2015

Carnival Mirrors

Every time I lace up and hit the trail, I lose myself in thought.  My thoughts are often heavy with worry and anxiety when I set out and lighten with each step. Sometimes, by the time I finish my run, my mind has gone to mush and I’m riding a runner’s high. Sometimes, I’m still wound so tight I can hardly think straight.

On my run last week, I found myself thinking about conversations about weight, body type, body image and self-esteem that I’ve had with people recently. I thought of sweet and encouraging messages I’ve received; I thought of words and stories that made my heart hurt; I thought of comments that have kicked my self-esteem in the runner’s knee.

I lost a lot of weight a few years ago, but I sometimes still forget that I’m much smaller today than I was then. My wedding dress was a size 10. Today, I wear a size 0-2. I recently went shopping and took a size 8 to the change room, worrying it would be too small. Body image is a weird thing, and mine is distorted. My reasonable self knows that, but while you see me as I am I see my body like it is in a carnival mirror. The kind that makes your legs two inches long and five feet wide.

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Losing physical weight is much easier than shedding emotional weight. Insecurities are hard to drop. Doubt is an awful thing, creeping into your mind when you least expect it. It can undermine you and derail you.

A few years ago, I had very little confidence. Most of the people in my life today would probably tell you that I’m a happy, confident person. They are probably right. I am confident as a professional. I’m pretty confident as a writer. I am confident as a friend and a colleague and I’m even finding confidence as a parent. But I’m not always comfortable in my skin.

As I was running on Thursday, I thought of a conversation I’d had with a friend of mine who said she wished she had an ounce of my confidence as I wrapped up a run in little more than what most people would call a bathing suit. I was dripping with sweat, mascara on my cheeks, working to catch my breath. I’d been having a crappy day that day. I thought of the many times I’ve received messages asking me for tips on dressing oneself so they “look thinner” or “better” or just “feel good”. I thought of how many others look in the mirror and see a distorted reflection of their body. I thought of how many others have a distorted image of who they are, as a person.

I’d love to say that body image and self-esteem are a hill you can climb, but I’m not sure they are. They’re like the stair stepper at the gym, rotating always. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the strength and the energy to make it up that next flight. Sometimes it feels like an escalator. Be kind to yourself. Breathe.  You are enough.

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5 thoughts on “Carnival Mirrors

  1. I’m sorry that negative body image is something you struggle with. I’ve got my own insecurities but nothing like what you describe. For what it is worth, I think you are absolutely gorgeous. If we were walking down the street together, everyone would stop, stare and wonder “How did that guy get THAT lucky?”

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  2. So much is subjective. Humans are really pretty terrible at reasonable expectations and defining things within reasonable boundaries.

    The phrase “a lot” for instance is extremely subjective and means completely different things to each individual person.

    This struggle is real. I know.

    I also think that slapping the “beautiful” label on every problem or situation makes things worse. What if I don’t want to be beautiful? What if that word isn’t my choice or goal? Brains have their reasons, you know? If I value something *more* than someone else’s perception of a beauty standard, does that make me less?

    Let me go ahead and answer that. No. No it doesn’t. 🙂

    Beauty is one very teensy measure. And it is absolutely in the eye of the beholder.

    So, it is up to each and every one of us to find what we value most and live a life that reflects that.

    Great post.

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    1. YES!

      This is so much more than size or beauty for me. I know I’m good at my job, but nine times out of ten I still have to mentally prep myself to speak up in a meeting or lay out a suggestion. I psych myself out. We all get hung up on ideals – whatever they are – and they can eat away at us.

      I agree with everything you’ve said, my friend. Happy Saturday!

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  3. I love this post!! So true how we can see ourselves so differently. I lost about 40lbs and 4 sizes and gaining a little back recently has been hard for me to accept. I love this post!

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