the lie behind body shame

you are enough

I’ve been really delving into my emotions and feelings related to myself and how I show up in the world. Through this work, I’ve become acutely aware of how feeling bloated or full or whatever the opposite of “skinny” is makes me think and feel. When I get into this headspace – whether it be after eating a big meal or after scrolling through Instagram – my mind starts to tell me things. These things sound like this:

You’re not good enough

You’re not worthy of love, praise, or attention 

If you looked a certain way, you would feel better

If you looked a certain way, your life would be better

You aren’t worth being friends with

The people who matter won’t notice you because you don’t look a certain way

You’re fat

Fat = unlovable 

You’ll never be happy until you look a certain way

You’ll never be successful until you look a certain way

People would like you more if you looked a certain way

Your problems would go away if you just lost 15 pounds

My brain is literally wired to scream YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH in various forms when I feel I don’t look a certain way. Feeling “fat” equates to unworthiness, shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Feeling “skinny” equals good enough, worthy of love and attention, acceptance, happiness. 

Notice how I say “feeling” a certain way equals thinking a certain way. I can personally feel skinny at my heaviest weight and feel “fat” at my lowest weight depending on what I’ve been telling myself and how I’ve been taking care of myself. It’s very rarely ever how I actually look that results in these defeating and damaging thoughts. 

But, this is good news. If you stop yourself when you’re experiencing this spiral of negativity, you’ll notice that it’s all based on how you FEEL, rather than how you look. In fact, you’re probably very rarely standing in front of a mirror assessing the parts of your body you aren’t happy with. You’re probably more often scrolling through Instagram or watching some supermodel on TV or staring at a skinny, attractive person walking by. It’s not about how you truly look in the moment; it’s about how you feel about yourself right then and there.

What I want to get across is this: What our brains tell us about our worthiness in relation to how we look is absolutely bullshit 99% of the time. You know this, I know this, but yet we still struggle to accept ourselves just as we are in this moment. Gaining 10 lbs has us spiraling into weight-loss mode and hiding in baggy clothes until those pounds are gone. Feeling full or bloated has us planning how we’re going to go on a diet and workout excessively to feel better. All so we can look a certain way to fit into a certain mold to get more likes on Instagram and more stares on the street and more envy from Karen and more love from our spouses and friends and self. But, if you break all those things down, what it really equates to is this: What we really want is to feel worthy and good enough. And somehow, our society has got it in our heads that the only way to be worthy and to be good enough is to look a certain way.

I have a secret, though: You’re already good enough. Right now, right here, in this moment, you are worthy. You are so worthy. Every inch of your body, every ounce of your weight, every dimple and imperfection – it’s enough. It’s more than enough. You are enough.

And the best part? Your weight and appearance have nothing to do with it.

So, here’s your permission to love yourself no matter how you look or feel. Here’s your permission to f*ck what you’ve been taught by a starving society that’s feeding you bullshit to keep you in the cycle of consumerism in a desperate attempt to look and feel a certain way. Here’s your permission to bury that bullshit and accept yourself just as you are, in this moment. We are enough. We are worthy. We are f*cking perfect, just as we are, right now.

5 realizations I had when I stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough

Fear is something that I truly believe compelled me to drink, use drugs, diet myself into oblivion, workout in excess, stay friends or in relationships with people who suck, and all kinds of other behaviors that weren’t great for me or my wellbeing. Fear is the thread that weaves its way through most of my life and links all of my worst behaviors and decisions together. 

Growing up, I was always afraid I wasn’t enough. I have no idea where this idea came from – most likely a combination of messages received from my parents and the media. I watched my mom hate her body since before I can remember, and I watched my dad live in the personal hell that is perfectionism for just as long. Both of these traits I inherited, and both sets of beliefs transferred into “you’ll never be enough” in my still-developing and very impressionable brain.

When I found alcohol, it was like I had been handed the magic elixir labeled “you are enough now.” The more I drank, the better I felt. The freer I was. The more power I had. The less I gave a f*ck about what anyone else thought. For a brief few, highly intoxicated hours, I was finally enough. And when you’ve spent your whole life living under the less-than rock, this is the most seductive and empowering feeling you can experience.

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse turned into alcohol addiction, and addiction is nothing if not fear in the form of a legitimate disease. Fear that you’ll have to be sober for an event if there isn’t enough alcohol. Fear that your spouse will find out you’ve been drinking again. Fear that your friends will know you have a problem. Fear you won’t be able to stop. Fear that when you do stop, you’re life will be over. The more alcohol I drank, the more fearful I became. Because I never really learned how to cope with my not-enoughisms. I just learned how to mask it. And when you mask something like that for years, it ain’t pretty when you finally lift off the veil. 

When I stopped drinking, I had to learn how to face my fear of not being enough in a big way. Because if I didn’t, I would drink again. It was as simple as that. I had found the cure to my problem, and then I had taken that cure away. The problem was still there, and it still hurt. I wanted more than anything to numb out and run from all the things I felt I wasn’t good enough at or for. But I didn’t. And here’s what I learned by toughing it out:

No one is judging you as critically as you judge yourself – This one is common sense, but for some reason is so hard to grasp on a gut level. Literally no one is holding you to a higher standard than you do, and no one is judging you to any degree that you judge yourself. Even your worst enemies are nicer in their judgments of you than you are. That’s not great for personal morale. Ease up on yourself, sis. You’re a pretty great person, and right now everyone can see that except you.

No one is perfect, and no one expects you to be – Look around the room. Is anyone you see perfect? Didn’t think so. Now go into a big crowd. How about there? Nope, still no perfect humans. What about that Instagram model who you believe in your core is the epitome of perfection? I guarantee she doesn’t look half as good without all those filters, and even if she does she still f*cks up on a regular basis. Just like every other human on this planet. Just like you. You’re not perfect, but here’s the kicker: You don’t have to be. And, no one is expecting you to be. So stop comparing yourself to an absolutely unrealistic standard. 

You’re already pretty good – When I was finally able to pause the “I’m not good enough” tape long enough to catch a breath and take in my surroundings, I realized that I was actually pretty good already. Sure, I had some bruises and regrets from drinking myself into oblivion for years, but other than that I discovered that I was actually a pretty decent human. Try to freeze your “I’m not good enough” thoughts for a few minutes and give yourself the chance to truly assess yourself at that moment. You’ll find you’re actually just fine and, compared to most people, you’re better than fine.

The life you’ve always wanted is right beyond the “I’m not good enough”s – I had lived by this mantra for so long that I didn’t realize there was another way of existing. But there is, and it’s so freaking awesome.

No feeling lasts forever, and most don’t last a day – This is true for many feelings but it’s especially true for fear. The more you sit with your fear and embrace it, the faster it goes away. But, if you deny it and drown it out with alcohol, the longer it lingers.