Unproductive Ways to Look at Your Body
I wrote this essay almost a year ago during a writing workshop I took. The prompt was looking at "something" from different angles, like a kaleidoscope. I wrote this on a day when my head was stuck in a "bad body image day." I thought about if I would want to share it, and I immediately (okay not immediately, it's been almost a year) thought, I am kidding myself if I think I am the ONLY person who has bad body image days. I know with 100% certainty that EVERY woman has had one. And not just women, men too. We all have them, and I hope that after reading this you can relate and maybe also laugh at how ridiculous my thoughts are/were, then transfer that humor to your own thoughts. What type of ridiculous things do you say on a day where you feel uncomfortable in your skin?
It's Monday morning and I feel tired. A full day of studying with breaks only to eat or do chores the day before left me unexcited about most things in my life. I wake up and wander to the bathroom. It's early, 4
:20 AM. But as usual, I will go to the gym. As I stand there in front of the mirror I take a moment to question why I actually go to the gym.
You like to lift weights.
You need to do it.
It keeps you strong.
You will be cranky if you don't.
You want to look good naked.
Wait. I have been doing this, going to the gym, for 12 years now. I still don't qualify as looking good naked. Obviously, that can't be the reason I go. I stand there a little longer, take a big drink of water and swallow my morning supplements.
Is the goal really to look good naked? I go to the gym. I eat healthily. I say “no” to things that don’t align with my goals. I laugh at the fact that I coach clients through this very dilemma. I take a deep breath and proceed to make coffee.
My morning ritual consists of the same food and the same cup of coffee. I then go to the same spot to sit to drink it. Afterward, I am out the door. Today I go to the gym, but often to run, which I do enjoy beyond the purpose of looking good naked. I love my morning routine–until I don't.
My workout is complete and the mirrors at my gym said I looked strong. Now I am back in my bathroom stripping off my clothing and I feel differently. The bathroom mirror cuts off right at my belly button. What I see is not what I wish to see. I go to the bathroom and step on the scale, also not what I want to see. I contemplate for a moment not caring about any of this anymore. But I know that isn't possible. I remind myself what I would tell my clients, there is no other option besides moving forward to get you where you want to be.
I shower and then make my way to the kitchen for breakfast. What I want is to eat everything. But again, I remember the mirror. I make my protein shake and put three Kodiak waffles in the toaster oven, two for my daughter, and one for me. She never questions the number of waffles on each of our plates. In fact, if anything she will ask why I am having a waffle and not my usual oatmeal. I can hear the ridicule in my head. It's loud. Most of the sentences start with "You should."
You should contact the coach you were recommended to help you with this.
You should go without the waffle today.
You should reevaluate your goals.
You should stop tracking your food. Stop weighing yourself. You were doing better without it. You were happier.
I go to the bedroom to get dressed. I am bloated today. I give myself a gentle reminder that it is the time of month for me to be bloated.
Excuses, I think.
I get dressed and look once again in the mirror. I feel disgusted with myself. What I want to do is crawl back into bed, cry, and go to sleep. I want to wake up and try again.
There are many ways to look at your body. And I don't mean several angles in the mirror. On a good day, I remember that my body is an amazing machine that carries me through this exciting life. On a good day, I am reminded of all the things my body has helped me accomplish. On a good day, I can remember that how I look has little to do with the person I am, how I love, and how I live. These are productive ways to look at my body.
But these good days come and go, as do the bad days. There are many ways to look at my body, and on the days when you put your worth into your reflection, you find all of the unproductive ways.