Warning: Pic heavy post and a long one. I had a lot to say. This subject has actually been on my mind a lot lately. And no, I am NOT brave for doing this. I want others to know that I understand and to say that I love you as you are.
I sat down to write a post for you this morning but I had trouble thinking of somethng I really wanted to write about. I browsed Twitter for a while, then I checked my blog comments. I clicked on one I had checked last night because I had checked it on my phone, not my computer which is what I was using. It was a reply to a comment I had made on another site. I’ve recently “met” Hasty from Hasty Words. Hasty wrote this incredible post called Tabloid Demons yesterday and coming as it has sort of on the heels of Lizzi’s post, it’ s made me think. Truth is…I can’t stop thinking about both these women’s posts. Especially since last night I updated my Facebook profile pic to the same one I have on my Twitter profile. On Twitter I’ve rarely had anyone comment on my profile pic. On Facebook, you get a plethora of comments. That’s what’s happened since last night. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the comments because I do. But, for the most part, I feel like a fraud, like I’m deluding them from seeing the real me. Yes, the pic is of me. But it’s of a woman I really don’t recognize. I don’t know who that woman is but when I look into a mirror she’s not who I see. Plus, the pic has a black and white filter and that tends to make things look fantastic anyway. I’ll show you. Here’s the original pic and the black and white one.
To me, the color one is fine but that black and white one covers a multitude of sins. Trust me. And that color pic…it’s one of the best pics I think I’ve taken in years. But I don’t recognize that woman. I don’t identify that as me. I look at both and think “wow…that woman is gorgeous.” But that’s not me because I’m not that pretty. And that’s how I got the idea of what to write for today’s post.
Body vs Mind
I’ve been asked how can I possibly think that I’m not pretty. Easy. I’m not. I don’t think it. I believe it. Or did for a very long time. It didn’t matter how many people tell me I’m pretty or attractive, I can always justify WHY they are saying it. They’re biased, they don’t know how I really look every day, yeah if you could only see me when I’m sick or having a bad day or if, if, if. And I can’t even tell you where or when or how I began to think that I was unattractive. I know that I grew up as ‘The Brain” in my family while both of my sisters were ‘the China Doll” and “the HeartBreaker,” and we all know that, back then anyway, “the brain” was not attractive. I was the book-reader, poem-writer, shy, quiet one. I didn’t have dates until I was well into my 16th year, and there was only one phone call from a boy to me when I was in the 6th grade. I’m pretty sure it was a prank call, too. Although, I do have my suspicions as to who was on the other end. Anyway, boys didn’t talk to me in school because they were interested in me; I was smart, I got good grades, and I was nice-they wanted the correct answers to the homework. Somewhere in there I began thinking I must not be pretty because boys weren’t interested in me. Now ask me about my sisters and how boys reacted to them and how early that started…
Eventually I did have a date or two, got married, divorced, repeat. I had kids and then came the day I saw a picture of myself after I had gained a lot of weight. Now, you need to understand something…all throughout high school and into my late 20’s I weighed a grand total of 95 pounds. I’m not joking. I could NOT gain weight. I’ve told both Lizzi and Hasty about this because this is my inner demon. I was a bean pole-that’s what we call stick people here in Texas (‘skinny as a bean pole’ is a very common metaphor here). I was skinny and flat; I had no boobs to speak of. Something that still sticks in my throat every time I think about it is my step-dad telling me we didn’t need to waste money on bras for me because I could just use band-aids. (Yes, he did say that-several times.) So, there I am…even after TWO kids…95 pounds. I know what you’re thinking: I wish I had been like that. No. No, you don’t. My metabolism was so high that I couldn’t gain any weight. I struggled to gain weight during pregnancy. I had doctors on my case about how I needed to increase my calories and eat more fatty foods. It sucked belive it or not. Yeah, maybe I could eat anything I wanted, and did to try and gain weight, but it wasn’t worth the emotional whipping I got from people. Doctors tried to convice my parents when I was a teen that I was anorexic, which I wasn’t.(I admit here and now I love food and always have. Hamburgers are probably my favorite food of all because I can eat them all the time.)
When the anorexic angle didn’t work the doctors then became convinced I was anemic. Every time I went to the doctor I was stuck with a needle to test for iron deficiency. Nope. I loved grape juice and drank it often. Eventually even the anemia concerns stopped. But it didn’t stop the hateful looks or the double-edged comments I received from everyone around me. No, I didn’t have an eating disorder but I often overheard women whispering when I would walk past them on my way to the restroom in a restaurant. “Guess we know how she stays so thin.” “Did you notice she barely touched her food.” “Doubt it tastes as good coming up as it did going down.” “I wish I could eat anything I want and stay so thin.” (with THE TONE-the one that sounded quite a lot like “you bitch, I hate that you can eat anything you want and I wish you were dead”) And the looks…I would have been dead a thousand times over by now. Being skinny became abhorrent. I hated it. I was told how unhealthy I looked and that made me feel unattractive, too.
Then I hit 30. Almost literally overnight I went from wearing clothes not small enough to fit and hung on my frame to twice as big. And I was grateful. I was happy. I could find clothes that fit. I was told how healthy I looked, how great I looked. For the first time in my life I felt the way I thought I looked. Life was good, though far from perfect. Doctors stopped asking me about my weight, women stopped looking at me with hate in their eyes and began talking to me, and I stopped wishing I could completely disappear in a roomful of people. I even remember the day I realized I had gained weight. At that point I didn’t even own a scale. I was due to go to a graduation that was a few hours away. I went in to get dressed in my favorite slacks because they fit better than others. I began to pull them on and I couldn’t get them over my hips. Now, I had just worn them the week before. And this was not the bloating women get before their menstruation cycle. I’d just finished mine. I had gained weight! I tried on three other pairs of pants and I could not get them on either. I had to finally settle on a skirt that had an elastic waist that had always been much too big for me. It fit perfectly.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. I had my third son and went up to a size 10 and then, after Tornado was born I finally hit a size 12. In January of 2014 I weighed 174 pounds. By this time I had seen pictures of myself and it wasn’t a pretty thing. Not to me. I still got told I looked great but now I could hear the false sincerity. Skinny girls looked at me with disgust and I remember thinking “yeah, let’s see how great you look after four kids.” I hated anyone, including my kids, clutching me around my stomach. It was a reminder that I was overweight. I hated being in the car whether driving or riding because of the seatbelt and I would intentionally cross my arms over my stomach to hide how it spilled over the lap belt. And every time I got in the shower all I could see was a dumpy old woman with thighs that didn’t just touch, they wore out the inseams of jeans quickly because they rubbed together. I saw an increasing bustline that may have been great since I hadn’t had much in the way of boobs for a while, but meant that my chest girth was growing larger. I wanted a pill that I could take and have an incredible body. I wanted to go on a fad diet despite how much I abhorred them. I wanted to have liposuction and have all the fat sucked away. I felt horrible and depressed and miserable. Suddenly eating became a problem.
Now I know being a size 12 isn’t that big of a deal, but it was to me. The woman who could eat anything she wanted did, and it was now catching up to her. Yet, I didn’t do anything to change the feelings of self-loathing I felt towards myself. And it really wasn’t that I turned to food to make me feel better. I didn’t. My problem came in the form of soda, Dr. Pepper to be exact. I was an addict.
I drank a lot more than I should have every day. Then, I also would eat until my hunger was satisfied, and then eat a few hours later whenever I felt hungry. That turned out to be rather often, though not when I was emotional. In fact, whenever I was upset or mad I turned away from food, interestingly enough. And that’s where I was when my dad died.
The Jekyll and Hyde Effect
Brits use the term ‘gutted’ to refer to things that hit them really hard. It always makes me think of being stuck with a knife in the gut, which actually seems rather fitting. I was completely “gutted” when my dad died. It didn’t just knock me down, it left my world spinning uncontrollably. It didn’t matter that it was expected. Just because you know what’s coming doesn’t mean you know how you’ll react, despite your preparations. But it made me wake up to what I was doing to myself. And so, I began taking steps to make myself better, and by better I mean, my definition of that. I’ve written posts on this blog about that time and how I’ve gone about changing myself and making myself “better.” As far as my body goes, I am more than half the size I was a year ago. I didn’t have surgery, no lap bands or liposuction, and I didn’t go on a fad diet. I cut sodas completely out of my diet until I was able to control my urge for one (unfortunately that’s been hitting me hard recently and I’ve had more than I should have but I’m back on the wagon with them now). Dropping the sodas by itself helped me lose ten pounds. No joke. No exercise, no watching my eating…just stopped drinking sodas. (And I cannot stand diet drinks…they taste horrible to me.) But once that was working I began watching how much I ate. I cut my portions in half, and if I felt hungry later I ate raw veggies like celery and carrots instead of chips or crackers or high carbohydrate snacks. Finally, I began running and I joined (briefly) a gym. It worked. I lost weight. From January 2014 to April 2014 I lost 40 pounds. That is a big deal to me. I went from a size 12 to a size 8 in four months. But it wasn’t easy. Don’t let me imply that it was. I was constantly hungry for a long time. I had to force myself to get out and run even when I was hurting from unused muscles being used again. It took every bit of stubbornness I possess to do, but I did it. But it wasn’t because I wanted to look good.
My dad’s passing reminded me that I had responsibilities. Very important ones. My kids need me around for as long as I can be here. That’s why losing the weight was so important to me, and why I worked so hard to do it. That’s why I am still keeping an eye on myself and making sure I do what’s necessary to stay healthy. But it isn’t enough to change physically. Mentally, I still have the same mindset that I did when I was a size 12, though I am working on that as well.
What do I mean? Go back to the first couple of pics-the color one specifically. I took that pic on a night when I felt confident and happy and I thought I looked rather nice. I decided to take a selfie to post as a profile pic. This is how I looked before that color pic:
Want to know what I see in that pic there? I see Dumpy Old Woman. I really do. After I took this pic I got dressed for bed, got to texting a friend and forgot to take my makeup off. I got into bed and remembered the makeup but thought I’d take a selfie like my niece had just for kicks. That is how those first two pics came into existence. I don’t know who that woman is. I don’t know how she came to be wearing my shirt or how she got into my bed but I don’t know her. She looks like she should be in a magazine or on the arm of some hot actor on a red carpet. But that’s not me. I have a big nose. I have frizzy hair that must be tamed with a straightening iron to get flat. My eyes are really wide and I have wrinkles around them that weren’t there five years ago. Makeup hides a lot but those wrinkles are set for life. And seriously… I cannot get past my own nose. It looks like it takes up my WHOLE face.
I call this the Jekyll and Hyde Effect. The woman I think I am is Jekyll, and the woman I want to be (the woman in the black and white photo) is Hyde. I had a glimpse of Hyde recently at a funhouse mirror. I caught a glimpse of a really gorgeous woman out of the corner of my eye and thought I was about to run into her. I turned around to avoid her and found myself staring into a mirror. Every so often Hyde makes her appearance but just as quickly Jekyll takes back over and the mirror turns out to be a liar. Photos sometimes lie, too. We must remember that.
I am working on resetting my brain and trying not to focus on my body image. I would rather have a beautiful spirit, though I also would like to think of myself as beautiful on the outside as well. But here’s my question…who are we trying to be beautiful for? Ourselves is the obvous answer but I don’t think it’s really that. Because if it were then why are we beating ourselves up so badly? I have a great personality, at least I hope I do. I think I do. I’m funny. I try to be kind and thoughtful and considerate. I truly care about people though I don’t always know how to show people that. I can be playful, and crazy fun, and I can be a hurricane. Isn’t that enough? And here’s a truth: no man, or woman, can ever make you feel beautiful if you don’t already feel beautiful. No matter how many times they say it you will justify why they are saying it in your head if you don’t think what they are saying is true. So, it’s not just about the beauty industry changing and being the cause of the problem.(Not that they don’t have any responsibility-Hollywood and beauty products have as much a role to play as anyone, more in fact.) I think it’s so much more than that. And why are we trying to lay blame when what we should be doing is working on correcting the problem. And that lies with us. We MUST learn to love ourselves as we are and stop worrying about being beautiful to anyone else but ourselves first.
So, I am going to do something that has my pulse racing and is truthfully scaring the snot out of me. (Really, I’ve sneezed like three times already-although I think it’s because of the cat that just jumped off my lap.) I am going to introduce you to Jekyll….and Hyde. Pics of me as I see myself and how I am every day, and pics I think I look like someone else. All the pics are of me.
Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting Ms. Hyde:
And Ms. Jekyll:
Don’t be afraid of your own Jekyll and Hyde. Despite whatever inner demon your Hyde is, you both share the same body and you couldn’t be either one without the other.
Lots of XO’s,