“Ok, you can do this,” I tell myself.
I’m standing in my closet. Naked. It’s a rainy Thursday. I open my eyes and look in the mirror.
I’ve struggled with mirrors since about eighth grade when I first realized my appearance affected my acceptance. We didn’t have the money for the latest and greatest fashions, I had crazy poofy hair, and no idea how to apply makeup. What I saw in the mirror differed drastically from the magazine covers of the day, it still does.
Of all the ways the perfectionistic voice in my head torments me, it is cruelest about my body. Whether I’m a size 2 or a size 12, it’s insatiable, rattling off imperfections with ease, finding fault with each lump, bump, or ding.
My hair? Too thin and curly.
My skin? Too bumpy and pale.
My teeth? Too crooked and dull.
My face? Too wrinkled and old.
My thighs? Too big and flabby.
My arms? Too weak and undefined.
My stomach? Not flat enough, never flat enough.
At times I’ve rebelled, over-indulging on chocolate and alcohol, defiant in the face of perfectionism’s unrelenting criticism. Other times I’ve over-exercised and counted each calorie, carefully tracking each morsel, whittling my waist to an unhealthy size as I tried to appease it. I’ve avoided mirrors so perfectionism didn’t have material to use, and I’ve studied style to find the best ways to camouflage perceived areas of imperfection. I’ve followed every fad diet and then disregarded them altogether seeking normalcy.
As the years passed, my pendulum swung wildly through behaviors, diets, and strategies as I tried to escape the pain the voice causes. To get one moment of inner peace and acceptance.
None of them worked.
Each one has failed to quiet the body shaming voice in my head. It is relentless. It is cruel. It uses evidence on the newsstands to back up its claims. It continuously compares me to my friends and strangers I don’t even know, always finding me lacking. It says things to me that I would never say to another human being. Biting, cutting things. It preys on my deepest insecurities.
When I started this journey, I didn’t think being brave would mean actively loving myself. And yet, it’s the only option left.
For I realized recently that in 30 years, I’ve never questioned the validity of the voice. I took its thoughts as gospel, the undisputed truth, and acted accordingly. But what if they aren’t? What if I can create a new truth, change their message?
This January, those questions led me to a new resolution. Not to lose 10 pounds. Not to get healthier. Not to fit into size two jeans. But to fight back.
Instead of quieting the body shaming soundtrack in my head, I’ve decided to put it to work, giving it something different to say.
So here I stand, about 90 days in, naked in front of my mirror, looking for three things I like about my body today. My new morning ritual. I write them down as I find them, collecting compliments to read another day. Some mornings the task is easy and I embrace things I’ve long hated about myself. Other mornings I struggle, managing only to write down that I have a nice earlobe or a well-placed freckle.
I often take two steps forward followed by a step back. It’s a process to undo the habit of self-criticism. A hard process, much harder than I thought it would be.
But slowly the soundtrack in my head is changing, inching closer to acceptance. And I find the closer I get, the less satisfying that ending is. For on the horizon, far beyond the acceptance I thought was my finish line, I see the true prize.
Self-love. Lumps, bumps, dings and all.
I’m determined to get there.