Moving through this journey has been an emotional experience for me. I’ve taken time to reflect and remember how I have treated myself in past years.
Those memories include body shaming.
Body shaming is defined as inappropriate negative statements and attitudes towards a person's weight or size. And in this case, it was mine.
There were a few times in my life where I was over-weight. The freshman 15, probably more like the freshman 30 for me, during my first year of undergrad, and then for a few years after I birthed my son. My thinking was that if I hated the way I looked enough, it would propel me into doing something about it. What I did not realize at the time was that I was essentially teaching myself to hate myself.
For me, hating the way I looked got mixed up into the parts that defined me. I thought I was compartmentalizing those negative feelings I had about my body. I wasn’t. It turns out that it made me sad. Saying mean things to myself about my body did not inspire me to change. The sadness turned into procrastination and procrastination turned into behaviors that I did not see coming . . . unhealthy eating, inactivity, anti-social behavior, etc. There came a day when I decided to challenge my negative thoughts. I had to meet it headfirst and stop retreating.
My undergrad years were about 20 years ago. I don’t have recollection of how I decided to make my way into healthy living. However, I do remember the years post birth of my son (he is 7 and I am 39). It was not until about a year and a half ago when I decided that this negative self-talk wasn’t helping.
Slowly and religiously I countered those negative thoughts with positive affirmations. “Hey Paula, don’t be so hard on yourself. Your body birthed a human!”. “Hey Paula, Don’t give up.” “I’m worth it.” The list goes on. Finding those replacements was a huge effort mentally but they manifested in better decisions on eating, physical activity, and re-engaging with friends and family.
These experiences are private but I’m making a decision in my life to release my story to so that others don’t feel alone. I felt alone. I few days ago I released a blog with the title, “Loving the body you are in even if it’s not the body you want.” I used my father-in-law as the subject in honor of Father’s Day, but this story I share with you right now is the true birth of this title. It would take me a lot of tears, love, and perseverance to transform. I’m finally through it and hoping to never let myself go there again. Does this mean I never have moments of self-doubt? Absolutely not, it now means that I can separate what is fiction from truth.
Are you body shaming yourself? Do you know someone who is? Feel free to share your story here. I bet sharing our experiences will create a chain reaction of support and positive energy.