Can you remember the last time you had an epiphany?
I think about epiphanies all the time. Breaking points. Lightning and thunder moments that bang! change your life in an instant.
I probably think about them so much because I’ve had so few of them.
Most of the big transitions that mark my life didn’t pop up like a fast blaze. Their heat was a long time coming. A little friction. A little question mark. A little resentment. And then more and more, until it felt like my skin was sizzling from the discomfort of the situation, which eventually made me desperate enough to do something about it.
This is how it was when I made the decision to figure out why I hated my body and how I was going to un-hate it.
People often talk about the shame and pain of body insecurity. I definitely felt that, but the breaking point that pushed me to finally take action wasn’t either of those things.
It was the exhaustion.
Almost every waking minute, I was conscious of how my body looked from multiple angles.
Whenever I went out in public, I assessed the eyes and facial expressions of the people walking by, searching for a glimmer of disapproval in their brow or cheek.
It was pretty much a full-time job managing the lies and excuses I used to turn down invitations, or I’d commit to something but then cancel at the last minute.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired.
Maintaining the facade of being ‘fine’ when you’re actually judging and criticizing yourself nonstop is EXHAUSTING.
I carried Exhaustion like a necklace of concrete blocks until I just couldn’t anymore. I released it because I was tired of being tired.
I’m sure the time those older kids laughed at me for wearing shorts to a dress-down day at school was also a factor. And the time a relative suggested that I have a can of Slim-Fast for dinner. And the time a boy I loved told me I needed to run more. I’m sure those were all factors too.
But Exhaustion was what changed me.
Exhaustion wore me down until I had no more fucks to give.
“Sure. Go ahead and scorn these thick thighs. I’m done with giving a shit.”
I was defensive if anyone said anything about my body. (I still have a dose of that in me, and it feels honest and healthy, so it’s staying, but back then, it was gushing out like a firehose gone berserk. Ragey and resentful.)
And then… Well, I guess I did sort of have a breakthrough moment, although I can’t name a date or place, but there was definitely The Time Before (when I thought my body was the field of a silent, internal angst) and The Time After.
In The Time After, something pried my eyelids open and I saw a truth I’d been blind to.
How you feel about your body is how you feel about your life.
The body impacts more than our fashion and our sex. The body impacts everything.
When we’re in pain and shame about our bodies, we carry those things into our businesses, relationships, the way we eat, the way we think about money, and our political and social engagement (or lack thereof).
The body is not siphoned off into a separate category. The body is in EVERY category.
Because I’d been believing that I was too much (too tall, too big, too opinionated, too passionate, too emotional), I hadn’t just silenced myself physically. I’d silenced myself in every way.
- I made career choices that kept my creative ideas and ambitions on pause, year after year.
- I made friend choices that filled my life with people who only wanted a sliver of me, because I’d been believing that no one could truly want (aka: handle) all of me.
- I made romantic choices that stifled my opinions, my sexuality, and my biracial identity. More accurately, my most frequent relationship choice was to avoid relationships altogether, because they required a level of visibility and vulnerability that terrified me.
Exhaustion made me stop fixating on what you thought about my body.
But The Time After made me determined to go beyond the defensive rebel posture, and instead create a whole new body dynamic.
Seeing that my body was directly tied to stifling myself professionally, creatively and romantically, made me obsessed with creating the opposite body experience – for its own sake, and also so that those life areas would in turn start to evolve too.
Instead of detachment or even neutral acceptance, I wanted connection, trust and hot-damn-feels-good-to-be-alive-ness.
Where Exhaustion made me throw my hands up and declare I was done with the body, The Time After made me want to meet her, make her a cup of tea, and help her heal and move forward.
If I didn’t figure out the root of my body insecurities and then DO SOMETHING with that awareness (a lot of us think that awareness is sufficient in and of itself, but it never is), I don’t actually know what would’ve happened. I can’t imagine it.
I can’t visualize an existence where I sank into another layer of silence, hiding and feeling so utterly alone – again. And I’m glad I can’t see it, because I didn’t come here for that life.
You didn’t come here for that life.
We’re here for so much more. More aliveness. More joy. More creativity. More bliss.
We’re here for the MORE.
[This post originally appeared in Issue #13 of The Unmistakeable Effect]