“In that moment, I choose to assign a productive purpose to my pain“I learned to love myself – that I am worthy and my worth is more than just my body.”
Body Dysmorphia is a mental health condition where a person spends a significant amount of time focused on perceived flaws in their appearance. Oftentimes these ‘flaws’ are unnoticeable to others.
Growing up, Arnold Schwarzenegger was my idol. For me, my entire body was flawed. I believed I was small, lacked muscle development, and had too much fat, you name it. I picked my body apart. My body was never enough. I was never enough. Kids from school reinforced this belief as I was teased for being a little heavier. I dreaded taking my shirt off or changing for gym class. That is when I got teased the most. When I was naked and even more vulnerable.
I started with push-ups. When I was old enough I started working out at the local YMCA with the circuit machines; doing endless amounts of cardio and really anything to try and lose weight and gain muscle. I was a fish out of the water and I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually, I moved into the weight room and I got a little better with form and technique with the help of a personal trainer, but still hadn’t really figured it out.
At 16 years old, I was assaulted at a party. The gentlemen decided to beat me up and break my jaw. Subsequently, my jaw was wired shut for 6 weeks. Everything I consumed had to be through a straw, including my Christmas dinner. Over the next 6 weeks, I lost 25 pounds. Now I had other problems:
1) A fear of someone trying to hurt me again.
2) I was suddenly getting attention from girls, and some of the teasing at school stopped. This only fueled my fire.
I spent another few years training but not really making any progress. It wasn’t until I met one of my good friends and he showed me that diet was everything. To grow you had to eat; a lot. So I did, and over the matter of a few months, I gained a significant amount of muscle mass and fat. As I entered University I became very aware of how to manipulate my diet to lose fat and gain muscle. The cycle started. I would gain as much as I could over 3-4 months then I would try to cut the fat over the next 3-4 months. Up and down. Never satisfied. Constantly critiquing, spending hours in the gym seeking an elusive physique that would never come.
I thought I was ‘healthy’. How could I not be? I was working out all the time and eating healthy food. What more could I want? On the outside, I might have looked healthy but on the inside in my mind was a different story.
To this day it is still something I deal with. Will I ever be cured of Body Dysmorphia? No. It will always be there. However, as I grow and learn to love myself more the voices that told me I needed to have a physique like Arnie will become quieter. There will be days where life happens and the voices will try to consume me again, but those days will continue to become fewer and farther between. It took time to realize that my flaws are a part of what makes me who I am. I learned to love myself – that I am worthy and my worth is more than just my body. When I did I was finally able to overcome my Body Dysmorphia.
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