I recently made a post on my Facebook & Instagram account, referring to my often distorted image of the way I view my body. It was a culmination of thoughts that's been silently brewing in me for a long while. You know - those kinds of thoughts that desperately fight to come out and be heard in your alone time, but you shy back from, justifying your need to "protect yourself".
That floodgate of vulnerability seems to be a constant theme to my life; as many efforts as I make to be a genuine person, in one way or another I continue to hold things back for reasons of shame and fear. Things that inevitably demand to be felt in order to move past them. And many times, that vulnerability only comes by way of a shit storm. Why does it seem so often it takes a shit storm for me to realize it's okay to be real and imperfect?
It was refreshing for me to face my insecurities in such a way, I think I found a new power in myself that I have so often doubted. That power coming from the belief that I am beautiful and strong, despite all the ways I inevitably make mistakes. I am beautiful despite not looking like the athletic physiques that flood my social media and tv screen. I am beautiful despite the many times I gorge on ice cream and donuts or half-ass my way through a gym workout. And I am beautiful in spite of achieving certain athletic goals and outward appearances.
Body image has been something I've struggled with for as long as I can remember. And I know I'm not the only person, gay, straight or otherwise, who has felt this way. I can look back all the way to my elementary school days, thinking that if only I was pretty, people would like me and I would matter. I don't think it helped growing up in a family with 9 kids, and being a triplet at that. You can imagine you wouldn't get as much attention as one in a smaller family would. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and wouldn't trade them for the world. But I do think that need to feel important in part grew from a feeling of loneliness that often came from being 8th in a family of 9, and the lone boy in a trio with two other girls.
In high school, I thought that being beautiful meant being as skinny as possible. Funny, none of my other male counterpoints seemed to have this viewpoint but me, yet the belief prevailed all the same. It was a belief that at one point led me to drop 40 lbs during my Senior year. I don't know if I had a diagnosable eating disorder, but I do know I would fool myself into thinking I was full all of the time, as a way of avoiding eating too much food. When I learned about calorie counting during my CE Nutrition class, I remember taking that incentive to account for everything I ate. Going past the 500 calorie mark a day was a big no-no for me; it meant I was weak. Even at every benchmark I reached for my 6'2 frame, 175, 160, 150, it was never enough. I needed more, I needed a sensation that none of my accomplishments could ever give me. And I shamed myself over and over for it. Shame for being too weak.
I carried that shame into my college years and on. Where calorie counting acted as my coping mechanism during my high school years, running became during my college experience. Marathon running was not only an excuse for me to keep healthy, it was an excuse for me to keep skinny. And from college on I've since learned to also incorporate working out into that mix of so often shame induced activity.
Don't get me wrong, I know that working out, running & even calorie counting can all be very good things that lead to greater health and happiness. And if you ever asked me, I would most likely tout off a list of benefits as justification. But deep down I knew that the reasons I would superficially list off were not the embedded motivation behind my actions. No, more often than not I was trying to fill a void that I believed apparent to who I was. And as I grow older, the more I see the voids I've created within my own security, the more damaging I see the effects are from such fissures. Even when I've achieved "the look" I've wanted of six pack abs and an aesthetic appearance, I couldn't allow myself to really look at myself in the mirror and appreciate my physique. By all accounts, you could parooze my Instagram and see such photos. But even in the majority of such moments, I would only see how much less perfect I was than then the other guy and how much more other people were achieving. I gave the credit to these photos of people who flooded my social media and undermined my own efforts. I desperately wanted to feel otherwise, but so often that depression remained. It's sad really when I think about it, that I've never really allowed myself to appreciate my body and love myself outside of any external factors.
I can see now how skewed I've often been in my thinking; what I wanted to feel the whole time wasn't a destination I needed to reach as a belief I needed to nurture within my own mode of thinking, free from any behavioral pattern. So this post really isn't so much a Come to Jesus, I've found the light sort of thing. Looking back on my past years I duly note how hard it is to really see yourself the way you would like to be seen. It's a practice I need to grow and one that needs constant attention to be maintained.
I really do believe that a person who finds himself as sexy & beautiful is in reality so much more sexy & beautiful than the picture perfect GQ model who doubts they are (which I think many do). And the amazing thing about that thought for me is realizing that I am always only one thought a way from being the person I really want to be. It's all a matter of choosing that belief within myself.
So this year in 2018 I choose to make that a major practice of my life and I have hopes of what it can do for me. Even now since I've started, I find myself so much more comfortable admiring myself in the mirror. I've been able to allow myself to eat that slice of cake and not worry about the repercussions, or working it off in another cardio session to be ok.
I am good looking. I am sexy. I am all I need to be. No other opinion matters.