Thank goodness for Facebook Memories, because really, how would I remember all of the absurd things I posted on the walls of my sorority sisters without it? In addition, Facebook Memories recently reminded me that I had posted a blog called T-Rex Exposed about two years ago, on October 11, 2013. Having been writing this blog for nearly four years now (whoa!), as you can imagine, I get a lot of these little notifications. I usually don’t bother reading them, but this time, I was intrigued by the title. “T-Rex Exposed? Oh Lord, what could that be about?” I thought. It’s not like I’ve always posted the most perfectly polished stories and anecdotes about myself over the years, God knows. Some are pretty cringe-inducing, and I thought this one would be no exception.
And it was cringe-inducing, but not in the “half-naked-pictures-from-college-bars” kind of way and more in the “Wow, I can’t believe I used to hate myself that much” kind of way.
If you didn’t go back and read the post, here’s the rundown. Two years ago, one of my blogging friends, Emily over at Authentically Emmie, posted a picture of herself in a bikini on the internet. I was blown away not only by her beauty and confidence, but mostly by what I perceived as her bravery. At that point in my life, I would literally rather have died than post a picture of myself in a bikini on the internet. Hell, I would rather have died than taken a picture in a bikini at all, or any kind of thigh-revealing ensemble, for that matter. I tried, in my version of the post, to come up with nice things to say about my body and the things it can do, but the only ones I could come up with had to do with naming the various parts of my physique that I thought were skinny. There were no mentions of power or strength or anything remotely useful. It makes me sad to read, because it really wasn’t that long ago that I still felt that way. In fact, I would say it was as recently as this year.
The irony of seeing this post pop up is that without even thinking about it, I actually had posted my first ever bikini photo on the internet just a few days prior. Did I think a lot about it? I wouldn’t say a lot. I thought about it some. I thought about the things on my body that I don’t like, and I thought about what other people might think or say when they saw it. But ultimately, the reason I decided to post the picture is for one reason only: I like the picture. Not because I think I look particularly thin or fit, but because it’s just a nice picture. I’m in Oman, smiling, having the time of my life on a trip I never thought I would take. I’m happy. Why wouldn’t I want people to see a picture where I look happy?
And that led me to think about a whole host of other things and how my relationship with my body and myself has changed in the past two years. I am certainly not at my lowest weight ever, or even at my old “happy weight,” whatever that means. But I am making really good, healthy decisions for myself day in and day out, and that has completely revolutionized how I feel about food and my body. Battling with eating disorders for so many years, I placed tremendous pressure on myself to eat “good” foods and hated myself when I ate the “bad” ones. There was no balance. The cycle of self-loathing made me feel like I would never be good enough. Guilting myself into eating “healthy” or restricting my meals wasn’t working anymore. A few months ago, though, I got tired of hating myself. Literally, I said something mean to myself in the mirror as I was getting ready in the morning, and part of my brain just went “Ugh, enough already! Stop! You’re almost 30 years old – how long do you want to live like this?”
I hated hating myself, so I thought of a new plan. My goal would be to make decisions that made me feel good. If that meant a salad for lunch one day, great. If it meant pizza for dinner that same night, fine. If it meant wine after work every single day for a week or no alcohol for a month, whatever. Whether it meant two workouts one day and none for the next three days, I just wanted to feel positive and happy about the choices I was making. And you know what? It worked. By framing my decisions in a positive light and honoring how I actually felt on any given day rather than how I thought I should feel about food or exercise, I began to think of myself and my body more positively, too.
I’m not sure that this strategy would have worked a few years ago, and I know for a fact that it’s not as simple as just “mind over matter” – after all, I’ve been working on this for nearly 13 years now. What I do know is that I’m finally coming into my own in many other areas – I have a wonderful marriage, I’m excelling in my career, I’m busting my ass doing freelance work, I’m committing to doing my best in every aspect of my life every day. I feel really good about the person I’m becoming in so many other areas of my life – why shouldn’t I feel good about the body that carries me through each day? Working on myself in other aspects has made it possible for me to tackle one of my toughest battles: body image.
My relationship with my body and myself is far from perfect, but reading over my last T-Rex Exposed post, it is clear that I have come a very long way. That’s something to celebrate! Today, when I think about the things I like about my body, I mostly think about how many times it has bailed me out with quick recoveries from five surgeries. I am in awe of the torture I have put my body through and how it continues to rebound over and over again. I think about how much stronger I am than I used to be, how much more energy I have than most people, and how capable I am of doing pretty much anything I want to do. I’m lucky! And not just because I have skinny wrists, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still appreciate that.
I don’t have all the answers. I am still very critical of myself and constantly pushing myself to do more, be better, be fitter, whatever. As I approach the end of my third decade on this planet, though, I’ve realized something – you can strive to be better today than you were yesterday and still be happy with where you are right now. Life’s too short, man. I’m not going to spend it hating myself anymore.