I grew up in a weird household in that my mother believed in equality, but was very image driven. She is the kind of woman who never goes out of the house without makeup on and, even though they are not good for her, has heels on to go to work.
These things are fine if that is what someone is into, but for a young girl growing up as a tomboy it left me very confused about who I should be and what I should present to the world. It also left me worried about exactly that, the world's view of me and my place in the greater whole. I was also, at the same time, dealing with media telling me exactly that, who and what I should be, but it didn't fit for me. I felt like I didn't belong and that started a war inside my head. I was athletic and liked to put way less fuss into my clothes and hair as other girls seemed to think necessary; makeup wasn't at all something that I bothered with. I was also the girl who played hockey and had to defend that I was a girl, time and again. I wasn't right as a "girl", but I also hated being one of the boys. I struggled for ages trying to simply fit in and find my place, instead of trying to find myself.
Eating disorders are also something that happen in my family. We had to clean our plates or we weren't leaving the table, but rarely did we have a say in portion size. I learned to love food and was active, but size comparisons happen and there was always comments about how bodies weren't right. One thing that sticks out to me is that I knew what thunder thighs were before I was ever introduced to the concept of loving myself and being happy with who I was as a person. This was the age of super models and stunners on the movie screen. No one was overweight in the media, to be so was disgusting and you didn't care about yourself. Even the extras were a size six at most, or at least it seemed to my young mind. I had a picture of myself in a bathing suit in grade five that made me cry because I truly thought, at that young age, that I was ugly and no one would ever love me. I ate to comfort myself. I ate because I was bored. At the end of school when my athletics went away, I kept eating the same way because I was truly unhappy.
At fifteen someone finally found me attractive at a period in my life where I didn't think that anyone ever would. I had actually written off ever having a relationship or the genuine love and affection for me that I craved so badly. I though that I had built a good shell but the truth of the matter is that all it took was some interest from anyone in an attraction type of way and the shell shattered. I let people into my life that I shouldn't have because I wanted to fill the void that love should fill. I missed the key rule that no one ever taught me, I have to love me before I can love someone else. I have to see worth in myself. Because I didn't have that love for myself, I opened myself up to abuse that I can't even stomach to think about now. My first sexual encounter was forced on me and I never thought to tell anyone until years later because I equated that vile act with love. It was a history of self-loathing and abuse that I allowed to happen because I didn't even know me at that point. I was living in someone else's idea of what my life should be.
It took me finally getting divorced in my late 20's, finding myself on my own with a child, to stop and try to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I was at this point overweight, in the midst of one of the darkest and longest depression stints that I have ever been through. I wanted to throw up every time that I looked in the mirror. I was hideous and no one would ever care about me the way that I needed. The only thing that kept me getting out of bed every morning was this wonderful little boy who loved me completely and needed a mom to be around for a good long while. Stuck in the midst of all this darkness, I had to made the choice to make changes in my life. Nothing like hitting rock bottom to make needed changes. I changed the way that I saw myself first. If that redheaded angel could love me with my curves, then I could love them too. I stopped being disgusted when I looked in the mirror. I saw things that I wanted to change. I still do. However, I am kinder to myself about it now. Instead of just going "Ugh, you're disgusting", I remind myself to look up ways to work on that area to improve it. I also make sure to tell myself that I am worthy, even if there are things that I want to change. I also stopped living in someone else's idea of me. It is painful to look back and see just how much of myself I lost over the years, but I remind myself that my life isn't over yet and I can go forward everyday, putting me forward.
I am a big buxom girl, with a big mouth to match, but I own that because that is who I am. I love that about me. So, I am not going to change that for anyone. I have bad days where the old habits come back to haunt me. I stand in front of the mirror and jiggle my belly and lament that I am not the model on the cover of a magazine. I go to silence myself when I should speak up. We all fall short of our ideals. The key for me is that I acknowledge that and then put it aside to be the best me I can be. Self-love has saved my life and shown me that it is ok to be exactly who I am. When you see my pictures you will see that I have curves for days or that my belly isn't flat. I see a life time of struggle and perseverance, the marks of that and a strong survivor who is not about to give up now. I see a person who I am glad to say is me. I love me from head to toe.
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