A letter to my body image insecurity

Dear younger me,

You were at war with yourself.

I am not sure the exact moment you felt triggered and began to see yourself as disgusting. I don’t think there was an exact moment you decided to believe that you’re too fat or too much to handle, it was just a bunch of little moments and a lot of lack of love. Oh, younger me, you were never meant to carry this beyond the cross.

In some ways, it’s not your fault. Hearing everyone else complain about their own insecurities and their own miseries didn’t help. It’s like everyone was filled with their own disgust and breathed that on everyone. Geez, what a world we would live in if instead of all of us shaming ourselves with each other we complimented and encouraged each other? #imaginethat.

In other ways, the pain and frustration you felt all those years searching for answers, healing, and avenues to feel confident was real. Here’s what I wish I could have told you along the way.

I’d tell you that the point of taking care of your health and physical appearance is not to get attention, post a picture, get compliments and praise, or wear a form fitting outfit or to look good in a bikini. It’s not about that. You know what does look good in a dress or bathing suite? A smile. A heart filled with gratitude and confidence. Laughter, dancing, pure love, and freedom. A girl who knows she’s created for curves and fullness. I’d tell you to show me something natural, like stretch marks or tummy rolls. You’re not fat, you just have fat. 

I’d tell you that your body is a temple, a vessel. It holds experiences and stories. It has fought battles and has overcome so much, even things no one knows about. It holds love, pain, struggle, victory, and total mystery and no one can see that from a number on a scale — and since they can’t see whats inside, they have no room to talk or critique the outside.

I’d tell you to eat. Eat to nourish your body.  Fuel it with nutrients. Don’t fall for the lie that starving yourself is more beneficial.  Don’t try to kill your body, try and kill that thought that makes you believe you have to starve yourself.  Don’t fall into the trap that makes you think you have to starve yourself to keep your “morning skinny,” and don’t fall victim to the late night binge sessions. It’s funny how you would beat yourself up for a slice of pizza, but eat a sleeve of oreos on a bad day like it was OK? Moderate balance, my darling. So go out for pizza and ice cream with your friends on a Friday night and eat breakfast the next day after.  You have to fill yourself with lots of water, lots of energy, and lots of goodness — and that comes through food and food is one of our best friends.

I’d tell you that you’re still so so young. Your body is developing in more areas than one so be patient with it. Life is nothing but a long formative journey and you won’t fully grow into yourself. Mind, body, soul are all trying to develop — give them some love and credit for how far they’ve come! Hormones are out of whack, periods are real and so is bloating and it’s unavoidable. Hips are supposed to be round (because babies are a part of your body’s purpose) and you’re going to have more fat on your body because of it (to house the little babes). I’d tell you a bootylicious body is quite appealing and sexy. 

I’d tell you that no man is actually seeking a Victoria’s Secret model. (I’d also tell you not to watch the fashion show and tweet about never looking like that.) I’d tell you that there are going to be guys in your life who love you to pieces. I’d reassure you that the guys you dated only saw beauty and goodness never a number on a pair of jeans. I’d tell you to thank them, even though there was no wedding with him, for allowing you to feel so beautiful and to rest knowing you were enough for them to love you. Promise me when I tell you the right man will love all your curves and edges and not just see you for a face and a body, but for your spirit, character, and heart.

I’d tell you to stop believing in the world’s empty idea of beauty because it’ll convince you you’re unlovable. Misery comes when you pour your energy into venting about how unhappy you are. Don’t think about how much you’re unhappy just look up, start aspiring toward greatness. Give your heart to the joy of working out, for the balance it provides, the better sleep, less health complications, and overall mood booster. You are what you love and if you love being shallow and trying to fit a size 00 then you’re going to end up feeling so much misery inside because you will never meet that expectation. If you spend all your time talking and thinking about belittling yourself then that’s what’s in your heart and what you’ll end up doing for the rest of your life. Nobody cares about your excuses or wants to hear them.

I’d tell your that everyone is dealing with issues you wouldn’t believe. Everyone is so self-conscious, and life brings us to our knees. A perfect body is not going to solve the issues we face. In the words of Beyonce, “this is for them sexy somethings, that body ain’t always gonna get you outta everything.”  Exercise can be the place you grow, heal, get stronger, prove yourself wrong, and help your health but it is not the finish line, the ultimate source of all love, the source of all confidence, the place of all acceptance, it is a piece to the puzzle.  Every piece to the puzzle is necessary, but it’s not the whole picture.

I’d tell you that people will help you fight this. Learn from good experts. God will put people in your life who teach you a thing or two, motivate you, push you, and help you get results you need.  When those people come into your life who you compare your own success to, do me a favor and focus on you and how YOU have come. This is YOUR story, not theirs. For the love of God, surround yourself with people you trust to make you better, not drag you down.

I’d tell you that God doesn’t make junk. The same loving and creative God who made sunsets, flamingos, and peacocks made you and you are a treasure. Your body is holy territory. You are sacred. Human moods can trick us into believing we are disgusting if we feel disgusting but this is a lie. You are worth everything because you were bought with the blood of Jesus who proved there was nothing that He wouldn’t do to make you feel His love.

Lastly, I’d tell you to hustle. Not to prove others wrong, not to be skinny, not to look good for a photo opp, not for a date, no, for yourself. Read the first line of this article again. At the end of the day, you’re at war with yourself. You can’t turn against yourself, you have to love yourself, love the way you look, love the way you move, eat, dance, and live — so hustle. Run after it. Pray for it. Your worth fighting for.

Yes, you had to deal (and still deal) with all the flaws, the extra 10 pounds you gain at Christmas, the bloating after a slice of buffalo chicken pizza, and even loosing your motivation because you go away or get sick, and other things get in the way of your routine, but please know that the work you put in, the hope you hold, the beauty you have right in your own body is beyond precious. Don’t regret not loving it RIGHT now. You are lovable and worth the joy right now, not 10 pounds lighter, not in a bikini. Now.

Let’s get it.
Xo, Shannon