Thoughts On Loving My Body & Wanting To Be Perfect

I came across the Thought Catalog article “I Love My Body, But I Still Struggle With Wanting To Be Perfect” written by Ginelle Testa yesterday and couldn’t help myself from nodding along with the author’s thoughts on the subject. “Yes! This!” was the repeated phrase in my mind as I hungrily devoured her words. Like Ginelle, I too find myself having contradicting conversations throughout the day at my reflection: “you’re perfect the way you are” to “ugh, why do you look like this?” For someone who likes to say she’s an encourager of the female body and womanhood, I struggle daily to look like the celebrities I see on social media each day. I love my body, but I wrestle constantly with wanting it to be more. To be better. To be perfect.

Body and fat positivity are important to me. I want to practice body positivity when thinking about my body. I want to celebrate myself as I am — fat rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, and all. I follow a number of InstaCelebs who promote this movement; women who flaunt their own perfectly imperfect bodies with pride as to how they work and what they are able to do. Me, I truly care about melding this movement into my own life but wrestle with the concept when I catch a glimpse of a mirror. I compare my body to what I wish it looked like or what it once was. However, I appreciate Ginelle’s statement that “rewiring my brain is going to take a lifetime.”

I still find myself wanting my body to be different. Three weeks ago I received information on my health which answered a multitude of questions and I have actively been able to change things in my life to start seeing differences in my mental, emotional, and physical health. I have been waking up to hit the gym, and in the mornings I marvel at how strong my body is and all the actions I am able to do — I can walk, bend, jump, lift, etc. Unfortunately I still find myself daydreaming about being a thinner person. Sometimes those daydreams span hours or days of my life, overtaking my happiness and earlier pride. Then I catch the negativity I’m placing on my shoulders and become even harder on myself because I remember my desire to advocate body positivity. This can quickly become a downward spiral.

I know that radical body acceptance is the only way for me. Being the overly rational person that I am, I understand that radical body acceptance is my only path. I must be content with finding peace in the questions: What if my body never changes and this is it? Do I want to spend my life fighting or do I want to grow to accept it? Now, it is okay to want to make changes to my self-care, but I also realize that radical acceptance is my only choice for real happiness. I need to accept and be content with who I am and what I look like presently… for a content and happy future.

Weight loss is completely ineffective. Oh, how this statement stings. Five years ago I dropped 60 pounds and had 21% body fat. I wore a Small in tops and a size 6 in pants — and never had to try clothing on prior to buying because I could make anything work.  But was I happy? No. I still saw issues with the skin on my neck, the slack in my arms, and the cellulite on my thighs. And I believed my looks correlated with my happiness in all other aspects of my life. If I was feeling down on my appearance, my self-confidence tumbled as well. I grew dependent on others’ compliments to raise my head. I lost myself at the gym and in unhealthy diets and by acting materialistic. I was not the type of person I yearned to be.

Today, I’ve gained that weight back and I am as unhappy with my body as I was when I was thin. However, I am the happiest I have ever been in all other areas of my life. How can this be? It is actually pretty simple. Weight loss is an ineffective option when it comes to my happiness. I may not always feel confident in how I look, but I have the capacity to square my shoulders and keep my chin held high because I know my strengths lie elsewhere. Now my focus is on setting goals and maintaining healthy habits rather than try to force change.

Diet culture also pummels me with messages. “Despite the fact that weight loss doesn’t work, diet culture is constantly berating me about how I should be smaller.” Ginelle, girl, #yasss. It is so difficult to continuously stay focused on finding happiness in my present when all of social media I am told I am unimportant and unworthy due to my size. Scrolling through posts of thin, exotic women turns my heart green with envy and I begin dreaming of a different body for myself. I am exhausted with this constant barrage of diet culture.

Comparing myself to others gets me in trouble. As with any other woman in the world, I find my mind comparing myself to my skinny friends quite easily. I am aware how I hide myself in photos, not wanting to leave any evidence for others to judge me next to my thinner friends. On days I know I am meeting up with someone, I can sometimes find myself sobbing into a pile of clothes I have tried on and taken off. Once I regain my dignity, I choose the baggiest option… and still frown at the mirror. It is a tiring game to feel as if you never measure up to the girl next to you.

It is inspiring to see girls of my size carry their weight gracefully though. I admire them and their beauty. I have to remember that the world is filled with people of all shapes and sizes, and that thought pushes me to sometimes try new outfits. Some are going to work with my present body and some are not. On my “good days” of body acceptance, I grasp at those outfits which make me feel empowered and beautiful like my body-counterparts and lift my head high. There is no reason I cannot strut like anyone else!

Also comparing myself to where I used to be makes me upset. It is sad how often I compare my present self to my old self. I found measurements a few months back that I took in 2014. The differences were outrageous. I felt gross. I felt lazy. I felt unworthy. Then I remember the lifestyle I led which drove me to my old self. I was a gym rat, working my body to exhaustion and living on a handful of daily calories. My body was thin but it was not healthy. Today, I may not be as healthy as I would like to be, but I am actively working to change that. Most days I know that I am indeed a lovable and worthwhile woman.

Logically I know I’m good enough. Just as Ginelle shares her ups and downs, my own roller-coaster outlook on body acceptance is similar to hers: I know I’m good enough just as I am. My logical mind knows this. I have gone through the pain of having people tell me that I was not good enough, that I was not worthy, that I was not lovable. I have battled those thoughts and gained wisdom and resources to combat them. Yet, I am human and I am going to fail from time to time. When it comes to my body, I may not always think logically and instead allow my emotions to hijack my thoughts. But in the end, I am thankful for a fully-functioning body that gets me to where I need to go and can perform the actions I need it to do.

I may always have a part of me that desires change. Truth be told, I am never going to be a perfect body-positive advocate, friends. I continue to workout and eat healthier for the very simple reason of losing fat. I will keep watching movies with beautiful celebrities and feel that twinge of guilt that I am not good enough. I have accepted I will never get back to my 2014 weight, and that is because I do not plan to ever return to my unhealthy lifestyle. I’m never going to be 100% okay with the way I look and I am okay with this because…

I’m only human — my mixed feelings are natural. As Ginelle admits, I realize this post was a bit of a whirlwind. Can you guess why? My thoughts and feelings on this topic ARE a whirlwind! I am human. I have “feelings, thoughts, and desires that are all over the map.” And most importantly, these feelings, thoughts, and desires are. completely. normal.

Ultimately, I’m going to keep feeding acceptance in my mind and life. Yeah, I’m going to keep having exasperated episodes when I look in the mirror, and I’ll still scroll through Instagram with guilt, and I may find myself researching the latest fad diet. But I will also continue to allow myself happiness for my personal victories and pride in my body’s performance. I am going to encourage myself with thoughts that center around acceptance of who I am. I’m going to celebrate my body — rolls, marks, cellulite, and all. I want to expel body positivity to my girlfriends, my family, and my future daughters.

So it only makes sense that I start with my own.

Thanks for joining me on this ride today, friends,

Gray Spaces & A Message Worth Hearing

“I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to end my life.”

A dear friend of mine published a post on her blog last night that I feel needs to be read by many people. She bravely opened up about her personal struggles and took the leap to share her innermost feelings with the world because she knows there is a poor stigma surrounding the topic of suicidal ideation. Her words are raw and courageous and so, so needed in today’s climate. There really isn’t much more I need to say… I could add no more substance to her beautiful words.

Also, please be aware this is a very sensitive topic and this is your trigger warning; please proceed when you’re ready.


With recent events this week, both nationally and personally, this has been on my mind a lot. Trigger warnings ahead as this is a very sensitive topic, but I am sick of the repercussions of it not being discussed. 

My experience with suicide is, unfortunately, like many others my age. For every year I was in high school, there was at least one student within the local school systems who committed suicide or attempted. There was a moment of silence over the PA system in the morning, and counseling offered to students who needed it. Chatter during lunches from those closest to the person about what happened and then, eventually, silence.

Diving deeper, one of these was a student I had been in touch with on and off throughout the years. As I’ve said, for years I have stuffed down my feelings and I am just now acknowledging the repercussions of doing so. At one point before this student committed suicide, we were having a casual conversation in which they acknowledged they were having a hard time. I said I understood that, and when they asked me the best way to handle it, I told them that I numbed myself to the pain until I could ignore it. It was not the right answer at all, and I know that now. At the time, I didn’t have any other solution to offer because it was the only solution I was functioning off of, though I was not functioning well. A little less than a year later, I logged on to Facebook to learn they had committed suicide. I’ve only ever told two people this.

Throughout middle school and high school, one of my closest friends suffered from depression and anxiety. As a result, they had more than one suicide attempt. Because we didn’t attend the same school district, I would often hear about the attempts and institutionalization from their mom or friends over text out of the blue. I sometimes had to relay information about the latest happenings in their life to their mom late at night because they felt so left out of their child’s life due to the mental trauma they were dealing with. I always struggled with sharing information like that. At 14 years old, it is very difficult to understand mental health, and at the time it was not something that I had much knowledge on. I wanted to serve as a confidant to my friend, but I also wanted to help their mom to understand the situation as best as possible. Apart from this, all I was doing was praying for my friend and her family. I believe prayer is a powerful thing, but that more can be done.

My sophomore year of high school, I was at my grandpa’s visitation when I checked my phone for the first time that afternoon. It was a text from my friend’s mom saying that my friend had swallowed multiple pills and was in the hospital due to another attempt. I remember sitting on a bench in the hall way. There were no tears this time. I was merely an etch-a-sketch shaken up with all thought collapsed. When my dad asked me what was wrong, I told him. He responded back by saying, “I know this is hard. Keep praying for her, but also know that one day they might be successful with it.” The thought tore me apart. I knew that my dad was not wishing for that to happen by any means, but more so speaking in terms of reality. I know I nodded, because it was a thought I had reminded myself every time they were unsuccessful, but what I wanted in that moment was to have a conversation that neither of us knew the script for.

My most recent experience happened later that year during world history. Instead of learning about Martin Luther and his 95 theses, I kept glancing at the words on my screen from my friend. They told me they had plans to attempt suicide that night. I felt my pulse in my thumbs as they hovered over the phone. My stomach now housed my beating heart, and it echoed the thumping rhythm of anxiety as I tried to maneuver a solution. In that moment, I contemplated so many outcomes: They’re just worked up, they don’t mean it. They’ll get home and change their mind. What if  their mom comes home, and finds them — again. What if it really works this time. My teacher broke my thought process, and divided us into groups to do our homework. With that I asked him to come into the hall, and rambled off what was happening through tears and a stuttering voice. As a result, I spent the afternoon in the guidance office talking to a counselor and calling my friend’s school to pull her out of class and send her home.

The days following resulted in a lot of emotions. Teachers and guidance counselors told me if I needed anything to let them know. I was overwhelmed by the thought of talking about it more than I had already. When I did talk to my friend next, I kept apologizing to them for telling someone because I felt guilty for it. I felt like I was making the decision for them to stay alive, when what I wanted was for them to want that for themselves.

Because these events and exposures to suicide all happened in a very short time frame, I never fully talked about them and as such they ended up stuffed down with my other feelings. For every time I hear about a suicide on the news, I thank God my one friend made it out alive after multiple attempts. But for all of those thoughts, there are equally as many moments I feel incredible guilt for the classmate I didn’t help, the one that reached out for help and in return heard the advice to ignore pain that I now understand couldn’t be ignored.

While I don’t believe it would change the overall situations, I do believe that had there been strides to discuss and normalize mental health conversations, I could have acted sooner in a more productive way in those situations. The point of this outlet is to discuss mental health, and more specifically mine. I have felt a tremendous weight lifted when I’ve heard others’ stories because they echo that I am not alone. For what it’s worth, here is my, “you are not alone” in the suicide conversation.

I have never checked yes on a suicide survey. This does not represent my truth. I am the type of person who doesn’t believe they could go through with harming themselves. However, I have let myself sit for days, sometimes even week long periods, in very unhealthy states of not wanting to be alive. I have sobbed and hyperventilated into blankets and pillows from morning to night. I have done it over the years and recently. However, recently, the thought transitioned.

I started to think to myself that if I were to die by a natural cause, I wouldn’t be disappointed because of the quality of my life at the moment. For some reason, this thought manifested into the idea of a car crash, which is usually caused more by fate and coincidences of circumstances than intention. For at least a week, I had the thought that if I got into a car accident and lived, I would know I am meant to be here still. It sat in the back of my mind as something that would give a clear answer, but something that likely wouldn’t happen.

For those of you that follow me on Facebook, you know I did get into a car accident. A week ago, my friend and I went out and as the night went on our plans changed. We originally weren’t going to go out for St. Paddy’s but because we’ve both been to very few parties in college, we decided to just for the entitlement to say we went. Originally only one of us was going to drink, but we both had a drink, so we Ubered home. Our first Uber cancelled on us, and we had a longer than usual wait for the second one. I got into the Uber and for the first time according to my memory, didn’t think to buckle because I was busy talking to the driver. Two minutes later I looked down at my seat belt and realized that. I reached over to put it on, and before I could, we were rear ended while stationary in traffic by a car that came in fast. I bounced forward and my head knocked back into the seat.

This was my first car crash, and my response was to get my friend and I back home and deal with my feelings about it later. It wasn’t until the next day that I started to question the timing of it. I believe that there are no coincidences in the way things happen. All of the plans that changed that night that led us to that specific Uber at that specific moment were not all just a coincidence. Regardless of your beliefs in God, good vibes, the Universe, what have you, something was proving to me I am meant to be alive right now.

In the days following the accident, I didn’t reference this to anyone. I didn’t want people to assume I was suicidal, I didn’t want to concern others. The reason for this is that suicide has always been such a black and white issue when it’s talked about. If you check yes to having suicidal thoughts, in my experience at least, you are treated as though you’ve attempted suicide already. There has never in my experience been a grey area where I would feel okay saying, “I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to end my life.” In my case, these thoughts exist every so often. I know for others, they are more frequent than that. In my case, I cry for a while and drag my feet into the next day. For others, they call a hotline.

This week, I decided to open up to my counselor and a few friends about this experience and these thoughts about the grey area. When they asked why I didn’t say something sooner, I explained that what I was saying felt like it should be kept hushed. They all reassured me that at one point or another, they’ve found themselves in the grey area too. My counselor even told me she used to take crying breaks during school for an hour, wash her face and continue on, because she wasn’t suicidal, but she wasn’t okay either.

It’s my belief that the grey area should still be identified as just as important, but separate from needing to be institutionalized for suicidal actions. Since this car accident, and since opening up in the last months whether it be in posts, or in conversations, I really do believe my mental health is improving, however, I am still in the grey area. There are days where I really do wish that I wasn’t here, because it is an exhausting thing to feel so vulnerable and open with others. It’s even more exhausting, because there are still plenty of people, myself included more times than not, who don’t know how to talk about these things. Everyone is stuck trying to say the right thing that they forget to say something. As someone who can see how many people are viewing their WordPress, the number of people who never say anything back is discouraging when you’re opening up this much.

I know this has been very long, and for those of you who stuck through, thank you. This is me doing my best to say something with what I know. Nationally, suicides are currently being linked to mass shootings. I understand that every case is different, and each is individually just as important in the conversation about mental health. I understand that there is unfortunately no way to prevent them from happening. But, I do strongly believing that it is okay to not be okay. And I know I want to live in a world where it doesn’t feel so wrong to admit that. I certainly don’t want to continue forward stuffing things down and encouraging it, which is why I shared all of this. For some of you, this may be a lot. Please understand the weight you feel reading this has been on my shoulders for a very long time, and I am sharing because in my moments where I feel alone, I would want to see something like this.

If you feel comfortable reaching out, and just want to say that you’ve felt in the grey area before, or do now, then please reach out. If this helped you, I’d be relieved to know because it took a lot to share it. Lastly, I still genuinely believe that there isn’t anything wrong with simply needing to hear that people care about you and are happy you are alive. It’s not so much a compliment as it is reassurance that your presence is acknowledged, and it works wonders in a difficult moment. So if you’ve read this far, and you’re happy I’m alive and pulling through, or you’re rooting for me, please let me know so I can thank you and see how much I have going for myself. You have no idea how much it means.

Written by Mikhayla Dunaj on March 27, 2019. Find the original post here.


I know from talks with the author that this topic truly has been weighing on her. So if you found a source of solace in her words, please reach out to her. I have been in a position similar to Mikhayla — I have never wanted to hurt myself, but have considered what it would mean to no longer be alive — and knowing others were or had been in the same thought-space as me made a world of difference. You do not have to go through anything alone.

Life is a complicated, trying mess, but we are in it together, friends.

(I love you, Mikhayla. Thank you for sharing this message and being vulnerable. You may never know how you have changed someone’s world with your words.)

Much love, friends,

 

 

 

On average, there are more than 128 suicides per day in the United States, attempted by people with and without known mental health conditions. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find support during your time of crisis or be provided useful resources. Your call is ALWAYS free and confidential. 

Revisit: Losing Moments

With Life continuing to push forward with a rapid fierceness, I wanted to be sure you all knew I am still here. It seems like only yesterday I was busily preparing for Pink Tie Ball and then I looked at the calendar and that was a month and a half ago! Ohmigoodness…

I met for an ice cream date with my “adopted little sister” last week. During our discussion, she mentioned she has been turning to my more-relationship-focused, archived blog posts for inspiration during a trying time of her life. This girl is strong, intelligent, compassionate, and an amazing writer who has begun her own blog. Coming from someone I see as a future Pulitzer Prize winner herself, I was humbled.

And a bit curious.

It has been awhile since I looked over my past posts. I have been blogging since February 2014 and there have been a lot of rants, cries of grief, and ponderings to pass throughout those five years. Though there were a few instances that made me cringe or shake my head in frustration, the walk down memory lane has been refreshing. I have experienced many things over time, and I like to think I’ve learned a bit from those experiences.

In October 2014 I was still floundering to figure out my career path and attempting to move past what I thought was my “rock bottom” — my first breakup. Little did I know there was further to fall. Over the years I have gone on many other dates and felt more heartache. But rock bottom did not come until the loss of other important people in my life — specifically the death of my mentor and the end of my closest friendship. Yet there were also the mountainous highs since 2014: meeting G, grooming my tribe, establishing my reputation in my community, among many others.

As I continue to move through 2019 with Intention, I’d like to share this post from October 2014 on the perception of losing time and how one’s way of approaching Life molds your experience through the years:

“Be present. Be kind. Be knowledgeable. Make love. Make tea. Avoid small talk. Embrace conversation. Buy a plant, water it. Make your bed. Make someone else’s bed. Have a smart mouth and a quick wit. Run. Make art. Write. Create. Swim in the ocean. Dance in the rain. Take chances. Ask questions. Make mistakes. Learn. Know your worth. Love fiercely. Forgive quickly. Let go of what doesn’t make you happy. Grow. Laugh. Live.”

These are all things I want to do in my life. In little over a week I will be a whole year older. I cannot believe how quickly my life has gone by! It seems that time seems to speed up the older and busier I become. I need this to stop! I want to enjoy the few years I have, I want to see the world, I want to experience all life has to offer! But it seems the older I get the less chances I have…

Now I know time is actually moving at the same rate it was during my childhood. I remember many a lazy summer day that seemed to stretch on to infinity. So what seems to have changed is my perception of time.

I read an interesting article the other day that discussed why time seems to slip blindly by as we go through our days. In the article, research stated that time is processed in three-second increments. In a way, the human brain warps time as our brains receive more or less input than usual. This is why time slows down during a car crash and a person can lose an entire day watching Netflix.

The point of the study was to influence people to do more, or rather notice more. Focusing one’s attention on the here and now is shown to help our brains store more information and alter our perspectives of how fast time is passing. Being mindful to focus on such things can actually slow down our brain’s perception of time. In the same way, mindlessly being distracted can create a feeling that we’re losing whole hours. The final suggestion of the article was to not go through daily routines on autopilot, but rather create clear goals or events throughout the day to notify your brain of time passing.

I’m not quite ready for my life to fly by. I want to enjoy every moment of every day I am alive. I mean, God’s given me so much, why would I not want to make the time to appreciate it all?! I want to notice the small kind gestures those around me make, I want to see the exchanging of conversation and movement between all aspects of the world, and I want to actively perform my life and prove my time to be valuable with all those whom I associate.

Just as the quote said at the beginning, I want to be present in every circumstance. I want to experience every minute of my life. I simply want to enjoy my life and everything happening within it.


With you and for you always,