Self Love That Isn't Like Working a Second Job.
Updated: Jun 24
So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about body image. While everybody is either trying to be thin or trying to believe they really are sexy, I'm just...trying to be...
There's a lot of pressure to be thin (obviously), but there's also a lot of pressure to view yourself as a sexy and perfect object regardless of your body type. The weird thing is that we put this strange pressure on ourselves in an attempt to accept ourselves.
I'd like to propose that we get right away from objectifying ourselves as being something ugly or something sexy. Can't we just be?
I am currently sporting the most weight I think I ever have. I’m not over weight, I’ve always been pretty skinny. I’ve just put weight on over the last two years and this has led me to an interesting discovery.
Lets go back in time to Emily’s life in the not too distant past…
In a land far, far away, many years ago (2) my life was pretty messy and stressful. The mess and stress had been going on for quite a long time, 10 years actually. During this time of my life I was stick thin. I had the perfect body by societal standards.
It wasn’t because I was healthy, or happy, or exercising, or disciplined with what I ate. It was because I had so much stress and trauma in my life that for long periods of time I was unable to eat. And when I did, my body had a hard time processing it.
A dear friend finally explained to me that my body was in “fight or flight” mode. Because I was living in a state of needing to protect myself, my body wouldn’t allow me things that required me to drop my defences - like eating and sleeping.
Basically, I spent my teenage years and mid twenties dealing with things crashing and burning. My life fell apart regularly. I dealt with a lot of abusive narcissists and sociopaths, my unbridled mental health issues, bullying in the work place, homelessness, poverty, child bearing, brainwashing, religion, extremism and a truck load of other super fun things which, for the sake of time, I won’t mention.
Once things finally started to come good it took me a long time to recover from a type of PTSD that I still experience on a mild level.
Basically, when there was no sign of crashing and burnings I developed what you might describe as really shitty anxiety.
A psychologist kindly explained to me that I wasn’t used to things being ok and thus things being ok made my terrified about disaster I assumed I simply hadn’t discovered yet.
So I went through a stage of having to retrain my mind to understand that life could actually just be OK.
And for the last two years, life really has been ok! So much more ok than I ever imagined it would be! So ok that it’s actually, usually, pretty fabulous! I suspect that this is what “normal” life is like for others, it just feels SUPER fab for me! The novelty has not worn off!
You know what else!
Now that I’m happy and not stressed out all the time I eat heaps and I drink heaps of great wine! I enjoy food so much! I cook big meals and we eat it at home with wine, or we go out and order yummy food and it’s wonderful! I’ve also put on weight, which is a new thing for me.
I guess I could always go back to dying slowly from anxiety and crippling depression and regain a supermodels figure. Or I could give up my studies so that I can exercise for 2 hours a day. I could stop eating the foods I enjoy so that I can have no body fat at all
That all sounds so fun, so worth it, don't you think?
Now this leads me to my discovery that I want to share with you.
To be serious for a second, I actually have found it a challenge that I’ve put on a bit of weight. I originally felt like a bit of an alien in my own body. It’s not a huge amount of weight, but you notice changes in your own body and it was enough to make me feel uncomfortable.
The first revelation I had about this was that fad diets and all that shit are just that, shit.
Unless I want to change something big in my lifestyle then I’m not going to change what weight I am. Since there’s nothing in my lifestyle that I’m prepared to give up to try and look like the latest Instagram girl, I’ve decided to become acquainted with myself for the time being.
I have discovered that how I feel about my body image is linked to how I feel about myself as a person.
When my life was (for lack of a better word) shit, the fact that I was a size 6 in everything and had no fat on my body was kind of the only thing that made me feel like I had value. I hadn’t achieved very much that gave me a sense of self worth. I was deeply insecure and hated myself to the point of it being seriously dangerous.
Sure, I had a “great body”.
What a life.
Over the last few years I’ve accomplished some things that make me feel proud and happy with myself.
I decided to study whatever I wanted to and never to stay in jobs where I was being treated without respect. I decided to work towards having a job that I love and am good at. I decided not to keep negative, narcissistic people in my life. I decided never to tolerate anyone treating me like a moron simply because I am a woman. I decided to pursue music.
I have done lots of gigs. I have recorded and released my first album and put together a band. I received two awards after my Diploma of Music course last year for most outstanding student and outstanding performance.
And guess what, I have noticed that I no longer value myself based on my body meeting some fucked up version of 'perfect'.
But here's the thing.
The more I work towards the things I want the less I actually notice my body. I don’t sit in front of the mirror telling myself desperately that “my body is sexy, it really DOES meet some standard of perfection!!!! It’s society that needs to change its standards, not my body!!!!”
Do we not realise yet that all of this sort of self talk is so enormously focused on what we look like that it’s not really getting away from the problem?
I am becoming more and more confident in who I am and what I am capable of. The more I grow in this true self love, the less I NOTICE my body!
When I do notice my body, it’s just my body. It’s healthy, it does its job for me, it allows me to live a fulfilling life. I don’t think I’m the hottest thing going all of the time and I don’t fucking well have to!
This doesn’t mean I’m crippled by self unacceptance, it’s quite the opposite.
Sometimes I’m like “Geeeez, Emily lay off the wine! Fuck!.........you know you won’t do that” and then me and my conscience laugh and laugh and laugh and get on with the day, happily accepting ourselves.
My body is not something I desperately need to believe is “sexy”. As long as I’m healthy and looking after it, that is all I really need. It doesn’t define how I value myself, because nowadays I value myself based on things that actually matter.