Experience,  February PhotoFest 2019,  Photography

Looking Back

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my body since I can remember caring about it. Pretty much as soon as my boobs popped up and the hair on my legs began to grow, I’ve been self-conscious about some part(s) of it, comparing myself to other girls/women and falling prey to the media expectation of what I “should” look like. Weight? Thigh gap? Cellulite? Stretch marks? Even the color of my skin.

I remember being in junior high and high school and being super concerned about how pale my skin was in the summer time. My white friends would wear shorts and be somewhat tan, or at least have a smooth whiteness to their skin. Mine had a tendency to get splotchy and sort of purple. It just made my cellulite more obvious. I couldn’t find a pair of shorts that fit correctly and didn’t dig into my thighs when I sat down.

Later, it was my stretch marks…my belly…my sagging breasts.

The aging me looks back at photos of the young me and just reels at how healthy I looked. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with my shape or my weight, but I sure thought there was back then, and my mother did a pretty good job of ensuring that I did. “Maybe you should have a salad.” “Do you really need another cookie.” “That would look good on a thinner girl; you don’t have the body for that.”

Now, I try to convince myself that the roll around my tummy is okay. Sure I could afford to lose a few pounds (and I plan to), but my weight does not take away from my sexiness, because sexiness is an attitude, not a body. I say that, but, I don’t really believe it deep down. It’s one of those mantras I repeat to myself over and over trying to convince myself that it’s true.

But, I’m at a point where I’ve cleaned out my closet so that everything fits and looks good, so I have fewer panic attacks over my wardrobe, or what I would call “fat days” where I can’t find anything that fits. And I don’t get on the scale much anymore. I eat healthy, and while I could drink less, I feel my diet is pretty good. I get in my 10,000 steps most days, I try to get to bed by 10 or 11. And I do yoga twice a week, most weeks. Forcing myself to do more makes me crazy. I hate focusing on my diet or my workout plan. In fact, I hate exercise. I hate the gym. And it pisses me off that these things take away from the other activities that actually give me joy. I know there are people who could say that my health comes first, and I should just suck it up and get on the treadmill. But, I think my mental health actually comes first. Exercise does impact my mental health, I realize that…but I have found that with only so many hours in a day, the things that impact my mental health the most are down time, sleep, yoga, a healthy-ish diet, and time to read and write. Without those things, I start to go stir-crazy, and even my medication starts to fail against the unhappiness over the way my time is being used.

So…belly roll? I guess it gets to stay until I’ve got a little more time to spare.

Side note…but related:

This week’s Sex Bloggers for Mental Health prompt is related to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I’ve never had a true eating disorder, though I would say I’ve had plenty of times in my life where my relationship with food was not healthy. I’m not about to make light of other people’s struggles, and even at my worst, I’ve never gone to a point I would consider dangerous.

However, in honor of this week, #sb4mh has encouraged us all to:

  • WRITE a few things you like about yourself (your body or personality, etc) on a piece of paper or on your body.
  • TAKE a photo of you and the piece of paper, displaying your body art.
  • SHARE the photo on your blog (and other social media accts). Explain why you chose the words you did and what “Come as You Are” means to you.

I’ve spent a good chunk of February PhotoFest 2019 focusing on things I like about my body, any of my FPF posts would be good go-to’s for this topic, so it makes sense to close the month with a post that summarizes my best internal qualities. It’s interesting, too…because last year for FPF, I started out with things I didn’t like about my body. I sense a very different, much more positive, attitude about my body surfacing for me. This final photo for FPF and #sb4mh includes my list of words: the first ten that came to mind…no edits. It also shows my belly roll and my thick thighs. And you know what? I don’t hate it.

The words I chose get at my most treasured and prominent qualities, characteristics, and roles. Of course, my roles require qualities and characteristics that may not be on this list. I mean…what makes me a good teacher? A good mom? A good wife? Those things are so subjective, I’m leaving it vague…because I wouldn’t want to judge anyone else through the qualities I chose. We’re all different, and we can all be amazing at these roles in completely different ways for completely different reasons.

“Come as you are?” Well, I think that simply means show up. Show up and just be yourself, whether others like you for it or not. Show up every day and be genuine and authentic and honest and vulnerable. Tell your story…because it matters.

Anyhow, looking back over my FPF photos this year, I feel pretty satisfied. Today’s the last day, and I have to admit I’m glad. January and February challenges have had me on a blogging schedule that is running me ragged. I’m looking forward to March, when my blogging mantra will be “do less…better.”

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