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,

I Am Good Enough

Today is the first day of summer and guess what is on my mind? It is not the fortune of having incredibly beautiful weather or the sweet freshness of snacking on Michigan cherries or even the enjoyment of partaking in a wine festival with lovely people surrounding me. No, my mind is too consumed with myself. My mind is noticing the slight peeling on my legs from last weekend’s sunburn and focusing on how I’ll never be that sun-kissed tan girls desire. It is cringing at my size compared to the women walking by and analyzing every inch of my body with skepticism. It’s criticizing every movement I make, every step I take, and every thought I have. No, my first day of summer has not been one of relaxation and excitement… but I do not plan for any other day of the year to be like this.

In the past, I was really terrible to myself and relentlessly compared myself to others. No matter how many times I read or heard about how food or lovable I was, I didn’t believe it. Then I met people who helped me to see the person I truly was and I began to love myself. That was a changing point in my life.

Now I’ve dipped a toe into the waves of depression and I hate the coldness of its bitter lapping. Even though all those who helped turn me around are no longer in my life (at least not in a capacity more than weekly texts), it is time for me to love myself again.

Gone are the days when I meticulously look for evidence that I am a nobody, that I don’t deserve to be loved, and that I’m not living up to my full potential. I can’t hate myself into a version of myself I can love. A happy life does not work with this kind of thinking. So next time I begin to feel there is something wrong with me — that I’m not in the type of relationship others of my age are, that I don’t have a certain amount of money in my savings account, that my social circle is ridiculously small, or that I don’t look or act a certain way in the presence of other — I’m going to remember these few key facts as to why I am more than good enough to love.

  1. My mind is the best liar in the business.
    I’m considering getting the quote “Don’t believe everything you think.” tattooed on my forearm so every time I look down I’m reminded of this powerful consideration. I mean, seriously, take those five words to heart; thoughts are just thoughts. It is unhealthy and physically draining to give so much power to the negative ones!When my mind begins to wander and wonder at possibilities that have no grounds (or are the exact opposite of what I have been told) I am going to reply, “No.” No to the lies and the late-night worries. Instead I’ll focus on what I do know for sure and the positivity in my life.
  2. There is more right with me than there is wrong.
    I tend to magnify my perceived flaws and cast them on my entire self without even considering all the things I do like about myself. My biggest distress is with my appearance. My skin is too pale, my teeth are too small, my arms are not lean enough, etc. So when I look in the mirror and see a lot of disgust, I’m going to change my outlook and name five things I enjoy about myself.
  3. Focus on progress rather than perfection.
    This goes along with number 2 in regards to playing heavily upon my appearance and lack of self esteem. However, I have made huge strives of progress. No one is going to be perfect and it is ridiculous that I continually stress myself out aiming to be so! I mean, I exercise every day, eat healthy with still enjoying my life, and I have lost 60 pounds in two years. Stop downgrading your success, Ash!Outside of looks, I am quite the perfectionist in all aspects of my life. One of the biggest causes of self-loathing is the need to get everything exactly right. I strive for perfection and success, and when I fall short I feel less than worthless. So instead of berating myself for messing up and stumbling backwards, I am going to give myself a pat on the back for making an attempt and coming as far as I have. Not everyone is willing to continuously put themselves out in the world to try to succeed, and it is amazing that I keep doing so regardless of how many times I fail.
  4. The people I compare myself to compare themselves to others also.
    A friend once told me this, and it never really hit home with me until right now. (As I sit at compare myself to every person walking by, have you…) Everyone compares themselves to other people, especially now with social media allowing such ridiculous claims or wealth and health and high-end living to be circulated throughout the globe. It’s smart to remember that the people who seem to have it all actually do not though.
  5. Sometimes being annoyingly simple is best.
    I love being a complex person. I like thinking about others rather than just myself all the time, I like having a busy schedule and partaking in life on a daily basis, I like throwing myself out into the world and learning new concepts and ideals.However, sometimes being annoyingly simply is okay. I won’t be successful if I keep telling myself I’m a failure, I won’t reach a higher potential by believing I’m not living to my full capacity, and I won’t become more worthy or lovable by saying I’m not. Just be simple, Ashley, and believe in the positives.

The only way to achieve self-love is to love me for me, regardless of who I am, what I look like, where I stand, and even if I know I want to change.

I am a great friend, a passionate worker, a trusting girlfriend, a caring volunteer, and a hard-working individual who goes for what she wants. I am a good person. And being good is enough for me to love.