All I used to care about was being pretty. I work hard in school because school feels like sanctuary. I work hard at my job because it feels good to see how Jennifer and I can transform a building in a few hours, with the help of some garbage bags and some multi-purpose cleaners. I work hard to keep my relationships strong because I don’t know how to give any less than everything to the people I love. But, despite these things, it has been the case for many years that I am unhappy–and I trace that unhappiness back to a desire to be pretty. I have always struggled with my self-image. I have gone from pill-popping to cutting to bingeing, trying to find ways to drown out my brain as it screams “YOU’LL NEVER BE PRETTY!” I have let people treat me unkindly because I felt that I somehow deserved it. I have begged for their forgiveness after they have hurt me, because all I wanted was for someone to think that I am pretty.
Of course, wanting to be pretty is the form that a much larger problem has taken. But, that is a story for another time.
I decided, a handful of months ago, that I was done obsessing with pretty. That what I needed was to like — and maybe, one day, love — myself, as is. I stopped wearing makeup all the time. I embraced my naturally-frizzy hair. I wore clothes that felt comfortable, which meant a lot of black t-shirts. I looked at myself. I started to learn what I look like, what I feel like, and I started to fall in love.
Hooray! During this time, I also gained a LOT (try…50-ish pounds) of weight. And I didn’t really notice, because I was busy loving my body. I stopped talking and thinking in negative terms about my body, and that included not obsessing over how much I weighed. I didn’t realize how much weight I had gained until a few days ago.
So, then, I found myself at an impasse. I had stopped worrying about what I was eating, how active I was being, how much I weighed, what my pants size was, because I had associated those things with all the rest of the negative talk about my body. But these were things that needed to be addressed–not because smaller numbers would equal beauty, but because regardless of what those numbers were (are) I was (am) unhealthy.
And that needed to change.
So, yesterday, I went grocery shopping. Bought good food. Today, I worked out for the first time in almost nine months. I am sticky and sweaty, but I am strangely happy.
I am learning to adopt good habits for my physical betterment. And I am doing them not because they will make me pretty, but because they will make me healthy. And even if I end up not losing weight, I want to know that my lifestyle is beneficial to my physical and mental health.
So, I am cleansing. I have surprised myself with how beneficial purging my mind of negative-self-talk has been to my self-image. I am now purging my lifestyle of negative habits that have been detrimental to my health, thus far. I am replacing them with positive habits, like I replaced my negative-self-talk with the positive type.
Because cleansing is less about washing off the badness and more about nourishment and goodness.