Woe Is Me! “My Feelings About My Body Changed During the Lockdown. How Do I Learn to Love It Again?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I am a 17-year-old girl who gained some weight and lost a few in lockdown. Throughout this journey, I went from hating my body to liking it — although I’m still six kgs far from my goal weight. However, no matter how many times I find myself beautiful standing naked in front of a mirror, I feel I look bad in photographs. So, I’m in this constant tussle of loving and kind of feeling sad about my body.”
–– Looking back in time
PB: Hey, hi, hello! First off, kudos on working on your fitness goals! Those six kilograms will be surpassed in no time. It takes dedication and honesty to work on your health, and it always feels good to look in the mirror and see an improved you.
It’s a funny thing though, when you grow up being ridiculed for your body and people are constantly pointing out your physical shortcomings — brazenly stating what they feel is “ugly” about you, it stays with you. Even when you work on yourself, and you feel really good, there’s a nagging voice inside you that says it’ll never be good enough. We’re so conditioned to feel bad about ourselves and how we look, and how photogenic we are, we forget about the dividends that did pay off.
Tomorrow when you feel like it just isn’t good enough, that the photographs just don’t work out the way you envision them- remind yourself that you do love your progress, and honestly, the photos look a whole lot better when you allow yourself to appreciate yourself.
Or just wear some cool glasses, idk.
AS: I wish I had some advice to resolve this, but I honestly don’t. The only thing I can tell you is, you’re far (very far) from alone. We’re all insecure about our bodies in some way or the other, and narrow social standards of “beauty” don’t make it any easier. In my opinion, the fact that you’re reflecting on this is a sign of strength and self-awareness, because very often, we don’t even realize how unnecessarily harsh we’re being with ourselves. I’m not going to spend time on the regular “you are beautiful as you are” messaging — because you know it and must have heard it plenty of times before. Maybe it can help to try to get rid of all the messaging that tells you otherwise — is it some influencer giving you tricks to make you look “thinner”? Is it a friend asking you to lose weight? Whoever it is, I think it might pay off to learn to just tune them out. As for the voices that are coming from your own self — I think that’s a longer battle that can only be won by being appreciative of and kind towards yourself.
RN: I’m so sorry this is happening — the pandemic is particularly tough on this front. It’s easier said than done to embrace your body for what it is. Truth is, we’re all watching them change under multiple lockdowns and changed social lives. It’s wonderful that you’ve come to a place of liking yourself now. But I would encourage you to first drop the notion of “goal” weights because that might be putting pressure on yourself without even realizing it. I hear your insecurity about photographs and I share it — it’s hard not to judge oneself harshly when we’re captured in a frozen moment through someone else’s eyes. But it may help you to know that photographs can be unflattering for anyone unless a LOT of time is spent on perfecting them.
You might also have on an extra critical lens while looking at your photos, because you might be unconsciously seeing them through the eyes of other people. In other words, you might be preempting others’ judgment of you before you even know whether it’s true or not, especially since so many of our photos are shared online and visible to hundreds of people. Perhaps just recognizing this tendency and removing those extra filters — in your own gaze, not on Instagram — might help you see what you originally saw in the mirror. I hope you find peace with yourself and come to a place of love soon!
SK: Thank you for articulating this. It takes so much internal courage to trace the journey you have with yourself. From “hating” your body, to liking it, and then to thinking you still don’t look the way you want to — there’s so much self-awareness here which I’m sure a lot of people would relate with. I know it doesn’t quite solve your problem that yours isn’t a unique battle, but does it offer some respite to know there are others who empathize?
There’s one wisdom that stuck with me when this conversation played out with some friends. They said you need to stop judging yourself by the same standards you had of yourself maybe some years or even some months ago. Because the fact here is our bodies do change — and to always want them to look the same way is being harsh and unfair on yourself. Also, as appealing as it is to reach a “goal” weight, I hope you pace yourself. There are multiple diet plans and workouts designed to perhaps help you, but they may not work if the bar you’re setting is unrealistic. You seem self-aware to realize what is feasible and what isn’t, so I hope you make those decisions wisely. Lastly, it feels like a universal truth that we never look the way we want to in pictures. I know someone who stopped looking at their pictures because it just affected them later. This may not be a long-term solution, but maybe it may help to take a step back and not fixate on the size of your face, arm, waist.
As you go along, I hope you learn to be kinder to yourself.
DR: I can empathize. Loving our bodies — irrespective of whether or not we have an “ideal” weight — is difficult in a world dominated by corporations that thrive on our insecurities, and so, spend billions trying to make and keep us insecure. In the age of “body positivity” though, the tussle you’re experiencing is quite normal, I think. I genuinely feel it’s a form of dissonance inspired by the mixed messaging around us. How to get rid of it, you ask? Well, I wish I knew! But, here’s a radical idea (not): have you tried therapy?