Learning to love myself.

It has taken me almost a full 31 years to stop hating myself.  

I guess as a statement that’s pretty harsh, but I think it’s accurate.   Just two weeks shy of my 31stbirthday, I can sit here, slightly unprepared for an OCR race, with a belly that’s a little bloated from eating too much last night, and say that I’m pretty damn ok.  

Physically, I no longer hate myself every time I catch a glance in the mirror.  I’m not at 15% body fat like I once was.  I’m not doing hours of cardio a day and weight lifting as heavy as I once was.  But I can look in the mirror and smile in a way that I never could before, even at peak physical condition.   I can hold a forearm stand for a good 15 seconds, sometimes, which was a goal that I had almost given up ever achieving.  I can sit quietly with myself and not be terrified of my thoughts.  I still cry on my own a bit, but they’re therapeutic tears now, and not tears that leave me broken for days.  

I still eat too much sometimes, but I can also take myself out of the moment and recognize what’s happening.  I have a weird relationship with food.  I do not have a consistent pattern of any one eating disorder, but I have made a lot of unhealthy decisions.   I’ve eaten too much, and then quietly removed myself to a bathroom to throw up.  I’ve stared in the mirror and told myself that I’m fat and eaten almost nothing.  I’ve done cleanses that leave me feeling dizzy and sick and emotionally unstable.  I’ve eaten more food than a human could possibly need, and then eaten some more.  I don’t know that I’ve ever admitted that “out loud” before, but it’s time. Sharing our reality has the benefit of removing the sense of self shame, and also allowing others to not feel so alone.

Despite all of that,  I’m getting better with my relationship with food.  I still sometimes get the urge to just eat for the sake of eating.  I can see it now though.  I can recognize that I’m not hungry, I can see myself getting ready to eat more, and I can stop. And I can do that without all of the harmful comments that I used to make.  

Emotionally, as well, I can look at myself in the mirror and be proud of the woman I am.  I am proud of my flaws and proud of the progress that I have made.  I am proud that there are a few people who I have trusted to see vulnerable parts of myself.  I have cried in front of people I greatly respect and love, and not been ashamed of it.  I have admitted mistakes that I have made, even though that’s traditionally something that’s very challenging for me.  

I no longer feel the need to apologize for my existence.  That has been a long time coming, but the week I spent with @Lux_Atl really gave me the confidence to embrace myself.  I am so tired of apologizing for my existence.  I am so tired of hating my body and the woman I am.  So truly, deeply tired.  I am tired of finding myself on the outside of somewhere I simply didn’t belong, and wondering if I wasn’t good enough, or if something is wrong with me.  I am tired of navigating “am I too masculine” or “am I feminine enough” or  “am I too much?”   Damn, am I tired of feeling like I am too much.  Once upon a time, I had found someone who matched my “too much”. And that turned out to be false. I desperately was trying to find a mirror of myself in another person, and that logic was so tragically flawed. Not only were they not a mirror image of me, which turned out to be pretty crushing, but I also shouldn’t have ever been looking for that.  I shouldn’t have been looking for a copy of myself somewhere else.

I should have been looking for me.  Before I ever tried to find myself in someone, I should have been looking for myself. Looking to find MYSELF in the mirror, instead of staring through myself and seeing all of the things I hated.  And now that I’ve found myself, I know that the idea of finding me in someone else is absurd. Like Lux says, “Only you possess, what only you possess.”

The last few weeks have introduced me to some absolutely beautiful women who have been able to see ME. They could see me even when I didn’t ask them to, and I didn’t really want them to.  They touched my heart and made me fall in love with them, and they helped me realize something.  

I have been missing myself for so many years.  I have been missing myself in my friendships, in my food, in my exercise, in my relationships, in my job, and in my life.  I am a strong woman, and have always been, so it has been easy to convince everyone around me that the life I was living was the life I wanted.  When you’re reliable and strong, people don’t question you very much if you say you’re happy.  If you smile and carry on making things happen, no one asks if you’re ok. 

And you know what? I’m getting to be ok.  I’m growing stronger and more confident.  I’m making better food choices.  I’m treating my body with kindness.  I’m embracing this little food baby belly at the moment, and knowing that I’ll be just as strong today as I was yesterday.  I walked around a beach with my crop top hoodie on two weeks ago, and I did not worry about whether or not I deserved to be wearing it.  I am becoming as proud of myself as I have pretended to be all these years, and I’m really happy with the woman I see in the mirror lately.

So in closing, please allow me to introduce myself, as the woman I see right now.

I am a woman.  I am a feminist.  I am a wife and a dog mom.  I am fiercely passionate about helping women who deserve help, but have neither the means, nor the free time to think about it.  I am a yoga instructor, and Executive Director of a charity that I started, becoMe Movement and Expression.  I’m going to say that again, because I’m that proud of it. Through all of my lack of clarity on direction, missteps, mistakes, wasted time and money, through all of that… I have found direction.  I am an Executive Director, and will be responsible both for bringing change and empowerment to other women’s’ lives, and for cultivating a staff and environment that does the same.  I will be headed back to school in the fall for my Masters in Counseling, and I have real plans to help the world around me.  I am proud as hell of that.   I am an oldest sibling, and a woman who loves dancing even though I have no traditional training. I am fierce, and I am more empathetic than I let most people know.

I am proud as hell of the fact that I take care of myself now.  I am proud as hell of the fact that I am no longer engaging with people who take from me without concern.   I am proud that I am doing that from a place of self-care and love, and not from a place of anger.  I am proud of my mission, of my heart, and of my awareness.  I’m proud of the fact that I know the woman I am today, is miles from the woman I was even a few years ago, with the same core strength and personality.  

I’m proud to be sharing these pieces of myself today, and I hope that it can help inspire you to be proud of pieces of yourself.  I hope you can look in the mirror and see the beautiful person that you are, and not the irrelevant flaws that pop up in front of us and rob us of joy and peace. I hope that you have been blessed to have people in your life, like the ones I have found, who can see you even when you didn’t know you needed to be seen.  

And if you don’t, I hope you reach out.  Reach out to a professional, to a community center, or even to me.  Find a connection with someone around you who is looking for your beauty, not your flaws, and give yourself the opportunity to embrace yourself for the person you are.  It can be a it scary and a bit shocking, but it is so fulfilling. 

Namaste, my friends. The light in me, sees the light in you. 

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