For those of you who follow my Facebook page, this is going to be a bit repetitive, but I will also be adding some extra commentary in here, so it’s not ALL repeat stuff.
On May 24, I shared this picture:
And I shared these words:
I’ve been wanting to share a good “Transformation Tuesday” or “Face to Face Friday” post for a while, but I keep struggling with it. I realized this morning why that is — for most of last year (when I was at my heaviest weight in recent memory), I spent an exhaustible amount of time trying to “trick” the camera. I stuck mostly with selfies. I retook pictures time and time and time again until I got one where I didn’t “look too fat.” I figured out which poses made my arms and waist look the smallest, and if I couldn’t stand like that, I hid behind something so it would block me.
And even then, you can’t hide what’s happening in my face. The stress in my eyebrows. The tension in my jaw. The smile that never quite reaches my eyes, because my eyes are just…tired. Or full of worry. Or both. It may not be obvious to most people looking at them, but when I see pictures of myself, I can tell when I’m actually enjoying myself (rarely) and when I’m thinking about how the picture might look and how I’ll look in it (often).
Take the top picture in this post — my husband and I had gone blueberry picking. I wanted a picture of us together. This was the seventh or eighth version of this shot. I still wasn’t happy with it, but I let it go. I had resigned myself that I just wasn’t going to get a good picture. Not because I wasn’t happy with what we were doing (I was, for the most part, except for the fact that I was SUPER tired… being out in the sun picking blueberries for less than an hour early in the morning had exhausted me!), but because I wasn’t happy with MYSELF. I was tired, I was stressed out, I hated how I looked AND how I felt, and I was stuck. You can even see it in the position of our faces — I was pulling away from him.
Fast forward to the 2016 photo (which is from about a month or so ago… I dunno how long, this year is FLYING by, right?!?). I’m definitely not pulling away. And yes, you can see the weight I’ve lost (there’s about a 20ish pound difference between photo #1 and photo #2 for me). But that’s not what I see. I see how much more natural my smile is. I see how that smile actually reaches my eyes. I see the tension gone from my shoulders, and the fact that I’m just HAPPY being there with my husband. And the behind the scenes bit is I know this is not the seventh or eighth time I’ve asked someone to retake this picture so I can re-pose/stand different, tilt my chin, “trick” the camera… this was the first shot. Captured the moment and got back to enjoying it. What’s more, this was late in the afternoon of a VERY full day. I’m not exhausted like I was in the other photo. I had energy, and I was feeling GREAT.
The top photo makes me sad because it reminds me of how much time I spent just feeling UGH about everything. About myself, my life. It was miserable. And it was entirely due to what was going on inside me — I wasn’t taking care of myself, because I didn’t feel worth being taken care of. When I think about the past year, that’s what I focus on more than anything. Yes, the weight loss is great (and, according to my doctor, necessary, so bonus for that). But it’s so much more about the internal transformation I’ve been on. As I take care of myself more, I realize how much I DESERVE it. I am reveling in the confidence, the energy, the joy… those are the REAL takeaways from all of this. Being a smaller dress size is just a sort of nice bonus.
I’ve still got a long way to go, of course. I still worry about how I look in photos. I still try to stand in a way that will make me “seem” slim. I still stress out more than I should, and I still am too hard on myself from time to time. But I knew this journey was never going to just take a year (or two or three). But I’m in it for the long haul, because I finally believe I’m worth it. And if you’re ready to join me on a journey like this, let’s do it. Any road is more fun to walk together.
And then, on June 8, I shared this picture:
And I shared these words:
So, today, someone shared a link with me to a photo album of pictures of an event I attended two years ago. I have my own pictures from that event, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was also in the midst of perfecting my “stand a certain way/pose a certain way to ‘hide’ yourself” habit when taking photos because I didn’t feel comfortable in them.
But in this other person’s photos… I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t check the image and ask them to delete any I found unflattering. And in those, I saw a very raw, very painful truth. My heart absolutely sunk when I saw the pictures. Sure, I look like I’m having fun, but I know how I felt — tired. Uncomfortable. Sick ALL THE TIME. And even looking at them now, two years later, my first thought about myself was “You look absolutely awful.”
I have spent the last 30 minutes sitting at my desk, fighting back tears, wishing there was some way I could just delete my entire past from the Internet. Someone brought cake into work today. I had a slice. I thought about heading to the kitchen and devouring the rest of it…
And then I reached out to a strong support source of mine who said to me: “I would take it and turn it into a positive, though. Use it as inspiration. “I was once this person but I got it together and became someone much better.” These reminders will help you to never fall back into old bad habits. Never judge yourself based on the person you once were. You can just use it as a comparison. It doesn’t matter who you were, it matters who you are and who you become.”
So, instead of wallowing or being self-destructive, I made this side-by-side to remind myself just how far I’ve come, and show myself that I am a different person now, inside and out, than I was two years ago today. And I’m posting it publicly. Because you know what? Previous photos and videos of me are going to exist in a lot of places. And that is who I was at that time. But it’s not who I am now, and it’s not who I will be forever. EVERYONE can make a choice to make a change. EVERYONE can make a choice to take a deep breath, accept how hard it’s going to be, and move forward anyway. So that’s the direction I’m pointed now.
I did get an initial outpouring of support from people on both posts, which meant the world to me. Sharing my journey this openly and honestly is HARD TO DO. It stresses me out. I agonize over whether or not I should post ANY of this, but I keep posting it. Because people HAVE told me it helps. And people HAVE responded well. And people have also been jerks about it, but I am coming to recognize that, unfortunately, that’s part of sharing things publicly (which is also a good way to help sort out who you do/don’t want to be part of your life!).
What was interesting, though, was how many people seemed quick to want to be reassuring that things were still good back in the “before” pictures. And I love them for that, but while perhaps some things were good, everything was not good. I know I was loved, and I know I had friends, and that people cared about me. But I wasn’t loving me, or caring for myself, and that’s a big part of what this whole journey is about.
I know I’ve shared a version of this before, but THIS is what so much of this journey is about:
So, I’m working on filling up my own cup with strength and good health and self love, and then I’m doing what I can to pour that out into the world.