Time to Get REAL. (project 52 post 1)
The beginning of the year brought an influx of my photographer friends starting their annual project 52's and project 365's (a series where they take an image once a week or one a day for a year). I totally want to jump on board as I think it's an amazing opportunity to document your life and family in a way you might not had before (I tried a similar project last year and failed after 25 days). So off I went, to my blog forums to see what the first assignment was. Week 1 = self portrait. Oh funnnn, I thought! I immediately began to mull it over and kept my eyes peeled for how I would portray myself. Hmmm shall I get a mirrored image? Will I even be in it at all? How do I feel right now, how do I define myself at this moment in time?
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks while in the midst of one of my morning rituals. OMG, this is what consumes me. I spend 85% of my day with this on my mind. I agonize, I push, I guilt, I pressure myself. This is me, this is my self portrait:
This TOTALLY bummed me out. But it was a cold hard reality. I step on my "thinner" scale EVERY morning. Without fail. I get up, hit the loo, wash my face, brush my teeth and step on the scale. The 2.5 seconds it takes for my digital reader to flash the results I take a deep breath in (please let it be lower then yesterday, PLEASE).
And if anyone is willing to read this, I urge you to just bare with me and hang on until the end of this post.
As soon as I realized this was my self portrait I knew I had to blog about it. It's something I've struggled with for a LONG time, and something that still to this day defines and haunts me. Traceable back to the very moment of inception. Sixth grade. Yup, you read that right, at the ripe old age of 12 there was a crack in time. A moment where I went from an innocent child to a hurt, confused little girl. I had just spent a super fun weekend with one of my best friends, Teckla. We went to the waterpark, we swam, laughed and played, and of course documented it all. After the weekend concluded we raced off to the Wal-Mart photo center to get that roll of film developed so I could relive all those good times. An hour later I flipped through those pictures with such excitement! Until a voice over my shoulder uttered the words, "Oh my goodness, look at your pot belly!" My what? "Oh yes! Look at that thing! You need to learn how to suck that in for pictures little girl." Heart, sank. I didn't think there was anything wrong with me? I'm skinny!? Looking back now as an adult, I realize that comment wasn't meant to be hurtful and wasn't even serious. But as a naive little girl, I didn't understand that. I was insecure and sensitive and that innocent sentence stuck with me.
Years passed, I grew, and next came high school. Which for me wasn't a bad time at all. I loved high school. I loved my friends, my fellow sports mates, the BOYS, every thing. But from the beginning, from my first day of 9th grade, that horrible self image started to get bad. And I mean, B.A.D. That same person that once told me I had a pot belly, kept throwing those comments my way. "You don't really want those oreos, those go straight to your gut." "Suck in your GUT when you walk Jessica!" "Look at that little jelly belly you have (with a playful smack to my stomach)!" "Don't you want to go outside and walk the dog or something? You need to get some exercise." Those comments were real. They came often, and with each one came a blow to my self esteem. So I took measurements to keep myself in line.
I had a friend who was doing some teen modeling, and she needed to stay uber thin so I naturally attached my wheel to her wagon. She taught me to wear a rubber band around my wrist, and if I felt I wanted to eat something just give it a good hard SNAP! and you'll feel better. She taught me to cut out a picture of a super model I wanted to look like, laminate it, and put it on the speedometer of my car so I was forced to look at it every time I was alone in the car. My bedroom walls and the fridge were covered in Dolce and Gabbana ads and Victoria's Secret models. Another friend's mom taught me a phrase that would help me each night when I wanted a bowl of ice cream, "Go to bed hungry, wake up thin." The list dragged on and on.....
At age 16 I remember wanting to fit into this itty bitty dress for the Valentine's Day dance. I survived on Diet Coke and saltine crackers for two weeks. And the day of, wore control top panty hose to hold in my jelly belly. Still feeling gross.
For the next few years I would yo-yo back and forth between caring too much and not caring at all. Using laxatives to lose weight (I hated throwing up) and skipping meals here and there. Eventually I realized this was INSANE, and I liked food a lot, so I gave it a break. I just tried to work out here and there and not pig out too much. But always in the back of my mind I thought to myself, ugh this stupid jelly belly is so gross. If I could only be thinner. I wish someone would have SLAPPED ME ACROSS THE FACE. Told me I was beautiful, told me I was perfect the way I was. Told me that the person who said these things my whole life didn't know what they were doing and didn't TRULY mean it. But no one did.
One more documented case of skewed self image. My wedding and honeymoon. I worked my ASS off, literally, working out like crazy, eating lean cuisines, trying to get that perfect body for the beach. And man, I accomplished that goal. I rocked it OUT. But did I think that then? Nope. Not at all. I remember thinking I was glad no one was around the secluded beaches of Fiji, because I was EMBARRASSED to be in my two piece. I want to go back in time and tell myself to F off. Because, I was freaking hot! But you can't turn back time bitches, you just can't.
Cut to 4 years later. I start going through some personal problems. I start suffering from depression and anxiety, things get a little crazy, only to find out it's actually Bipolar disease. I'll spare you the gory details, as that could take up a month's worth of blog posts, but point of the story is the weight started coming on.... a LOT. The bigger I got the more depressed I got. Then I got pregnant, and on came more weight. Up to the day I gave birth coming it at a whopping 215 pounds. Baby comes out, depression comes back on. I hate myself, the way I look, the mirror, the fact that I let it spiral out of control. I start working to lose the weight. Here I am, 45 pounds lighter later. Holy crap?! 45 pounds down!? Go YOU. Nope, not go you, you're still 25 pounds away from wedding day weight. Do it, do it now. Eat less, work out more, DO IT DO IT DO IT. You SUCK.
That's where I was this morning when I woke up. Then project 52 saves me. This is what you've come to Jess? Really? You're a mother. You have an opportunity to teach your child the ways of the world, and this is the example you want to set? Not cool man, not cool. Something has to change. NOW.
So today I start my NEW challenge. The challenge to do it the right way. The healthy way. Today I need to stand in front of that mirror, stripped down to the bare essentials, and tell myself that I'm beautiful. That in due time, with the proper amount of time, energy and determination I will be what God intended me to be. Not a moment too soon, not a meal skipped, and as a happy, healthy woman.
If you are a mother in someone's life I URGE you not to focus on teaching your children to be "thin" or "look good." PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ask them to be healthy. To exercise for their hearts, their muscles, their minds. Don't EVER tell them to be skinnier, that they could stand to lose a pound or two. It's not cool. At all. Teach them that they will live longer, be stronger and succeed by exercising and eating fruits and veggies. Do whatever it takes to help that special person in your life focus on the correct part of self image. Learn from other's mistakes. And above all, tell them they are loved. Every day. Every hour.