“I see what you mean about the khakis,” she said.
I was midway down a nasty body image spiral after flipping through a ton of pictures from last week’s staff retreat. I was feeling pretty bad about the way I looked in most (okay all) of the pictures, and I was commiserating with a coworker who had similar concerns about her own appearance.
I know it’s not good for me to talk to other people who harp on about their bad body image because it feeds my own issues with it, but sometimes I intentionally seek someone out who will validate my terrible thoughts. It’s stupid, and lands me where I am now.
I actually thought the khakis weren’t so bad. In fact, they were the pictures I was the least upset about, and I hadn’t mentioned the khakis as being a particular bad spot in the selection of pics I was featured in. So when she offered that up? “I see what you mean about the khakis.”
And BOOM! Tailspin. Suddenly I was overanalyzing every last detail of those pictures, convinced that I must be entirely wrong about how I looked in those pics, which I’d thought were alright, and so that must mean I looked THAT MUCH WORSE in all of the other pictures, the ones I was really worried about.
THOSE are the pics I was worried about. That grey shirt in particular, which I really liked until I saw it in pictures. I just felt…blindsided a bit. I felt like what I saw didn’t look anything like what I felt like. It robbed me of an awful lot of the good stuff I’ve been building up in my head these last few months.
Some of it is guilt. It’s frustration that I’m still eating things my body doesn’t want just because my mind does. The food thing continues to trip me up, and a recent prompt in an email from Mara got me writing it out. I came up with some scary crap around it…
If I could love myself bravely and entirely, my colitis would ease a bit. I would have more energy and be more content in my own body. I would be a little happier, a lot braver too perhaps. Maybe I would be more willing to push my limits in terms of my writing, my career, my self-love journey. It matters to me because I know I’m holding myself back, out of fear and habit and who knows what else. I want to be able to think and move freely in my own space, to eat without emotional baggage, to not punish or reward or medicate myself with food…always food that in the end is a punishment.
So that’s it. It’s always a punishment. I eat when emotions, usually the dark and heavy ones, are overwhelming. Why does that mean I need to be punished? When, where, how did I learn that being overwhelmed by my emotions was not alright? That it was, in fact, so unacceptable that it deserved more than ignoring, but called for full on punishment? What do I believe is so wrong with having extreme feelings? What do I think will happen if I allow them instead of punish them into a cowering corner, to be ignored until they shrivel?
I’m afraid. I’m scared they’ll overwhelm me, break me, take me over. I’m scared that they’ll reveal a part of me I don’t want to own, that I don’t want others to see. I’m afraid they will BE me, that I will become (or maybe even that I AM)…dark. I worry that I will be mean or spiteful, that I’ll be sad forever. I fear that by letting out anger I’ll be wrathful, that in releasing sadness into the world I’ll be depressed. I am afraid that by settling into these negative emotions I will not be able to get back out of them, that I’ll be sucked down and trapped in them.
I want to feel light and happy. Somewhere along the way I internalized that smiles and joy and love and light are the things that make up a good life, a good person. “Indulging” in darkness feels wrong…selfish. It feels like I’m allowing myself into some part of me that shouldn’t be there at all.
I don’t want to feel those feelings, to be that dark and unacceptable girl all the time, so I punish the feelings. I run from them, push them down, feed them sugar to quiet their ravings. I hide them, because I want to be strong, and somehow that means always being alright. It means pretending I don’t want to cry alone on the floor, because doing that means you’re broken somehow…right?
Not right. I want to believe that. I want to really feel truth in the idea that it’s alright to be dark sometimes, to cry alone on the floor, to snivel and grieve and fear and rage. But I don’t really believe it. In my core, it feels wrong. It feels selfish and indulgent, terrifying in it’s potential to lead to lasting settlement into the depths.
People love my smile. They like my quirky happiness and depend on my stability. Maybe they won’t love me if I succumb, if I’m sad or quiet or dark. Maybe I really will be that way all the time, and all the people who love and care for me won’t be able to anymore because I’m not who they thought I was. I like the happy parts of me too. They make me feel good. And maybe if I stop punishing and berating and forcing away all those bad feelings, I will lose the good ones…they’ll be swept away in a torrent of too-long hidden sadness and anger and grief and fear. Maybe it will all be too much, and I really will break.
I can’t break. I have a daughter who depends on me, who lights up my life, who is freaking amazing. She is so small and secure, so smart and fun, so innocent of darkness. I can’t be the one who shows her that. I can’t let her down. I can’t fall apart when 75% of the time I’m all she’s got. She’s four. She’s too young to understand that sometimes life hurts but it can still be alright. I can’t put that burden on her.
So I punish it. I hide it. I don’t know how to stop, or even if I should.
I don’t even know what to do with all of that. I’m feeling pretty lost in the body image and food arenas right now. I think the only thing saving my sanity at all is that I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking with regular yoga sessions at home, I’ve been moving whenever I can on weekends (hiking, museums, etc), and I’ve done really well sticking with the Beautiful Badass
workouts. Without those things I don’t know what I’d be doing right now.
I’m under a fair (unfair?) amount of stress at work right now too, and it’s leading to some major colitis flare ups that are making it that much harder to make any good choices. Yes, you’d think serious stomach pain would lead to BETTER choices. You’d be wrong. My emotional eating is pretty hardwired.
I just… I don’t know, man.