I had been feeling good as of late. I’ve had a year and a half long battle with my body. I’ve hated it constantly since gaining weight and becoming normal human size. It feels like an alien body that I am held captive in. But lately, I was feeling better. Happier. I had been taking care of my body more. Eating even better than I was, not overdoing the ‘treat yourself’ days (Panera mac and cheese is so good, you guys), going to the gym regularly. I may not have lost any physical weight yet but I was losing inches, my pants were looser, shirts looked better, I had a form I felt familiar with.
Then I see candid pictures of myself and somehow, it all disappears.
I was a fairly successful art model in New York for many years. I got paid to know what to do with my body. I was skilled at posing and knowing angles that were flattering when I was a skeleton. I knew how to fill my body with tension right before the camera clicked so the photo felt alive and moving. I knew not to twist too much this way because it would look weird or move my arm in a way I assumed was sensual but in fact, looked like I had cut my arm off at the elbow. I was working constantly and gaining a ton of experience. Because of that, I never thought twice when taking candid photos. I felt like Barney Stinson: I never took a bad photo. Is that arrogant? Maybe. Are there bad photos of me? Of course. However, I always knew where the camera was so there aren’t that many of me caught off guard with my eyes closed.
I feel like a fish out of water. I move in the same way I used to and I don’t recognize the person that develops in the image. I look in the mirror and think “Yes, today is a good day, I love how I look today” and then a picture shows up and I think “Wait, WHAT? That’s not what’s happening! The mirror said something else! Oh my god, I am the Evil Queen in Snow White. That mirror is LYING TO ME and telling me what I want to hear!” All confidence I have gained evaporates. I used to have a light shining out of me but it’s been dim for so long because I literally don’t know what to do with my rib cage or my arms or my face so that I can not cringe when I look at myself because where there was once just bone, there is now flesh and in my head, I don’t see it yet. I still see myself as I once was.
I freak out silently about my body being seen. I don’t think of how I feel or how I look to me, I think of how I look to everyone else.”Here come the comments,” screams in my head. The comments many of us have uttered even though we shouldn’t. The scrolling we all do daily because we can’t help it and we come across a photo of a long lost classmate and say, “Oh, she’s gained weight.” If I ever catch myself saying that, I immediately ask to take it back from the universe. If a person has gained weight or lost weight or cut their hair or whatever their change is, I am certain they are aware of it but I am not certain how they feel about it themselves. Are they also going through this same issue? Are they cringing every time a ‘like’ pops up thinking “Great, now they have seen it. I didn’t want them to see it.” I am. I’m thinking that. I’m sitting wondering what every one is thinking. There’s that impossibly skinny girl, what happened to her?
Why do I obsess over it? I know in my heart of hearts very few people are actually making those comments to themselves or others about me because we all have better things to do. We also are all growing older and changing for a thousand reasons and most of us get to a point where we stopped judging others. We have all been on some sort of journey and once you hit your 30s, no one is safe from alterations. You can’t assume things as simply as perhaps you once could (and shouldn’t have). We all have a lot more baggage to haul around. My baggage is sitting pretty in a rolling suitcase where one wheel is stuck in place and won’t roll smoothly so I’m basically dragging it through the airport, leaving a black streak as I go. I took a risk and moved out of my city, my home, to move back to my original home. Is it working? Well, that’s another blog. Right now it’s just baggage I am pulling behind me and avoiding camera flashes as I go.
It’s horrible to be so consumed with what others think. It is painful to go from wanting to always be in front of the camera to never see one again. I am a turtle shrinking back into its shell because I was exposed from the shoulders down in (probably a really great) candid photo without remembering the tricks to look skinny because I don’t know them because I was skinny! Side note: There should be no tricks! I shouldn’t have to resort to tricks! I should just be in my body, in a picture, and be happy to be capturing a moment in time that I am most likely happy in. I haven’t gotten there yet.
It doesn’t help none of my friends here knew me before so complaining feels off. I’m not a big person. According to my doctor and the doctors of the internet, I am at a great weight for my height. In fact, my doctor suggested I probably am far healthier than I ever was that underweight. She wasn’t suspicious of anything wrong either aside from the fact that I work in an office and drive a car so I need to consistently exercise otherwise I cry in Target when trying on bathing suits. Okay, she didn’t know about the bathing suit tears.
It could be that when a person makes a big move, they want it to create a glamour of success. Instead of glowing from the inside because my new life is amazing and full of rainbows and sparkles and everyone should be jealous, it’s not. Obviously it’s not. Nothing is that perfect. However, to make matters worse, I didn’t somehow obtain a fashion sense and a six pack of abs. I gained weight and know how to dress myself even less because this is still a new body that I feel looks best in sweatpants. Call me naive but I thought maybe I wouldn’t have to work to be a powerhouse. Oh, I do? Well, crap.
I started this blog with the intention of writing about living a small city life compared to the big city. I didn’t realize how many other momentous events and struggles I would experience in the brief two years I’ve been outside NYC. I didn’t think I’d be fighting this feeling of insecurity and body hatred. I didn’t think depression would eat away at me so fiercely I don’t even recognize myself in a picture. I didn’t think I’d ever hate having my picture taken. I never imagined I could feel this low again from just living life. I have no catalyst other than taking a leap, a risk. I did not realize leaving the city, I would start learning all over again
It feels as though Manhattan was a bubble and I am not longer protected from reality. Maybe it truly is Neverland; and now I am growing up.
***A brief shoutout to my dear friend Kelly who created the Shine On Movement. Kelly is a magical woman who helps other women celebrate who they are. She empowers women to quiet cruel inner voices and love themselves from the inside out. The tools she has given me in our sessions and her guidance have stuck with me and I use them daily as I navigate my way to accepting and loving my body by nourishing it and treating it with kindness. I can’t recommend working with Kelly enough if you are looking for a light in the dark.