Lord knows how difficult it is for people with body image issues to struggle with fighting their inner demons. We have perfectionistic streaks inside of us that demand for our bodies to look a certain way and when we don’t look like whoever we want to emulate, let me tell you, hell breaks loose in our minds.
If you’ve been read my previous posts, you’ll know that one of my biggest physical insecurities is my calves. I have athletic muscular calves, thanks to a combination of genetics and my years of sprinting in primary school. I hated how my calves weren’t long and skinny like my friends, and also like those female media personalities I see on the telly or in magazines. For years people have commented on my calves and saying they’re so muscular and, well, its made me incredibly conscious of how its not long and lean like I desperately want them to. In pictures though, some people tell me my calves look perfectly fine but the problem is that with photography, the right angles can sometimes create illusions and I guess from the angle that I tend to stand in my calves look different than what they really are. You’ll actually have to stand next to me to see how athletic my calves can be. Anyway, I always thought the fashion industry to mock me when it created skinny jeans and knee high boots. On Instagram its always the girls with long skinny never ending legs that get comments from people who clearly have noticed how outstanding they are and go something like “LEGS”. The girls with legs in different shapes never get the comments. And okay I know you shouldn’t let silly things like that make you want to have skinny legs, but growing up it had a huge effect on me
I’m not sure what came over me, but a few days ago I experienced a complete meltdown. A major slip. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, and I don’t know what caused it, but one day I just woke up and felt huge. Bloated. A whale. Like a big kid trying to squeeze into a small girl’s dress. I felt like I was taking too much space. I looked in the mirror and thought my face looked too puffy like I was a chipmunk stashing goodies for the winter. My arms seemed to have magically become puffy sausages and jiggled too much in my opinion, and I thought my calves suddenly had morphed into this mass of lumpy…mass. The next thing I knew, my heart was pounding super fast and all sorts of wild thoughts went rushing into my head:
1. Oh my god I gained so much weight
2. Oh my god my arms look so fat and disgusting. And ugly
3. Oh my god my face looks so fat and disgusting. And ugly
4. Oh my god my calves are ginormous. And ugly. Why?!
I immediately started thinking of reasons as to why my body might have suddenly ballooned. My first thought was that I had been dancing in my heels too much, because I learned from my obsessive investigation that wearing high heels for too long exerts pressure on the calf muscles and causes it to develop. One part of me reasoned that (a) my heels were only 2 inches and (b) I don’t dance in my heels everyday, and so it couldn’t possibly lead to an unnatural expansion of my calf musucels, but then another part of me immediately went “Okay then. No more dancing”. Literally. That’s what I had told myself. Stop dancing. The sudden intense disgust that manifested for my calves had somehow, on those particular few days been so incredibly strong that it transcended all reason and made me want to give up dancing just because I hypothesized that it was making my calves too muscular for my liking.
The next thing I knew, I experienced an intense rush of escalating thoughts; thinking patterns along with some behavioral tendencies that thrived during the worst of my ED days. I started cursing at swearing at my body (which is ridiculous, really) at how it didn’t look tall and thin. I started tugging at my clothes because I felt like they had suddenly shrink and I felt like I took up too much space. I began criticizing my arms and sobbing and how they weren’t skinny like I want them to be. I began an obsessive Internet search on ways to reduce the size of my legs (I highly doubt daily massage can do anything). I even wanted to cancel my plans with my homegirl for the next day because I couldn’t stand the idea of wearing anything and feeling that all my clothes had somehow become too small and wearing them would just make me feel worse about my body.
I actually also began thinking of going back to dieting and not eating to lose weight because just thinking about how my arms and legs weren’t skinny just made my heart want to explode. Scarily enough, my distress was so high and intense that I had toyed with the idea of self-harm to relieve the pain. You heard me right. Self-harm. I was that emotionally distressed. I used to hurt myself a few years ago before I entered therapy because it had made me feel better (NOTE: DO NOT EVER DO THIS BECAUSE IT DOES NOT SOLVE ANYTHING TRUST ME BEEN THERE DONE THAT) even though that feeling of relief was incredibly short-lasting because my body still looked the same. But yes, for about 2 days I stayed home and refused to leave the house. I wore a jacket at home even though it was 32 degrees outside (or about 90F) because I wanted to cover my body & pretty much lived in my pajama pants so I wouldn’t have to look at my calves.
For people who don’t go through these demonic body image problems, you probably won’t ever fully understand the chaos in our heads. To us, the struggle is real. Objectively, our bodies may not have changed overnight, but in our minds, we woke up and we suddenly look different. We try so incredibly hard to suppress the voices in our heads because there is a part of us that knows our fears are unfounded and our expectations too unrealistic. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. There is always a voice in our heads telling us we are still too fat no matter how hard we work at accepting our bodies. Maybe to others, the body parts that we are insecure about look perfectly normal, but to us, it is flawed.
We have perfectionistic streaks and many of us have grown up thinking that thin is beautiful. To others, we may came across as egocentric – the constant obsession about our looks and our food and our desire to have a thin body. But we’re not selfish people. More often than not, many of us are simply insecure and experience low self esteem and we want nothing more than to feel better about ourselves. We’re not egocentric. I mean, God didn’t you read about Kanye West and how he practically demanded for one of the members of audience to actually stand up for him during his performance along with the rest of the concert-goers even though the poor guy is in a wheelchair?
So yes. We’re not egocentric. We act and think the way we do not because we are narcissistic, but because our insecurities are so overwhelming that it tends to control our lives every now and then.
So of course I had to figure out a way to stop my mental outburst before it went out of hand. I’m amazed at how conscious I am about making the decision to change my thought patterns. In the past, I would just cave in like a hungry beast and let my mind take over and swill in self-hatred. But this time it was different. I knew I wanted to change because I remember how draining it was for me. It was tough to break free from this sudden thought pattern because to do so was equally effortful and thought it was best to do small simple things. I avoided mirrors for a while because I knew that looking at it would make me even more anxious, I busied myself with reading, I wore loose comfortable clothing and I went for a run to take my mind off things. Well, I get that these are activities that provide short-term immediate relief but I do believe every single thing counts, especially when you need to make yourself feel better at that very moment. Like giving morphine to someone in utter pain to relieve him/her of her discomfort before further figuring out the cause of the pain and dealing with it at a more in-depth level. Or giving sedatives to someone having a panic attack to calm him down before engaging in deeper conversation to find out the root causes of his anxiety.
One small step at a time right?
In the long run however, I always need to remind myself that looks are not everything and that I shouldn’t let my body define who I am, but sometimes, I fail and I fall. But I guess its okay as long as you continue fighting the demons that haunt you, as long as you don’t give up and that you are motivated to find a way to change your situation. I really do hope that 1 day I won’t need to remind myself all day everyday and spend less time and energy obsessing about my weight, the food I eat how my body doesn’t fit the thin-ideal, my calves and arms that aren’t long and lean and the fact that I don’t have a flat belly, and basically just do the best I can do treat my body right.
When I was younger I wanted to be tall and thin and beautiful and have heads turn. Now I just want to be intelligent and soak up as many literacy artworks as I can, I want my heart to burn with passion for dance and travel and art and revel in the anticipation and ecstasy of discovering a new hobby. I want people to love me for my mind, my intelligence, my compassion, my sensitive spirit and my loving nature because I know that those qualities touch more hearts than looks can ever will. What’s beauty if one has a heart devoid of passion or a mind lacking in opinion? I don’t want people to dismiss me as a bimbo, talk to me about mindless things and see me as a woman without ambition. I want them to look at me and see a woman with an amazing mind and with opinions of her own who is unafraid to educate you about the struggles many women face with body image and the subjugation of many women in the Middle East and also see a women who fights to not let her insecurities get the best of her.
Homegirl and I decided to get cultured at the museum. Decided to play with colors today and opted for my orange tank and a green skirt with my fabulous black-and-white loafers which I’m so glad I bought. I threw on an opal necklace at the last minute as I felt like I needed a break from my stud earrings. I was still in my “i-hate-my-body-because-its-not-skinny” phase and was reluctant to take pictures but I decided to do it in the end, because well, pictures capture moments that you can never take back again. Moreover, didn’t want to let my dissatisfaction at my body ruin the day, and its proof that I went to the museum.
TIL THE NEXT TIME BYE