naked under all my clothes

I've debating long and hard on writing this post, but I figure maybe if I share what I've struggled through then maybe it will make it easier for us to be honest, to choose to think instead of react, to choose how we're letting our culture shape our brains. And then I decided that the post was narcissistic and potential blackmail and possibly self-pitying and therefore a bad plan. And then I read Marisa's fantastic post and decided that maybe, just maybe this was a good idea after all. Especially this bit:

I used to think that a bit of self-consciousness was fairly harmless, but now I realize – it’s a dangerous, paralyzing form of narcissism. It causes us to look with disdain on our flawed humanity and instead chase after an idealized image of perfection.
Wow. Let me think about that for a bit. It causes us to look with disdain on our flawed humanity. This humanity, this skin, this body that I fight with so hard, that I criticize so fiercely, is allowed to be flawed? Because I'm human. Hm.

Last summer I posted about a breakthrough I'd had regarding the wearing of shorts, and you all were lovely and supportive and fantastic. And last summer I lost some weight and everyone was lovely and asked how I'd lost weight and I said "Oh! Having a teenager in the house just makes one very conscious about what you eat. And I've started running again."

Which was partly true.

But you see, when the above photo was taken, when I had just barely managed to zip myself into that size two dress (and only because I'm flat-chested and the skirt was full), when I could pull size eight jeans off the rack and zip them without thinking twice, I wasn't really eating. And when I did eat, I was throwing at least a portion of it back up again.

I got a message from my sister yesterday, "So how have you managed to have the depression gene pass you by?" My mom is bipolar, and depression is something that we all seem to struggle with at times. I told my sister that I try to keep a handle on it with exercise and controlling my environment but then I started thinking about it and realized: that's not true. When the depression attacks me, when stress overwhelms me, I stop eating, I start obsessing, I start sticking my finger down my throat. I criticize my body, I try to look even more perfect, I control the things that don't really matter.

This isn't healthy, and I know it. And I want to be healthy. I have a 19-year-old living with me, and I although I yell at her when she starves herself to lose weight, secretly I'm doing the same thing. I have a 16-year-old who looks up to me, and I no matter how many times I tell her that she's beautiful, and she's lovely, she never quite believes it on the inside. And I understand.

Because no matter how many people tell me I'm beautiful, I don't believe them, not really. They're saying that to be nice. Or because they have to. Yes, I'm illustrating this with pictures of my butt. Because it's a really good example of what I'm saying. See the shot above? That's what everyone sees, and I'm told on a fairly regular basis that I have a nice bum. (Yes, I know: I have weirdly awesome oversharing friends.) But that picture below? The one with the cellulite and the squishiness? That's what I see. That's what I feel. And that's what I know is there, despite the makeup and the nice shoes and the fitted clothes.

Ultimately, I'm not blaming this on the culture. Because we get to choose how much we believe of what they tell us. I don't HAVE to compare myself with the pictures in magazines, but I choose to. I don't have to compare myself with anyone, actually, but I choose to. And then I choose to nitpick and whine and feel inferior.

So I'm throwing this out there: I'm choosing to be healthy. I'm choosing to learn to love my body. All of it. Even my nose and my "womanly curves." I'm choosing this because I'm tired of wasting time obsessing over myself, taking up brain space that could be spent taking over the world. I'm choosing this because I want my beloved E & L to be healthy, too. And they won't know how to if someone doesn't show them. I know I'm going to struggle, because it's much much easier to whine about myself than it is to work at health.

Anyone with me?


{lauryl} said…
I believe in healthiness. I grew up in a home where there was much too much emphasis on outward appearance, particularly weight. I've felt self conscious about my weight my entire life and have struggled with my weight, probably in part because of yo-yo dieting and a desire to be "skinny" not "healthy." It wasn't until I was married to a man who loved me and my body, even after I'd gained 30 pounds post-wedding, that I realized how insignificant my weight was in the big scheme of things. Now I eat, enjoy eating, relish eating. I try to eat healthfully, but occasionally I have something really naughty, and instead of feeling guilt or beating myself up over it, I just enjoy it. And maybe push myself a little harder in my dance class. I attend a dance/pilates class five days a week. I'm still technically "overweight" and a lot heavier than I was in college, but I'm strong and I'm learning to love my body despite the saddlebags that just won't go away no matter how much I try. Ultimately, I'd rather be a little chunky and ENJOY food/exercise than be skinny, starving and neurotic about exercise. It's all about the big picture. I support you 100%!
oker said…
I never ever respond, but for this post.... wow. So courageous and beautifully written. I think many (at least far more than you'd expect) women have issues like the ones you describe and it takes a lifetime to get it over with. For me, food will always be a topic when the weather gets warmer or when I feel bad. But to talk about it, to throw it out in the open, I think that's the only cure. From the moment I admitted I had problem, I was halfway there. I know moms who have eating disorders will have daughters with the same issues and thinking about that freaks me out. My mom has a very unhealthy relationship with her body (she's 45) and her 3 daughters all struggle with their weight now too. I want to stop this curse for when I will have daughters in the future.

Thank you for this post and the pics. Very inspiring.
Karma from Belgium.
Your Sister said…
I think that was one of your best posts--ever.

I love you and I'm so glad you're being truthful and admitting you have a problem. In all honesty, at my skinniest times, I'd lapsed back into puking up my food. And while I'm not happy that you share this strange compulsion, I am glad to know I am not alone.

Also. Butt pictures on the internet? Hands-down bravest thing you've ever done.
Marisa said…
I read this post early this morning and have been thinking about it all day. I absolutely love how you interpreted my thoughts, and am so so so proud of you that you are able to be so brutally honest with yourself. Courageous.

Although I've never struggled with an eating disorder in the technical sense, I'm among the millions of other women who might as well have one for all the criticizing, nit-picking and complaining I do about my face and my body. There are days when I literally can't look at myself in the mirror. I obsess about people seeing "the right" photos of me (hate).

I ordered a swimsuit online last week and it came this afternoon. It's the first one I've bought since having a baby. I stared at myself in the mirror, grimacing at my indistinguishable waistline and sagging breasts that look like empty bags from 15 months of nursing.

And then I remembered this post. And it really helped.

You're amazing. So glad that you're in my life, no matter how tangentially or how little we get to see each other. xo.
*tiffany* said…
This was so brave to share! You are an example to those girls by being honest, and choosing health. It will be a struggle, but I know you can passionately pursue health like you do many other things! I recommend for amazing resources for this tough issue! Praying for you, girl! You are beautiful, inside and out, and even more so for how you have chosen to be an example and an encouragement to others.
*tiffany* said…
P.S. Cute panties ;)
Angie said…
I'm with you. Thank you for such a strong post. I wish I could remember where I saw this information, maybe a People-type magazine, but lots and lots of beautiful people have cellulite. You do have a nice a purely platonic sense. :D

Thanks for sharing your struggle with your acceptance of your body self. I struggle with my "self" view daily. I'm trying to direct myself to the healthy and strong view and tell my internal critic to find something more productive to think about. One reason I visit here is because I think you have such a great style. Not that it is *my* style but it is lovely to view and admire a strong-minded woman who knows what she likes.
Johanna said…
yes to the healthy! :-) Proud of you...letting go of neurosis and moving into the freedom we have in Christ is a beautiful thing. I need it (freedom/health) in so many areas of my own life.

Love ya, cute bum and all.

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