Self-loathing vs. Self-love

Body-dysmorphic-disorderBringing a scale into my house would be akin to loading the cupboards of a reformed alcoholic with vodka.  The temptation to feed my history of number addiction would be strong and may threaten to resurrect my teen obsession with weight-watching.

My Italian family, oddly enough, was fat-phobic.  They repeatedly cautioned against a genetic predisposition toward obesity whilst pushing heaping plates of pasta across the dinner table.  So I did the pseudo-anorexic thing, starving myself just enough to remain well-below the arbitrary threshold of acceptable body size.

As is typical of addictions, it began as a benign practice and was rationalized as a helpful and harmless avenue to my greater good.  But use became abuse and abuse led to addiction.  Addictions, no matter how long they’ve been held at bay, can challenge you with surprise attacks down the road.

I had just had an annual physical and discovered a 5-pound weight gain.  By default, my inner critic perked up in search of blame and shame.  It took some work to wrestle it to the ground.  The next day, when 17 year old Principessa asked for a scale for Christmas, I LOST IT.  Weight watching, in my experience, is like chasing your body with a stick in a threatening, ‘I’m going to beat you’ sort of way.  I’m not willing to support any product that promotes this unhealthy practice.

Self-aggression is epidemic, especially among girls and women.  Instead of looking into our hearts for the answer to the question, ‘Am I lovable?’ we ask the scale, or the pair of skinny jeans, or the fashion magazine.  Our preoccupation with comparison to unrealistic standards leaves us feeling bereft.

Recently, I stumbled across a photo of a young woman on social media who was quoted as saying, “I try not to hate my body.  I like my fingers, but the rest I’d change if I could.”  I wanted to jump into the post and hug her.  Poor dear.  She is playing the cut-and-paste game, trying to eliminate parts of herself in order to assemble her damaged idea of acceptable.  She has no idea how valuable she is.

I want to stop the madness.  I want to scoop up every girl in the world and MAKE her see her inherent goodness.  I want self-love to become the most popular phrase in her vocabulary.  But self-love is misunderstood.  Often it’s mistaken for vanity or is cast aside as a low priority.

Self-love can’t be over-emphasized.  It’s the key to inner peace.  If we care for ourselves and protect ourselves with compassion, we thrive.  It really is that simple.  If our motivation to eat, exercise, work, play and rest is prompted by our love for our bodies, not hate, we make good choices.

Thus far, I’ve been successful in protecting my daughters from the black hole of body dysmorphia.  We focus on function of the body instead of form.  Health consciousness is king.  But I am ever on-guard because I’ve been to that dark place and know that if you step close, it will suck you in.

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