It’s weird. I’ve always been a little ahead, and not in a braggy way… just a “noticable to others” way that’s been commented on since I was, like, 8. I stopped giving in to peer pressure pretty early. I’ve always been independent, able to go places alone without fear. I made my own choices about my education and career. I have landed every job since graduation myself. I have been through every serious, sad adult situation you can think of, all before I turned 22. I’ve just been this way since birth, and I believe I always will.
But I worried constantly, and always have, thanks to those before-my-years moments. Though I know I can’t change the chronic GAD I live with, I try to manage it and know innately that it’s okay to have anxiety. However, I’ve always been incredibly bothered by my back-and-forth of worrisome thoughts about one thing: me. Myself. My body.
I believed, and still believe, it’s a sickness to worry so much about your body, which is why I was always so incredibly focused on deleting that worry from my life. I was DETERMINED to knock it BEFORE 30, because I remembered so many quotes about “Why were we so self-conscious in our 20s? We were at our physical peak!” I took those words to heart because I knew how true they were. And while I KNOW I’m going to keep on rollin’ out the peaks over the next 3 decades, I didn’t want to miss out on this, the 20-something peak.
Honestly, I didn’t worry about my body until I was in college, so I consider myself pretty lucky. Hell, it wasn’t even until LATE college that I really started to see flaws with myself physically. It started with my battle with adult acne, but when I knocked that out, I again was lucky to not see the flaws in myself……………… until after I lost weight, became a new, strong woman. And then I looked back–sometimes the opposite of wise–and I thought…. wait. WAIT! That was ME?! I was that confident in myself at THAT weight, with THAT hair?!!? NEVER AGAIN!
And that “never again” spawned this new sort of worry I had never had: never go back to that size, never go back to that hair, never go back to those clothes, never go back. And while it started as a “KEEP MOVING FORWARD AND BE YOUR BEST SELF!”, I quickly realized that it was an obsession. An unhealthy one.
Within that obsession, I never deprived myself of anything or overexercised. I like to think this is because of the highly logical side of my brain I inherited from my dad; if it’s not healthy, I don’t do it. He was very conscious of the fact he was raising two girls, and somehow, he knew never to pick our appearance apart. Maybe it’s because he was the big brother to a great sister, but he just… he never made us feel judged for our bodies, and I believe that’s why I never felt body shame until the opposite kind of men started to come into my life.
Yet, I still knew the obsessive body-based thoughts themselves were not something my supportive parents would find healthy, even if I wasn’t binging or denying or whatever else there is. I’m so glad I HAVE that foundation of support, because I can see how this worry over returning to my “ugly ‘before'” body could have turned into a plague-ish obsession that left me sick, sick, sick. But the fact that I now THOUGHT about my body image all day, even if I wasn’t doing anything “sick” to change it? That was not okay with me, and it wouldn’t be okay with my parents. Though I tried to stop them, the thoughts continued to be pretty intense.
I can’t pinpoint the moment when I realized it was taking up too much thought in my head, but I do know several things that made me start to realize I could be better to myself, could change the way I thought by focusing on these positive and productive things instead: when my friend S started clean-eating and sharing her tips with me; when I started stress eating and didn’t gain the weight back (or freak out when I teetered on gaining it); when I realized that I needed to focus more on my internal health than the external; when I realized that I can weigh 120 pounds with muscle OR fat. They all bungled together to start changing what I would tell myself every day.
I don’t know precisely when it happened. Maybe I just beat the thought into myself for so many days that it finally stuck. I woke up one morning and felt okay. Felt cozy. Felt like giving a giant middle finger to anybody who dare try to question my new mind-set: YOU ARE A HOT 20-SOMETHING, EVEN IF ONLY IN YOUR OWN EYES. CHILL THE SHIT OUT!
And I did. I mean, I still look down and see softness where my abs were, but instead of freaking out, I just think “I’m still hot. I’ll get those abbies back when I feel strong enough to exercise again.” I still don’t like when a pimple appears, but I simply say “Hey, hormones go away. That’ll be gone in two days!” If something doesn’t fit me the way it did before, despite my parking at the same weight for 2 years, I remind myself “It will fit to your liking again soon, but look. It fits now, too!”
So here I am, still not 30, and finally comfortable. I am aware of what I need to be healthy, and what steps I need to take to get there, but I have coping skills to talk myself down from worry’s edge if I backtrack or have a weak moment or feel unworthy. I don’t linger in front of the mirror as long as I did, and when I do, I make sure to find something I like before I leave.
I’m not perfect, but I am comfortable in my 20-something skin. And after all, that is ALL I ever wanted, and all I still want: to enjoy my 20’s appearance without guilt before I hit another decade, looking back and regretting that I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.
I found peace and ways to get back to that peace when I lose it. I’d say that’s another point for the ahead-of-the-game’ness I’m so used to, and I hope it helps anyone else who feels stuck. There’s still time. There’s always time.