A few weeks ago I had a day where I looked in the mirror and just felt disgusted with myself. I felt like I looked like I had gained 10 pounds overnight. I felt pale and bloated-looking and my hair seemed dull and my face looked blotchy and red and I just felt huge and hideous.
I had obviously not gained 10 pounds overnight. My hair and face and body didn’t look any different than it did any other day. But for some reason my brain was being a straight up bitch to my reflection that day.
My instinct was to hide. I wanted to put on baggy clothes and sit on the couch. I wanted to fast for the entire day so I’d wake up skinny but I also wanted to cuddle up with a bag of Goldfish and a glass of wine and eat my feelings at the same time. I wanted to get on the stairmaster and punish myself for whatever I had done to lead to the (imagined) overnight weight gain. I felt shitty.
What was happening was a bad body image day. It happens from time to time. Sometimes its because I’ve spent too much time on Instagram and I’m comparing myself to fitness models and other beautiful women. Sometimes its because I’m getting ready to start my period and my hormones are going insane. Sometimes its just because I’m a 25 year old woman who grew up with magazines, TV, and and social media showing me what the ideal woman’s body is supposed to look like and my body isn’t really looking like that.
On my best days, I know that all of that is bullshit. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I am more than my outside appearance. Women in magazines and on TV and on social media are photoshopped and airbrushed. Even the women in the magazines don’t look like their images in said magazines without makeup and hairstylists and airbrushing and professional photography. Everyone shows their best side to Instagram.
I am not required to look like anyone else to be beautiful and fit and worthy of my own love.
But on a bad body image day, I have to work a whole lot harder to convince my brain of these things. They don’t happen super often, but when they do it just kind of ruins my whole day.
My first instinct is to tell my boyfriend and ask him for validation. I seriously just wanted to text him and ask him to tell me that he thinks I’m hot. I know he thinks I’m hot though – and I also know that that isn’t the issue and hearing that from him wouldn’t ACTUALLY make me feel better. I’ve been through this and learned a while ago that external validation would not fix my internal thoughts about myself – but that’s another blog post in the works.
I need to believe that I’m beautiful or hot all by myself without hearing it from other people. It doesn’t mean anything at all if I don’t believe it myself. Honestly, I’d like to be so confident that I don’t even care if my boyfriend thinks I’m hot because I know I am but I still value his opinion and obviously want him to be attracted to me.
I posted about it on my Instagram on this particular day, and I asked what other people do to love themselves on these days. I got several responses, all from women. A couple of women shared my post. It’s my impression that men don’t struggle with this as much as women. Honestly, I get this impression but I think my impression is wrong. I can’t be positive because I’m not a man and I haven’t spoken to too many about it, but I think men probably struggle at least little bit with this too but they don’t feel as free to talk about it. Or, I could be totally off base and it could be a problem isolated to mostly women. Love that for us – like we don’t have enough to deal with as it is.
I did talk to my boyfriend about it, and while he was supportive, I don’t think he really got it (sorry babe – I know you’re gonna read this bc you read all my blogs thank you) – and it was hard for me to explain why on certain random days I deal with shit like this. I feel like men were not socialized to focus on their outer appearance and on their weight and how perfect their skin is and how shiny their hair is.
The truth is that in real life, women come in all different beautiful shapes and sizes with different hair textures and colors and different skin tones and some have blemishes while other lucky bitches have perfect skin and while some are naturally thin others are more round or muscular and being tan, and skinny, with perfect hair and skin is not the only way to be beautiful and worthy of loving yourself. Everyone deserves to love themselves unconditionally without picking apart their reflection in the mirror and placing so much weight on their outer appearance.
My friend Anna had a great response to my post – she said a lot more than this, but my favorite part of her comment was she said that it helps her on her bad body image days to remind herself that she’s ‘being kind of selfish in spending time thinking about her body instead of thinking more productively.’ This is so true – it does seem selfish to spend a whole day thinking about just yourself and how shitty you feel. Remembering that there is so much more you can offer to the world and do for yourself than sit and worry about how you look is a good way to kind of kick your brain out of this mentality.
Another thing that I heard recently on a podcast was relatable to this as well – they were talking about anxiety but I think it fits here as well. It was Chris Distefano on Hannah Berner’s podcast, and here’s what he said about anxiety.
“I only have a finite amount of energy each day, and I can’t waste it on this anxiety. It’s not real. What’s real is being present and as full of energy as I can for my child and my time with her. Stay in the present.”
“I started to realize the narcissism in my anxiety, and the narcissism in anxiety to begin with. It’s like look at me, my problems, me me me, when it’s not about you.”
There’s a little more that’s harder to quote, but basically he is saying that anxiety is narcissism and only being worried about yourself – which I think occasional anxiety fits this label but I don’t think general anxiety disorders can necessarily all fall into this category. (I’m not a mental health professional and I try not to discount or make light of mental health issues in any way plz don’t come for me)
But in this case, focusing on your own appearance constantly is fairly narcissistic. Allowing negative thoughts to ruin your entire day and keep you in your head is selfish.
There is so so so much more to life than focusing on what you look like. I’m an advocate for health – I firmly believe everyone should be exercising 4-5 times a week and eating their damn veggies and drinking more water. But I also think you should be indulging in ice cream with your kids, or pizza with your spouse, or going on a spontaneous lunch date even if it means you eat an unhealthy meal, or getting the movie popcorn that smells so damn delicious. I think you should be spending your time doing what makes you happy – whether that’s writing, or volunteering, or working your butt off, or climbing trees to cut them down (another shoutout to my boyfriend hi Steven), or dancing, or laughing with your friends, or whatever else fills you with joy. Life is not meant to be lived inside your head worrying all the time about what people think of you or whether you need to lose 5 lbs or 50 lbs or how many calories you’ve ingested that day or whether you need to wear more makeup or different clothes or get a spray tan or color your hair. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and cherished, and loved.
Are you happy? Are you healthy? Are you a good person?
These are the questions you should be worrying about. Not are you skinny, are you fitting in, are you wearing clothing that is in style, are you getting enough instagram likes, do you have enough followers, do you make enough money, etc.
Are you happy? Are you healthy? Are you a good person?
Worry about those things first.
On the day that I’m talking about, I posted about it and talked about my feelings, and then I got out of my head. I went to the apple orchard with my sisters. I got pizza with them and didn’t restrict myself unnecessarily because of my irrational thoughts. I had fun, I distracted myself, and I quit thinking so much about my own issues. And it helped. And I felt better.
I’m 100% sure I will have many more days like this in my lifetime. But slowly but surely I am trying to unlearn the ways I was socialized to think about women’s bodies. I am trying to place less weight on the number I see on the scale. And I’m trying to love and appreciate all bodies for what they can do and all people for who they are, rather than what they look like.