Body image. Can I just say that it is a very real struggle? This week has proven to me, once again, that no matter how far along I feel I am in my healing, something comes up to knock me down a few pegs and remind me that there is still much to learn.
This weeks lesson? Watching myself on video. I was slightly nervous to hear my TEDx Talk on domestic violence. There were so many reasons why. I was sure I made strange faces as I spoke, or that I stuttered my words as I fumbled through my outline. Perhaps my hair was really flopping above my head in a frizz induced panic due to the sweat that beaded along my hairline. Or, I could envision it in my mind’s eye, that I was standing rigged or pacing back and forth. One would think I remembered my demeanor as I spoke, but I was lost in a spotlight and simply remembering my words.
But none of that happened. Instead, as the camera cut to an offstage angle, I was hit head on with the shape of my body. I could see the weight that has crept up over the past few years as I dealt with injury and happiness (yes, complacency in a happy life made me happy to snuggle at home and eat goodies with my love). The worst part was, I was so focused on how I looked, so mortified by what I saw, that I didn’t even hear my own talk as it played over the small computer speakers.
Then, it hit me; when he (my abuser) saw this – which I’m sure he would – he would see “fat” Amy and laugh and laugh and laugh, thankful that he was rid of me and off to a tiny little thing ten years my junior. He wouldn’t hear the damage he had done, he wouldn’t know that I was strong, and he wouldn’t realize that I was happy. All he would see was a girl 50 pounds heavier than when he called her fat. He wouldn’t know that his actions and words were wrong. He would only know that he was “right” about giving me grief about my weight. After all, if he had left me to my own choices, he would have had a “fat ass” for a wife.
His words washed over me like hot lava, slowly burning away my newfound confidence and excitement over standing on stage. I carried it into the next day, sharing my video and being sure everyone would notice my weight and how bad I looked. But I was determined to not let that get in the way of sharing my message.
But it only took one sentence from my loving man to put me in a tail spin. “Hey babe, you want to go to the gym with me tonight?”
My mood went from focused and determined to somber and bitter. My thoughts taunted me.
Great, he is hearing my self-doubt. He thinks it’s time for me to get a grip on this battle. I hate the gym!! There are not enough hours to make that work for me. All those hours I spent working out and starving myself never mattered. He (not the loving man in my life, but my abuser) never thought I was good enough.
Determined to not say the thoughts out loud, I pushed through my day in a huff, dreading when we would leave for the gym and griping when it was mentioned. When we arrived after the class, that I signed up for, had started I got angry and didn’t want to go in, lashing out at my guy when he encouraged me to just let it go and get moving.
“Valentina won’t care (the instructor and my friend). Just go in and do your thing babe,” he kindly encouraged.
“She started! I’m not going in now. There is nowhere to set up. The class if full!”
“You can go in and set up. There is room right there,” he nodded to a large empty space in the back corner.
“Fine! Is that what you want? I’ll go to the class. Just go! Go do your thing! You’re late too!” I snipped. And then my heart faltered with grief. Why was I being mean to my guy? He had done nothing to deserve it.
In true form, he smiled a sweet and loving smile and walked off to his class, coming back by the group room once more to make faces at me as I set up. Even though I lashed out, he still went out of his way to try to cheer me up.
I went through the motions fighting tears as anxiety set in. I knew I looked distraught and tried not to make eye contact with anyone, but Valentina caught me in the mirror and mouthed “Hey Amy!” to me between sets. I flashed her a half-hearted smile and struggled to understand what on earth I was so upset about.
During yoga, some thoughts came to mind. Actually, quite a lot of thoughts streamed through my supposedly quiet mind.
Seeing myself on video set my thoughts down a slippery slope, one in which I focused all of my energy on the negative self-doubt that flourished in my marriage, and away from the positive, life-changing place I am today. In one instant of allowing my ex-husband’s hurtful words into my my mind, I forgot that the amazing man I’m with today told me how beautiful I looked before I took the stage to present that day. In the time I focused on how much my ex would not get it and think he was right about my body, I forgot that his opinion does not matter anymore. He chose to treat me as an object and subject me to constant criticism.
It is the opinion of those I reached with my talk that matters in this case, and none of them care about what I look like. In the hours I spent being negative about going to the gym, I forgot how good I feel after I go and how much healthier I will be for it. It is irrelevant how I look physically as it is simply a side-effect of where my life has taken me.
I allowed my abuser’s words and actions to attack my being and steal my joy. I took out my frustration on a man who has done nothing but love me and treat me with respect. My behavior is not ok, but I know where it comes from. And that is half the battle. In knowing, I can find growth in this experience, and that is exactly what I plan to do.