I think the longest journey anyone takes, man or woman, is the journey to love yourself as you are. This is something that is repeated ad nauseam in our culture and all over social media. “Body positivity” is the latest trend. “Love Yourself!” We are told.
I wake up each day and wonder what that even means. I was a skinny girl my whole life. I ran, I ate well, I worked a crazy job that left me not eating for entire days. I didn’t struggle with my weight because I refused to let the pounds creep on. I enjoyed eating well. I ran the Tough Mudder. Training was my escape.
I never looked at others and considered their weight or look. All goth, 5oo pounds, or blue hair and green lipstick, none of it really matters to me. It matters to me if you are an asshole, but your looks? Not so much. In fact, the more uniquely you you present yourself as, the more I admire you. The more I will spend time in my room at night wondering what it is like to have that kind of confidence to just be you. And the utter defiance toward the world to be you all the time when everything tells you not to be.
I am battling cultural identities as well. The Japanese always put their best foot forward. This means how much you weigh and how you look matters. And while they won’t tell you to change directly, things are clear. I felt that pressure so acutely growing up as the subtle jabs and comments were made by both my parents and my family. Who you are is never enough.
So, now, at 160 pounds, I struggle to be proud of the weight loss. After I became chronically ill and housebound, I packed on the pounds. Medications didn’t help as I ballooned up to over 200lbs. Now, having dropped 70lbs, I look in the mirror and wonder why I can’t see it. Why do I still see someone fat and unlovable?
With the divorce I spent a year embroiled in finally over, I realize that now is the time to get healthy. Now is the time to focus on me and learning to do this weird thing called loving yourself. And I watch the inspiration porn on Facebook and wonder what those people did to learn to love themselves. Our culture is full of platitudes but rarely actual advice.
What does that mean?
What does it mean for a girl who has spent her whole life being made to feel that she was only as good as she looked, as nice as her clothing was, as valuable as her beauty lasted?
I have a broken body that will never be fixed. It may get stronger and healthier, but I will never be whole in that sense again. I maybe never run another mile. I maybe never be a size 2 again. I might have stretch marks forever, and cellulite for days. I will probably always be battling the damage to my beauty that the medications like chemo cause. My skin may never be clear and elastic again. My hands never soft, my eyes always a bit dull.
I will probably never walk quickly again. I may shuffle my feet forever. I might still spend days in bed. I may never be able to work again. And yet, I am expected to lose the weight, wear makeup, be inspirational and announce how lovable I am. But after the divorce and illness and everything, I am left staring at my dating apps wondering if there really are people out there who will love me now that my fat ass is no longer so flat and small.
I am told that someone will love me. I am told to give it time, my illness is only four years old and we are still figuring it out. I am told that time will heal my emotional wounds and restore my confidence. I am told that just because I don’t see myself as attractive, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. I am told that I am loveable as is, overweight and slightly broken.
But I spent a decade with a man who treated me as if I was only as valuable as I was beautiful. I was only worth something if I was young and thin and healthy. I spent a life in a culture that told me I was second best because I was a girl. I am only as good as my job, my house, my car, and my looks are. While not unloved, it is a culture based in superficiality. Loving yourself is of no consequence. Others will love you for you.
So, I sit, starting this journey to loving myself. Whatever that is supposed to mean. I am trying to find my own definition since so many of society’s have failed me. Social platitudes have failed me. They offer no path, no advice, just emptiness that leaves me wondering if everyone really has this figured out, or if we are all suffering in silence in the same boat, afraid that others will see the cracks in our façade. I find myself divorced, singled, chronically ill and disabled, and trying to figure out how to love this version of myself when I failed so epically at loving the version of me that was supposed to secure my place in the world.
I don’t know how to love myself anymore than how to “let it go.” Useless phrases meant to quell rather than actually help. I see them as a means of shutting people up, or offering words of comfort without having any actual meaning behind them.
It should be so easy.
So, why is it so confusing and hard?