“There comes a time in life when you have to stand up and SHOUT: This is me, damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love. I am a whole complex package. Take me, or leave me…..Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don’t fit your idea of who I should be and don’t try to change me to fit your mold.”
~ Stacy Charter
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had some pretty unpleasant hate email. To say it upset me would be an understatement. The truth is—I felt defeated. Devalued. And utterly disrespected.
My message is personal. Very personal.
So when someone slams me for the way I look and essentially claims that I have no right to talk about body image when I could be a model (her words, not mine); that really upsets me.
Initially, I wanted to stand up and shout. Actually I wanted to scream. To defend myself. To give her a piece of my mind but that’s not what I’m about. I want to support women, inspire them, lift them up, not fight with them or against them. Especially since it was clear that she didn’t understand that I’m not encouraging women to be, or look like, me or any other preconceived idea of physical beauty.
Far from it, I’m encouraging women to learn to love and accept themselves exactly as they are. It’s not about the external appearance but rather the internal emotions, thoughts and self-image. Women of all shapes and sizes suffer from body image issues. “Beautiful, pretty, cute,” women suffer from body image issues!
Regardless of the shape of my body or the features on my face, I am woman who knows what it feels like to hate her body. To loath it to the point that I waged an all-out war on it. So, yes I have the right to talk about body image because at one point in my life, mine was as poor as it could get. Just looking in the mirror made me want to throw up. And since I hate throwing up and had an issue sticking my finger down my throat, I did, at the time the next best thing, I stopped eating, and over-exercised until I started to wither away.
Until I was so numb that the voices inside my head stopped, not because they weren’t there anymore, but because I barely had enough brain function, due to not enough sustenance, to think straight. Insert Eating Disorder and a plethora of other self-esteem issues.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, when I would look into a mirror all I saw was a young woman who was severely flawed. I was ashamed. Horrified and full of anger. I had giant lips, big pores, a large nose, small breasts, wide hips, flabby inner thighs, and cellulite on the back of my ass that I thought went for miles.
And although others would try to convince me it was all in my head, those flaws, to me, were real. When I heard someone refer to me as “beautiful” or “pretty,” I thought they were nuts. That they needed to get their eyes checked and clearly “they” were the ones who had the problem, not me.
And even after seeking therapy for my ED, I still suffered from body image issues. Except now, rather than starving myself or binging on exercise, I allowed that negative voice, what I call my inner critical bitch, to take over my life. She constantly told me I wasn’t “good enough, smart enough, pretty enough.” That I wasn’t “loveable” and if I found love that he would cheat on me or worse yet leave me and that I would always be “too much” for someone to handle.
These thoughts were ingrained in my being. And they literally determined my day. Those thoughts would directly affect my mood, how I showed up in the world, and how I communicated with everyone in my life, especially those I loved.
God help my husband, then my boyfriend, when I was having a shitty “body” day.
I turned into a raving bitch who found fault with everything going on in my life and not because it was actually terrible but because I felt so damn ugly and honestly I needed someone or something to blame. Rather than focusing on this great life I had, I couldn’t get past my flabby thighs, and the fat on my ass.
Do you know what that kind of body hatred can do to your self-esteem?
It kills you.
Literally blows it up and leaves you with these overwhelming insecurities that seem impossible to overcome and you feel like they control your every move. Is that something you want for yourself? And don’t even let me get started on how this affects your intimate relationships.
In 3 words…It. Destroys. It.
I understand you.
I get not being able to be present and to not be able get to get out of my head long enough to realize I not only had a lot to offer the world but I had the right to “feel beautiful.” So yes, I may have a “pretty” face and I may have a nice, fit looking body but that doesn’t mean I am immune to body insecurities.
And just for the record, I am so much more than just a “pretty” face.
I have feelings too. I feel pain the same way you do. I have those same negative thoughts running
rampant in my head. Just like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time. The truth is, it took me nearly two decades to finally like what I saw when I looked in the mirror and I am damn proud of my journey. It just didn’t happen. I worked my ass off to change the way I saw myself. I learned how to embrace my flaws and I taught myself how to be more loving toward my body.
So, I may have been a little over zealous using my own personal photos to accompany my message but why shouldn’t I? I am not displaying them to intimidate anyone. Quite the contrary, I want to show women what is possible. I have come full circle. I am proud of my body. I love it (most days) and I feel so much passion around this, that I wanted to share that piece of me with all of you and the world.
You should stop and celebrate you too. Whatever god intended you to have, learn to appreciate those qualities, both inside and out. Don’t apologize for them. They are your gifts. Treat them with care. Use them wisely and most importantly love the hell out of them.
So for those of you who have told me to give up, to pack it in and go home because a good-looking woman couldn’t possibly have body image issues, or know anything about them, I say get used to seeing me because I am not going anywhere. I am calling your bluff and I am here to stay because honestly, it’s people like you who need me the most.
Have you ever stopped to think that YOU are beautiful too?
That you are no different than any other woman out there? That your insecurities are the same?
Do you want to know why we have such a body image epidemic around us? It’s not because of the media, it’s because of us. WOMEN are causing this. We hate on each other because she has a better body or a prettier face, more money, a nicer home or a happier relationship. We feel threatened by her because she has MORE of what we want.
When did we start drawing lines? When did we start taking sides? Why did we start fighting each other?
We have an amazing gift we could share with each other. We have the ability to support, to nurture, to celebrate each other. Why not start doing that?
So let me reiterate one thing and be very clear on this…I am not going to stop sharing my message with the world.
You don’t have to listen to me.
But you will not stop me until I have the pleasure of knowing that every woman I have the honor of working with or meeting is able to look at herself and in the mirror and smile back at what she sees.
About Kimberly: Kimberly Riggins is a body image expert, negative self-talk warrior and a transformational catalyst who inspires women to let go of their body image hang-ups, kick their inner critical bitch to the curb and release their inner vixen.
She is the founder and creator of The Art of Eating Chocolate Naked, a movement that challenges women all across the world to accept and love themselves just as they are. Her new book, Love Your Naked Ass: 80 Gentle Ways to Transform Your Life, Restore Your Serenity & Rediscover Happiness can be found on Amazon.com.