A Personal Journey: Discovering the Truth About Unconditional Self-Love
“We can point our fingers at society and the patriarchy all we want, but until we look internally at ourselves and where we derive our own value from, we will never defeat this lie that has infected every corner of our lives.”
Body Talk: Compliment Or…
As a relatively average shaped person working in the fitness industry, I hear “You’re so confident!” quite often. I think it’s a compliment… otherwise, it’s just an observation. One of those “You’re eyelashes are so long!” or “You have thick legs,” type of comments.
It’s always fun deciding how to respond to this. Should I say, “Thank you?” Or, “ I know?” Or how about, “ Do you have a follow-up comment or are we just saying half-thoughts out loud today?
Deep down we all know there is always a follow-up thought; we just also know that no one wants to admit it. Because when the comment is, “You’re so confident…” the follow-up thought is a universally understood: “You are not the conventional beauty society demands, but you carry yourself as if you are anyways.”
An Unchanging Societal Message
Please don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty of this as every other person. I know every single one of us has said these words to someone with endearing intentions, and of course many have been on the receiving end as well. It is obvious that in most cases, the hidden meaning is not malicious. But that doesn’t mean it’s not pointing to a much larger societal message.
But here’s the deal; I’m not going to waste this space and your time talking about the larger societal message. Because while it is inherently damaging, awareness of this message does nothing to alleviate the accompanying pressure we are all too familiar with. We can point our fingers at society and the patriarchy all we want, but until we look internally at ourselves and where we derive our own value from, we will never defeat this lie that has infected every corner of our lives.
Body Issues & the Value of Self
Growing up, I wrestled with the standard insecurities and body issues. I’ve always had a soft stomach and wider thighs, so as soon as I began to tower over my friends and outweigh my mom, I couldn’t help but compare myself to everyone around me.
“If love is unconditional, it cannot ebb and flow with the numbers on a scale. It can’t be measured in tablespoons of peanut butter or hours on a spin bike.”
“She’s heavier than me, but at least she has bigger boobs that kind of balance her out.”
“I wonder what it’s like to have legs that don’t touch in the middle…”
“If my stomach was just flatter, nothing else would really be a big deal. All guys want to see is a flat stomach.”
As an adolescent, and well into my young adult life, every ounce of my self-perceived value came from the feedback I received from others. When every boy I had a crush on had a crush on one of my slimmer friends, my self-worth was in the toilet. When I lost weight and got a boyfriend, compliments poured in and my esteem soared.
The Price of Vanity
The first time this happened in a major way was when I started college and began strength training seriously for the first time in my life. It only took a couple of months for my body composition to change fairly dramatically, and the attention I received for it was previously unmatched. It went to my head quickly and turned me into someone I am, for the most part, no longer proud of.
I am obviously so grateful for the journey that I have been on and where it has led me, but I know I made some decisions out of selfishness and an addiction to the attention that also directly caused other people pain. Vanity comes at a great price, and it is a slippery slope when we choose to equate how much we value our selves with how much we value our bodies.
The Truth About Self-Love
And herein lies the major point: total acceptance and appreciation of your physical body, while I do encourage it, is not the epitome of self-love. We’ve allowed ourselves to warp this idea of Self into something we can measure and outwardly portray and therefore compare to others. If love is unconditional, it cannot ebb and flow with the numbers on a scale. It can’t be measured in tablespoons of peanut butter or hours on a spin bike.
Love yourself through the process of healing your body and mind from the abuse of society’s standards. Allow yourself to separate who you are and what you are worth from how you feel about your body. We can pursue healthier lifestyles and fitness milestones without hating ourselves or our bodies along the way.
Celebrate your body by doing the things you actually enjoy and try to remember that your value cannot be added to or detracted from by anyone else without your permission. The “Societal Message” may never change, but you are allowed to.
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