“You still kind of suck.”
The words rang loudly in my head as I stared at my petite body in the H&M dressing room mirror. The size 0 jean shorts hung loosely off my hips and I twirled around to see how I looked in them. “Still not good enough. Maybe if you just lost five more pounds you’d look better.”
I would love to say that years of self-loathing and punishment over my body was not my reality. That somehow, I was one of the few women blessed with a healthy relationship with the body I was born with and a confident, self-assured relationship with who I truly am. But that has not been the case for me.
I was 16 when I decided my body wasn’t good enough. In fact, I hated her. I wanted so badly to change what I looked like. To tuck in the small folds around my hips, squeeze out the fat in my arms, and slim down the butt I had that other girls my age lacked. I hated myself. And scenes in the dressing room, like the one above, were a common occurrence. It was my own form of sick punishment, assuring that I would feel even worse about myself. Not fun.
The funny thing is, there was nothing ever wrong with my body to begin with. She was not broken, needing to be fixed, or even tucked or toned. She was complete and exactly who she needed to be. But I was looking for confidence, self-assurance, and beauty in all the wrong places. And it left me more depressed, upset, lonely, and broken then I could ever begin to describe.
The older I have gotten, the more I have discovered that my story is not entirely unique. Women around the world, across cultures, and even across generations have gone through similar things.
Going from a place of self-hatred to a place of self-love is one of the hardest journeys you can ever embark on. There are days, even now, when it still feels hard and I don’t know how I have ever gotten to where I am now. But I celebrate because I know that I have.
As I healed from an eating disorder and a broken sense of self, my perspective on things started to shift:
-I started seeing my intense desire to change my body as a way to express uncomfortable and pent-up feelings, instead of just purely a desire to change my physical appearance.
-I started doing the deep, uncomfortable work in order to live where I actually was, not where I wanted to be down the road (aka 10 pounds less, in a new relationship, at my dream career, in a new state).
-I accepted myself and my life as it was and did my best to inhabit it every day, instead of numbing myself from it.
-I surrendered to who I truly was. The weird, quirky, shy, and occasionally awkward young woman that I am. Flaws and all.
To truly love ourselves, and to truly be honest with ourselves, we need to stop living from a place of fear. A place of never feeling good enough. The place where “what if” and “should” dominate.
The only way things really start to change and we can truly begin our journey home to ourselves is when we decide to gently shift away from a place of fear and never being good enough and decide that who we already are right now is pretty awesome already. When I decided to live from a place of more love and less fear, I was able to be more kind and see things in a more realistic light, instead of constantly berating myself and feeling horrible about how it made me feel.
Nowadays, when I walk into a dressing room the scene plays out much differently. I try on clothes that I like that feel comfortable to me. I don’t use them as a tool to measure my body. And when I don’t like the way I look? “Alright,” I’ll say. “Let’s try this one on instead.”
My mind doesn’t instantly jump into thinking about how I can change my body, so I look better in a backless dress. I don’t plan the next restrictive workout plan, so I can look even better in a pair of size 2 skinny jeans. Because that way of living sucks. I know that from years of experience.
The biggest freedom comes from knowing there is nothing to fix. Laying down the mirror and stopping the constant poking and prodding. Dwelling in the knowing that you actually are enough. And deciding to live from that place. A place of love instead of fear.
Because isn’t it about time?
Bailey is a life coach supporting women to make peace with food, live from a place of love instead of fear, and finally reclaim freedom in their lives & their bodies. Through her 1-on-1 work with clients, in-person events, and her online presence, she inspires and encourages women to awaken to radical self-love and live a completely alive and vibrant life without the struggle with food and body image. She is the creator of the e-book “How to feel beautiful, confident, and worthy when you feel anything but” and the email course “One week to body freedom”. You can find her online at www.baileyopsal.com.