. I compared myself relentlessly to the pretty and popular girls in my grade who were all skinnier than me. There was absolutely no mercy for myself. Every inch of me was under scrutiny. And since I judged myself so harshly, I figured that other people must have judged me just as much. As I walked down the hall, I imagined what my peers were thinking as they passed me. No one could ever have thought of nastier insults about me than I made up about myself.

Fat cow. Legs and arms like beached whales. Obese bitch.  I repeated these like mantras over and over in my head. Over. And over.

For the most part, I’m usually pretty happy with the way that I look now. I think it’s the endorphins from exercising. However, I’m still obsessive over everything. I check myself in the mirror every time that I pass one. Even in reflective surfaces I look for my reflection… My cell phone screen, picture frames, store windows. If I’m not happy with what I see, it effects my mood. I feel the need to check and make sure that I’m still small. That the fat fourteen-year-old hasn’t come back and gobbled me up like a piece of cake. It’s a subconscious habit that I’ve had for years.

It’s not only frustrating. It’s exhausting. Why can’t I just be happy with myself? Don’t I deserve that? After losing seventy pounds, can’t I just be happy?

The problem is, when I started the weight loss journey, I thought losing the weight would solve all my problems. That if only I were 120 pounds I would be happy. If only. I’m under that weight right now and I can still make myself miserable like I did when I weighed in at 185. It’s all in my head. I know that. But that knowledge doesn’t make nights like these any better.

I think what helps me the most is knowing that I’m not alone. When I was younger, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Now I know that there are so many girls out there who struggle with the same self-image issues that I do. I try to preach to myself self-love, replace those hateful words in my head with words of love, but honestly, it doesn’t work for me if I don’t feel like I believe it. I try not to compare myself to other women around me, but with social media it is so difficult. Honestly, Instagram and VSCO is what triggered tonight’s hate-fest. I just need to teach and reteach myself not to give in to the temptation to compare my so-called imperfections to so-called perfections.

I wish I could go back to the moment where all this started. It was in the third or fourth grade, right around the time that I started puberty and realized that I was bigger than the other girls, and apparently that wasn’t a good thing. I wish I could sit my nine year old self down, and tell her to listen up. Believe that you’re beautiful. Because if you believe that you are, you are. Or in ten years, you’ll still have the same sad thoughts at nineteen that you did at nine.

Girls, if you’re reading this, I implore you, please don’t do what I do. Please love yourselves. Don’t over-analyze your bodies and make yourself cry and have panic attacks. It’s no good. Believe me, I know. Please, please, please, take every chance that you can to love your bodies, because they’re beautiful and they sustain you through this life. Hey, you’ve made it this far with it, right? It (hopefully and prayerfully) hasn’t let you down yet. Learn this lesson and take it to heart. And maybe someday, I’ll get there, too.

With love,

L

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Rm 12:2 

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

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