“I always thought I would end up with someone hot, someone with long, skinny legs, big boobs, blonde hair. You know, you’re not exactly walking down a runway or anything.”
I’m glad it was dark. I’m glad I could hide my face as he rolled out of bed and sauntered into the kitchen for a glass of water, because for the first time in my whole life those words made me feel empty. It was an emptiness I would feel for months, no years, and an emptiness that’s tempting to creep up on me from time to time. In a breath someone and something had sucked the life out of me.
You see, I’ve always been hungry.
Hungry for more- more time, more adventure, more friendships, more food and drinks and experiences. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted it all. Being full was a foreign concept to me, one that I would pretend to understand when out to dinner with a group of girls and social cues allowed me to lift my eyes up from my plate long enough to notice everyone was slowing down and maybe I should too.
And I’ll be honest, I’ve been one of the lucky ones.
I didn’t grow up very body conscious. I played sports so rather than needing to look a certain way I just needed my body to perform in a certain way. Aesthetics off the field took a back seat to achievements on the field and though I wasn’t exactly comfortable in my own skin I knew what it was capable of and that was enough to help me put my head on the pillow every night.
I would venture to say body image comes for us all in one way or another. For some of us it’s an immature middle school kid in the locker room, hurling insults just to feel big and powerful and secure. For others it’s the moms around the pool who don’t have the scars and the cellulite, who can’t wait to take off their cover up and expose what appears to be the exact opposite of a mom bod.
For some of us it’s a dumb ex-boyfriend who didn’t have a filter.
Thanks to Facebook memories I actually saw a picture of myself from around that time. I was skinny, I mean really skinny. For months I was unaware that what my roommates and I affectionately called “Hide-n-Seek Stomach” was actually anxiety. I would lie awake at night with both my mind and my stomach churning, too worried to sleep and too nervous to eat. Something plagued my mind and my heart but my body seemed to be reaping the benefits.
I looked at that picture and the girl on the screen seemed foreign to me. Though skinny and smiling on the beach I knew she was a mess inside. I wish I could’ve taken her by the hand and whispered, no screamed, some truth in the middle of her lies. I wish I would’ve known the truth about my body, about how to treat it and what it’s capable of, about how the person locked inside of there matters infinitely more than the shell who holds her.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
I saw a picture of you in a bathing suit the other day. I won’t lie to you (we’re done with that), you looked skinny. But you didn’t look good. I didn’t need to zoom in to see the hurt and pain behind your eyes, the empty feeling crawling around under your skin.
First and foremost, hurt people hurt people. He wasn’t kind and I wish he would’ve been more gentle with you. You’re already so hard on yourself, your inner critic tends to speak to you harshly and then for someone else to come alongside that monster and give it life, well, lies like that can be problematic to say the least. I wish you would’ve been brave enough not just to tell the truth of what he said but most importantly the truth of how it made you feel and all the lies you were prone to believe.
But that’s what I’m here for.
Your body is beautiful. I know that’s hard for you to hear, don’t make a joke right now or brush away the compliment because you need to believe this before it’s too late. You’ve got bright eyes and quick hands, do you remember how you used those hands to make a save, to hold a friend, to scratch a back? You are strong, I mean really really strong. One day you’ll be able to do a pull-up. A PULL-UP. You'll help your team row a boat and you'll surf into shore with the waves crashing down around you. Those are incredible things, things you’ve always dreamed of, but if you aren’t careful you will have lose so much of yourself that those dreams will slip away with the rest of you. The smaller you try to become the more you chisel away at who you truly are and wouldn’t that be such a waste?
Stop chasing the numbers. They’re no indication of your happiness. I’ve seen you at your skinniest and it also happens to be your emptiest. The scale is a demanding and terrible mother- she will bleed you dry and then come back and ask for more.
Instead of asking yourself what is the right thing to do start asking yourself what’s the kind thing to do? The answers will surprise you. You’ve spent so much of your life doing what is right that you’ve forgotten how to be kind to yourself. Sometimes the right thing is to just sit on the couch or take a nap or eat a cookie.
Speaking of, eat a damn cookie. No one wants to hang out with someone who can’t eat a cookie and I know how hungry you are so just do it already. Stop trying to control and manage every aspect of your life. It’ll make you anxious and exhausted and if people don’t want to hang out with hungry people they sure as hell don’t want to hang out with hangry people. No one cares about the way you look because they’re all so busy caring about the way they look. Be healthy in the general sense- pursue your physical health but more importantly your emotional, spiritual and relational health should get your first attention.
Eat a cupcake, go rock climbing, try something new, eat good clean food from the ground, drink some wine but not all of the wine (because we know how that goes). Make space for other people and stop freaking out about how much space you’re taking up on the scale.
You are big and strong and those are good things. Anyone or anything that makes you feel otherwise isn't deserving of your attention let alone your affection. You are capable. Not so capable that you don't need people (you do) but capable in the sense that you don't need to live like a victim anymore.
You have a beautiful and a meaningful body capable of amazing things. You can have a beautiful and meaningful life capable of even greater things.
Go get ‘em tiger.
Photo by Daniel Eastwood Photography