January 8, 2011

Forecast: mostly sunny

Non-secret: I love challenges. I'm a list-maker, so I like having a list of goals to check off. The problem, though, is that the challenges I participate in tend to be "challenges" in a loose sense - they feel more like to-do lists than things I have to really push myself outside of my comfort zone for. There's one challenge out there now that would be a true challenge: Ellen's Hate-Loss Challenge. A lot of people are participating, and seeing their posts so far has been really inspiring. And yet I can't bring myself to commit to the challenge ... because this would truly be a challenge, in the difficult-to-impossible sense.

I'm a totally capable lady, I really am. I can lose 91 pounds in 23 weeks. I can run 3.1 miles in 38 minutes and 11 seconds. But I can't look in the mirror and say "Mary, you're beautiful" without feeling like it isn't entirely true. And my inability to feel honest while saying that little sentence seems to diminish all the other successes.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not walking around in a constant state of self-loathing and depression. Some days I catch a glimpse in the mirror and think I look good, but there are always conditions. everyone else thinks she's beautiful - why doesn't she?I look nice in this shirt - but underneath, my stomach is an absolute mess from years of morbid obesity. My hair looks nice - but over here, look how jiggly my arms still are!

It's a reaction I've had for years, something that was instilled in me as a child by my mother. Whenever I would look in a mirror for longer than a second or say something about thinking I looked good, she would add a condition, or tell me something different that needed improvement - and not always physical. I have a vivid memory of being about twelve or thirteen and being pretty excited about finally getting breasts and hopefully starting to look like a real person instead of a chubby little egg with legs, and my mother telling me to quit parading around in front of the mirror "like some little sexpot" because I still had "a lot of growing up to do." I don't think she consciously wanted to be cruel, just realistic - it was the way her own mother had been to her as well. The effect has been strong and near impossible to overcome, likely for both mother and daughter. Even when I like what I see in the mirror, I don't like one hundred percent of it - there's always another flaw, something to fix.

My sister gave me a lovely Nalgene bottle for Christmas that says "life is good" on it. There's a sun, and underneath it says "Forecast: Mostly Sunny." That's the outlook I aspire to - that life is good, always, even when there are clouds in the sky. I want to be able to look in the mirror and notice only positives, even if negatives exist. Even if I'm not at my goal weight yet and even if I'm having a bad hair day and even if the skin on my stomach is loose, I want to love myself. I am more than a number on the scale, and I am more than a reflection in the mirror. I want to love myself even when my eyes are closed.

I think this is especially important as I consider trying to enter the world of dating and relationships. There's a lot of residual heartache from Scott, who was the first person ever to compliment my body - even at 345 pounds, he told me I was attractive, and he desired me even when I could hardly stand to look at myself in the mirror. It's inauthentic, I know - this isn't love or caring, this is a thirty-something year old married man who will say what he thinks I want to hear in order to get me to do what he wants. The problem is that for a long time, it worked, and so most of my experiences with men have been based on similar deceptions, and now every time a guy tells me that he thinks I am beautiful, I question his motives. Not that it happens terribly frequently, but still, I simply cannot fathom the idea of that being someone's honest belief. Are this guy's feelings real, or does he just want something from me?

I have to love myself before anyone else can love me - it's cliché, I know, but just because it's cliché doesn't mean it isn't true. With self-love will come the ability to truly open my heart to others ... and the faith that someone out there is capable of being sincere when he tells me that I'm beautiful.


Maude said...

It's definitely one of those true cliches. You get back what you send out emotionally - and if you're sending out feelings of self loathing and unhappiness, you're most likely going to get back a guy who feeds on those negative emotions. Loving yourself gives you the confidence to know that you deserve more - that you deserve better. And you do!! And that's when you'll find a guy who knows it too.

Life as a Caterpillar said...

I'm working on exactly the same things as you at the moment. Here's a big cheer to us!


Amy said...

It is soooooo true, and probably the most true cliche out there... and it's ongoing too. I've said it before about how I didn't find my boyfriend until I learned to love myself, and when I struggle to love myself now, we have struggles in our relationship. You have to love and respect yourself to be able to have a healthy love with someone else.

That picture of you is so pretty - I love your hair! My hair is either straight...or straight.

Anonymous said...

I agree but not completely. I know that I am a beautiful person...on the inside. I would do anything and everything for any one of my friends..I always try to do the right thing, and I'm true to myself. But, when my fiance tells me I'm beautiful, I have a hard time believing it. I love myself..on the inside. I don't love who I am on the outside. I don't believe that you have to love the whole package before someone can love you. My fiance fell in love with me and he thinks I am perfect the way I am. I disagree. I don't love this 200-something pound woman he sees but he loves every pound of me.

It is possible to love someone and have someone love you back. You just have to meet the right person and that person may help you to love yourself.

Anne H said...

The trouble is for me - they are all true perspectives....
Then they change in the fickle sea of what my life is.
Then they change again.... and again... so it's really hard to say.
Good you've got an anchor on so close to your heart!
(Which I love, by the way!)