For as long as I can remember I have always been incredibly anxious when it came exposing any part of my body; and I don’t mean walking down the street flashing strangers. In particular, my anxiety is heightened by showing my upper arms. I know it’s not often a body part you hear someone complain about, but throughout my life, any time I’ve gained weight, it showed up first in arms.
As a child, I’d wear sweaters wherever possible, even on hot days. As I got older, cardigans and jackets became a non-negotiable defence mechanism; I’d even go so far as to wear them at weddings and clubs over nice outfits regardless of how sweaty it made me. I felt like if I covered my arms and midsection, people wouldn’t notice I was heavy. In my head, layers disguised lumps and bumps, and I could hide behind them as a safety mechanism to protect myself from judgement.
Because my body didn’t look like the women I idolized in magazines and on TV, I felt I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough or worthy enough. These distorted body image beliefs became so deeply ingrained in me that even after I lost weight, I still struggled with accepting and loving myself.
Though I’ve worked for years on changing this and working as a health coach to help other women overcome the same struggles, I still often have trouble parting ways with jackets and, god forbid, sleeves (yes, sleeves!).
However, the turning point in my “journey to sleeveless” came about two years ago in the middle of a hot yoga class. I made up my mind to shed a layer of clothing and wear only a tank top because 1) it was hot, 2) the shirt was flapping in my face and 3) why not?!
So I cautiously peeled off my long sleeve top (don’t freak I had a singlet on!) as the butterflies went mental in my stomach. But you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Nobody looked twice and the class continued on as before. Despite what I thought the outcome would be, I’d survived. It was a monumental moment for me.
Wearing a singlet isn’t something most people would think twice about, but for me it felt like I was finally empowered to begin to learn to accept and love myself. By taking that one leap and telling myself I was good enough and was allowed to accept myself as I was, in that very moment I let go of the things holding me back.
Whilst I know that my ‘guns’ will never be heavily defined, due to the stretch marks, loose skin, and “bingo wings” from being formerly obese, the ones I am blessed with are strong and capable of whatever I throw their way. Rather than hating on my body and feeling riddled with anxiety and fear from years of negative thought patterns, I forced myself to begin to change this. This not only made me feel better about my body, but also made me feel stronger and more capable in other areas of my life.
Most of the insecurities and fears that I felt about my body revolved around worrying about what other people thought about me. But when I realized the only thing that mattered was how I felt, everything changed.
Self-acceptance is one of the biggest and most rewarding challenges you can get through. And while it might be tough (and for some, hard to believe), it is OK to feel comfortable in your own skin, to be proud of your achievements, to see how capable you are, to love and accept yourself. Living a life riddled with fear and anxiety isn’t what you deserve. You are better than that.
You are worthy. You are loved.
Originally featured on MindBodyGreen