“We are what we imagine ourselves to be.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about body image lately because of Bill. He has issues with this himself and we’ve talked about how we’re both insecure. Let’s take a look-see.

Bill went through a lot in 1995…his twin brother died, he lost his job, and his wife left him after she cheated on him. The only way he knew to cope with his grief and stress was to eat. A lot. Bill has always been a binge eater and he completely lost control during this time. In fact, he gained over 200 pounds and weighed close to 500. He could barely do anything with so much weight on his body and a couple of years later, after feeling horrible and like he was going to die at a young as as well, he decided to start running since it was something he’d done in school and the Navy and liked. He knew he needed a ‘new addiction’ (not food!) plus he wanted to get healthy and lose the weight that was holding him back.

I’m gobsmacked.

To make a long story short (something I’m not so good at 🙄), he ended up losing the 200 pounds, has run marathons, and 4 ultras. For you non-runners out there (hi ma! 😁), an ultra is a 100 mile run. One. Hundred. Freaking. Miles. That’s unbelievable to me! I’ve done 5 marathons myself, and after 26 miles, I’m wiped. I can’t imagine getting to that point in a run and still have 74 to go. And yes, he wants me to run one with him. And no, there’s not a snowballs chance in hell I will. 😲

Now, I’ve written about my struggle with anorexia and like all eating disorders, you are never ‘cured’ but aren’t always experiencing the severity of what it can be. With anorexia, you wax and wane depending on environmental stressors and I’ve had bouts of it after my worst time in high school.

Part of anorexia is having a distorted body image. Regardless of what really is there, you see yourself in the mirror and think you’re fat. I mean, you ACTUALLY see fat and this simply feeds (no pun intended although that was pretty good) into the anorexia and a new cycle begins. We know that having a high level of perfectionism and self-criticism are common in people with a distorted body image, and I’m lucky enough to have both of these. Of course. 🙄

My biggest area of concern (and yes, I still struggle with this…I never eat ANYTHING without wondering what it’s doing to my weight 🤔) is my belly. I hate it! I see it as way too big and abnormally large for my frame. And yes, my friends and family have told me it isn’t for decades, but I still see it that way. Blech.

God Bless you, Kristen!

Anyhoot, here’s where Bill has really helped me and I hope I’ve helped him too. Because of his huge weight loss, he has a lot of loose skin and is still a pretty big guy. He’s so self-conscious about this and was really shy (so cute!) about being intimate with me (nothing much, ma…just smooching…🙄). But here’s the thing: when I saw him, I was still so attracted to him. He’s sexy to me…handsome. I don’t see him as ‘skin’ and ‘weight’…I see him as someone I love who is perfectly unperfect. In fact, I told him his skin was a badge of honor at losing so much weight and accomplishing so much as a runner.

So I started thinking about why I can’t do the same with myself. Why do I continue to beat myself up for my own body imperfections (and I have a lot of ’em)? It’s like I’m finally understanding (hello, lightbulb 😳) that if someone really loves me, why should I worry about my fucking belly (sorry, ma 🙄)? Why should I think myself un-loveable or undesirable when Bill, and the people around me don’t? If Bill can believe that I accept him in the package he comes in, why can’t I accept my own packaging? Why’s it so hard to believe him when he says I’m beautiful (I made an appointment for him at “All About Eyes”🤓 ) when I want him to believe how I think he’s a cutie patootie? And…if I’ve truly come to love myself again, shouldn’t I love my ‘package’ too (sounds a bit dirty, ‘eh?)?

But bigger questions are seeping in my head too. Why have I wasted so much time on looks? Why have I denied myself so many things to keep fighting a battle that will never be won? Why do I only see my worth in terms of my bod? Hmmmm…these are toughies to answer.

When I was with my last partner (20 years younger…shutty the mouthies, please 🙄), I was so so so so so (get it?) self-conscious around him! Not long into our relationship, he told me that my neck looked old. And yes it does. I was 50 years old and the skin is thinning and wrinkling (charming 😐). But I took what he said without question, and now I can’t even look at a pic of myself without seeing my ugly neck. I was also very conscious of my shape. Women his age have such great, young smooth bodies (sigh…). How could I ever compete with that? (Obviously I couldn’t…he didn’t cheat on me with another 50 year old…that’s for sure 😐).

Then Bill came over for the first time and we kissied a bit (just a couple pecks, ma) and he actually said this without knowing my insecurity: “I love your neck.” He didn’t understand why I suddenly burst into tears and when I told him about J, he said this: “Why would you believe anything that jerk-wad said?” Wow. That was put into perspective, particularly since I now have a loving, kind, nice guy tell me otherwise and it’s his opinion that matters. Actually, mine does too.

Yes, my neck is wrinkly. But I’m 53 (as is Bill…no worries there🙄 ) and after the breakdown I had a couple of years ago, it hit me that I’m so lucky just to be alive. So lucky my suicide attempt didn’t succeed. So lucky I had the support around me to get myself out of that hellish place. YEA! I have a wrinkly neck! And…I’m alive. How ’bout that?

And my belly? Of course Bill hasn’t seen it yet (if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Wyoming to sell you. And ma, just disregard that offer…K?😃), but he has told me my shape is perfect for him. For me. I’m who I’m supposed to be. And I look the way I’m supposed to look. And he loves it all just like I love all of him.

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why can’t we cut ourselves the slack we cut others? Why can’t we see ourselves through other’s eyes? Why do we waste so much time and energy on something that in the end is so superficial? You know, I love the last scene of “Rocketman” where Elton (I LOVE YOU, TARON 🧡) is in his group therapy and says this: “I’ve spent so long feeling resentful for things that just don’t matter.” How right he is.

There are people out there that would give anything for my ‘wrinkly’ neck and ‘stick-outy’ belly. I have a body that works and plays hard for me, and that’s really all that should matter. The rest is just icing. Why is it that the lessons we need the most are often learned so late in life? Maybe because we’re most open to them then? Hmmmm.

Kristi xoxo

Author: Kristi

Just a bipolar Professor working to end the stigma of mental illness.

4 thoughts on ““We are what we imagine ourselves to be.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.”

  1. You are beautiful! You have hair that I would pay money to have for one day, my friend! Of course, you probably wouldn’t like being bald so never mind. I’ve learned that when you love someone, you no longer see their body, you see their soul. It’s not the outside that matters. Now, can you convince me to believe that of myself?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think a lot of it has to do with the models we’re shown from the day we’re born – no one makes a movie star out of the mom with milk stains on her shirt, and bags under her eyes, we celebrate the airbrushed, plucked and permed and there’s no way we can ever measure up to that ideal – because it isn’t real

        Liked by 1 person

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