September 19, 2011

Body Image and Hard Work

Self esteem and body image are something I have struggled with my entire life.  As a little girl I had thick glasses that made my eyes look small and distorted my face.  As a pre adolescent I developed breasts much earlier than all of my friends.  I remember my mum constantly telling me to stop slouching - I wanted to hide my new forming body.  I was never a little girl.  My dad and my brothers are all 6'4".  I have my Dad and my Oma's body type - high waisted, slim, muscular legs and a tendency to gain weight around the middle.

I remember the day that I first felt even remotely pretty.  I was fourteen years old and my mum and dad finally said I could have contact lenses.  Mum and I were in the optometrist office and the doctor put the contacts in my eyes.  I looked at the reflection of my face for the first time - with no glasses or having to be three inches from a mirror and said, "I never knew I was pretty."  This was one of the best moments of my life - to be able to see my face with no distortion from glasses - to be able to see all of it clearly in one piece, not my eyes then my nose and then my lips, but my beautiful face all in one glance.

My weight fluctuated a lot during high school and I was never fully happy with how I looked.  I had my eyes and my face but was never very happy with anything else and I would never let anyone see me with my glasses on.  By the time I got to my early 20s I was busy traveling and I tried not to give it much thought - I pushed my weight and how I looked out of my mind most of the time but compared myself constantly to my friends and strangers around me and was never satisfied with what I saw in the mirror.

I moved back to my hometown when I was 25 with a broken heart, run down and 50 pounds over weight.  The main reason I had even come home was to have surgery.  I had been waiting for 2 years to have a breast reduction and I was going to have it no matter what.  I woke up from surgery a different person.  It was as though I had been in a deep meditation and life seemed clearer - I knew above anything else that I had to get healthy.  I started practicing yoga at home with a video and walking.  I was unemployed and healing so I couldn't do too much but the yoga helped me focus on something that wasn't my broken heart.  6 weeks into my unemployment I got restless and found a job.  My office was right next door to a gym so along with my yoga video every morning I went to the gym five days a week.  I started gaining confidence.  I lost fifty pounds.  Shirts that never would have fit me before the surgery fit like a glove.  I was full of energy and felt like Juliana for the first time in my entire life.

Then I met my LW.  He encouraged me to show myself off and not hide my body.  He would constantly tell me I was beautiful and sexy.  He made me feel beautiful when I was with him and I believed that he thought that I was beautiful.  Some days I would look in the mirror and be alright with what I saw but was never fully satisfied.

And then I discovered Bikram yoga.  I was exposed to myself completely in front of those mirrors.  I met myself head on with no excuses and no exceptions.  I went from wearing shorts and a tank top to shorts and a sports bra.  I moved from the back of the room to the front of the room.  I went from not wearing a bathing suit in public to baring every part of me in the BYS Yoga Competition.

About 6 months ago I looked in my bathroom mirror as I was getting ready to go out and I thought to myself, "I like what I see.  I like all of this.  I am beautiful." and I believed every word.

I can't say that I like my tummy every day of the week or that I am fully satisfied with my arms BUT I know that everyday I work hard at being stronger and I work hard at loving myself.  A year ago I couldn't do one full push up, now I can knock out 20 (I did just get on the floor and do them, I couldn't lie to you!).   It makes me fully believe that we can do whatever we want - we just have to believe in ourselves.


Lacey said...

YEAH! This is such an awesome and empowering post!!! I loved reading about your journey! Fitness brings us all together! :)

Lauren H. said...

Yes! I agree, LOVE this post.

We are our own worst critic sometimes. But it is amazing when that clarity happens and we see our beauty.

Yolk E said...

Fabulous. Just fabulous. Thank you so much--I needed much inspiration today.