Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on something–convincing myself that, just because I’m carrying more weight that I would like, doesn’t mean I have less worth, doesn’t mean my husband loves me less, doesn’t mean everyone is constantly judging me. And you know what? It’s been working! I even wore a fitted–that’s right, a FITTED–shirt to teach my Sunday Restorative Yoga class last week (starts at 6! I’d love to see you there! #ShamelessPlug), and I felt OK. I was still aware of the way my stomach bulged, still aware of the fact that my back isn’t toned and smooth, and the fact that that was visible in that shirt, but I didn’t let it totally color the evening. I was able to focus on my teaching and on my students.
This may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it is. Even when I was thin, I was pretty much constantly obsessing over my weight. I would look at photos, and if I could see a roll, something that didn’t look tiny and flat, I was mortified. If I wore clothes that didn’t fit just right, I was so embarrassed to go out. When I got married, I felt so bad for my husband, because I wasn’t toned, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t “good” enough for him (disclaimer: he has, from day one, told me that I was beautiful. I’ve just chosen, for whatever reason, not to listen.), so I started doing yoga and eating right, and I was in really good shape! But I still thought those things, still thought I wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t fit enough. And then I had a baby, and gained weight, and everything changed.
But, as my friend Hannah would say, I’m chasing rabbits. Time to get back to the point, which is the fact that, over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on changing my mindset. It’s taken years and years, but I’ve been trying to convince myself that my worth isn’t determined by my weight/size. And it was working. I was feeling good, feeling confident.
And then a few days ago, a child looked at me and said, “Miss Lindsey, your belly is really fat. Big like when your baby was in it.”
BOOM. All the work I’d done, all the pep talks I’d given myself, the teensy bit of confidence I had built up exploded, turned to dust, and blew away with the smallest, most innocent gust of wind.
I got so upset. I wasn’t upset with the kid. Children just say what they see. And this was the first day that I was with these kids that I’d worn a fairly fitted shirt since James as born, so it makes sense that a child would notice and comment. It would be like if I wore my reading glasses, and a kid said, “You’re wearing glasses!” But even though I wasn’t upset with the kid, I was upset.
Suddenly, I thought, “Do all the adults that have seen me today think this? Are they all judging me? Do they think I’m awful and disgusting and oh, I’m so embarrassed, I should have stayed home, I should have worn something else, I shouldn’t have been foolish enough to think it was OK that I wear this fitted shirt. I only wore it because it’s new, and a friend made it for me, and it’s beautiful, but I shouldn’t have put it on my body in public. How stupid. How stupid…” etc. I spiraled. Quickly. All my work, all my positive self talk was destroyed from one small, innocent, small comment. Suddenly, I was back to being overly aware of every inch of my flawed body.
All this makes me think, what is it about being thin that has such a hold on so many of us? A few days before this, another child was talking about how James was still a tiny baby, because I call him a giant baby (he’s in the 99th percentile! Such a big boy!). He said, “He’s not a giant baby, he’s a tiny baby, but you all are giants (Vince and me). Someday James will grow up and be a giant, too.” Then he looked at us, and said to Vince, “But you’re skinny. Like me, I’m skinny, too.” He looked at me, and didn’t say anything, but the point was clear. I was not skinny, and that was not good.
Even a child knows that “skinny” is “good,” “not skinny” is “bad.” And that is messed up.
When I was five years old, I remember worrying if I was thin enough. My mommy and daddy told me I was beautiful all the time, but still I thought, “Am I small enough? Will anyone ever love me?” That’s not OK.
This is where body dysmorphia starts, when we’re too young to know what’s normal and what’s not, and as parents, we need to be aware of this in our children, we need to teach them how to perceive ourselves and others, how to talk about bodies–their own and others–and how to love themselves, regardless of photos they see on Instagram or on television. I mean, even though my parents built me up and loved me and gave me all the encouragement a child could want, I still suffer from body dysmorphia and have my whole life. We have to be aware that our children may be suffering with this, too.
I’ve carried my body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. Never have I not been aware of my “flaws,” of my body shape and size and weight, of my hair cut and color, of my makeup or lack thereof. I’ve never not worried about these things. And I am SICK of it. I’m tired of CONSTANTLY trying to hide my body, because I’m ashamed of it, because I’m OBSESSED and DISAPPOINTED with how I look.
Do I want to be thinner? Yes. I want to be able to fit in my old clothes and comfortably do the yoga poses I could before. And I’m not even sure if that’s because I think it’s healthier, or because to my body-dysmorphic-eyeballs think the photos of me then are more attractive and want that back.
I don’t have a point here, except, talk to your kids. Talk to your spouses. Talk to your friends. We have to help each other not fall into this pit of self hatred and comparison and all around ickiness.
YOU are beautiful.
YOU are wonderful.
YOU are ENOUGH.