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Hi.

Thanks for visiting Joy42. Follow along on my adventures as an American Expat, a newlywed, and someone trying to figure out how to take care of myself. I hope to encourage you to seek out the little joys in your life.

How To Shift from Self-Hate to Self-Love

How To Shift from Self-Hate to Self-Love

I don't know.

Feel free to stop reading now if you came here looking for answers. Feel free to continue if you're interested in the journey to getting there--someday.

After spending all of my adolescent and now adult years mostly hating my body and the way I look, I don't know how to change that mindset. But I'm trying because I'm sick of feeling this way about myself, and I guess that's what counts.

I often find myself in a web of comparisons that really hinders that shift toward even feeling better about my own body, let alone loving my own body. I always counted myself as the "funny friend" because in my circle of friends throughout middle school, high school, college, and post-education, I considered myself to be the least beautiful in the group, both in face and body, and that's what society tells us matters, isn't it?

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I spent 4 years at Pure Barre Boulder, 3 of which were as an employee, and it magnified that feeling more than I anticipated. Whether it was true or not, I assumed I would never be a teacher because my body didn't look like a fitness instructor's body and I didn't have the self-motivation to push myself to get better in some sections of the class or actually change how my body looked. At work, I was surrounded by fit women who looked how I wanted to look. It was hard to run the staff orders for the incoming retail and be the one ordering a large tank amidst all the extra smalls and smalls because I told myself they were all perfect and I wasn't. But I remember one day when one of the teachers, who was taking class next to me at the barre, said she shouldn't have worn a tank that was cut so low under the arms because the position we were in was giving her rolls down her side, visible in the tank she was wearing. That made me feel a bit better that even this woman, the epitome of beauty in my opinion, had rolls sometimes. And I want to be clear because I know a lot of women have stayed away from fitness classes like Pure Barre (or even just a regular gym) because they think they have to be thin and fit before they go: No one at Pure Barre--staff or clients--ever did anything to make me feel like I didn't look right for the brand, this was all just in my head.

Leaving the fitness industry has been both good and bad for me. I'm not surrounded by people who plan their lives around fitness classes and always #eatclean, which has been good for my mental comparisons. I feel like I'm around people who are more like me and that makes me feel better. But it also makes me feel stagnate. I work out far less than I did when I was working full time at Pure Barre (which wasn't even as much as some people probably would have expected) and I don't really have the motivation to find another form of exercise that I can truly fall in love with that works for me mentally and physically. So it's good for the side of me that doesn't want to be pushed to be a better me and it's certainly good for the side of me that says I'm not good enough compared to her, and I can't figure out how to balance those two sides.

When I'm working out and I feel like I can't do something or I can't do something for one more second, I try to remember all those Pure Barre tips that say my mind is giving up, not my body. But more importantly, I try to remember to tell myself how great my body is because it got me this far. Because it mostly does what I need it to do. I just haven't needed it to run a marathon yet, as it turns out. The point is I'm trying to replace those comparisons ("She would have been able to finish this exercise. She would have had the motivation to work out already.") with some appreciation for what my body is capable of doing.

When I was in high school, I stopped wearing shorts. It was a rare occasion when I would wear them and people would always ask me why I was wearing jeans in the summertime. (I think it wasn't cool to wear dresses, like ever, at this point in my life.) I was trying desperately to hide my legs. When I was at uni, this guy said I had thunder thighs over text, right before my friends and I were about to go out to a party where he would probably be. This was a guy who had previously expressed interest in me, who I had even kissed. I don't even remember what spurred his comment, but I'm positive it was me either not doing something he wanted me to do or doing something he didn't want me to do. Either way, he was trying to control me somehow and when I didn't give in, he insulted me and basically said he had only kissed me out of pity of my being the fat friend because, of course, he really liked my skinny, blonde, beautiful friend who had a boyfriend. I started wearing shorts again the next summer when I moved to Florida (what choice did I have!), but now I'm back to avoiding them at all costs. I don't think I even brought any with me to England. A few years ago, I wanted to invest in some quality boots that were all the rage at the time. Pinterest was flooded with images of skinny-legged girls who had the perfect amount of space between their Tory Burch or Frye riding boots and their calves. I didn't have any such luck. I did buy a pair of Frye boots, but I had to get wide calf and even then, I had to get them stretched just a bit more at Nordstrom. (They do it free, it's great!) I love those boots, still. They're the most expensive item I've ever added to my wardrobe, but I still sometimes feel the shame when I put them on and remember I had to make the wide calf even wider.

I frequently catch myself telling myself this is how I always looked--or this is what I always weighed, even though I know it's not. I told myself I didn't really wear a large in shirts because sometimes I still buy mediums and really it's just because I like looser fitting clothes, so I'm just sizing up for fit preference. I vividly remember thinking when I started doing that "If you're not careful, you'll just end up wearing a large all the time." Lo and behold, I'm nearly there and I hate that. Moving to England, though, helped me realise that my body is more than just a number. They have what feels like a more reasonable sizing system, but it means I'm a bigger number than I am in US clothes. The same with my wedding dress, actually. That's not to say that's applicable to small/medium/large sizes, but certainly to the numbers for trousers and dresses.

But I'm trying not to use that kind of language to talk about myself anymore. It's kind of like that idea we've all heard about talking to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. You wouldn't stand in front of a friend and tell her how ugly she is, how fat she is, how you hate this, this, and this about her appearance. Why do we allow ourselves to stand in front of a mirror and say those very things?

Appreciating my body, feeling good and happy in my own skin, and embracing self-love have all been on my mind, especially as the days tick away and my wedding draws closer. My wedding dress is so unforgiving and I've put off changing my diet and getting serious about working out for so long, now time is running out for me. But one thing that's been increasingly important, is loving how I look, no matter what. And maybe that's the hardest part. I'm pretty I can't lose 20 pounds before my wedding day at this point. But I think I can grow to appreciate myself a little bit more than I did yesterday and continue to do that until my wedding day (and beyond).

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The best part is, I'm not with someone who points out my insecurities. I'm with someone who tells me how much he loves my legs. And my stomach. And all the other things I say I hate about myself. He tells me I'm beautiful and he tells me he loves me no matter what. And that makes it a little easier to try to see myself how he sees me.

You know what else helps? Filling my Instagram feed with real women who encourage loving the skin you're in. Did you see that Facebook post from Holly Butcher, who passed away from cancer at 27? (If you didn't, read it here.) She wrote:

Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body.. work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is.. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not.. Be ruthless for your own well-being.

I really, really love that.

My friend Taylor pointed me in the direction of Jenna Kutcher a few months ago when we were talking about loving ourselves where we're at. I had seen her ads on Facebook for upping your Pinterest game as a blogger, but I had no idea she would quickly become the #1 advocate for self-love on my Instagram feed.

My real-life friends Shalisa and Taylor--both of whom I worked with at Pure Barre Boulder--are also great for filling my feed with positive vibes, inspiring words, and motivation to love who you are. 

"Self-love is not selfish; you cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself."

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