Before I write this post, I do want to first put out this warning. There will be talk about body image, confidence, depression, and finally, intrusive thoughts. If these topics are potentially triggering for you: please be aware. Thank you.
I used to believe that when you become an adult, everything gets figured out overnight. Any and all issues I went through while as a kid or teenager would dissipate when I was finally an adult and the world would make sense. My 33rd birthday was just last month, and I am still struggling with a lot of the issues I had when I was younger. Specifically, what I see in the mirror.
Recently, I was doing some work on my computer when I looked at some coaching pictures from a week ago. I love coaching, especially basketball. This year, our team has a photographer who takes shots of the girls in the middle of games. The pictures look amazing.
Naturally, I looked for pictures of myself, I found them too! But what I saw wasn’t myself doing what I love. What I saw wasn’t an image from the middle of a heated game. The only thing I could fixate on was the way I looked.
I may never fully love my body and the way it looks. I may never come to appreciate that I have enjoyed a relatively healthy-ish life. Even with an active and mobile lifestyle, I cannot help but feel like I am forced to hate what I see. It never used to be like this. The voices outside never used to override what I thought. Then the voices outside became louder and more frequent and held a more prominent position in my life. “Maybe I am wrong?” I would think. “Maybe the problem is me, and I need to change it.”
I find myself always stressed out regarding my body image, the source of my social anxiety. I know what I look like and when I walk into a room I can only feel as if people only see me for what I look like: my short stature, my side profile similar to a bowling ball with legs, my odd-shaped legs, the way my right arm swings way out while I am walking, my poor attempt at facial hair, the layer of skin in the back of my head and almost anything else that people can pick up on.
The stress never leads to anything productive; just constant overthinking and creating nightmare scenarios in my head. I look in the mirror at my house and I absolutely rip myself to shreds over every imperfection. I very rarely talk myself up or affirm my body’s existence and what it does. Like how I ran my first 5k last summer and I’m training for my second one this summer. Or how I like to go hiking Door County with my wife. Rewarding my body with good food, exercise, sleep, and perhaps most importantly: speaking kindly about my body.
“I wish I could love what you do for me instead of hating what you do to me“-K.A.R.
I can never get back the hours I have spent hating what I see. The times I wish I could take a hacksaw to my stomach, butt, legs, and shred away the undesirable and ugly. The times I wish my deformities and oddities would just melt off and I would emerge socially acceptable, “hot” even. The instances where I wish I could squeeze any ugly out of my physical being, similar to a paint roller being cleaned in a sink. Being able to see working out as a gift for my body, not punishment because I had pasta for lunch. “I wish I could love what you do for me instead of hating what you do to me.” is the mantra I really need to start thinking to change this mindset.
War against my body has got me nowhere so far. Even when the enemy forces aplenty, it does no good to hate and loathe the way I look. Even when some of the most important people in my life have taught me that I need to look with shame and embarrassed expressions when I see my reflection, I can unlearn these teachings. There is power in being able to boldly and confidently embrace who you are, even the undesirable parts I’d like to change. To view me as a gift, worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. I affirm that I have a right to exist as I am because I’m more than what the scale says, my blood pressure numbers or BMI percentage. And if I decide to reward my body with exercise or food that is nutritious, let that be the case, a reward. Neither punishment nor a chore.
If these words help you in your journey in body image love, patience, and forgiveness: please remember to practice those traits daily: Love who you are and what you mean to others. Forgive yourself when you speak unkindly to yourself. Forgive yourself when you fall short of practicing these.
Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope I can help someone, even if it’s a little bit.
Take Care and Be Well,
Kyle “YFBF” Robinson