Saturday, August 08, 2015
When I told my husband last week that I needed to buy a pair of bigger jeans, he just casually said, "Okay," and we added a stop to the Lane Bryant outlet store to our day of errands where I scored a pair for 40% off. By the end of the day it was no different than needing to buy a replacement throw pillow or some other inanimate object. But, I confess, that state of mind was cultivated. It was certainly not the initial reaction.
[BACKSTORY: My life has been dominated by stress....for a long time. But from the start of this year it has become not only a mental challenge but also a physical concern marked by some startling symptoms, including weight gain (of course) and a bigger than golf-ball-sized bald spot over my left ear. Let me tell ya, when your hair just FALLS OUT it's horrifying and a wake up call that something isn't working. And perhaps due to my vanity, it was enough to get me to reevaluate my priorities and take a deeper look inside myself. I'm prone to perfection, extremely harsh self-criticism, all-or-nothing thinking, and anxiety. Knowing this is half the battle, as they say, but I found myself in need of help with how to tackle the other half: Doing something about it. I reached out. I started working with a professional counselor, I opened up to people I trust, and I've started writing more in the forms of prayer journaling, poetry, and blogging. I am practicing the art of giving myself space - actual real estate on the interwebs and on paper - for my emotions and thoughts.]
So, here I was, squeezing uncomfortably into my largest-sized jeans and feeling awful; feeling like I've been failing at pretty much everything and now this was just further (visible) proof and a cruel form of punishment. But my husband didn't look at me any differently nor want me any less. HE didn't give me any sort of lecture about healthy weight or say the mean things that I was saying to myself. My friends didn't find me less funny or compassionate and my step-kids weren't giving me less hugs. Even my counselor encouraged me to acknowledge that I've been dealing with several BIG things - that just one of those big things would be a lot and here I am wrestling with 3 or 4 any given day. The people who know me and love me accept me despite my weight gain, despite my flaws. And so, I fought the thoughts that try to tie my worth inversely to the size on the tag and I bought bigger pants. And it's OKAY. Actually, it's a relief! (...and it turns out, they are a little bit too big.)
I feel there is an importance to saying this, especially with how pervasive the media and culture is in regards to our body image attitudes: ACCEPTANCE OF SELF IS NOT GIVING UP ON ONESELF. Please read that again. ACCEPTANCE OF SELF IS NOT GIVING UP ON ONESELF. I did not buy bigger pants as a license to stop exercising or to set the world record for how much full-fat dairy a person can consume. I did it to be comfortable. I did it to help myself focus on being healthier because tight pants, as anyone can tell you, are quite a distraction. And I certainly want to be healthier but what I think so many of us forget is that health lies not only in the physical but also in the mental, emotional, and spiritual. All aspects are equally important because they are all woven together. Acceptance of self is a radical act no matter one's size, gender, race, or any other orientation! It means giving less sway to the critics who put others down to feel better about themselves and to the marketers who want us to buy whatever they're selling to "fix" us. Who is motivated to take better care of themselves if they are filled with self-loathing? Not me. So, I'm going to wear my bigger pants and find my way to a better me, inside and out.