Here’s a confession: I don’t love my body.
I never have. For almost my entire life, I have struggled with my own self-image and my own relationship with my body has been very toxic, to say the least. I’m 6 ft tall and curvy. I’ve lost and gained weight off and on for years. When I was 18, I lost almost 100 pounds. I always thought that losing that much weight would mean I could finally love what I saw in the mirror, but the harsh reality is, I didn’t. I still saw so many flaws that led to disordered eating and unhealthy, reckless thought patterns. Everyone would compliment my new and improved “skinny” body but I still found myself crying in dressing rooms. I couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did.
I always thought that being “skinny” equaled self-love. That wasn’t the case.
I realized it was never about the weight, it was always about me. I could not (and still am unable to) love my body for what it was, for what it is. And that’s hard. That’s so hard for me to write down and admit. But it’s the truth and this blog is about being honest with myself and with you.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve changed, that I’ve found the love for my body that I never had. Unfortunately, though, I’ve gained a lot of the weight that I lost back and my self-image is not in a great state right now. I find myself looking in the mirror and hating what I see. Michael, my partner in life and love, tells me every single day that I’m beautiful just the way I am and I want to believe it, but it’s hard.
It’s hard loving your body when your whole life has revolved around hating it.
It doesn’t help that family members and random strangers have spent years telling me how pretty I’d be…if only I lost some weight. But I lost the weight. I still didn’t love myself. I gained the weight back because I couldn’t possibly find a way to love what I looked like.
It’s a vicious cycle that I hope to break.
However, I am much happier mentally and emotionally than I used to be. My depression and anxiety are much more in check and want to use this year to work through the reasons why I have such a bad relationship with my body.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending….yet. But I hope that one day it will.
In the last three years, I’ve done a lot of traveling. In some ways, travel has helped me love myself a little bit more. In others, I make enjoying travel really hard for myself because I spend so much time consumed with hatred for the way I look. Michael can tell you that I spend so many mornings on a trip changing outfits because nothing looks right to me. Embarrassingly, I even had a breakdown in a hotel room in London because I did not think I looked good enough to go out in public. I know this is something for me and my therapist to figure out together but it brings up the question:
How Do You Travel When You Don’t Love Your Body?
The simple answer is: you just do. In a world where traveling often revolves around getting the perfect Instagram shot, it can be extremely difficult for someone like me who only sees flaws first in photos. But traveling isn’t about the perfect photo. It’s about experiencing new cultures, new food, meeting new people. It’s about falling in love with a place, seeing all that you can of it before you leave. Traveling is about learning new things about a place, learning new things about yourself.
I hate my body, but last year I climbed a mountain. I hate my body, but I still fell in love with Paris.
If it were up to the little voice in my head, I’d never travel. I’d go full Emily Dickenson and stay secluded in my room and never leave. Thankfully, it’s not up to that little voice anymore. It’s up to me. And I have to be brave.
But sometimes, the bravest thing is also the hardest.
Going out and experiencing the world, regardless of how much the voice in your head tells you that you shouldn’t, is definitely brave.
If you’re like me and struggle with self-love, don’t let it discourage you from doing what you love. How do you travel when you don’t love your body? By being present.
Go out. Travel. Explore.
Do all the things you could do if you loved yourself, and maybe, just maybe, you eventually will.
I’m still working on it, but I hope that going against my own demons will allow me to love myself one day. I hope I can report back and tell you how I did it.
Until, then, though, just know you’re not alone.
I don’t love my body, but I love to travel.
If I can do it, so can you.
We can do this together.