“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” ~Pema Chodron
I’m on my phone, posting a photo of myself on Instagram. It’s a vulnerable shot—I’m holding my bare belly.
I type in the caption “Accepting my body isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.”
I mean this, but I also have voices in my head telling me to delete the picture because I’m gross, not good enough, and a phony.
I get half a dozen comments supporting me, mostly emoji hearts. One comment reads, “I wish I had your confidence.” I feel weird reading it because my feelings are mixed. I don’t necessarily think of myself as confident all the time.
In fact, my reality is that I’m struggling with body image more than I’m swimming in acceptance. I think about how this person is comparing their backstage to my highlight-reel.
We do that—we look at ourselves as “not enough” and think that others have it all together.
We’re our harshest critics, and we hyper-focus on aspects of ourselves and bash them. We think that behind closed doors we are monsters. But when we focus all of our attention on that behind-the-scenes person, we’re not taking into consideration how human others are, too.
The truth of the matter is that things aren’t always as they appear on social media. Yes, I realize I’m calling myself out, but I think it’s important for people to know that even people who seem wildly body-positive struggle, too. I mean, body acceptance is damn hard.
I didn’t get to this point overnight, finding relative peace with myself. It’s been a long time of hating myself and wishing I was different. Even with finding some peace, I’m not “cured.” I don’t have a magic dose of body love all of a sudden.
In fact, body acceptance doesn’t have to be self-love at all. It’s commencing on a simpler level. How about I just try to find acceptance in myself to think that this is how my body is at this moment? This is where we are, here in this body. It’s simple, but not easy.
It’s important to note that body acceptance is a moment-to-moment thing rather than a state of being in which you exist. It’s something that has to be fought for but is sometimes settled on.
My background is that I’ve had eating disorders over the years, I’ve dieted like it was going to save me from body image issues, and I’ve had long periods where I weighed myself every day. I’ve also counted Cheez-Its out of the box, vowing to eat only the serving size. I’ve suffered in not accepting my body and instead succumbing to diet culture.
At points, I thought I had it under control. I had dieted just right. I had even lost some weight. Inevitably, though, the self-disgust seeped in. I fell off the wagon over and over again, binging, particularly on sweets and foods high in carbs—the very foods I was depriving myself of.
I’d say, “screw it” and I’d devour pizza with friends. I’d eat alone with a carton of ice cream or a box of cookies. Binging was inevitable after deprivation. While the high was fun during, it led to being sick and hating myself even more.
In a fit of despair, I’d vow to “get back on the wagon” the next day.
I’d tell myself I was definitely going to do better next time, but next time never permanently came. I may have been able to string together a few days of what I saw as “good” eating, but never lasting change.
I got to a point where I felt defeated.
Diet exhaustion looked like no longer finding joy in foods. It felt like a rock in my stomach. It sounded like sighs from having to make what felt like complicated food choices over and over again every day.
I couldn’t count my Cheeze-Its anymore. The scale was haunting and owning me. I feared social gatherings with friends, sometimes even avoided them. The next diet be it Keto or Whole 30 just sounded like another opportunity to fail.
I got tired of chasing my tail. Diet culture wasn’t working for me anymore.
What was the alternative? My ears started to perk up when I saw body-positive content on my social media feed. There were promises of body freedom and breaking the cycle of binging. I couldn’t believe it, but I thought about trying it for myself.
The only thing was that I was terrified of trying it this way. The path of body acceptance sounded like giving up to me. It was far from it, though.
I don’t remember if I googled body positivity, ran into it on social media, or some combination. I remember the despair I felt in searching for it. Thoughts passed through my mind like “could this work?” or “could this be real?” For so long all I had known was war with my body.