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,

How Idealizing the “Good Girl” Image Teaches Women to Put Themselves Last

Okay, let me begin by saying: “Did this woman just step into my life?” I mean, seriously. Elite Daily is well known for relating to the mass majority of its target audience, but this article was almost too direct when I read it. I grew up with the type of thinking the author discusses in the following article; I grew up believing I needed to retain to my strict ideals to make all those around me happy. It caused unwarranted stress and poor self-esteem.  Being a perfectionist was not something admirable, it was something demanded. Or so I thought. I still fight against the mistaken theory that my role in Life is to please everyone else. I still wrestle with the thought that disappointing others is a true failure on my part and I should be punished. But guess what? I’m not alone in my thinking, and we all know I love to find support with similar conflicts in Life. It’s about time all us Good Girls started making our own rules. “Stop living in someone else’s world, and start creating your own.”

Originally posted on Elite Daily:

For as long as I can remember, I self-identified – internally, of course – as a “good girl.” Because of this, my middle and high school years were pretty much smooth sailing. They were not without a couple of small bumps on the road, but overall, they were pleasant and fruitful. I found that great things happened if I followed the straight and narrow of doing as I was told.

If I fit myself into the “good girl,” cookie-cutter mold, I was ensured love, attention and conventional success. Sure, this persona was often restricting, but the payoff felt worth it.

Many of my female peers expressed this same view. With time, it became more than just a mold. Being a “good girl” became an all-encompassing identity, one we did not want to lose.

I came to know all too well the kind of vigilance that such a constant fear of losing the “good girl” image requires. Messing up, even just once, ceases to feel like a viable option. Room for error evaporates.

The thought of hearing someone say he or she was disappointed in me became one of the worst possible things I could imagine. It didn’t matter whether it was from a coach, a teacher or – heaven forbid – my parents. I started going to extremes in order to avoid all forms of conflict.

The psychological cost of causing someone to be irritated with me just seemed too great. If I developed any negative feelings or resentment, it had to be internalized. If my emotions didn’t go toward earning my “good girl” image, they weren’t allowed to exist. I had to be always happy, always thankful and always smiling. I could never be angry or bitter.

This code of conduct became a real problem during the times I needed to stand up for myself and my beliefs. My fear of the slightest criticism didn’t exactly result in a sturdy front. If I felt like what I had to say was going to be unpopular, I would subconsciously counteract any attempts at assertiveness with dismissive, fluttery hand motions, insecure body posture and upspeak (which means saying a declarative sentence as if it ends with a question mark).

These undermining behaviors were designed to make me seem less threatening, so that people wouldn’t criticize or attack me. I simply wasn’t equipped to deal with that. I didn’t have the kind of internal self-esteem that could hold up to that.

My self-esteem came from other people’s opinions. It came from pleasing them by being the “good girl.”

Peggy McIntosh, the associate director of the Wellesley Center for Women, provides evidence as to why this drive to be “good” is such a gendered phenomenon. She notes that young girls’ brains develop at an earlier age. This leads them to pick up on the emotional cues encouraging them toward compliance sooner than young boys’ brains tend to.

Girls start to fall in line and behave “favorably.” First, we do it because we can. Then, we do it because we’re rewarded for it. It doesn’t take long for us to start believing we are at our most valuable and lovable when we’re following the “good girl” rules.

We start craving more and more of that approval. We gather all our eggs in one basket in order to receive it.

Our self-esteem takes another hit as we grow older. Further gender-based socialization teaches us that it’s a major gender role violation for women to be too obvious with their expressions of self-esteem. We are told that “good girl” law prohibits it.

Thus, expressions associated with low self-esteem are often presented to us as expressions of female altruism. We are socialized to feel more comfortable underselling ourselves than boasting about ourselves to a third party. We downplay our achievements in order to get the gold star of self-deprecation parading as humility. We would rather be likable as “good girls” than risk criticism as anything else, even if that means being overlooked and underappreciated.

So, while young men are trained to present themselves as confident and self-assured – regardless of the circumstances – young women are trained to be timid and self-effacing (“Who me? Oh, I’m nothing special.”)

But guess what? This behavior sticks. Every time we actively downplay our accomplishments and feign self-doubt in the presence of others, we form bad habits that will stick around, even when we’re in the presence of nobody but ourselves.

It’s only a matter of time before our brains instinctively second-guess all our decisions. But, we can’t help it because it’s one of the main prerequisites for being considered “good girls.” “Good girls” are all we know how to be.

Allow me to fast-forward and show you how this story ends. It ends with the “good girl” spreading herself out far too thin by trying to be everything to everyone. The thing about being everything to everyone is you forget to be something to yourself. In her acclaimed piece, “Being Perfect,” Anna Quindlen sums this up brilliantly:

Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere. A berm overlooking a pond in Vermont. The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. A seat on the subway. And something bad will have happened: You will have lost someone you loved or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed.

And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for some core to sustain you. If you’ve been perfect all your life and managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, the chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be.

I don’t want anyone I know to take that terrible chance.

Certainly, the fate Quindlen captures in her piece can’t be worth the flimsy status of “good girl.” Right?

The only way to avoid this outcome is to “listen to that small voice inside of you that tells you to make mischief, to have fun, to be contrarian.” Regardless of how long the “good girl” mentality has been a driving factor in your life, know that it’s never too late to go your own way. It’s never to late too late to be your own person.

Make your own rules. Stop living in someone else’s world, and start creating your own.

This article was originally written by Caralena Peterson on May 9, 2016.

Don’t Fall for Him and Other Useless Advice I Give Myself

Have you ever liked someone but the timing is off? How many times do you give yourself advice and not listen? For me, countless times, and the greatest advice I give myself which I ignore is not to fall for someone. Don’t take down my walls. Don’t let anyone in. Don’t allow anyone else to make me happy other than myself. Don’t, don’t, don’t. Well, this time I’ve nailed the head on all bad advice and fallen for a man at the wrong time. And this morning, as I consider what to write in this post, I’m reminded how useless my little conscience can be once again.

I joined a dating site on the advice of a good friend. She did so and met a nice guy through the site and they are now “officially together” and happy and secure in their adoration for one another. I see her genuine happiness and think to myself, “I want that. I’m ready for that again.”

I wasn’t sure what I was going to find on the site. Or rather, who I was going to find. As fate would have it, I can be quite witty and charming through an online dating site’s profile bio. This is no easy task, friends! In only a day, a number of eligible bachelors attempted to reach out to me through messaging. Most messages lacked any substance and typically were the vague, “hey” or “how r u?” I’m not a snob, but when I’m looking for a suitable partner, grammar and fundamental conversation points are key. So my hunt through the messages continued in a slightly disinterested and unimpressed manner.

Cue the Golfer.

The Golfer’s message was an impressive multi-paragraphed story telling me little details of himself while asking for some on my own part. He was intelligent and had an easy flow to his words that made me curious as to the person behind the “Send” button. So I clicked to his profile. Redheaded, lots of pictures with friends, and a great smile. How could I refuse returning such a great message to such a happy person? So I did. And so began our correspondence.

More than a week later and we slid into our first date. I was a bundle of nerves. Talking to the Golfer all this time had been a whirlwind of emotions; he made me feel beautiful and appreciated and liked. That is something I had been lacking for awhile, even touching into my time with Army. It’s funny how you don’t realize you’re missing something until it comes back into your life.  I was sure the Golfer had to be too good to be true. Yet that first date was amazing. Easy, fun, and dedicated to making me feel like a priority. The Golfer was wonderful.

A few more dates occurred, each one better than the last. The conversations became increasingly longer and more direct in accomplishing a growth in feelings for one another. He was breaking down my walls faster than I have ever let happen in the past. I liked this guy. I liked this guy since that first message. And that is not how dating usually works for me.

As our courting (his verb choice for our relationship status) continued and my walls broke down, I became more complacent in how the Golfer entered my life. I allowed him to meet two of my best friends. I wanted my friends’ honest opinions of this gentleman who was causing this flood of emotion in me. They approved. Tenfold. He was kind, compassionate, social, and just down right perfect.

And so the Golfer was invited to meet my parents. A huge stepping stone in any relationship, but especially in mine. As my parents had once viewed X as their son, they lost something when we broke up. They were extremely hurt at this loss, and I felt the need to protect them and couldn’t allow just anyone to enter their lives. Then there was Army… he met them, of course. But Army never cared what my parents thought about him and sometimes went overboard on swearing in front of them and talking down to them. I knew my parents weren’t a fan of him; a fact which hurt me, as my parents’ opinions matter a great deal to me.

The Golfer excelled, of course. He charmed his way into having my mother even befriend him on Facebook. As soon as he left they both described how great he seemed and how happy I appeared. My heart felt light. I was so exceedingly happy at the prospect of what this wonderful man and I could become that I let my heart get ahead of my head.

This past week the Golfer has been MIA. I was not worried though, our relationship is still  fresh. He’s working on a master’s program on top of working a demanding job. His hours this past week needed to be focused on schmoozing for work, class, and ironing out homework.

The less I heard from him though, the more I began to think. It’s funny how things become less and less clear when you have some time to yourself to think. Thinking is no one’s friend.

And so I was thinking… Thinking how surprising it was that my communication with the Golfer diminished from, say, 90% a day to 1%. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit saddened simply because I enjoy hearing from him and talking to him. Our conversations are just.. easy. However, when you’ve become accustomed to Good Morning, How is your day going?, and Good Night texts daily for an entire month, not receiving anything for three days makes you question things. So I would venture a text here and there to let him know I was thinking of him and receive a short response followed by silence. With me being the only one to begin every conversation, I began to feel like a nuisance. And when I stated as much, his response began to follow the pattern of, “I told you I was busy, I can’t stress about your feelings right now.” Within a few long days, the walls began to rebuild.

Here I was, falling for this guy, and now questioning every motion he ever made in the past. Was he playing a game with me? Were the compliments and “I miss you” texts in the past simply this Casanova’s sweet talking? I’ve had these games happen to me before, I thought I knew all the red flags.

Last night I chose to voice my opinion on his lack of communication this week and how it has upset and hurt me. Not in the respect that I wish to demand his limited time to be directed solely towards me. I do not wish to be a distraction or cause any unwarranted stress in his life. Nonetheless, I need something from him. Anything, really. And asking for knowledge that we’re on the same page in terms of our relationship and our feelings is not too demanding, is it? (Seriously, please give me your opinions!) He responded that I, again, was causing him unnecessary stress.

Okay then.

Truth be told, I’m fine. The Golfer and I have only been courting for the past five weeks. That’s how he views us: we’re courting. Not dating. Words carry strength, and the differences in how the two of us view those words means a lot.

I have enjoyed this courtship. It was exciting, and fun, and different. I felt no need to rush as I viewed our place in one another’s lives as… right. Its been comfortable, and with my busy schedule that’s what I want at this time. Yet perhaps his comfort was a bit more pointed than mine… He doesn’t have much invested in me, other than some sweet words and good memories. And though he was the partner in our relationship to straight-up say he is not interested in dating anyone else (just last weekend he said if I was interested in dating anyone else then we weren’t on the same page), there has been no discussion on a future together.

This is a red flag to me. He said being exclusive with one another was what he wanted, but yet never touched upon actually being official. He’s expressed excitement at meeting some of the most important people in my life, but there’s been no discussion for me to meet those closest to him: his family. His words don’t match his actions, and that is always something to make me turn and walk away.

I’m not playing games anymore; I’ve been through that phase already and I’m done with it. I am a mature, independent woman who holds a steady job, is happy with her life, and is ready to include someone of depth and importance in her routine.

So I’m fine.

Now I’m going to take my own advice (remember when I talked about this topic in Clear Head > Lonely Heart?) and follow my head for a change. It’s not what my heart wants — I like the Golfer. A lot.

However, I don’t like feeling as if I am harming someone by requesting their companionship. I do not need someone to worry and stress over me, or to gaslight my intentions and needs. I want to be with someone who is aiming for a future as well, not simply looking for a confidant when it suits him.

In the same thought, I don’t want to think the worst of the Golfer. My head is telling me this guy is uninterested or unavailable right now. So in the end, my advice to myself is to take three steps back. Reevaluate. Don’t engage. Leave alone.

And in time, maybe things will fall into place. Or else I’ll be okay with the potential of a great relationship simply not having the correct timing.

Either way, I am perfectly fine.

I Want A Day of No Regrets…

Okay, so I actually began this post in February when there was an explosion of Pins after Valentine’s Day, and it was nearly impossible to escape any excitement felt for impending nuptials of family and friends both already in the midst of wedding-planning or those newly engaged. With all the new color palettes, possible venues, and endless decisions to make your “Big Day” unique, it remains constant that it is important to experience your wedding to the fullest and have no regrets.

Continue reading “I Want A Day of No Regrets…”