Mini Blog 5/n, Body Image in Quarantine

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In a lot of ways, I feel like a completely different person than I was a year ago. My interests are different, I spend my time differently, and I’ve done a lot of introspection this year that makes me feel like I’ve grown a lot this year mentally.

However, I didn’t realize that I would physically feel like a different person as well. I went into a fitting room for the first time in a very long time the other day and was shocked! It sounds dramatic but it’s true!

My body looked completely different. I have full-body mirrors in my home, but very rarely look at myself nearly naked while changing. I’ve been exercising regularly but in completely different ways than I had in the past and my body composition definitely reflected that. My limbs were more toned than they had been before because I was lifting more weights; on the flip side, my body felt more “squishy” overall, likely because I was doing significantly less cardio.

Even my head, which I look at every day in the mirror, looked different with the context of the rest of my body! My hair was much frizzier than it’s ever been in the past, probably because I never need to actually style it anymore and simply tuck it under a hat whenever I need to leave the house. I was wearing glasses and not wearing any makeup, which I started doing in quarantine and have gotten used to but, again, was not used to seeing together with the rest of my body.

Like many people, I feel like my entire being – physically, mentally, etc. – was becoming amorphous in quarantine. However, I had not been confronted with that reality until I stepped into that dressing room. I left the store that day realizing that I hadn’t really felt “beautiful” in… a long time. Maybe this is because I hadn’t put on contact lenses, makeup, and a nice outfit in a long time. Maybe it’s because my mind hasn’t been focused on feeling “pretty” in a long time.

As superfluous as this sounds, I liked putting effort into my appearance on a regular basis. Whenever I could, I liked looking put together with carefully chosen and coordinated outfits, with a matching lipstick, dramatic eye makeup, and rosy cheeks. “Looking the part” made me feel like I could conquer the world! When I realized that I hadn’t been doing that for a long time, it felt like that part of me had been slowly fading away and I had not even noticed it – which was scary. I realized that I hadn’t truly felt like my confident, pre-quarantine self in a long time, and it made me sad, frankly.

Anyway, I wish I had a grand takeaway at the end of this post – you’re beautiful no matter what! beauty is on the inside! fuck beauty standards! – but I don’t! I am a big proponent of sitting with discomfort and learning from it instead of following my first instincts of putting a band-aid on it, running away, and ignoring it. Feeling “ugly” in my own skin was not a good feeling, but I’m choosing to use this realization to make plans moving forward instead of regretting the time and choices made in quarantine. I want to feel better, so what changes can I make to do that?

(I know it’s not that easy for some people! However, I’ve made a lot of mindset shifts, especially around my body, that I’ve been using to guide myself toward workable action that not only affects my appearance, but my overall health. I’ve always viewed myself as a work-in-progress, in every sense of the word and in every facet of my being, but also acknowledge that I’ve done a lot of mental work and meditation to get to a point where I don’t hate my body simply because it doesn’t “look good,” whatever that means. It’s a tough road!)

At best, I’m hoping someone out there will read this and realize that they’re not alone! At worst… maybe I’ll read this post again in a few years and cringe at how superficial I’m being. Who knows!

Mental Health October: Exercise and Body Image

In the summer of 2008, I was on vacation with my family at Disney World. After a long day at the parks, I spent every moment we had in the hotel room watching the Beijing Olympics. This is when I fell in love with watching gymnastics!

I remember watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin and the rest of the women’s team absolutely destroy their events – doing flips! spins! splits! tumbles! the rest! (I don’t know gymnastics terms!) I was enthralled! I wanted to be as strong as them, fly through the air like them, be as confident as them, the whole thing!

While watching one night, one of my family members commented on how chubby the girls looked. Why were they wearing leotards when their legs were so fat? If they worked out so much, why weren’t they all skinny?

My brain started short-circuiting. They’re some of the strongest athletes in the world! It’s all muscle! They responded, Eh, is it worth being so strong if they look so chunky? I wouldn’t want to look that heavy.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to reckon with these conflicting values. Do I want to be strong and healthy? Or do I want to look thin and “beautiful”, according to traditional values?

Continue reading “Mental Health October: Exercise and Body Image”