I catch a glimpse of my chin in the side view mirror on my car and I wonder if everyone notices my double chin along with the lovely blonde stubble that the PCOS hormones cause to grow there. I make some snide comment about it and how much I wish it wasn’t there. My husband turns to me and says, “it is funny how we see ourselves so differently than what others see.” It takes me back and stops my ranting of my flaws dead in its tracks. Does he see me differently than I see myself? I never even considered that idea. It seems so foreign to me.
This man greats me with, “hello beautiful, how was your day?” most days. He doesn’t say it because it is how he greats me, he says it because he truly thinks I am beautiful. But that isn’t what I see when I look in the mirror. I stare in the mirror and see my stomach and thighs and chubby chipmunk cheeks. I assess how much make up it is going to take to cover whatever acne flaws that the PCOS hormones have caused this week. I am obsessed with my muffin top lately because it feels like all my weight is having a party in my stomach these days. I can see every flaw clearly written and etched on my body from years of neglect, abuse and a health condition that I didn’t start to understand till recently.
I am sitting in the gym locker having the debate. Do I change in the bathroom stall or quickly hop into my workout clothes right here? It would be faster if I just changed. It would be simpler. But I look around and notice a few skinny women are changing as well. So I grab my clothes, lock my locker and start the process of changing in a stall while the automatic toilet flushes at least 10 times. This is what I am willing to do to avoid them seeing me naked. There is no way I can change in front of them and have them see my flaws.
I wonder if my mom thinks of me as her daughter with the emotional eating and obesity problem. I wonder if my niece would be as obsessed with health food if she didn’t have an overweight Aunt. I wonder how my sister ended up with a completely different body type than me and eating habits than me. When I see pictures of me next to my family members I wonder if they are embarrassed by the photo as much as I am? Do they just see me as the fat one or do they see me as their sister, their daughter, their wife, their aunt, their niece, etc? Do they see someone they love or are they embarrassed by me? Do they see my flaws or do they see my good qualities as well? I notice that my shoulders are broader and I am taller than them. I notice that it isn’t just the fat that makes me bigger, I am just a built bigger than them in general. I decide to delete the picture instead of posting it on social media, embarrassed by the size difference between me and my family. Convinced that they feel the same.
My bathroom has so many hair/face/make-up products you would think I could open up my own cosmetic store. I even had to add in an extra shelf. Some of them are samples I get monthly in my beauty boxes but a lot of them are products I use weekly. Each Sunday I spend close to an hour preparing for the week. Hair removal cream, oatmeal face mask, shaving my legs, exfoliating every inch of my body, a hair mask for deep conditioning, leave in conditioner, curl enhancer, lotion and finally bed. These are things I do for myself. Because I feel good when I take care of my body. I don’t resent the time I spend doing these rituals and I actually feel flawless afterwards.
I am 16 years old. It is warm and sunny. I am wearing a snow jacket. Why? Because I thought it would be nice to wear a cute tank top and then I thought better of it, because my best friend picked me up and she was wearing a tank top. She was maybe 115 soaking wet on a good day and actually struggled to gain weight (and often ate the most fattening things in order to gain a little extra weight). Seeing her next to me in her tank top made me put on the biggest jacket I had and then I proceeded to sweat the entire day. I was so freaking miserable and you can see it in the picture my aunt took at her house. My hair was died a horrible red. I was wearing a giant jacket. I was not really smiling. I was sweating so darn much. I wanted to feel the sun on my arms. I hated that jacket but I wore it all the time.
I hit the gym at least 3-4 days a week. I am trying to work up to 5 days but I never seem to make it that 5th day. I can feel my body getting stronger. I can feel my endurance building. I can feel my PCOS symptoms easing up on me. But when I work out I always think it is never enough because I still can see the extra weight pooling up in places I would rather not have it gather. I always think I need to be working harder, this progress isn’t going fast enough, I need to lose all the weight NOW! I curse PCOS often for making weight loss so hard on me. I have to stop myself and remember that I really should enjoy the process, each non scale victory, each step, each time I up the weights or swim that extra lap in the pool. I am so worried about about how I look to others, I am not enjoying gaining my health back with each gym visit.
I am in my early 20’s. I am washing my hair in the shower. I just died it yet another color. I haven’t been blond for a very long time and to be honest I have sort of forgotten what I look like with blond hair. This time around it is a horrible copper color. I am trying to hide what I look like in general because I have gained extra weight recently and I am feeling super self conscious. I don’t know why I felt dying my hair was the right choice but somehow it comforted me. The only thing I felt I had control over on my body.
My co-worker said something interesting, like me, she is bigger, she used to attend the same gym I did until she decided she didn’t want to anymore. When I said I go to the downtown gym she said, “it is a meat market in there, nothing but muscle men and skinny women.” So then I automatically started noticing that yes, there was a huge amount of really tone women and very well muscled men. I immediately got self conscious and thought about switching gyms. I don’t want all these good looking people staring at me while I am working out. When I said this to my husband, he just looked at me with his eyebrow raised. So I stopped being irrational because I really like the convenience of my gym. The next time I worked out I stopped and looked around me more carefully, there was also older people, bigger people and people who didn’t fit into a stereotypical mold all around. Like me, my co-worker didn’t see that, instead she saw the people that made her feel the most flawed.
I am getting ready to meet someone new through the meet up site my husband and I joined in order to make some new friends. I am freaking out. I can’t find the right outfit that won’t show any of my flaws. I am staring at my fat rolls and wondering if they will make fun of me. We are going for a walk and I am so afraid that I will fall behind or sweat, actually I know I am going to sweat because that is what I do, I sweat a lot when I work out. I start thinking I am going to be the only bigger girl there hiking around this pond with everyone and I am going to fall behind. What if my ankles start hurting? I am so self conscious I decide to fake a headache and just not go. I can’t go. What if they want me to sit in a cheap plastic lawn chair and I collapse it? What if they notice my fat rolls and decide I am not worth getting to know? What if they start making fun of me? I am so over thinking this, I know, but I can’t stop listing my flaws.
I am my own worst critic. I heard a lot of negative words over the last 30 years. Words like fat, bossy, controlling, etc spat at me in a nasty tone. I have been mocked and teased. I have felt ashamed. But how much of it was me? How much of it was things I was saying in my own head? I can tell you that I am terrible to myself because I am. I am my own worst critic. I could have worn that tank top, no one would have cared. I could have changed right there in the locker, no one would have judged and if they would have, who cares? Why do I care? I have spent a lot of time recently wondering that question. Why should I care so much what negative people think? Does their opinion really make or break me? My choice to get healthy had nothing to do with being skinny, it had to do with wanting to feel better. Having PCOS is easier when I am healthier and I was tired of my ankles hurting all the time. In the end I made the decision because I knew that I had one body and I needed to take care of that one body, not hide it or disguise it or be embarrassed by it.
So I recently made a little deal with myself, to get out of my own head and my own way. I am not sure for 100% how the people that love me see me but I am pretty sure I am a LOT harsher on myself than they are. All in all, I need to be a little nicer to myself, we all do. We are doing what we can to survive, sometimes that means eating that bagel or slipping up and having a donut when we know we shouldn’t. That is okay. Our flaws make us humans and make us real. My flaws are here to remind me what I am working on, where I have already been and all that I have left to accomplish. As I near my 30th birthday in less than 3 weeks I am working on reflecting on my 20’s. What did I do wrong? How did I hurt my own progress? What would make me happy? I do know that I don’t want to walk into my 30’s cursing my body for not being perfect. I want to embrace myself, flaws and all. So that is the deal I am making with myself, to enter my 30’s with happiness at the lessons learned and progress I have made so far. And excited for the upcoming journey of my fabulous 30’s. As long as I am moving forward and learning from my mistakes, I am accomplishing something, no matter how small.
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