I’ve written this out. Properly on paper like I always do when I’m at work. And I have the sheets beside me, torn out of the hardback notebook. And I can’t read them.
Not cos of awful handwriting, I just don’t want to read them. But I have to if I’m going to get this piece written. And I want to write this piece.
I follow a girl on Twitter. And I wish to god I could be like her. For so very many reasons, she’s whip smart and astute. Well-read and knowledgeable, has impeccable style, is upbeat and encouraging and puts bullies down swiftly and deftly. She has a fulltime job, Djs on the side, runs a blog and manages to somehow read about 5 books a week. I don’t know how the girl does it. She’s a dynamo. But the main thing I love her for is her attitude towards her body. And I wish so hard that I could emulate it.
In a recent tweet she talked of standing naked in the mirror and looking for any part of her body that she disliked or thought wasn’t perfect, and couldn’t find any. I wish I could look at any part of my body and think it was perfect. I can get some of it into an ok light for a pic that I’m ok posting. Or other bits that I can manipulate. But always, always there’s some part that I abhor and I’m hoping to god no one can see it.
Where does this come from? Why am I so convinced that my body is awful, why is so much of my self worth tied to the belief that I need to be thin to be valued? And why do I feel like such a failure that I’m not. I look at other bodies, bigger than mine and I can see the unequivocal beauty in them. I have seen this same girl in a bikini on a beach and thought she looked stunning – pale, chubby, not trying to hide anything or angle it away. Just as she is and glorious. Confidence beaming out of her. And yet I can’t do that for myself, I can’t look at myself and see any beauty without also seeing the imperfection. I can look at her and think; well she is statuesque and her skin is porcelain. Her boobs are bigger and they set off her whole look…. Numerous other comparisons as to why her body is worthy of worship and mine isn’t. Always comparing. Always coming up short.
Can you imagine walking around all day happy with your body? Can you imagine the mental peace of that? Do you even have to?
Well I can’t and I don’t even remember the last time I did feel at ease. Maybe when I was 9 years old? I certainly knew that at age 10 I was talking about being fat and how terrible a thing that was to be. At 10….
That’s a long time to be thinking that you’re body isn’t good enough.
If you’re not happy why don’t you work out? Eat better? Well yes, very good. Except for one, I actually do work out and I have quite a good handle on nutrition. But it’s never good enough, I can never get my body to a place I’m happy with no matter how hard I try. And anyway, that’s wholly not the point; where has the notion come from that my body isn’t worthy just as it is?
Now it hasn’t stopped me going to the beach or to the gym or getting naked in front of partners. It doesn’t stop me still walking around my parents’ house in the nip either. I’m comfortable enough with nakedness but with the juxtaposition of also thinking that what I’m showing is not anything that is worth looking at. I have never walked on a beach and not been horrified with myself – even at my fittest.
I will get dressed and think I look ok, good even. Highlighting what I want people to focus on. And then I’ll leave the house, catch a glimpse of myself from another angle and think I actually look awful. It won’t ruin my night but I don’t know why I do it. Why my brain needs to constantly assess and reassess and isn’t happy until it can find me something that’s unacceptable about how I look.
I’m not going to claim to be fat or have had to deal with any real fatphobic incidents, I’m not out to irk anyone by claiming that I identify as that. I’m ordinary and average and not trying to appropriate anyone’s space. So I lurk and like all over the body positive posts but I won’t join in because I feel I won’t be accepted there in the fat circles – and I get that, I’m not properly fat so why would people believe me. But what is real and unassailable is my belief that my body is not good enough. And everything I see around me seems to tell me that that notion is correct because it’s not toned and tanned and perfectly without lumps.
I am hoping though, that by reading the posts and reading how people are accepting of themselves that some of it will rub off on me. That I will somehow learn how not to hate my own body.
A long time ago I decided that if I was going to be able to cope with this at all I had better just work out and deal with it. That I could alleviate some of this stress by taking control of it. And it helps a bit when I do work out. But I fell off the wagon a while back. And my BFF picked me up and found us a new gym, a kickstart to get me back on track. I threw myself into this 100%. Up at 5.30am for work outs and following extra nutrition tips. But 5 months later I still didn’t look any better. To say that this dented my confidence is really not grasping it at all. And then to hear that I was technically obese? That was it. I couldn’t cope. I had tried so hard and had gotten nowhere. What was the point in trying?
I won’t give up working out entirely, I know I can’t, I like having stamina and being fit. But I need to find a way to make peace with my body at every stage of fitness. Peace will only come from accepting it, not from chasing some idea of perfection.
In an effort to meet that head on I decided to open an Instagram for Abbi. To show myself as I really am. Because up til now, you never saw my stomach, or my saddle bags or my cellulite. I hid it all and presented only the bits I wanted you to see, and only in the most flattering light. And I nearly faltered at the first post. I just couldn’t bring myself to post the pics that I took that were honest. But I got some lovely comments on Twitter and I stuck with it. I photographed myself in about 14 sets of underwear and by the end of it I actually hated myself a tiny bit less.
I’m not doing it to gain validation from likes, I’m doing it to force myself to look at myself and find the beauty. I’m doing it to have another body type out there, to add to the selection to remind people that we don’t all look the same and this is not only ok but it’s a good thing.
And I also know that no amount of likes are going to make me like myself, nothing can do that but me – I have to change my own mindset.
I am hoping to god that I can.
On the day I was told that I was technically obese, I fell out with a friend. I try not to say negative or down things on Twitter, I try to keep it upbeat and light, even when I don’t feel that way. But on this day, after having been working so hard I tweeted about being ‘a bit put out’ when in fact I was utterly devastated. Crushed in fact. I felt hopeless and worthless and like I’d never failed so hard in my life. But I stupidly tweeted about it. And this friend most likely not knowing how fragile I was made a joke about his own body suggesting I should take this with a pinch of salt. And I flipped out. From another person I might have been able to take it but not from someone with a perfect body, and I’ve seen enough of it to tell you that it is pretty perfect. What the hell did he know about it? When was the last time he was ridiculed for his efforts? When did he ever feel lesser because of his body?
Who knows. I certainly don’t. But his glib and probably quite innocent response cut through me. And we haven’t spoken since, in fact I doubt we ever will again.
We weren’t the best of friends, it’s not a huge loss but it’s an example of things even on the periphery that can also be lost when we are consumed with seeing our worth in how we look.
I don’t want to lose anything else. Except my belief that I have to be fit to be worthy.
Please don’t contact me with fitness tips. Or comments about my body, I’m not fishing for compliments. And this post isn’t brave or clever, I’m just another idiot struggling like everyone else. And I don’t mean to be churlish.