There are days where I feel confident, strong, and damn hot. There are also days where I feel bloated, fat, pale, and ugly. For years, I believed that I could reduce the number of bad days I had by shrinking myself and making myself as "perfect" as I could. I believed that if I had a 6 pack, I wouldn't feel bloated and ugly. I believed that if I had toned legs, I wouldn't feel short and stubby.
In reality, operating under these beliefs only made me increasingly fixated on my body, and regardless of how I looked, I was unhappy. If I was able to have abs on any given day, okay cool - so what? Now my day was shaped around not wanting to lose that or fighting to maintain it. If I was able to feel strong on any given day? That's nice, for a split second. Now it's time to go back to the gym to maintain my muscle and have the same thoughts tomorrow.
Regardless of what goal I achieved, it was never enough. Even if I achieved the goal, my life then shifted to wanting to maintain those positive traits. Regardless of what I looked like, my mind was consumed by thoughts of control and fear - control to maintain a certain appearance, and fear that I might lose it. The sense of gratification and happiness that came with achieving my goals was fleeting. It quickly shifted from satisfaction to fear that I might lose that.
When I was engaging in my eating disorder, my rules and regulations that dictated my life only grew more and more rigid and restrictive. Because that's how the body works. It adapts. If I was only eating certain things one day and exercising for how long, cool, but now I need to be even more extreme to see results or even maintain results.
What kind of way is that to live? I believed living this way would eventually bring me lifelong happiness. But the happiness I was chasing was only ever fleeting, and it was only ever temporary. The majority of my life comprised of fear and anxiety, rules and regulations, abuse and pain.
I'm not trying to say that wanting to look a certain way or wanting to change your body is pointless and stupid. Not at all. Instead, I challenge you to think about if or how these goals dictate your life and influence your perception of self. If you're feeling bloated one day, do you cancel all your plans and hide away in your room? If you don't have abs, do you feel like a failure of a human being and loathe yourself?
Remind yourself it's not that deep. I tied my sense of self worth to my body for a lifetime, and it only ever left me feeling incomplete, like a failure, and unworthy. My life was a rat race chasing a freedom from those heavy beliefs, but regardless of what I did, it was not enough. I was not enough. I was a failure.
When I have bad body image now, I try and think holistically. I try and look at the big picture. I remind myself that I am not valued for my appearances, and it is arguably one of the least interesting things about me. I wasn't placed on this earth to have abs.