Learning to Love the Woman I Was

In the process of sharing my experiences with you all over the last three months I have really focused on the changes I am making and seeing in myself both physically and mentally. This was the original purpose of the blog of course, but through reading other journeys and exploring a wider community I have been inspired to look back with positivity instead of just looking forward. As you can probably see, my blog tag says “A girl learning to love herself and the world around her” but that doesn’t just have to be about the girl I am going forward. It would be too easy for me to look at the changes in my body and shame my past self for being chubbier and not active enough but there’s really no point in shaming the girl I was. After all, she’s still very much a part of me.

With all this in mind, I’ve decided to use this Sunday post as an exercise in body positivity. It’s definitely something I’m still in the process of gaining but I figured this is a good step towards that. I’ve been really inspired by Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda on Instagram) and all the stories she shares about women embracing what society would deem as their flaws (i.e., stretch marks, tummy rolls, cellulite, etc.). I’ve read a lot of great stories in general about others learning to love themselves throughout their whole journey and not just once they’ve reached their end goal. Conversely I’ve read the warning stories about how others have reached that goal and still not felt happy or fulfilled because they didn’t change their mindset alongside their body. Given how critical I can be on myself, I’m terrified I will do the same.

Work to stop that from happening starts now.

So this post is a little exploration of pictures of me that at some point I looked at and cringed. With the proliferation of social media it’s pretty easy to have that experience if you’re looking through old pictures that no longer reflect who you believe yourself to be. Admittedly, I have been known to untag or delete unflattering images of myself, trying to tailor the images people see of me online. It’s ridiculous really and I’m pledging now to stop that: pictures are memories and while the memories may start to fade, the pictures will help me hold onto them even if I have a double chin or flabby arms. Getting rid of them will only give me a moment’s security but it’ll take more from me in the long run.

I’ve picked four pictures from my facebook that I initially cringed at and now I’m going to find the good in them and say goodbye to the negative. Here we go!

The Ponytail

So, I have never liked the way I look with my hair up and I know a lot of girls with weight and image issues who feel the same. My hair helps ‘frame my face’ or whatever and makes my face look slimmer in my opinion. But when it’s 30+ degrees out and you’re stuck in the Florida sun for hours at a time, the hair is just bound to go up. Normally I shy away from pictures at these times but over the years I’ve gotten better about it. For me, the courage to do this came from my love and admiration for a fictional character who rocks ponytails and glasses all the time: Arrow’s Felicity Smoak. Still, while Felicity looks amazing in ponytails every single episode, I don’t feel like I look the same way at all.

Despite my want to immitae Felicity’s style, I still am not fully comfortable in my high ponytail and the way it makes me look. But this is exactly why I sought out a picture with my hair up, so I could try to appreciate it a bit more. When my dad first posted this picture of me playing with the skeleton of my devoured whole fried fish at Walt Disney World, I wasn’t a big fan. I picked myself apart but now I look at this picture and see the memory. It was our first time at Skipper’s Canteen and I was so excited because Jungle Cruise is one of my favourite Disney attractions. Our waiter told excellent puns the entire meal, the food was awesome (not my favourite place for dessert but I’d go back for just this fish) and as always I had an awesome trip with my parents. Because of all that I am looking at myself now and not picking apart all the little things that originally made me want to ask my dad to take the picture down, instead I see a happy young woman who is still beautiful with her hair up.

The Side Profile

The next picture is another one from Disney World and it’s a real love-hate sort of picture for me. I love it because after over 10 years of going to WDW I finally got to meet Jack Skellington from A Nightmare Before Christmas. I waited over an hour for this meet which is something I never do. Mostly I was thrilled by the pictures the awesome cast members got with my camera but this one picture gave me a hard time because it wasn’t a straight on shot. I’ve always had issues with my profile. I get frustrated because straight on I can look and feel good and I turn to the side and it falls apart.

Now I’m looking at this picture and I’m actually kind of fond of it. This was taken at the height of my weight, a few months before I went on my first weight loss journey. There are pictures from this trip that I have deemed as unrecognizable and there are pictures that actually serve as my warning to not let it get that bad again. But now I’m looking at this and realizing that this isn’t bad. It’s just different. This was a good moment in my life and I’m not going to let my weight make me feel like it is not worth sharing. It’s a unique shot and it’s one I couldn’t have manufactured myself with dozens of selfie attempts so I’m happy to have it.

The Full Body (Kind of)

It’s typically pretty rare for me to let other people take full body shots of me because I am so self conscious about my body shape. My mom and I have always told people to crop from the waist up. I’ve also gone so far as to put my zoom lens on my camera just so anyone else using it to capture a picture of me couldn’t actually get a wide shot and had to do a closeup. It’s ridiculous really and a part of me is pretty glad my dad doesn’t always listen to my cropping demands, specifically because of this picture from the Aviation museum in Ottawa.

This one was taken sometime after I had lost my first chunk of weight (before I gained most of it back) so you would think I would have been comfortable with this photo in comparison to the others. Well, nope, that’s not how it worked at all because I really hadn’t gained any body positivity the first time around. I just needed to lose more and more weight, that’s what I told myself. It didn’t happen and I think my mindset was part of the reason. I hated this photo when it first went up on Facebook… now I love it. My outfit is my favourite, it’s actually an outfit I’m very proud to fit back into now that I’ve been slimming down again. But once again, the memories trump it all. My parents and I went to Ottawa for a few days, explored all the museums, and ate a whole bunch of wonderful food. It was a good trip, thick thighs and all.

The More Recent

Finally, we have the picture that really kicked my ass into gear this second time around. I’ve mentioned before when I decided to do my selfie challenge that the pictures from New Years made me realize just how much weight I’ve gained. I think the fact that Matt has gone the opposite way and lost weight made this picture stick out even more for me. I saw the slimness of his face in comparison to the puffiness of mine and I almost didn’t even process this picture of us because of the way I looked. Thankfully, I managed to get over myself a little before I ended up permanently deleting it or something. Still, every time I posted it somewhere I hesitated, tried to colour it differently or switch it our for another picture when really it was just fine.

First of all, my hair colour in this picture is fantastic and even though you can’t see the whole outfit (you can see it here) I’m in the Ted Baker skirt / shirt combo that I look fabulous in. But more than that, my smile is genuine and it really is a nice picture of us, even if I’m on the heavier side. I’m usually the person behind the camera so we don’t always have pictures of the two of us outside of good ole selfies so this one is nice to have.

Well, that was a lot of talking about myself which I guess is really what a blog is but I’m still feeling a little strange. It was an interesting exercise and while I’m far from being incredibly body positive for myself I do believe this is a good step forward. It’s so easy to promote body positivity in others but it’s important to have it for yourself too and that’s something I’m really working on. If you’re in the same boat, I encourage you to try and do this exercise for yourself, even if you don’t blog about it. You never know how much you might come to love yourself in the process.

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