Highlights for My Body Image Breakthrough, Part 3
- 3 books + 2 weeks = 2 nanoseconds and 1 I-Love-You (1:35)
- How I lost 4 months that I still don’t remember (5:30)
- The battle for my self-worth – hint: I win! (8:40)
- In my wholeness and happiness (11:25)
- My happily ever after (13:40)
My Body Image Breakthrough, Part 3
This is the final piece of my 3-part series on how body image plays a role in confidence and relationships. I know you’ve been waiting for a long time for the conclusion, and I appreciate your patience … I was struggling and trying to get it back together.
In the first two episodes [ Part 1 | Part 2 ], I talked about how my body-image nightmare began, what I made it all mean, where I started looking for self-esteem because I didn’t have any, and how my first love devastated and humiliated me, and I still made his behavior about me.
I’m sad and exhausted just listening to it again, but I really feel it’s important for my pain to serve a purpose, so I shared it.
Maybe you can relate to what I’m talking about or you can understand someone else better now that you might understand what they’re going through.
This week, I want to tell you where I found some freedom from myself and others.
3 Books + 2 Weeks = 2 Nanoseconds and 1 I-Love-You
After years of therapy – which I loved (I think everyone should try therapy) – I learned how to communicate better, how to sit with discomfort (which I still suck at), how incredibly dysfunctional my family really is, and how to handle uncharted and unsettling professional situations.
I had no idea how to deal with my family in a healthy way, how to ask for raises or promotions, how to speak up in professional settings, how to handle being sexually harassed and advocate for myself – AT ALL!
My therapist was a life mentor for me. She held my hand through some of the scariest and most difficult situations I’d faced and guided me to solutions that I NEVER would have arrived at alone. She changed my life.
She helped me stand up for myself, which I’d never done in a way that felt good to me. The foundation I built in therapy helped me years later when I hired a coach.
I felt a little better in my own skin. I started reading self-help books – The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Now, I’m not sure Elizabeth Gilbert meant her book to be self-help, but sharing her story and crying on the bathroom floor resonated with me. I saw myself in her. If she could find happiness after bawling on the bathroom floor, so could I.
In Louise Hay’s book, there’s an exercise about standing at a mirror and saying “I love you” while looking into your own eyes.
I couldn’t do it.
For two weeks, I tried every night before bed, and I always ended up in bed sobbing.
Finally, I was able to catch a 2-nanosecond glimpse of my eyes in the mirror and say what I had never thought to say before: ”I LOVE YOU” – to none other than myself. It wasn’t a long time, but after two weeks of not doing it and crying afterward, I counted that as a success.
Those three books were the first stepping stones to my Self … to loving the woman inside me who was hiding from judgment, criticism, and trauma.
Slowly, I started to feel better.
I started saying affirmations to myself which I believed and felt true to me: I am enough. I am worthy. … and so many more I don’t even remember.
Healing was two steps forward and one step back … forward progress, just slow as hell. I started feeling better, sleeping better, eating better, and even exercising more. I felt like I was full steam ahead, even though I was actually going at tortoise speed.
A big stumble backward was an unfortunate encounter with a personal trainer. It left me blacked out and numb for 4 months.
How I Lost Four Months That I Still Don’t Remember
I had been working with this personal trainer for a while, and by his goals, I was successful because I had lost about 50 pounds. Then he wanted to “kick things up a notch,” meaning he wanted me to be losing even more weight than I was.
I had lost those 50 pounds over about 6 months, and he wanted more. My people-pleasing Self wanted to make him happy, so I wanted more, too.
At that time, my goal was specifically weight loss, so I can’t put it all on him – we were both wrong. Now I know that weight loss isn’t the goal, feeling strong is my goal. I will never have a weight loss goal again … it’s not healthy for me or my mental wellbeing.
He asked if he could look at my refrigerator to see what I was eating. I have never been more excited for anyone to look inside my refrigerator! I beamed with pride as I opened it to show him – yogurt, sugar-free Jell-O, apples, Diet Coke, a head of lettuce, various condiments, and more items that I can’t remember. I was so proud of myself!!
He started taking things out of the refrigerator and putting them on the counter. After a few items, he stopped and looked at me, then told me to get rid of everything that didn’t come from the earth. I was left with a head of lettuce and some apples.
He said everything else was shit, and I shouldn’t be eating it.
I was devastated. I literally blacked out, and I still don’t remember anything from the 4 months after that.
I gained back 30 pounds through unconscious emotional eating.
This is why women have a fucked-up sense of body image and don’t know what to eat.
We have real bodies, and we need to eat real food AND we need to enjoy what we are eating. Yes, food is fuel, but it’s not about perfection, and it’s not about crazy diets that make us drop 10 pounds in 4 days! It’s about balance.
I put all of my faith into my personal trainer and NOT MYSELF! I followed everything he told me to do because, clearly, he knew more than I did.
But all that experience did was fuck me up even more and prove, once again, that I’m not good enough.
The Battle for My Self-Worth
One day, I was walking through the grocery store, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the yogurt I used to buy.
It quite literally took my breath away, and I started crying. I remembered what happened at my refrigerator 4 months before, and I felt a deep sense of shame – shame that I had blacked out and not remembered the last 4 months, shame for being bad and not doing the right thing, shame for not being perfect.
And I walked out of the grocery store without any groceries, just a profound sense that I was wrong, my body was wrong, and that no matter how hard I tried or how much progress I had made, it was never going to be enough.
I spent the next several months to a year battling for my self-worth. I felt like I was army-crawling through the grossest conditions to find my Self.
I slowly began to appreciate my gifts – not my body, but some things about myself – and my confidence began to grow.
I decided to take a trip with my sister to celebrate her earning her master’s degree, and we spent 3 weeks in Europe with her husband and best friend.
That trip was amazing and really shifted everything for me. I’m not sure if it was the trip itself or the locations we visited or what, but I remember feeling whole for the first time in my life.
I was 36 years old.
I remember journaling that I would be okay if I didn’t get married or have children, that I would be the best aunt I could be and just be happy with what life had presented me. That felt true to me, and, for the first time, I was enough just being me…
Not me trying to change myself or my body. Not me rushing to some imaginary finish line that kept moving. Just being Shawna was enough.
For once in my life, I felt like there was nothing I needed to fix or change. I felt whole with myself and my life.
That trip changed in ways I wouldn’t realize for years.
In My Wholeness and Happiness
In my wholeness and happiness with myself for truly the first time in my life, something unexpected happened…
I met my future husband the night I stepped off that plane.
I didn’t know at that moment that he would end up being my husband, but I was different, and I approached everything about him and our soon-to-be relationship differently.
When you are confident in who you are and what you want, you will show up differently, and I was honest like I had never been.
So, when he told me – on our second date – that I didn’t have to see him anymore, and I shouldn’t get too attached to him because he was moving back to Wyoming, I blurted out, “That’s not an option for me. Let’s just see what happens … anything can happen in 4 months.”
Who the hell said those words?! Because it wasn’t the me that I was familiar with!
The old version of me would have thought he was trying to give me a gentle letdown because he didn’t like me, and I would have gone into the Witness Protection program, sold my house, and changed my phone number.
(Which sounds extreme, but it’s how intensely I wanted to avoid the feeling of rejection.)
Instead, I stood firm in myself and knew that I liked him, and I wasn’t ready to stop seeing him even if he did move in a few months. (Spoiler: he doesn’t move to back to Wyoming 😊)
And that was just the beginning of how I did everything completely different from all of my previous relationships.
I was confident in knowing what I wanted … confident in myself, and also able to be vulnerable, speak my truth, and be honest with myself and him about my feelings for him. I knew that I could handle anything that came my way.
In the past, I would have pretended that I didn’t care if I saw him again. At that time, I may have pretended and played it cool to my sister, but I was always honest with him and with myself.
My Happily Ever After
We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary recently, and I couldn’t be happier to be married to him.
He’s my rock. He sees me for who I really am when other people see what they want to see, and I allow myself to be seen by him where sometimes I still hide my truest self from other people.
This life is an evolution, not a race to some arbitrary finish line. I make mistakes and have setbacks, but I keep moving forward.
I feel myself on the upward spiral staircase towards my greatest self, and it’s a journey and not a race … and I’m learning to enjoy the ride 😊
Until next time…
p.s. For the first two parts of this 3-part series, go here and here.