Being insecure is something I have struggled with my entire life. Body image issues have lived with me from the beginning.
I`ve always sought approval, and validation from outside sources, rather than internal. I have tried many times to convince myself that this wasn`t the case, but none the less, it was, and it is.
Learning how to re-focus, and even learn to love what I deem to be flaws has been hard. Being our own biggest critics, I think it`s hard to take what we presume to be negative and turn it into positive.
Where does this flaw-like thinking start?
For me, it began as a child. I can of course only speak personally. With body image issues beginning as early as 5, it is easy to assume that I was not alone in the struggle. Body image being how one perceives their body, and how they assume others perceive it as well, it is definitely important to address right from early childhood.
How do children know to perceive their body this way? In my case, I think it was just how I was. I had anxiety from a very young age, but it went undiagnosed until age 21. I laid awake night after night wondering what was wrong with me, and why couldn`t I be pretty like my friends.
I always felt that my size was wrong, my body was wrong, and really, every part of me was wrong.
I remember hearing `you shouldn`t need someone to tell you your beautiful to believe it`, and I couldn`t help but cry.
See, I wanted to feel that beauty. I wanted to feel confident. Who doesn`t? But, no matter how hard I worked on myself, I would look in the mirror, and feel nothing but disgust.
It wasn`t just my body image I struggled with. I struggled with my entire being. Like my personality was wrong. Every piece of me was like a puzzle that was doomed to never fit together.
I cried about things that no one else cried for, and I felt things on such a deep and emotional level.
I knew, even as a child, there was something, what I deemed to be WRONG with me. I wanted to be heard, and while I was loud, and my head was loud, I felt like I was drowning. Even then. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with how cloudy my mind was at the young age of 4 and smashing my head into the sidewalk in an attempt to clear it.
I always felt different.
These flaws that I always hated about me, are part of what have shaped who I am now.
It has taken me 25 years to begin understanding body image and how it has affected my life. My only fear now is that it might be too late to help my children. As I watch them grow up, I can already see how they look at themselves in the mirror, and read nutrition labels. I can talk, educate, and make it all an on-going conversation, but what if I`m too late? What if they already have a negative view of themselves?
It has taken me 25 years to begin to understand that what I deem to be flaws of mine, are actually small pieces of beautiful puzzle pieces that help to make up me.
And 25 years to understand that the puzzle pieces that I always deemed to be broken and unfitting, are actually beautiful, and are a part of who I am.
I’ve always seen my “issues” as issues, and only recently started seeing them as me. And not in the sense that I am the issue, but in the sense that my mental illnesses also live in my mind and body, just like my soul. What if my mental illnesses are part of what makes me me? What if they are part of how empathetic and sympathetic I am? What if there is a way that they are not the flaw in me, but rather a hidden gem?
I think it starts from the beginning. It starts from the language children are hearing and the body language they see. It starts from the environment. And then it only grows. So as an adult, I came to the conclusion that I needed to change my thinking. There was simply no way someone could have so many “flaws” was there? My scars are part of my body. A body that had lived through fighting a war each and every day. It has given birth to three beautiful babies, and loved and lost many times over.
I am emotional, yes, but, why is that predetermined to be bad? I feel things on a whole other level, which allows me to relate and empathize on a deeper level too. Living with bipolar 2 disorder, (which you can read more about at A Look At My Bipolar Truth) I spend a lot of my time in a deep dark low. But, being aware of this, I am also aware of my triggers and do my best to manage my moods. I accept I take medication and do things that feel good to my mind and body so to take care of myself.
I go to bed early. Gone are the days of staying up late for me. I’m usually fast asleep by 930. I would often feel guilty about it.
Almost as if I am being childish. Now I know I need that sleep in order to feel my best. It isn’t selfish to do things that nourish my body, mind, and soul. No matter what they are. I am allowed to take that space, and that time in order to do that. And guess what?! So are you. You need to take time to listen to what your mind, body and soul need, and then do that. Self-care and self-love should not be a privilege. It is for everyone. Every body.
It took a long time for me to realise, but I’m awesome, exactly how I am, and SO ARE YOU.