It's likely I've been sliding toward today for some time. It was inevitable, really. Anyone who's ever lost weight or changed their appearance in any way knows this feeling. There's a pharmacy term that applies beautifully to this phenomenon. Ready to learn a new word?
WTF, you might ask.
You know how you lose weight, or change your hair color, or develop a new skill and it's all new and exciting and shiny and shit? And then how over time it becomes routine, or boring, or you simply stop seeing the progress you've made? That's where I'm at right now. It's happened to me many times before. You see, there is a clear picture in my head of what I look like. It has no bearing on my actual appearance. It is constant and unchanging. When I change something up and see results, even lasting results, there comes a point at which I stop seeing what I am and return to seeing what I was.
Tachyphylaxis. I've developed tolerance to my "new" appearance and skills and they have begun to look precisely like my "old" appearance and skills, and even with increased frequency of stimulus the response is diminished. I am desensitized.
Senior Portrait. Sexy, right?
See that girl? That's 17 year old me. Gods, I hated her. She was too tall, too fat, and so ugly. I know that because people told me that. To my face. Well, not people. Teenaged boys, who I'm convinced are a different species entirely. That girl weighed 142 pounds. Those jeans are a 29/36. She was 5'8" tall. Everything was wrong with her. Ask anyone with a Y-chromosome within 100 yards. He would've told you.
How about this girl? That's 21 year old me (I'm the blonde). I hated her, too. She was too tall, too fat, and so ugly. I know that because she bore the stretch marks of a 50+ pound weight gain during college, and nobody wanted to date her. Not one person her entire college career. That girl weighed 197 pounds. Those jeans are a size 14. She was 5'10" tall. Everything was wrong with her. She was stressed out, overworked, and barely holding it together.
A year later.
What a difference a year made. I'm on the left in this shot. Sixty-five pounds lighter, a college graduate with a job offer on the table. Suddenly people were interested in me. I was both grateful and infuriated.
At 26 I met someone who didn't think I was too tall, or too fat, or so ugly. Well, at least not after getting to know me. I fit in this dress at 140 pounds and I commenced pressuring myself to stay that small so as not to be "false advertising" even though he made it very clear he would love me at any size. I could graft into the couch and become immobile and he'd still love me. We wouldn't have sex...but he'd still love me.
On our honeymoon cruise.
Two fisting it.
I wore a bikini for like the second time in my life on this cruise, and I was self-conscious as fuck about it. I probably shouldn't have been. I was young, I was tan, and unmarred by the ravages of childbirth. Though I did have some wicked stretch marks from gaining a shitload of weight my freshman year of college.
The ravages I spoke of.
Ironically, I've never felt better about my body than when I was heavily pregnant with twins. This woman is 36 weeks pregnant and weighs 247# and she doesn't give a shit. Suddenly people were telling me how I was "all baby" (I definitely was not) and exclaiming about how lucky I was to be so tall, and wasn't I just beautiful.
After giving birth I struggled for a long time with the aftermath. I lost a hundred pounds over the course of the boys first year. My body was wrecked and I felt cheated. So much work, so much care, and I was left with an apron of skin and non-existent breasts. It was such a low time for me. I should've felt triumphant. I had done it, after all...I had won. I lost all the baby weight plus...but I wasn't happy with myself.
Work Xmas party, about 10 months after giving birth.
I wore a Spanx tank top every day to keep my flap from getting caught in my fly. Hot stuff. I couldn't run without something to bind the skin down so it wouldn't flap my pants off. I barely needed a sports bra. This was success? Not being able to be comfortable in clothes because the skin of your abdomen draped over and under your waistline? So I had surgery to remove the apron and regain my bust line (plus a little extra, since they were going in anyway). 10 inches of skin. Gone. It was like a miracle. I felt like I'd started over again, better this time. I made the most of it. And then tachyphylaxis set in again.
My beautiful family.
I hated the way I looked in this dress. I hated that it was a size 12. That number felt like failure. So much work, and there I was again. Tachyphylactic and needing a change. So I changed. I've gone through several incarnations over the past couple of years. What hasn't changed is that I keep working. What has changed is that I love myself more often now.
I didn't love myself going into the photoshoot above, but I loved myself coming out of it. It was literally the first time in my life that I was told I was photogenic. I've always felt I photograph particularly badly. My face is uneven and I look like a troll when I smile, which is why I don't do it for no reason. Having someone tell me I photograph well was a shock. But I think about that often, and I hide from cameras less. I have very few photos of myself throughout my life as a result of ducking cameras at every opportunity. I'm better about it now. Not great, but better.
I wore this in public.
This was me last May. I was very proud of myself. I had worked hard, and I saw the results. Results that made me want to keep working. I wore shorts and felt good about it. It was a good time to be me.
You may not get it from the timbre of this blog, but I do love myself more often now. I like myself more days than I don't. I've always been at peace with who I am as a person...I embrace every awkward, introverted, socially inept, loud, profane, emotionless, robotic, boring, predictable facet of my personality. I'm better now at liking the candy shell surrounding it. Not perfect, certainly, and there are many days that I find myself stuck in a loop of negative self talk. I'm better at breaking out of it. I'll break out of today. Every day a brighter one here on in.
This was me this morning after CrossFit. I caught myself in the mirror and I admit that I saw the image of myself that I've carried around in my head since I was a teenager. Too tall, too fat, and so ugly. I took the photo mostly to force myself to look objectively. The camera doesn't lie. It sees what it sees, and this is what it saw. Not perfect, but in process. Progress. Always progress. It isn't linear, and there are bad days, but a bad day is not a bad life as the saying goes. Sometimes you feel a little ugly, and that's okay.
Or a lot ugly, but that's okay too.
This is also me today. Trying something new, something I knew I wouldn't be entirely successful at. But that's how you grow. New stimulus, new growth...until it's time to change again.
They don't call them growing pains for nothing.
I'm not writing this to fish for compliments. Please don't go all "but you look great"...believe it or not, that doesn't help. It's not about what you might think of me, internet stranger. It's about what I think of me, the way I see myself. The way I talk to myself. The aim here is to point out that people wage internal wars you cannot see. The person you admire in the gym or on the street might be perfectly happy with themselves...or they might be tachyphylactic as hell and wondering how they got to that place. They might be backsliding, or in full on free fall. We all fight internal demons. Sometimes they win. Mine are winning today, but they won't win tomorrow. They can't win if I fight. I may be troubled, but I'm a formidable opponent.
Trust me, I know. I fight me all the time.