Some things all came together for me the past few days.
I’ve been struggling with the weight thing (again, some more and still). No surprise there, right? It’s the story of my life.
But that’s what helped some things click! I thought, “Why am I only happy with myself if I weigh less than I do now?” Because I think that is a critical question that I need to ask myself and find the answer.
Lately, I’ve listened to my thoughts as I speak with and encourage my pre-teen and teenage daughters through life. I like the things I say to my daughters and the things I think about them. Of course, I love them all very much, so there’s rarely a negative thought that goes through my brain about them.
One thing I have always said about my daughters is that God blessed me with three unique daughters inside and out. Not only are their personalities as varied as the stars in the sky, but physically, they are unique, too. I have never been able to use much in the way of hand-me-downs among my girls because their bodies are so different! And I’ve always expressed that to them in this manner: You girls all have different body types, God makes us all different, and you’ll find that you all have your advantages (thinking about whether one of them might be taller, one might have more muscle tone, etc). So when it comes to hand-me-downs, there’s never been pressure to wear big-sister’s clothes. Ever. Because 1) most of the time it didn’t fit and 2) almost just the same amount of time, they don’t like the same things!
Now flash back to when I was about 7 or 8 years old and a box of hand-me-down clothes arrived from a cousin. A cousin, by the way, who was a very different body type than me — and hers was a body-type preferred by my mother. I tried on a pair of pants that were too tight, but I got them hooked and zipped. “You look like a sausage, Michelle.” And she laughed, but then tried to stifle the laugh as I figured out she was mocking me. Then she said, “Yuck. Just take them off.” Then, I couldn’t get them unzipped and off and basically, the pants were ruined as my mother ripped them off me. I think the ripping was done mostly in annoyance and anger at least that was how it felt.
I relay that story to give you an idea of where my lack of love for myself and my displacement of worth started. With my own girls, I have never told them they look like anything other than who they are and whether clothes fit well or not. And it’s never their body type’s fault that clothes don’t fit well — it is because the cut is not for their body type or the sizing was off.
As I have thought about how I discuss this with my daughters I have wondered, “Why can’t I do that with myself?” Why is it that there is something WRONG WITH ME when I can’t wear a certain size. Why can’t I say to myself, “Oops, wrong size, get the size tha fits!” Or why can’t I say to myself, “That style/cut doesn’t flatter your God-given body” instead of killing myself with diets to make my body look different than it does?
I have NEVER looked at my body and simply said to myself, “That’s your body.” and left it at that. There has always been a negative adjective as long as I can remember. And even if the adjective was positive, it was still an objectification, not a true appreciation for my gift in my body.
Oh sure, I’ve stated how wonderful I believe my body is, that it’s strong — but only in the context that I can lift heavy weights, or birth big babies. Because then being strong is USEFUL, not beautiful, USEFUL. But I’ve always had this lurking issue with my body not being “delicate” or “feminine” however beauty was defined for me growing up. Because beautiful people have small, delicate bones. You see…my whole idea of what is beautiful — when it applies to me, personally, anyway — is completed messed up!
Let me share with you my psyche on any given day. What follows are scenarios that occur every day and most likely at least one thing that flies through my brain in that moment.
While getting dressed: I wish these pants were size 8. I used to wear size 8. I loved myself when I wore size 8. Size 12 is ugly. Ugh.
While thinking about eating something for breakfast/lunch/dinner: If I eat bread, that’s a sure 2-pound gain on the scale, even though it’s the first bread I’ve eaten in 10 days. Damn, I wish I could eat something more than an apple for breakfast. If I drink 2 24-oz tumblers full of water before I leave the house, then I won’t want the diet coke. I wish I didn’t want diet coke. Man, I love bacon…I wish I could have some bacon for breakfast. An Italian sub is my favorite thing to eat in the whole world — especially when it’s been two weeks since I had one. I want to eat what the kids are eating.
While walking by any window where my reflection is possible: Ugh, my butt is so big. Why can’t I lose this weight? I wish I weren’t so fat/big. Why does my butt stick out like that when I walk? Why do I take such big steps, it make me look fatter than I am. No, I’m really that fat.
What’s come together for me is that I do not like myself very much.
I have also begun to think about whether I need to change something. Now, obviously, some kind of change is needed, but I think — for as long as I’ve been trying to change things — I’ve been trying to change the wrong things. I try to lose weight so that I will like myself more, like my appearance more, like my clothes more, etc. I workout because it makes me feel good to “win.” But at my age, I’m not going to win all that much, so I’m left wondering WHY I do the things I do and I’m left with the fact that CrossFit and the workouts help me like myself more. It gives me something to “brag” about and make myself feel better about how I look (which I don’t like) when I can do really cool things like back squat 200+ pounds or do a chin-up. When I changed jobs a couple years ago, at the root of that decision was the fact that I wanted to like myself more because I thought if I could sell lots of newly constructed homes, I was going to seriously bring in some money. And when I did that, it wasn’t going to bother me any more that I hadn’t escalated to the higher levels of management in Corporate America. Because I was tired of seeing men and moms-of-two-or-three-(not-five) get Vice President after their name, while I sat there as a front-line operations manager forever.
The common theme to all of this is that I attach my self-worth to things that are not intrinsically ME. In my screwed-up brain, I’m a better wife and person when I wear a certain size of clothing. Or I’m a better person when I don’t come in dead-last at the workout. Or when I make a certain amount of money I’m a better person than I was when I made another amount of money and I think I’ll be a better person when I have a certain title after my name at work. The way I see myself, I project onto the world and think that is how the world views my worth, too.
All of this started somewhere, obviously (and I bet you can guess where…I could give blog post after blog post detailing significant memories). No matter what, though, as a 43-year-old wife and mother, it is my decision to make in order to stop this nonsense.
But how? How does a 43-year-old woman learn to like herself after spending most of her life loathing herself and feeling as though she is loathed by others, especially people who are supposed to love her unconditionally?
I know I’ll get there. My wheels are still turning in this brain of mine. I think recently, I finally got them all turning in a more positive direction.