WHEN YOU'RE TOO AFRAID TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR
I'm not sure at what age this started, or why, but at some point in my life, I stopped loving myself. It was hard for me to look at my body in the mirror. When I did, I hated what I saw. (Fair warning, if you have this problem too... I don't have an answer for you. But I hope that by sharing my stories, I can help you in some way).
These feelings have come and gone, on and off throughout my 30+ years. Obviously, as a young child I loved myself. I hear stories of how I would dance and sing in the mirror, try on several outfits a day, etc. I'm not sure when the shift happened into insecurity, but I'm assuming it was middle school. I remember comparing weight and pants sizes with the other girls and was totally shocked at how much "bigger" I was than all of them.
In high school, I regained confidence somewhere along the way, loving who I was but still always hating my body in the back of my mind. I remember freshman year of college, spending hours trying to find something that I felt confident in, because every time I stepped out the door I felt like I wasn't good enough.
Around my junior year of college, I found a new respect for myself when I started creating things. I got into a journalism program that essentially allowed me to direct, produce, write, and design the wardrobe for all kinds of fun projects. It was so much fun, and exactly where I needed to be. Still, though, I found myself carefully calculating every calorie, skipping dinners, and working out tirelessly. I lived in the tanning bed, knowing that a good tan would make me look slimmer. I kept my hair long and dark, for the same reasons. I remember several friends saying "I've never seen you look this good" - which only fueled the fire.
That being said, I really don't look back on this time in regret - I really WAS HAPPY. This was probably the first time in my life that I had a profound sense of respect for myself. I was proud of what I was doing, and of my body. But still... that damn mirror. I'd catch a glimpse of myself as I walked through the a department store, and cringe. "Am I really that huge?!" Looking back now, I realize. I may have been happy and proud of myself, but I hadn't worked on the inside. I still wasn't good enough. I still hated the person I saw in the mirror.
I met my college sweetheart (who is now my husband) towards the middle of my senior year of college. I'll never forget my first time going to his pool with him at his apartment. My stomach was in my throat, I was so nervous about being in a swimsuit around him and his friends. I still don't know if he ever realized how insecure I was. I tried to hide it, because what is attractive about insecurity? Nothing. No idea if it worked. Maybe he will tell me after reading this... ha!
So this pattern of insecurity continued until the summer of 2014, when I simply had enough. I was tired of being afraid to look at the mirror straight on. Once I started forcing myself to look, I slowly started realizing that I didn't hate everything. I would tell myself the things I loved about myself instead of focusing on the things I didn't love.
I decided to start taking photos of myself in the mirror, once every two weeks. I hid the scale in the closet, and instead I took measurements. I started a clean eating meal plan, and a program that was social media based. We would take progress pics and post them, and also keep each other accountable with workouts and clean eating. This seemed to work for me.
It actually resulted in something I never would have dreamed. Forcing myself to look at the mirror, and then seeing the results was LIFE CHANGING. Yes, I worked hard. I lost a ton of inches. Within 6 months, I was down 2 pants sizes and the happiest with myself I had ever been. But the point of this story is not about the numbers or results... it's about what was happening to me ON THE INSIDE.
I was participating in fitness challenges I would never had dreamt I could do. I was essentially proving to myself I was good enough. I was getting 1st place in competitive spin classes. Growing up, I always thought I wasn't athletic or coordinated enough to do things like that. I was eating completely dairy and gluten free, and completely content. I was proud of myself. And I could finally look in that damn mirror and say, I LOVE YOU.
This is what I mean when I say LOVE YOURSELF. Love who you are on the inside, and it will show on the outside. Respect yourself, and others will respect you.
Two years later here we are. Just the other day I caught a glimpse of myself in a department store mirror. I shuddered and realized I've got some work to do on myself, on the inside, again. Proof that there is always work to be done on the inside. That is a story for another day, definitely linked to postpartum... stay tuned.
*A few notes about what I'm wearing in these photos. I chose this look to feature with this article because I was legit really uncomfortable while taking these pictures. So... this is me, being uncomfortable, taking photos. Unedited. I basically forced myself to "own it" and I think the photos came out great. This shirt is one of those things that every time I wear it, I get so many compliments... but I am always self conscious in it. I'm obsessed with the jeans (wearing a size 16) and the booties. These booties are so comfortable and they come in several colors! Thanks to Morgan Hayes Photography for capturing these.