The truth about my skinny jeans

Here I go again talking about body image.

I've received advice from two women I trust that are in the field of eating disorders and body image. One is a MFT (therapist) and one is a certified life coach. Both have told me that being a professional in this field can be difficult because it is a very heavy topic. I was also told that this is an adjustment phase. Since I've been making so many connections with people who either help those with these issues, or people that are dealing with these issues themselves, I feel the weight of it all. Part of me wants to swoop in like one big superhero and save them all and another part of me wants to run from it. Far, far away.

I had no idea just how heavy this would be to me or the impact it would have on my life.

I've had to ask myself what is going on inside me. In a way I'm somewhat embarrassed that I don't have it all together in regards to this topic. That I feel so empowered and excited that I've found my voice and suddenly realized it's not all rainbows and roses. I suppose I thought that now that I've found which direction I want my coaching to go that I could just skip on through and do my job. Not so fast. My eyes keep getting bigger and bigger and pretty soon I feel like they are just going to fall right out of my head. It's a combination of seeing how widespread this issue is and my own issues with it. It's a lot to let into my head and my heart all at once.

If you know me, you know that often times (I'm getting better at this) I'm in a hurry to do things. Healing is one of them. An issue comes up for me and I think, "Okay, here it is, let's get this taken care of by Monday." Which is ridiculous. I remember sitting in my therapists office telling her all the things I was doing right after I found out I was getting divorced: Support group, reading, etc. She said I seemed to be doing all the right things to get through the grief process and I told her, "I intend to get over this as quickly as possible" She just raised her eyebrows at me. So, enter my own body image/self esteem/eating disorder issues. Accepting that this is a lifelong healing and empowering journey is part of the process in making us more powerful individuals.

And for the record: I'm scared. I'm scared that I still have these feelings of perfection. I'm scared that sometimes I fantasize about being a size zero again. While I'm at it, I have a confession to make: In the very back of my son's closet are some old clothes of mine. I have pants and jeans that I haven't worn since 2006 that are so small I couldn't get them past my thighs right now and possibly came from Gap Kids. Why have I kept them? I'm not the kind of person who holds on to clothes; I donate at least twice a year. But why have I kept these "skinny jeans"? I think about getting rid of them and always put them back in the closet. Somewhere in my distorted thinking there is a voice that says, "You can fit into those again. And when you do, everything will be complete". What is complete, you ask? Perfection.

Realistically (and biologically) my body does not like to be that thin. It was a job to be that thin; one that could have taken my life. I actually had to work to remain that thin. I was miserable. I am blessed with good genetics and if I exercise regularly (and sensibly) and eat a well balanced diet, I wear a size 6. I admit this not so people can say, "Skinny bitch, then what are you complaining about? We get it." Say that if you want, but I know there are plenty of women that are my size and still hold on for the quest. To pump your fist in the air when you can button the size whatever pants but realistically you are way too thin. Or, more importantly, you (like I once did) get immense satisfaction from being a certain size.

I received a message from someone struggling with an eating disorder on Twitter. She asked me, "You just "look perfect." Do you think you have to live up to that image or are you comfortable w/yourself?" I must have read that 5 times before I responded. Several thoughts flooded me....Yes! I've done it! People think I'm perfect....Ugh, the image is exhausting. Do people really think that? Am I trying too hard?....No! I'm not perfect, please see that!

I told her that no, I'm far from perfect. And that when I was in her shoes, I often wished I was someone else. I thought everyone else had it together but me. I would beat myself up for my imperfections. While it's okay to admire someone else for their attributes and qualities, don't self hate for being you.

Going back to the skinny jeans, I think I need to do more than just get rid of them. For me, they represent something big. They represent a time when I was deep in sadness, darkness, denial and loneliness. Stay tuned for their fate...

Photo courtesy of wererabbit.


karen pery said...

Andrea, you've done it again. I have a couple of things I have to share.

1) You are perfect - perfectly human with flaws and all.

2) I had a very powerful moment with a client today, only her "skinny jeans" were a career that doesn't fit her anymore. She's been hanging on, but is beginning to realize that she is something beyond who she knew herself in that role. And it is sad, and deserves to be mourned, and grieved, honored and celebrated so that she can move on to whatever is next.

Andrea said...

Karen, thanks for your comment, I always love them!

At first I felt silly for the emotion I felt by holding onto and then deciding to get rid of these jeans. But they represent something to me that is much more than just fabric. A part of my life where I felt as if I had control, but it was controlling me.

Julie Parker said...

Andrea - Posts like this are so healing to all as they make us remember that we are 'human' and 'real' and 'flawed' - and that is absolutely ok. I too have clothes that no longer fit me but I still keep.

Body image and self esteem are such fluid concepts. Sometimes mine are wonderful - other times they really need tweaking.

I so appreciate your honesty. I can really relate.

karen pery said...

Andrea, I recently wrote about throwing away a bikini, so I'm feeling you on the skinny jeans. I bet you had a whole lot of yourself invested in who you thought you would be at the "perfect" size, and knowing you now, I see the freedom you own being perfectly you! : )

I'm in the midst of a blog post about the past, and am linking to this piece of yours. You make the point so beautifully.

Ms-Eerie said...

Hi Andrea,

I agree, a lot of women feel like they should be perfect - and that that goal will never be reached. There is a great book called "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" by Courtney E. Martin (link to that talks about this issue in perspective of Gen Y. Honestly, its one of the best books I've ever read - it is absolutely shocking but a great eye-opener at the same time!

Thought you might enjoy it - if you haven't read it already.

BTW - 2 weeks ago I threw out my skinny jeans, 3 days later I was shattered and grieved for about 3 hours, looking back on it - I think its one of the best decisions I've ever made. I hope you find what’s right for you. :)

Andrea said...

Julie- I have become more empowered by not hiding my vulnerability. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Karen- Let me know when you publish your post!

Ms Eerie- Yes! I am actually reading that book right now! I wrote a post weeks back that I had started reading it and will soon publish another post about how I am so relating to this book. It is excellent!