I love my body regardless.
This is something I tell myself (often), because I find myself hating my body (often). I suppose it began when I first started university. I didn’t exactly gain the freshman 15; I have a slim build, and lanky limbs, but as my fitness level dropped, I began to lose muscle mass. Then came the softness, the puckering, dimpling, and creasing skin on the back of my thighs that quickly became the bane of my existence. The more cellulite I saw forming the more the self-loathing increased. Truthfully, I was still in denial. I’d tell myself that (somehow) it will go away on its own; I’ll eat less, and I’ll go to the gym six times a week. But in truth, I was approaching my 20s and developing a more womanly shape. Looking back, I feel fairly certain that I wasn’t even remotely fat at this time. But this unfamiliar texture that had found its way onto my body turned my mind into a very unkind place. I know they say fat isn’t a feeling, however I’ll be the first to concede that your feelings can be affected by the dimpled surface of your ass.
My relationship at the time had started to drain my self-confidence. My boyfriend was the jealous type and I did everything to enable his possessiveness. It made me feel loved and worthy. I needed him to tell me how much he loved me by telling me how much he’d hate for another man to touch me.
He, on the other hand, went out often with his friends, he drank to excess every time, and there was always a smattering of “younger girls” in the vicinity to hang on him while he got plastered. (I put these young women in quotations because, to me, they are a concept rather than any particular group. I believe every one of us is bound by the shared experience of “younger girls” in one way or another. They are often found in their natural habitat, a house party, drinking superhuman amounts vodka, screaming “LET’S GET A PIC!” and then posting said “pics” in a 200-photo album on Facebook titled “We R who we R” or something equally ridiculous. But then they grow up; maybe they attempt a serious relationship, and begin to complain about other, even younger girls. I digress.)
He would text me sweet nothings littered with typos before midnight, and then there would be silence. I often told him before he left for these precarious outings not to forget about me. I mean, I would literally say “don’t forget about me” which I realize now is absurd. A pattern developed where I would wait for his texts, they would stop coming, and my brain would explode. I would stand in front of the mirror with clenched teeth staring at my fat. I would tug and pinch and berate myself for “letting myself go.” I would work myself into such a state that I would tell myself over and over that if I didn’t have this cellulite he wouldn’t leave me like this all the time. If I had a perfectly smooth and taut body, he wouldn’t get so drunk.
I would then spend hours pouring over the Internet, staring at pictures of hard-bodied girls with a fervor that is normally reserved for 14-year-old boys. Even during all this, I think I was aware of how disordered my thoughts had become. There was no link between my thighs and my relationship. The non-crazy part of me that remained knew this. But it comforted me to place blame on the fat on my ass rather than the dysfunctional dead-end romance I refused to renounce.
As we are apt to do at 19, I hung onto that relationship for far too long because it made me feel successful. Even if I was miserable and my self-esteem was unraveling, I was still proving to my peers that I was capable of commitment — but at what cost?
Eventually it fell apart for the reasons you’d expect. But I feared that this shame I’d developed would never cease. I lived in dread of anyone seeing my body. Bathing suits were off-limits and sex was a definite no. I envisioned scenarios in which a man would fall in love with me, tell me how beautiful he finds me, how badly he wants me. Then he would take my clothes off only to feel immense disappointment. To see my body in all its imperfections and think this is not what I expected.
Any time I was complimented, my mind would immediately call up the image of my reflection in the mirror and I would almost laugh at the flattery. You have no clue, I’d think to myself. If you knew what I really looked like, you wouldn’t be saying any of that.
We accept the love we think we deserve.
I am in a relationship now where I am fully comfortable being naked. I’m talking broad-daylight, unfiltered sun, even-on-a-bloated-day naked. Not to give you the impression that I’m just constantly nude now that I’ve found a man who accepts me. I only mean to say that if the occasion arises, I am not panicking and trying to slink into a corner, hunched over with my shirt covering my belly as I wriggle into my pants.
We have sex, and he has seen my body in ways I could probably never even imagine. Sometimes I still catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, candidly browsing my closet, and I sigh. There’s my bum, and it looks nothing like the hard-bodied girls on the Internet. But in my heart, I know that I accept myself. And perhaps some may think it’s sad that the catalyst for my self-esteem came from the love of a man, but I’m not ashamed to say he has helped me a great deal. I see my bum, as I stand there in cute underwear, and I feel love for what he loves. I see my stomach and I think of how carefully and lovingly he touches me, without the harshness or judgment to which I so often subjected myself. I feel an appreciation for the beautiful, sexual, imperfect, human form that I’ve been given.
I don’t know if there are any hard and fast rules about the correlation between our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves. But I have found that the mind is capable of being very kind, or very cruel. Such is love, I suppose.