|Self-love is hard when self-hate is the norm.|
I’ve been trying harder than ever these past few years to really love my body. And though I think I’m in a pretty good place right now, I still catch myself internally criticizing because I still don’t have a flat belly, nonexistent “muffin tops,” or a smaller chest.
I found myself puzzled time and again at how I could still be having toxic thoughts like that after all this time of positive thinking and research into nutrition and holistic health.
I thought back to try and pinpoint where these negative patterns of behavior might have started – and that’s when I realized that I’ve always had them. They were engendered in me from the moment I started comprehending language. These patterns of thought and behavior have been exemplified in nearly every aspect of my life—by my mother, sister, friends, exes, coworkers, celebrities, and people I have never even met.
If you asked me to, I probably couldn’t point to an example of a time when my mother didn’t think she was fat. I remember her gazing dreamily up at a photo taken when she was about 25 years old and in prime shape. Tall, thin, long-legged, and after her first child but before the next two. It was her “goal” picture. And though she has never met that goal, I have a feeling that even if she did, she’d still find something about herself to dislike.
I don’t really blame her; it’s hard not to pick apart your body when the beauty standards society throws in front of us have been made impossible by the magic of programs like Photoshop and the fact that most of our job descriptions don’t include hours a day at the gym or a personal nutritionist. We expect perfection of ourselves and others, but that’s an impossible goal.
Now more than ever, I notice my mother doing the same thing she’s always done every time I go home to visit. We’ll be chatting about something, and she’ll casually bring up how fat she feels, and how she needs to lose weight. It’s the same conversation we’ve had for years, no matter what type of shape my mother was in.
But now, my 6-year-old niece is there, listening quietly to the adults talk. Learning that tearing yourself down for being even a little bit imperfect is something that you’re supposed to do. It tears my heart in two
It’s not just at home, though. I experience this everywhere I go. Visiting friends, at work, and even while commuting, I hear women and men talk about how they need to lose weight, how they are on a new diet or cleanse, how they had a “bad” food day, or how if they just had so-and-so’s hair or waistline or eyes, they’d be so much happier with themselves. And if it’s not people talking about themselves, it’s people talking about others.
It’s insidious. It’s toxic. And it needs to stop.
How are we supposed to learn to love ourselves if everywhere we turn, the example is self-hate?