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.
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.