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"Unmasking the Illusion: Nurturing Self-Love Beyond Weight and Appearance"

How much of your mental energy is consumed by thoughts about weight? How often do you catch yourself assessing someone based on their appearance? Have you embarked on numerous endeavors to boost your self-esteem through weight loss, muscle building, restrictive diets, or the use of supplements? If we were to honestly evaluate our thought patterns, I suspect many of us would realize that a staggering 80% of our thinking revolves around these concerns. It's a significant portion of our consumer-driven society, fueling the relentless marketing industry.

Our predisposition to judge others based on their looks is deeply ingrained in us, a primal instinct for survival. We instinctively assess who is safe and who poses a potential threat. Judging others based on appearances is part of our nature, but it's crucial to pause and question this tendency.

Let's delve into some underlying themes that have emerged from my personal experiences. Let's challenge the status quo and explore the intricacies of our thoughts, biases, and societal pressures. Are you ready to question the narratives that have been shaped by these subconscious patterns?

{{Before I take you any further I would like to preface this by saying, I understand how these pictures might be ridiculous to some, and that is the point- because to me, the thoughts that were going on in my head, were driving me to a low and to a place where I saw drastic changes. I put these pictures with captions, as to what I was thinking at the time of the picture, not how I feel today. Today, I am fiercely unconditionally listening to my body whispers and showing Love to mySelf, when I want to change something.}}

 


Uncovering the Root beLIEf


I was raised with the message that " I was so pretty, that I could get a Dr.to marry me and I wouldn't have to worry about grades". Unfortunately, this ingrained message has stayed with me throughout my life, subtly influencing every decision I've made. If you had asked me five years ago whether this was true, I don't think I would have even realized the deep impact it had on me. The seemingly insignificant comments from my mom or grandma, where they expressed dislike for their own appearances or criticized themselves, laid the groundwork for my own body criticism. This happened because, in my eyes, they appeared beautiful.

I've always been an active person. Sports came naturally to me, and I excelled in almost every sport I tried. Volleyball was my passion, and I played it for eight years, reaching a high level of skill. But as life moved on after high school, athletic opportunities dwindled, and I didn't engage in any extracurricular activities to stay in shape. Weight was never a concern for me, and I never gave much thought to my body or the possibility of having body image issues, or so I thought. However, after High School and my new career path of hairstlying,.I gained about 15 or 20 pounds due to my partying habits and this is when my relationship to my body drastically changed.

 

Fluctuations and Addiction


Working at a prestigious salon alongside other women made me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. I started disliking myself, not just for the choices I made regarding my body, but also for the negative way I perceived myself. Over the next seven years, my weight fluctuated as I went through periods of withdrawing from pills and becoming addicted to Adderall. There would always be positive reinforcement when I lost a few pounds—clients and coworkers would compliment me on how amazing I looked.

So my weight continued to fluctuate, whether or not others noticed. Every pound seemed like 3 times the amount to me.



During my first treatment, I lost a considerable amount of weight from withdrawing from methadone, to the point where I looked at the clothes that were now baggy on me and

wondered if I had really put on that much weight while using. All these little things, which now, looking back, played a significant role in how I felt about and loved my body. All the

I specifically took this picture so I could see how big my thighs were. Again , I feel love for this  Elaine here
I specifically took this picture so I could see how big my thighs were. Again , I feel love for this Elaine here

little nuances of complimenting looks or congratulating when someone looses weight.

I vividly recall starting to work out again, initially motivated by the desire to look attractive to the opposite sex. Eventually, it shifted to wanting to feel good about myself. However, when I became pregnant shortly after getting off drugs, I ended up gaining a whopping 70 pounds. Pregnancy became my excuse to indulge in whatever I wanted, and I took advantage of that. Looking back, if I had truly cared about my body, I wouldn't have allowed myself to consume the types of food I did. But because my focus was on external success rather than making an internal life change, I adopted the mindset of "I'll just lose the weight after the baby is born." And I did, but not without experiencing a health crisis that required me to undergo four surgeries in 18 months, leaving me physically unwell.

As I started shedding the weight, I continued to receive external validation from everyone around me. They would ask, "How did you do it?" or inquire about my "secret." It was a cause for celebration. However, in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but feel disturbed by the fact that such weight loss was being glorified. Despite my awareness of the messages I was receiving, it only reinforced the belief that my worth and power were

Unhealthy low weight, and felt okay with this
Unhealthy low weight, and felt okay with this

tied to being skinny. I know deep down that this is a fallacy, but at the time, it was a subconscious belief that drove me to the edge on multiple occasions.

Throughout the years, these experiences have shaped my perspective on body image and the detrimental impact of society's fixation on weight and appearance.

At one point I was too skinny, which made me incredibly uncomfortable. Being thin was not enjoyable for me at all. In fact, I felt like a skeleton. I distinctly remember feeling my hip bones protruding when I lay on my stomach, and none of my pants fit properly. It was a constant struggle. People who struggled with weight would often tell me how they wished they had my "problem" and say things like, "Oh, that's not a real issue to have. It's better to be too skinny than overweight." I found these comments incredibly insensitive because neither extreme is great for one's well-being. Why can't we simply focus on feeling our best in our own skin?

I felt terrible and incredibly unhealthy during that time. Losing all that weight didn't bring me the happiness and relief I expected. Instead, it only added to the already existing stresses and challenges I was facing.


 

Exercising To Get Away From Ourselves


After my kid's father and I separated, I was consumed by overwhelming anger. It was

My 30th Birthday, just started running
My 30th Birthday, just started running

like a raging fire burning inside me, making me feel on the brink of becoming homicidal. (I know this sounds a little much, and this is what happens when you suppress feelings for so long) But instead of resorting to violence, I channeled that anger into something else—I started running like never before. It's ironic because I had always despised running, but now it became my escape, my way of preventing myself from hurting others. Running became an addiction for me, as it was the only way I knew how to cope with my intense emotions. If I couldn't run, everyone else would bear the brunt of my anger. I had no other outlet.

However, my body started to rebel against the excessive strain I was putting on it. I ignored the warning signs, pushing myself to the limit, until I had to undergo not one, not two, but three foot surgeries. Even this didnt slow me down. But even with the pain pills prescribed to aid my recovery, I refused to ease up. I foolishly rushed the healing process, which only made things worse and ultimately led to the third surgery. My foot was a mess, and I had no one to blame but myself.

Looking back, I realize I was oblivious to the fact that running had become an addiction. I didn't see exercise as something that could take control over me. I would work out twice a day, bike, and then hit the running trail. It was a relentless cycle that took a toll on my body and my well-being.

There was a particular moment that stood out to me when a psychic visited a bridal shower I attended. She told me that I was running away from myself, emphasizing that it doesn't work that way and that I needed to confront the emotions I was feeling. It resonated with me on some level, shifting my perspective, but it didn't bring about significant changes. It was during a tumultuous period in my life, filled with drug use, moments of recovery, and a tangled web of lies.

Exercise became intertwined with my journey. If I exercised, it was a sign that I was doing well, a marker of my supposed progress. It became a tool to conceal my true internal state. Looking good on the outside made it easier to hide the turmoil within. Yet, my body started to rebel against the mistreatment it endured. While I ate relatively healthy, it wasn't out of genuine love for my body but rather for the adrenaline rush it provided.

I joined a network marketing company centered around health and fitness. It gave me a sense of belonging and made me feel somewhat content with my physical condition. However, the pursuit for more was relentless. Looking back at pictures, I would think, "Wow, I was in amazing shape." Strangely enough, I didn't remember feeling that way at the time. I sought validation from multiple partners and craved external validation on platforms like Facebook. Involvement with the network marketing company shed light on another aspect of addiction—the thin line between truly loving and nurturing one's body versus those who exercise excessively for competitive events like bodybuilding or swimsuit competitions.


 

External Validation to Self Loving


It's a topic that few will openly discuss or admit, but the allure of being right there on the edge is powerful. It raises questions about the complexities of body image, self-worth,

I Remember taking this picture and saying out loud "I am out of shape" .  I feel sad when I see this, because I now think back and know I was in excellent shape
I Remember taking this picture and saying out loud "I am out of shape" . I feel sad when I see this, because I now think back and know I was in excellent shape

and the dark side of obsessively chasing physical perfection.Self-love doesn't reside in pushing your body to the brink of pain and ignoring its distress signals. When your body speaks through pain, it's a clear message to stop, to listen, and to take care. Yet, the world of exercise and body discipline demands a different approach. It demands a level of control over what you consume—carefully minimizing food categories and even restricting hydration. It requires unwavering discipline, regardless of what your body truly needs. In this mental game, discipline triumphs as the mind takes the reins, overshadowing the needs of the body. But what happens when you learn the hard way?

I had to endure the consequences of my actions. Over the past couple of years, my body began to shutdown, forcing me to confront the reality I had been blindly disregarding. I would feel pain, and discomfort in my joints, and yet I would press on. Stretching became a means to convince myself that I could just push through it. After all, we're often told that pain equals growth. But it's not that simple. Pain serves different purposes, and growth shouldn't come at the expense of your well-being. It was during this journey that I had an epiphany. Quite recently, in fact. Last year, I was struck with mono, an illness that left me incapable of doing anything. It was a forced pause, a moment where I had no choice but to confront the consequences of my relentless pursuit of discipline at the expense of my body's needs.

There comes a time when everything you do, every exercise, every step, feels like it's working against you. Rest becomes the only option, and in those moments of forced stillness, you're confronted with the harsh reality of how

I was not happy with the way I fit into a bathing suit.
I was not happy with the way I fit into a bathing suit.

you've been treating yourself, your body, your mental health, and your self-love—or lack thereof. It's excruciating to face because suddenly, you can't rely on your usual coping mechanisms. You can't exercise to boost your mental well-being, provide for your kids, or even tackle your work with the same energy. You find yourself mentally and emotionally drained, reduced to a mere shell of your former self. In those moments of utter emptiness, stripped of external distractions, the true lesson of self-love emerges. If you had asked me 18 months ago if I loved myself, I would have confidently said yes. But that love was still conditional—it depended on my ability to engage in my coping mechanisms, to exercise whenever and however I pleased. It became painfully clear that no matter what anyone said or did, I still couldn't find solace within myself. The absence of my usual crutches left me feeling lost and disconnected.

It's a delicate dance, nurturing your body and not feeding your ego—one that blurs the


line between forcing change and embracing radical, unconditional self-love in the very areas you yearn to transform. It's not about changing what you believe needs fixing; it's about embracing and loving those very aspects you long to alter. And let me tell you, only a minute fraction of people have truly reached this level. A year and a half or two years ago, I would have claimed to love myself, but now I understand that self-love is an ever-evolving journey, one that requires deep introspection and a commitment to embracing every part of ourselves, even the parts we desire to change. Embarking on the journey of self-discovery and self-love is an absolute necessity. It's only when we delve deep into our internal landscape that we can truly comprehend the intricate dynamics at play, the choices we make, and the profound meaning behind radical self-love. Even when faced with the debilitating effects of mono, I thought I had reached the depths of self-understanding. But I quickly realized that there are always deeper spaces to explore, more layers to uncover.

 

Dissolving The Illusion


I bring this to your attention because it transcends mere physical appearances. No matter the physical condition we find ourselves in, whether we're flaunting a swimsuit model figure, carrying some extra weight, building muscle, or maintaining a toned physique, it all boils down to one fundamental aspect: our level of self-love., It's about delving into the profound internal architecture, the subconscious gears that drive our every action. There

Shortly before I quit my job, after I had mono. Feeling like crap here
Shortly before I quit my job, after I had mono. Feeling like crap here

are underlying reasons behind why we do or don't do things, and until we uncover and comprehend those reasons, we'll find ourselves trapped in the same repetitive cycles, endlessly repeating the same patterns.

We've fallen into the trap of believing that we have complete control over our emotions and well-being. We've become ensnared in the illusion that our minds alone can dictate what makes sense for our bodies. We have disregarded our body's signals and prioritized the relentless chatter of our minds.

I do not have the answers for this,yet, what I can attest to is the underrated power of stillness and the profound importance of asking our bodies what they truly need. It's in those moments of quiet introspection that we can open ourselves up to receiving the messages our bodies are desperately trying to convey.

I invite you to reflect: Are you truly listening to your body's needs? Are you willing to break free from the illusion of control and embrace the messages your body is sending? The answers lie within, awaiting your conscious decision to embrace a new level of self-awareness and self-love.

Because you exist, I Love You,

Elaine,


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