It has taken me a long time to write this post.
I have been dealing with some pretty heavy negative self-image issues lately and every time I sat to write this post, I couldn’t get the words to flow from my heart to my fingertips.
Every time I write a blog post, I pour a lot of energy into what I want to convey to you readers. I sometimes walk around my kitchen-living room loop talking out loud to myself while I make sure the words come out perfectly. Sometimes when I am in bed at night I send myself little text messages with ideas or phrases I want to include in a blog post… because I know I can not rely on my sleep-deprived memory alone.
This post has been quite different. I couldn’t get my emotions to come out. I had a little blockage, I think – and that is unusual.
You may or may not have noticed that I have taken a little break from everything “Waking Up Thirty.” All I wanted was a little time away to refresh myself, but I didn’t realize that the more time I spend away from my computer, or away from my phone, that I was going to have so much fun… and we all know time flies when you are having fun.
So here we are in September.
September is like a revamp time for me. I will forever and always consider September my New Year. I have more goals for September 1st than January 1st by far. As a kid, Summer felt like an entire year for me and was a great opportunity to reinvent myself. Then September would hit and it would be “The Great Unveiling” of a new and improved Allison. It was a time when I could practice new things that I had manifested over the summer months and y’know… pretend to be different than I was a few weeks before.
“Not only do we compare ourselves to others, but we are also in a trap of comparing ourselves to ourselves.”
We like to play pretend a lot, don’t we?
If you even have an Instagram account, you know what I am saying.
I had to delete that app because I simply couldn’t even fathom getting to the level of false-reality that it cultivates.
Super posing, perfect angles, photo edits, false ideas of wealth, perfect lighting, paid for followers & comments… the list goes on. I really feel like this sort of platform is harmful to my mental health. Not only does it make me feel inadequate, but it also instills a sense of consumerism to combat that feeling of inadequacy. After all, we can buy happiness? (Note the sarcasm.)
Or, maybe I just followed the wrong people. I am not sure. #Sorrynotsorry, Instagram.
But, it all comes back to the idea of comparison, right? We compare our lives to others based on what we see, and if what we see are perfectly polished and edited versions, what do we expect?Of course, that will end up taking a toll on anyone who is immersed in that sort of habit on a constant basis.
Not only do we compare ourselves to others, but we are also in a trap of comparing ourselves to ourselves.
If I could have a dime for every time one of my friends said, “I wish I was as thin as the first time I thought I was fat,” I would probably be a hundredaire. Do you even know how many dimes it takes to make $100? It takes a lot of dimes… and I don’t have that many friends, so that gives you an idea of how many times we give ourselves that negative self-talk.
We also crave those before and after pictures, don’t we? Before and after photos are a great tool when we perceive the after is the better version.
“What I am getting at here is you need to use more than your eyes now.”
We are a visual species. For millenia, we have used our eyes as a scanner to let us know if our partners would be a genetic benefit to our offspring. What is the ratio of their body parts? How symmetrical is their face? Are they healthy and will partnering with them allow our genetics to carry forth?
Unfortunately, over time our attention spans have gotten a little shorter. Pair that with our visual tendencies and drizzle with a bit of judgment and we have a recipe for being inaccurate probably at least 50% of the time.
What I am getting at here is you need to use more than your eyes now.
I am going to give you an example or two.
See this super blurry (my bad) before and after?
That picture is really me. On the left, I am about 40ish pounds heavier than the me on the right. Getting to that point took a lot of hard work.
I remember posting this before and after picture on Facebook at the time and getting so many comments from people who were impressed with my progress and gave me virtual high fives. I would get in-person comments from people who I hadn’t seen in a long time too. It was a great motivator for me to see progress and have some positive reinforcement from other people.
But, once in a while I would get comments from people like, “Oh, now you just need to work on toning your arms.” Or, “You just need to shed a few pounds.”
Every.Single.Time I got comments like these, I just wanted to slap those people and yell, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FAR I HAVE COME?”
Those people had no before picture of me to compare. There was no way in their visual little minds that they could possibly think that I had to work so hard to get to where I was. Eventually, those comments are what became my internal voice because even I began to forget where I had been.
Here is another before and after picture for you. I hope this one is a little less blurry:
These pictures are about a year apart. Which one is the before and which one is the after? Are you confused?
Don’t I look so incredibly happy on the left?
What you don’t know is I was in the throes of feeling like a shitturd.
My Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was flaring up so badly that I was having symptoms left and right. I was riding the depression and anxiety bungee cord and being jerked around like a rodeo clown. In this photo, I was about a year into actively fighting against it all. I knew deep down that my struggle was going to be a long one.
“I still feel like I need to shout, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FAR I HAVE COME!?” on a daily basis. Mostly, I need to say it to myself. “
The photo on the right is my “after.” I don’t look much different, do I?
I know these are only pictures of my face, but trust me, there has been no significant weight loss. I have no ripped abs to show you. My arse is in the same size 16 jeans.
But, I am telling you right now I have comes so very far from the picture on the left.
I still feel like I need to shout, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FAR I HAVE COME!?” on a daily basis. Mostly, I need to say it to myself.
The feelings I have about my self-image are so deeply ingrained in my subconscious. I feel like we (especially women) are told from birth that we need to work on ourselves. We are never good enough – there is no after photo of us that will ever be good enough. The media tells us this, therefore society listens and follows suit.
I was in a wedding once and the photographer was hanging out with us girls while we got pampered and ready for the big day. We are talking full makeup, full hair and ready to get glam. He said something that I will never ever forget. It was along the lines of, “Brides and bridesmaids are alway asking me to photo shop them to make them thinner or shave off ten pounds. I wish they would just realize that hard work needs to come before the wedding.”
I understood where he was coming from, totally – mostly because I wanted to ask him to do the same for me. But, what I really wish I would have said to him was, “We always want to be ten pounds thinner… even if we have lost ten pounds.”
How sad is that? How awful it is to feel like we are never good enough and constantly need to sacrifice and modify ourselves. It doesn’t matter how much hard work we have put into getting where we are, we are judged only by a fleeting moment.
We have no idea how far someone has come on a journey they were on. We often meet them in the middle and decide we can see how hard they have worked. Sometimes we offer shitty advice, sometimes we doubt them, sometimes we just want them to play pretend and make sure they edit themselves to please our visual loving selves.
If someone else were to paint a picture of what your journey has been solely based on the snapshot of who you are today, how do you think you would feel? Do you really think they would understand the full scope of your struggles or your successes thus far? Would they know where you want to be based on what they see in this instant? Will they comprehend the hard work or the evolution that has been necessary to get you to this moment?
The truth? It has taken me over THREE YEARS to get to a point where I am mentally and physically ready to be in charge of me again. Those three years in itself is a pretty poignant before and after snapshot for me. It is a snapshot in my head. Noone else can understand where I have come from and there is no pretty angle or edit I can give anyone.
I am done playing pretend.
“Wake me up when September ends.” – Green Day
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