The Year of Self-love

I have been thinking a lot about self-image, how people view themselves, and how I view myself.

I am not thin by any standards. My doctor told me that I have been growing this way since I was five, as if knowing that the trend started so far back should make someone feel better about being overweight.

I have never been happy with myself physically. For as long as I can remember, I have always compared myself to others. Some thoughts would echo, "My legs are bigger, my stomach is larger, my hair is flatter, my eyes are smaller, my fingers are thicker, my feet are wider, my boobs are smaller..." This took a toll on me throughout middle school and high school. I refused to wear shorts because the closeness of my thighs did little to fill the gap in my self-esteem. I covered my arms. I would throw my hair up in a bun because I was afraid anything else would be scrutinized. I was, and still am, self-conscious of my finger nails because there was little left but nubs from my endless gnawing on them from anxiety. Shopping for clothes was so nerve-wracking that I would avoid going in order to avoid the resulting panic attacks in the middle of the store. I worried too much about what others thought about me, or that's what I told myself. I now see I was simply projecting how thought about myself.

If only I knew I was only going to gain more weight.

I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life.

Almost hitting 200 pounds on the scale has been a giant fear of mine. 200 pounds?! That is disgusting! How can a guy like a girl who is 200 pounds?! Women are supposed to be dainty and petite. I had, and still have, a rule that I need to date a man that weighs more than I do. I want to feel small and delicate with a man I date, because most of the time I feel larger than everyone around me. I am only 5'3", but I feel that I take up more space than someone who is 5'7".

Now, I find myself having to face this fear. The earth's gravitational pull has the scale weighing me around the 190's. And despite this proximity to the very number I fear, I love myself more than I ever have my entire life.

How, you ask?

To tell the truth, I am not quite sure I would have never been comfortable enough to publicly post my weight when I was 160 pounds back in high school. But here I am five years later, willing to shout it from the mountaintops.

I have grown a lot in these past three years of college. I have taken conscious efforts to compliment, admire and love my body for what it is.

I have been learning to love my thighs, my arms, my stomach (even with the new stretch marks), my breasts, my feet, my face and every other inch that I have previously torn down for most of my life.

It may sound silly, but I taught myself to love my body more. The one part of my body that I hated most was my breasts. I thought they were ugly, because all I knew about breasts were the ones I saw in movies and porn. I thought they were too small for my body. That is when I decided that I wanted my breasts to be the first body part that I was going to love unconditionally. I would stand in front of the mirror, and tell myself that they were great and perfect, if only because they were mine. I felt stupid talking to myself and I did not believe it at first. Sure enough, with every passing day of speaking and hearing that message, I started to believe it. And I should, because it is true. Not just for me, but for everyone.

Am I one hundred percent better? Of course not. When you are conditioned your whole life to have body dysmorphic feelings and believe like you are not good enough because of your size, those thoughts start to take over your every thought.

The difference now, I think, is that I am truly learning to love myself. I have gone from uttering the words with no feeling to looking at myself with admiration instead of disgust. That is what I have dedicated this year to be; the year of self-love.

I never thought I would feel this comfortable and confident in my own skin. If someone had told me when I was fifteen and cowering behind baggy clothing that I would be here, I would have laughed and had them committed to a mental institution. But I have seen the finish line. I'm not there yet, and I will never be done with my journey. But I am grateful for each step, each time I've faltered and counted calories. Each step, no matter how small, has brought me here. I know I am not alone in this struggle. And it is not a struggle only women face. So I have a challenge for everyone reading this. Whether you are young or old, male or female, pink or purple... I challenge you to take the first baby step. Look in the mirror and try to love yourself. Try to make this the year of self-love.

Hating yourself is easy. Loving yourself is damn hard, but it sure is a whole more fun.