We've all been there, or well most of us have. Staring at our naked body in the mirror, pointing out all it's flaws: I wish I didn't have this roll here or this part of my arm is too fat, there's cellulite on my legs- how do I get rid of it? We sit there and just tear apart our bodies and hate on them hard.
I've been many shapes and sizes over the years- from a size 2 to a size 14. I've gone through periods where I've lost an enormous amount of weight and gained it back again and lost it again but no matter how small or how big I was, one thing never changed: I never truly loved my body. Even when I lost a lot of weight several years ago, I was completely unhappy with the way I looked. I always found something wrong with myself. Something else that needed fixing or shrinking.
This hatred began to sink deep into my psyche. I became obsessed with calories and I developed unhealthy eating habits like eating only one meal a day, eating limited types of food, abusing laxatives and even throwing up after I ate something I deemed "too fattening". My entire self-worth became based on how small I was - and I was never small enough.
This went on for many years until something miraculous happened: I fell in love - first with my partner then with myself.
Throughout the years being with the love of my life, my weight and body size fluctuated but one thing remained the same: he never stopped loving me. My partner's body also fluctuated as well and I never stopped loving him and in fact my love for him just continued to grow no matter what. I realized something that I deemed a miracle: love knows no judgement.
This may sound petty but this was such a novel concept to me. I always felt like in order to be worthy of romantic love I had to be a certain size and look a certain way. This distorted belief of love was luckily abolished by the love my partner and I share. As in the lyrics of Nature Boy: "the greatest gift you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return". I believe our partners are our greatest teachers.. and mine was about to teach me a very valuable lesson.
One day, while feeling deeply in love with my partner, I was staring at myself in the mirror yet again, I thought: gee wouldn't it be great if I loved myself as much as I love my partner and as much as he loves me? Wouldn't it be great if I stopped hating my body and I stopped associating size with self-worth? Wouldn't it be great if I just showered myself with love?
I began to want and crave this love, from me to me. I began to realize that in order to achieve this kind of self-love, I needed to completely change my beliefs about my body and how it fit in with society. I started to follow body advocates on social media, I started to read mindset books, I started to really deepen into what loving myself means to me. And I realized one thing: your size, your shape, your weight all have nothing to do with self-love. Self-love can only come from within. You can look like a supermodel and hate your body. Or you can be "overweight" and love your body. Love has nothing to do with size because love knows no judgement. Love just is.
As I began to embrace this concept, I began to realize that my lifestyle needed to be in alignment with my new found love of my body. I began to perform various actions out of love instead of out of hatred. I love my body therefore I am going to treat it well: I am going to eat 3 meals a day, I am going to add regular movement every week because my body is craving movement, I am going to eat more vegetables and less fried foods because I want my organs to be healthy. I am not going to starve myself, I am not going to look in the mirror and hate myself. I am not going to exhaust myself trying to be some small size society wants me to be. Why? Because being small does not equal being worthy of love. I am the only one who can decide I'm worthy and I can decide that I'm worthy right now.
The thing about this revelation is that it contradicts everything I was taught as a child and everything I see now in the media. We are constantly bombarded with images and messaging that promotes the exact opposite of this concept: "you aren't worthy unless you look a certain way", says the media. I fundamentally disagree with this message yet sometimes there is a part of me that starts to buy into it again. I feel like my new healthy mindset is vulnerable to the constant bombardment of society's standards of beauty. So, I am not perfect and I am a work in progress. And that's okay. There are days where I still hate myself and get tangled in the media's web of negative body ideals. But overall, I am happier and I strive to continue to have more healthy mindset days than body shaming days. Maybe one day the shaming days will be gone or few and far between. But the point is that I will continue to strive to love myself as much as possible because I believe I am worth it.
How does my story relate to my work?
I started Body Confident Photography and Coaching because I want to support others in this endeavour as well. I want to support people who are striving to know their self-worth and to love the skin they are in. I want everyone to know their own beauty- because they too are worthy of this love right now. YOU are worthy of self-love.
I started the Body Confident You movement and Facebook group as way for people to gather and support one another and build each other up. My work as a whole exists in this world to counterbalance all of the negative and unhealthy ideas that exist about beauty. Society is made up of people and the more people who choose self-love over self-hate, the more we can change society's beauty standards to be more inclusive to all body types and the more these standards can come from a mindset of love. It is my mission to help create this change- one beautiful body at a time.
This inaugural blog post is dedicated to my loving husband Joe. Thank you for supporting me in my work and thank you for teaching me my greatest lesson - how to truly love myself. I love you beyond words.