I recently made a pretty big purchase from The School of Life website after an evening spent wallowing in self pity. Needless to say I’ve been hitting up my friends ever since to justify the purchase. Aside from new (and very helpful) self help guides, I ordered some prompt cards to dive headfirst into self discovery and promote interesting conversations with friends. Flash-forward to last night and I’m being asked a question I’d never considered by one of said friends, ‘which part of your body do you feel shame about?’. Woah.
Unsurprisingly, given how outwardly confident I can appear, they weren’t expecting the extensive monologue that the question triggered in me. Where to start? I’m ashamed of the moles all over my body, that I’ve permanently damaged my skin because I wasn’t more careful with sun damage. I’m ashamed of the stretch marks on the back of my arms from when I put on weight and started training arms at the same time. I’m ashamed of the excess fat I carry around my middle, my inner thighs and my back. I’m ashamed of my teeth that I never got around to straightening with braces and forget to regularly floss. I’m ashamed of my nails that are in recovery from back-to-back months of damage from gel nails. I’m ashamed of the hair on my legs. Ya da ya da. You get the idea. Basically, I carry a lot of shame in my body.
My friend was shocked. In an attempt to make me feel better, they pointed out the only flaw they could consider. But continued to grill me as to why I hate my body so much. I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. I could lean on societal pressure for women to look perfect compounded by photo-shopping of already starving models. I could point to my perfectionistic tendencies that manifested into years of disordered eating. I could point to my general self esteem. In the end, I settled on the idea of not wanting to deviate from the norm to avoid attention. Not wanting to take up too much space or give people’s eyes a reason to linger.
The truth is it’s been a long journey to accept my body - let alone love - and I’m nowhere their yet. It doesn’t matter how many times family or friends encourage me as I spiral into a meltdown of self hatred. Be it in a changing room on holiday with my mom, where I burst into tears at the thought of wearing a sleeveless dress. Or by the pool with my aunty as a hike up my swimsuit bottoms to cover the little belly bulge growing bigger post-lunch. Even well-meaning love interests who tell me how much they love my ‘thick thighs’ or my ‘womanly’ figure leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
I’ve spent so many years dissociating from this body through hatred. So many years shovelling my mouth full of food in order to stop my feelings of inadequacies. So many years wearing baggy, black clothing to swamp my figure. Truth is I’m not comfortable with anyone looking at my body. Even my morning ritual of looking in the mirror, sucking in my stomach, posing in certain ways can determine how the rest of my day goes or how early I eat lunch. I’m not comfortable with how these vulnerabilities tied to my body feel. Day-to-day my relationship with my body depends on so many minute factors and it’s exhausting.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable undressing in front of anyone at the moment, which is just another hurdle to overcome when I think about falling in love again. I’m ashamed to admit this because I should know better. Logically I know its bs and I celebrate the girls on Instagram who are confident in their bodies. But I can’t help but see the comments down below on their posts either fetishizing or expressing their disgrace at their deviation from the norm. I think my body falls into a bigger trend of feeling like I’m too much. I say too much, I feel too much, I need too much and my body is just the physical form of my inability to assert control. I hate this. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember, with bouts of starvation where I’ve felt less self conscious.
This evening, through a combination of factors including my shame around my body, I had a binge. It’s two hours later and my belly still hurts and I feel sick and I feel lonely. I’ve been avoiding calling my family, replying to my friends texts or even going outside. I feel so helpless and trapped in this body/mind. This doesn’t happen as much anymore, but it’s a reminder I still have a long way to go. I don’t have any solutions to this problem. But, I just wanted to let you know that if you feel this way too you’re not alone. As much as I love the body confidence movement, I’m tired of having to bottle away this shame I’ve been carrying for years. I’m not perfect and that includes my self love journey.
All my love, Sam