I don’t wake up every day loving myself.
I am not in awe of my intrinsic value and beauty every time I look in the mirror. Some days I wake up and I want out.
I want out of my skin, I want out out of my body, I want out of this particular life.
Some days I curse my sensitivity. Sometimes I hate that I am so easily broken, so easily hurt and so easily shaken.
I have fallen down more times than I can count.
And you know something? That’s okay.
I don’t intend to leave this world with my heart intact. As the wise Andrea Gibson said:
“I intend to leave this life so shattered there’s going to have to be a thousand separate heavens for all of my flying parts[…] And none of them look hip at the coffee shop, but they all have God saying ‘good job, you’re finally not full of bullshit.'”
A couple years ago I made an unspoken promise to myself that I would wake up every day with the intention of, if not loving, then accepting myself. Accepting my skin. Accepting the stretch marks, accepting the soft parts, the muscular parts, the rough parts and the smooth parts.
Accepting my easily broken heart.
Some days are hard and some are near impossible. It is difficult to love myself when my heart is breaking.
It is hard to love myself when I’m feeling lonely, when it’s all I can do to get myself out of bed.
The friendship I had with my body had fallen by the wayside years ago. From the time I was ten I felt betrayed by it and its changes. It changed too quickly and it changed too soon. I was twelve years old when I looked in the mirror for the first time and realized there were things “wrong” with me.
From that day forward, I was on some self-created diet almost every day of middle school, and by ninth grade I had developed an eating disorder.
I believed that I wasn’t enough or that I was too much: I wasn’t out-going enough, easy-going enough, smart enough, put together enough, strong enough. I was too emotional, too fickle, too quiet, too introverted, too scattered.
Most twisted of all was that I believed I wasn’t good enough at having an eating disorder. No one would look at me and believe I was starving myself some days and throwing up the next.
I was never just…enough.
Quickly, I put two and two together: essentially everywhere I turned, I was told that thin was attractive and being attractive was the only way to be enough. “That easy?” I thought. Thus the eating disorder, a means through which I believed I would finally become enough.
By the time I reached sixteen I was too exhausted to get out of bed some mornings, let alone run another mile. I was also too exhausted to keep trying to be enough.
And so I gave up. I let go and I laid there.
It was in the surrendering that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was enough; that I had always been enough, and that I would always be enough–that perhaps “enoughness” is something every human is born with, and is not something we can lose or destroy. That maybe there wasn’t some place in me that needed to be filled by more food or the next diet, or a guy or even a self-help book.
That maybe I was complete, right here, right now.
After a year or so of working through my eating disorder, I was presented with the idea that I could love myself exactly as I was, in this moment.
This idea was a radical one. And I didn’t look back.
Self-love is an ongoing, never-ending practice for me. Some days it’s hard as hell, some days it’s not too bad and some days I love my body completely. I’m learning to speak to myself with tenderness, with appreciation.
It took a long time for my body to forgive me for the way I had treated it for so many years, and it took a long time for me to rebuild trust between us. Trust that not only was my body enough, but it was a gift, it was magical and it worked exactly as it should.
One of my teachers in life taught me this phrase: “Here I am, as I am, take it or leave it.” This has become my mantra. In the hardest moments, when my breath catches in my lungs, I repeat to myself, “Here I am, as I am, take it or leave it.”
My body is ever-changing; it is sometimes confusing, but always right.
It is hard in some places and soft in others; it is flexible and strong and capable of more than I can imagine. My body is wise beyond my comprehension, my body is home.
My body is enough.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: author’s own