Self-consciousness is defined as a heightened sense of self-awareness; it is a preoccupation with oneself. Being self-aware is important in both personal and professional growth; however, what I am going to talk about is the debilitating side of being self-conscious. Adolescence is the time when it is believed that there is heightened self-consciousness; these feelings are often associated with shyness and embarrassment, which a lack of pride and self-esteem can result from.
Kids aren’t born self-conscious, you don’t see little girls walking around critiquing their stomachs or arms. They don’t hide behind their clothes and worry if their bellies are showing. They live carelessly; they love with their whole hearts and do what makes them happy.
So when does that change? What happens to make us hyperaware of normal things such as cellulite and our stomach?
I was always the tallest girl in class, therefore I was very aware of the fact I was bigger. It did not help that I developed faster than others, I remember when other people started wearing bras and I did not how that made me feel. I cannot narrow down what made me self-conscious, but I was always aware of my clothing size and how quickly I moved from girls to women’s clothing sections.
Throughout my childhood I was made fun of, I mean I am thankful I grew up without cell phones and technology so it was left at school. While my friends had “boyfriends’ in elementary school, I did not. I very quickly became mouthy or sassy to protect myself, this got me into a bit of trouble growing up. Throughout elementary years, I hated the thought of being in front of people, my thoughts would race at the thought of having to choose groups or present in front of the class.
The older I got the more debilitating the self-conscious thoughts became, I mean society was set up this way. There were popular kids and everyone else, it seemed that if you weren’t skinny and beautiful then what were you? It did not matter if you were smart or kind, those things were irrelevant as a kid. In addition, I always wondered who got to determine who was beautiful, as females we relied so heavily on male attention, what does a 15-year-old boy know about beauty anyways?
I remember when I started high school, a kid that made fun of me years prior turned around and said to me “oh you’re still fat”, by that time I had developed the ability to be sharp with my words so of course I had a few choice words for him.
I have a great ability to make people think their actions or words don’t bother me, but here I am years later and can still feel like I am in that moment.
No matter what I did or how good in school I was, I always cared what other people thought. Can people tell that I put makeup on today, does anyone notice that I broke out overnight, can people tell that I gained weight again? To be frank I became a bitch in school—if I was angry all the time and mean, I couldn’t get hurt? To be honest, I wasn’t made fun of too much in highschool, I had my close friends and I kept to myself for the most part. Plus I did not need anyone to make fun of me, I hated myself enough to do that on my own. I used to get upset when trying to find something to wear, nothing fit right or looked the way it did on other people. I would avoid the mirrors in change room, because quite honestly who invented those anyways!
I spent 13 years in a relationship that made me feel horrible about myself. I was often told to get a boob job, because they wanted to feel proud to have me as a wife, or to lose weight because otherwise it was embarrassing to be seen with me. Every outfit was critiqued whether I asked or not, I began to hate parts of my body that I did not know it was possible to hate. I hid behind spankx, sweaters and tight high-waisted pants. I avoided pictures; to be honest to do transformation pictures now is difficult because I am not in many photos. It is sad because there are not a lot of pictures with my kids just because of my own thoughts.
When I got divorced, those thoughts did not stop; the emotional abuse may have but it was still on play in my mind. At that point, I was in plus-size clothing and miserable. I began dating online, which if anyone has done, can be a daunting task. I was vulnerable to the ridicule of someone, somewhere, holding a phone. Random strangers told me that I was too fat or not attractive enough; if someone said that now I could brush it off, but at the time, it was debilitating. The self-conscious thoughts were still heavily present, I was always thinking of which way into the wind I was walking, was it pressing my shirt against me to show my stomach. I would avoid hugging people when possible, would they feel any back fat that I did not suck in with some sort of contraption. Even cuddling was hard for me, the dreaded “spooning”, I cannot even put into words how uncomfortable that would make me. Even to have sex with someone, if they put their hand somewhere, I was in a constant state of wondering what would they feel or what are they thinking, are they disgusted or turned off? These thoughts literally took over my life, they made most situations unpleasant.
Walking into a gym made me feel physically ill, how could I walk into a building filled with healthy and fit individuals? I could not run and I had no idea what I was doing, and to be frank I limited any workout because I was more concerned how stupid I would look trying. In December of 2018 my best friend starting boxing and she told me to come try, quite honestly if it wasn’t for her I never would have went. I was scared, boxing meant jumping and hitting, all the things would jiggle.
I hired a trainer at the same time; I hated the scale and taking measurements. The day I was scheduled to meet my trainer for the first time was terrifying, I walked into a private gym and everyone was so fit. Honestly if no one noticed I was there, I was prepared to leave and make up an excuse to never come back.
A lot of businesses are currently promoted on Instagram, I would cringe at any video or photo I saw of myself in the gym; I became so uncomfortable with the thought of someone taking a video of what I look like. I hated working with bands, the thought of a band breaking, whether it directly related to my size or weight or not made me want to cry. My trainer one day set up a few boxes to jump on and off, I was so pissed that he was making me do this. Did he not realize how many things would shake and jiggle, I wanted to leave, and I was so uncomfortable I wanted to cry. It has taken a lot of self-control to not lash out at my trainer when I am pushed outside my comfort zone, that was my defense mechanism but he did not deserve that.
Throughout my time at the gym with both boxing and my trainer, I realized that people in the fitness industry aren’t necessarily judging me, they are genuine in their desire to help me. That was a big thing for me to get over, I feel like I belong in a gym regardless of what I look like, I feel good and as long as I am giving 100% then no one can take that from me.
I used to harshly judge other women, if women posted half-naked photos I would make comments to tear them down. That is a sign of self-hate; as women we need to stop tearing each other down, in a society where there is so much judgement let’s add some kindness. When I see those photos, I am proud of those women, they have worked hard to look the way they look and they are proud of themselves. I want to see women around me succeed, I wish I could touch every women out there avoiding the gym or stuck in a shitty situation and tell them it gets better. I promise. If I could have a talk with my younger self, I would tell her that she is amazing and is able to achieve great things. I would tell her to hold her head high and most importantly I would tell her to distance herself from negative people.
Now I would love to end this post and tell you I no longer have self-conscious thoughts, but that is simply not true. I still find myself avoiding mirrors and tearing apart my body, but these thoughts will not go away overnight. With weight loss different challenges have come up, such as loose skin, and there are different feelings that come along with that. However, I can tell you that every time I am pushed outside my comfort zone I do not immediately lash out, I try to view it as a positive situation. I try to take at least one negative thought and try to find the positive in it.
The past 3 months have had the most significant impact on me mentally; the scale plateaued, so I lost how I identified. I was no longer the girl who was losing weight, so what was I? I had many close calls during those 3 months, I wanted to binge eat or give up entirely but I pushed through. Slowly I began to value what my body can do, I began to nourish it with healthy food options and it repaid me in performance. I continued to push myself outside of my comfort zones even more; I attended fitness events that I would normally roll my eyes at and loved every minute.
I saw something on Instagram today that said there are 3 months left in 2019, left in this decade, I never would have imagined last year where I would be today so I encourage everyone to take one step outside their comfort zone, you may surprise yourself. Think to yourself, what if you started today?