Trigger Warning: Content below includes discussion on body image and mental health topics including anxiety. This may be triggering to some.
I started this project after being super sick for 2 weeks – wherein thoughts of my body rarely entered my headspace. As I venture outside for a walk in midtown, I find myself focused on external stimuli a lot. I’m overly aware of how everyone on the street might perceive the way that I look. It’s making me wish that I brought my sunglasses so I didn’t have to look passersby in the eyes. I feel super self-conscious that I’m not wearing any black or grey. My social anxiety swells anytime I feel like people on the street are noticing me at all. I’m actually super concerned about drawing any attention to myself, so why did I wear a floral sweatshirt?
I also can’t remember the last time I was brave enough to walk in New York without my headphones. It’s clear I’m conscious of the strain that being alone with my thoughts in certain situations can have on my anxiety.
Generally, my thoughts get way more negative when I’m around people than when I’m alone. On top of that, I am much harder on myself in public when I don’t “blend into the crowd.” I went to my second appointment with a registered dietician — who I am seeing NOT to begin a diet or to simply lose weight, but because I need help understanding and adjusting my relationship to food. When I told her the premise of this blog series and how I was feeling that morning, she was immediately encouraging and gave me the small boost that I needed to walk home with some confidence. Head up. Shoulders back. Deep breaths.
The next day I woke up and felt pretty decent about my body. I didn’t feel bloated or like I was “paying for” what I ate the night before, as I often do. I looked in the mirror and was content with the curves of my stomach and marks on my hips — which is a truly rare feeling for me in the last couple years. I like taking note of the days that I treat myself with the respect my body deserves, as they come and go regularly. I used to try to blame my hormones for my negative self-talk, and while I have found that my anxiety levels peak at a certain point in my cycle, being unkind to my body is much deeper rooted than that. On days like this where I’m actually feeling the way I hope to feel everyday, it’s so helpful to take inventory of my feelings in this way. I’m happy I can look back on this at times when I need to know that it’s not impossible for me to be good to myself.
The following day was a bit rough. My best friend sent me flashback photos of us together 4 years ago and I was immediately guilty of seeing the old picture and making comparisons to my current appearance. Because of this project, I actively decide to have a conversation with myself, employing some of the lessons I’ve learned since working for the be.come project. Why did I endeavor to be a past version of myself instead of putting my efforts towards loving who I am right now? I know that everything I go through makes me a better, wiser, more interesting version of myself – so if I stop longing to move backwards, maybe I can find the momentum (I so desperately desire) to move forward as who I am in the present. I try to tell myself all the time that I don’t want to be who I was in the years past because that Jaime didn’t know herself nearly as well as today’s Jaime does.
Having said that, even as I make these notes, I am stopping myself from grabbing my stomach and my hips and my thighs — I’m definitely bullying myself more now than the last few days. I don’t feel good about it but this painful degree of self-awareness required to complete this blog is actually providing me with some relief. Having to sit down and admit that I’ve literally hurt myself — dug my nails in too deep, caused bruises — brings it to the forefront of my mind and won’t allow me to ignore it. Why is it that I’m willing to say or do things to myself that I would never say to a loved one in a million years? I’m really good at avoiding the things that cause me anxiety, so I’m finding that this is a really challenging but worthwhile exercise. Also I’m happy just being aware that old pictures are a major trigger for me to spiral – I’m always looking to know more about what makes me tick.
At first when I finished this exercise, I was a little bit disappointed to be ending on a somewhat negative note. After I thought about it for a while, it actually started to make me really happy. It’s much more idealistic to believe that my week would only get better as it went along, and much more realistic to address the ups and downs as they naturally occur. So although my last day recording my feelings for this project wasn’t a festival of joyousness – I’m truly content that the progression rings true to me. My reality is taking the good and the bad as they come, and hoping that I have opportunities like this one to be introspective and gain insight into myself. I hope that by honoring my authentic feelings, it gives others permission to honor theirs. If you would like to participate in this series, please email us at [email protected].