I was standing in my bathroom getting ready for church, doing my normal stand in front of the mirror routine: body shaming. "God Shannon, why can't you get it together. Can you even see yourself? This is what other people see when they look at you. It's a wonder they're not visibly disgusted. If you would just have some motherfucking discipline already, your abs, your arms, your back, gross" And so on. You see, like many/most/all of you I hate what I see when I look in the mirror. I hate how I feel in my body. As I sit here, right this moment, in this chair, I hate how I feel in my skin. I literally am uncomfortable in my skin and wish I could shed it. I just want out of this version of me. I want a better version. A trade in model. Something I could design and create. This version of me is fundamentally flawed. I hate it.
Don't get me wrong, I actively do things to try and change (I would say to take care of but that would be disingenuous) this body I inhabit. I drink green smoothies like it's a job, I ran 10 miles yesterday for the first time ever. I consistently set new goals for myself physically, and I'm a regular at the gym. So, I do my part. Yes, I could do better. I could never eat sugar, or fast food and stick to a strict calorie regime and maybe I'd get closer to the body I'd like, but I'd never really get there. Because at my core I believe that there is something wrong with my body and therefore me.
As I peruse the internet, I see other women, some friends or family members, some strangers and I idolize how they look. I see them and I think "man, if I could just look like that then I'd be happy/attractive/worthy." This is a fallacy. I envy, deeply envy, the petite woman, the perfectly shaped, the amazingly fit, the perfect body parts, airbrushing is ignored, filters deemed irrelevant. They are what's "good" and I am what's "wrong." I am the non-example. I look at my friends after they've achieved amazingly awesome physical goals and all I can think is - - - if only I could look like that, be like that. Celebrating with them is secondary to my self loathing.
Worthy. At the depth of my body shaming, is a level of self loathing that says because of this body I have I'm unworthy. Of what? I don't really know. Existence?
I'm constantly thinking about what I can do to change my body into what I want it to be. It occupies so much of my thoughtlife it's beyond absurd. Sometimes, I can't write for school because I'm so uncomfortable in this body that I'm distracted by it, or I get snippy with my children, or withdraw from others because that is how intense my self hate is.
This might sound pretty typical of most of you, most of us and our stories. We look in the mirror and we see everything that is wrong with us. We may think it's less common to see that in someone with a committed fitness regime, but that's also not true, some of the fittest men and women I know are some of the most grievous offenders when it comes to self loathing.
I have been trying, trying to wrap my head around this for sometime. Not around the solution for me to be as fit as I want, look like I want, etc. I have 100 solutions to that in my brain, none of them are the panacea to my pain. None of them will fix what is wrong. Because what is wrong is that I have placed the wrong level of value on the wrong thing in my life. Thinness is a god for me. It is the shrine at which I worship, the altar at which I'm willing to sacrifice my happiness. I worship those with bodies that prescribe to the standards I want for myself.
I may externally affirm all people, of all sizes, who are doing healthy things for their bodies, because some part of me wants what's best for them. But secretly, in the darkness of my heart, I still judge them for not fitting the "right" mold, how could I not? When I look at me, I judge me for not fitting the right mold. My hypocrisy runs deep. Outwardly, I affirm myself for my efforts at fitness, doing so much more than I did 5 or 10 years ago, more than was modeled for me. Inwardly, I tell myself what a fuck up I am for not being like __________ or not being more _______________. It's cute to think that we're affirming and kind to everyone as they shoot for their goals but internally it's not the truth. We selfishly want what we want for us and we only wish success for them if we can also have it for ourselves in the formula we find acceptable.
During this morning's body shaming campaign, I kept trying to stop, but I was stuck in front of the mirror. I even went and put on more clothes so that I could see less of my body in hopes that my brain would just SHUT UP. It didn't work. My brain is merciless. So, I tried to think my way out of this tirade of disapproval and shame.
This occurred to me. My body is but one manifestation of my personhood on this planet. It is the easiest to see, it is the first one people encounter but it is still only one part of me. One part. It is not the whole of me. It does not own my existence. If it would cease to do it's breathing/being thing other parts of me would continue to exist. It is only one part. And this one part of me has completely hindered some of the other parts of me at times. I have held my heart back from loving others because I was uncomfortable in my body. I have held my mind back from sharing its thoughts with others because my body happened to be female and everyone else in the room had a penis. I have held back my soul from going to church or gatherings because my body was that of a red headed single mother and I didn't want to be judged. I have allowed this one manifestation of me, this one part of me to rule the rest. My brain has been used less, my heart experienced less, my soul engaged less because this house that I inhabit, that I walk around in, didn't subscribe to some standard I imposed on it.
Sure, I could blame society, I could blame the sexification of all women in all public roles, I could blame the men in my life who've made it their mission to teach me I was inadequate, I could blame my parents for not teaching me how to love myself as I am better. But I know that all of those voices were outside of me and they couldn't touch the level of criticism I have for myself. Hatred would not be too strong a word. No scratch that, contempt fits better.
A professor said recently that academics just view their body as a vehicle to get their mind to meetings. Something clicked for me. I find it interesting that we can choose how we view our body. Is our body a vehicle to get us around this planet? Is it one manifestation of us? Is it the ultimate manifestation of us? Is part of a whole? Do our mind, heart, and soul have a symbiotic relationship with our body? Is it somehow greater than the rest because the body is the most visible?
I know this: I can not work myself into worthiness.
Let that sink in. There is not a number on the scale. There is not a clothing size on the rack. There is not any muscle definition that will make you feel worthy if you believe you're not.
I also know if my children develop this internal monologue I will feel like I failed them. And that I will unwillingly give them what I believe at my core whether I want to or not.
This is an internal problem, a spiritual one, and it can only be fixed with an internal solution. I have tried all the typical fixes, befriending your body, positive self talk, reading books that speak truth, smoothies and running and surrounding myself with positive people. But none of those things have touched it because they did not get at the root of what I believe: that something is wrong with the me. Being a size six, with store bought boobs and six pack abs is not going to change that root belief. The only thing that can change it is me.
Furthermore, change is impossible if the truth stays in the dark. I can work and work and work to change my perspective or be some fit badass but if I do not admit, to myself and to others that the root cause is my fundamental belief that I'm unworthy, then nothing will change. Untruth festers in the dark, it feeds on it, grows there, like the cancer it is. If I do not own it in the light, I can not change it.
So, I'm going to try something new, I'm terrified and already thinking of back up plans in case my body gets any worse, (because worse is a thing in my mind), but I'm going to try it anyway. I'm going to try to see this body as simply a part of me. It's not a judgment against me. It does not run my life. It is simply part of who I am as Shannon. I'm going to try to pay equal attention to what my soul, mind and heart need, not just what my body needs. It is a part of me. My body can still have it's green smoothies, gym workouts and runs, but it does not get those things because it's broken and needs to be fixed, but because by doing those things I contribute to Shannon as whole.
My body is not a statement against me. It is not the mark of my failure because I'm more of 10/12 than a 4/6. I might not be able to cherish it yet, but if I could start with abandoning my loathing idolization of it, I might get somewhere.
Disclaimer: I did not want to write this. In fact there's nothing in me that wanted to. I have been avoiding it for hours, days, weeks even. I have a boyfriend who reads this stuff, and close personal friends and family members for God's sake. But under some, possibly misguided, notion that this isn't really about me, for me, I wrote it anyway. Be gentle with the vulnerability you've encountered please. I do not need any more negative in this area of my life....