Becoming Comfortable In My Own Skin

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In my last post, I was pretty open about my weight and the struggles I had with managing it effectively, but I didn't really get into the emotional aspect of being so heavy.

I was thinking earlier about how I felt about my body at 13. I was overweight then (I've pretty much always been at least a little overweight), and I was really paranoid about my body. We spent a lot of time at the ball field, because my sister and I both played fast pitch softball, and my brother played baseball, so between the three of us, we were there several times a week. Obviously, I had a uniform I wore when I played, but I also had a uniform I wore when they played: flared jeans, a tee shirt or tank top, and an Aeropostale zip-up hoodie that I refused to take off, no matter how hot it got. I was so paranoid about what people might say about the extra jiggle in my thighs or my upper arms that I would rather just be a walking sauna than expose skin (and also, in my mind, expose myself to criticism).

What really saddens me about that looking back is that I actually had a pretty decent body. I was heavy for my age, but I can't even imagine what having a body like that would be like now as an adult. I wore size 13 jeans (though I could also still squeeze into some of my girls' size 16 shorts). I can't even remember the last time I fit comfortably into an 18, let alone a 13/14 (I emphasize comfortably, because I was squeezing myself into some 18s just a few years ago, because even though they were tight to the point of being uncomfortable, I was more concerned with what the tag said than with how I looked). It was probably middle school, because I remember being into a 16 by the time my freshman year ended.

Unfortunately, that insecurity followed me into adulthood (shocking, I know).

But it didn't only affect my body image. It began to creep into other areas of my life as well. I began to doubt my intelligence. I doubted my worth. I doubted my abilities. And frankly, it sucked. My confidence was quickly replaced with false cockiness, used as a coping mechanism because I didn't know how to be somebody who wasn't sure of herself. I've worked my way through a lot of those feelings with the help of therapy and maturity, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't still struggle with those feelings regularly.

It wasn't until I met Tom that I actually started to feel comfortable, but even then, it was only with him. I still continued to wear jeans in the summer, though I had lost the hoodie by then. However, over the past couple of years, I have been making slow progress in being okay with myself. A couple of years ago, I bought a couple of pairs of bermuda shorts to wear to work. This summer, I started wearing tank tops by themselves, arm fat and all (that was a HUGE step for me). But perhaps one of the biggest impacts on my self-confidence occurred this summer at a wedding.

Our friends Isaac and Erica were getting married, and Tom was in the wedding. I don't really have a lot of "nice" clothes (in fact, most of my clothes are older than my relationship), so I decided to splurge a bit (and by splurge, I mean $25 -- I seem to have a problem spending money on myself) and I got this really cute Cynthia Rowley dress at TJ Maxx. I had been LBD-less for several years, and it fit the bill well. It's an XL, and I didn't expect it to fit, but it did. That said, it is a *little* tight on top, but I still loved it and bought it anyway. It's sleeveless, and the hem is a couple of inches above my knees.

Shockingly, I wore that dress to that wedding not only without a cardigan or anything over it, but without any leggings, which is the really shocking part (because if my thighs are exposed, I'm wearing leggings, but I didn't that night).

And you know what?

I didn't wonder once that night if people were judging my thighs. I didn't wonder if people were offended my arm flab. I just felt good. More than good, even; I felt HOT. I even got a couple of compliments from people I didn't even know. I really wish I had a picture of myself from that night. Or maybe I don't. Maybe it's better if I just remember how I looked as I saw it, not as seen through someone else's eyes (or a mirror selfie).

I haven't bared my thighs in public since then, but that night, and how it made me feel, has done so much for how I feel about myself. While I am still dissatisfied with my body, I no longer hate my body, and I think that's a really big step for me.

And after a lifetime of self-loathing and fat shaming (both from myself and those around me), it's really nice to feel that way.

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