He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.
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Looking back, I don’t remember a time that I liked my body or felt comfortable in my own skin. Somehow, early on, I came to the conclusion that my appearance fell far short of anyone else around me. My friends were thinner, prettier, and much more confident than I could ever hope to be. While they relished a new outfit, a skimpy summer bikini, and the physical changes that come with maturing, I was consumed with doubt and a deep feeling of inadequacy. I always felt fat. Always. I still do. I look through pictures of my childhood and staring back at me is evidence of a normal sized kid looking very uncomfortable at being caught on camera. There are pictures that show weight fluctuations but nothing that, in my opinion now, required much fussing over.
My mother was a dieter. She was always trying to lose weight and she never hesitated to take me along for the ride. I attended weight watchers with her. I attended overeaters anonymous with her. I counted calories with her. I learned the many evils that food presented and how its misuse was evident on thighs, tummies, and even the width of a wrist. I don’t recall it all in great detail. For some reason it comes back to me in bits and pieces with a word here, an action there, or the recollection of a disapproving look. I don’t think that my mother’s intent was to make me feel bad about my body, or insecure about my worth. At least I hope not. I think that she was uncomfortable with her own appearance and dealing with insecurities of her own. Inevitably, it managed to spill over into my life, wiggle its way in and, as time went on, I made it my own.
My self-talk became brutal. It carried a punch and I used it daily to beat down any chance of a positive self-image. I became my own worst enemy. Not only were those brutal words being said inside of my head, they began to spill out of my mouth in an attempt to save myself from humiliation. "After all", I'd tell myself, "how much can someone hurt you with their words if you’ve already beaten them to it?" I wouldn’t know the full impact of that for many years. I’m not sure that I know it now. I did become more informed, eventually. With that came awareness, and with awareness came remorse. I felt such an overwhelming sense of loss. A sense of loss for the person I could have been and the life I could have had, had I learned early on what truly mattered, what truly made a person worthwhile. A sense of loss for the person I could have become if I had learned to appreciate myself, physically and otherwise.
Remorse is fine and dandy if you pay attention to the lesson learned, put it to good use, and let the rest go. Letting go takes practice and understanding. Remorse doesn’t benefit anyone as a constant companion. What I’ve come to realize is that somewhere down the line I have to let go and move on. I have to make for myself a present (and a future) filled with what I wished-for for my younger self. It’s in my hands. I’m responsible for giving it to myself.
It's taking time. Little by little, I’m kicking out the negative stuff that’s roamed freely in my head for so long and I’m making room. I’m working hard to fill up those voids with more positive, understanding, self-appreciative, and loving thoughts. My intent is to make them permanent residents of my being. This is perhaps the biggest and most important personal challenge I will ever face. The most difficult, too. Still, I don’t care how hard it proves to be, or how long it takes me. After all these years I finally understand how important it is and that I can do this. I’m worth it. I am worth it.
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