When expressing opinions on my own body image I automatically start making excuses, as if the current state of my body is something I need to apologize for or explain.
I could tell you that I’m overweight because I’m still working off the post baby body. But my baby was born a year and a half ago and I weigh more now than I did when I was pregnant.
I could look back at old photos and dream about my skinny days when I was 22 years old. But back then when I was skinnier than I had any right to be, I still thought I was fat.
Once I got past all the excuses, what I came to realize is that my current body size or weight isn’t the real issue.
The real problem is how I view myself.
I know that I am not ugly, but I don’t have a single memory of looking in a mirror and feeling satisfied with what I see. My husband calls me beautiful and I catch myself rolling my eyes. Compliments from acquaintances and friends make me uncomfortable because I can’t believe them. Until I can learn to love myself as I am, no measurement or number on a scale will ever be good enough.
I wanted to start this happiness series with body image because that is what started this journey in my own life. I was searching for answers to why I wasn’t happy because it didn’t make any sense. I have an amazing husband, a miracle of a child, and an excellent career, why wasn’t that enough? I decided it must be because I wasn’t happy with myself, because I am absolutely happy with my life. I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as starting an exercise routine and changing what I eat (although both are good life changes to make and will be addressed in later posts). I wanted to dig deeper and analyze what really brings true happiness to our lives. The more I thought about it and researched it the more it changed my life!
Happiness is not something we find or something that happens to us; It is something that takes constant effort to create and maintain.
Happiness is not a destination; it is the journey itself.
It may seem simple or obvious to some but for me it was a revelation! I have identified and researched several areas in life that have a heavy impact on personal happiness. Through this series I will explore those areas and offer insights into manageable life changes we can all make to further our happiness journeys.
Step one for me was to change my own perspective of my body, and I started with my closet. My closet was stuffed full of clothes I never wore. Each morning I would stare into the depths and as my eyes touched item after item my inner voice was commenting “you look fat in that”, “that doesn’t look good on you anymore”, or “you need to loose a few more pounds before you wear that again”. This ritual of negative self-talk every morning just to get dressed was setting a tone of negativity and dissatisfaction that flowed through the rest of my day. I dedicated an entire Saturday to physically trying on each and every item of clothing I own. If I didn’t feel good about myself wearing it, it had to go! I made four piles; storage, donate, trash, and keep. If I wasn’t sure about an item, I asked my husband for his opinion and let him help me with the decision.
Step two was to buy more cloths (let’s be honest I wasn’t left with much…). But first I had to get my mindset right so I could make good, healthy decisions and not end up with a closet of new clothes I never wear. I made a list of all the types of clothing I needed to buy (jeans, work pants, dress shirts, casual shirts, tank tops, etc.…) and how many of each type of item I needed so I wouldn’t go overboard. The most important things I decided to focus on were, size doesn’t matter and live for today. I repeated these to myself before and during my shopping spree.
Size doesn’t matter: Society taught me growing up that the smaller the dress size the better and this pressure still surrounds me today. Between photoshopped models in advertising or unrealistic role models on Instagram, it is hard to escape the expectation that skinny is beautiful. It is hard to accept the dwindling options as the size number grows. It is a battle to avoid the thought “maybe I can squeeze into a smaller size”. Instead of focusing on the size of the jeans, or shirts or dresses, I forced myself to focus on the comfort and fit of the clothes. This was no easy task… I could feel my spirits dropping as I tried on jeans that were too tight and knew I needed a bigger size than I had expected. However, once I bought the clothes I liked, that fit me well and looked good on me and put them in my closet; I forgot all about what size they are. Size really doesn’t matter.
Live for today: I had just removed the clothes that were holding me in the past and I struggled to keep the thoughts of “but what if I lose weight…” at bay. It was important to me that when I looked in my closet each morning, I felt good about anything available to choose from. The clothes I removed weren’t me anymore. I don’t know who I will be in the future and I shouldn’t buy clothes that future me may not like. I focused heavily on what I want my style to be right now. What makes me feel good? When I tried on an outfit, I took my time to analyze what I liked about it and what I didn’t like about it. If there was any doubt at all, I didn’t buy it. I had to go to several stores, and it took an entire day but what I ended up with were only clothes I truly felt good about myself in. To assist I took my sister and my mom with me. Only do this with people you trust to give you brutally honest opinions!
This was my closet after the overhaul. Each morning since has started with excitement on what I get to wear that day! This exercise alone is not enough to change a lifetime of negative body image. It was however, an excellent first step and led to a deeper look at small life changes that can change our perception and increase our own happiness. This is only the start to my happiness journey stay tuned for more life changing posts to come!
What steps have you taken to improve your own body image?