How Sucking In My Stomach Kept Me From Loving Myself

“Suck in your stomach, ladies!”

I remember hearing my female friends say this while we were taking photos together and it always bothered me. I used to think they were crazy to think that they needed to look skinnier for a picture, or that they could possibly impress someone by having a flatter stomach…who cares?

Turns out, I did.

Years later, once I had developed my severely disordered eating behaviors and serious body hatred, sucking in my stomach became my specialty. Everywhere I walked, especially when I knew there were eyes on me, I stood up extra tall, puffed out my chest, and sucked in my tummy. All to give the impression that I had the perfect body.

Why did I do this? 

I’ll tell you why: For envy. 

I wanted to feel the envy of others because I did not envy myself at all. I did not envy my personality, my life, nada. When we don’t hold ourselves in high value, we seek external validation.

Which was why it was crucial for me to gain the envy of others for how I looked. If I couldn’t get them to like me for who I was, at least they’d be jealous when they watched me and my perfectly sculpted body walk across the room. 

Damn. Does it sound ridiculous? It might, but this was a really deep truth for me for years. I felt so negatively about who I was, how I interacted with others socially, and what I was doing with my life, that I figured the best I could get out of life was to excel in weight training and eating clean. Basically, the perfect body was my compensation for being the mediocre human that (I perceived) I was. 

What if we all went around the Earth feeling that way?! That we had truly nothing to offer this big great world except our attempts at being aesthetically pleasing??? What a sad existence. 

Eventually I learned a few very crucial rules that strongly dictate my feelings about self-love:

1) No one - absolutely no one on this Earth - will love us in the same way we can love ourselves.

No one knows you the way you can know yourself. No one understands what it’s like to live inside your beautiful body with your unique thoughts and expressions. The trick is that we have to learn to listen to ourselves – in terms of everything! Your body and mind are trying to tell you things all the time. The body tells you how much to eat. Intuition tells you when something doesn’t feel right. Our reactions (such as yelling, shutting down, etc) are masks for our true emotions. Listening to ourselves is not hard to do – but it does take attention. The only reason it’s difficult is because, for most of us, it means developing a new skill. I highly suggest meditation as a way to listen to what your body and mind have to say. It seems scary, I know, but there’s a lot of peace in there underneath all of the rubbish that our ego is yelling at us. 

2) Our flaws are only perceived as flaws. They are actually our greatest strengths.

Flaws! I love talking about my flaws. I used to be so deep under my flaws that I thought I could never shine. It’s easy for us to look at those around us and think everyone else has their shit together and that we are the only ones suffering. NOT TRUE! Everyone is struggling with something in their own unique way…some people are just better at hiding it than others. I’ll throw out a few of the things that I used to perceive as deep, wounded flaws in my personality/life that I now see as great strengths. I suggest you do the same. 

Perceived Flaw

  • I’m terrible at small talk
  • I’m boring because I don’t like going out, partying, drinking
  • I get embarrassed easily (and I blush like crazy!)

Empowered Strength

  • I excel in deep, vulnerable conversation
  • I love having “nights IN” where I can relax and enjoy my own company
  • I feel all of my emotions deeply and am exceptionally empathetic

When we transform our internal/external flaws into strengths, we don’t feel the need to compensate for them because we learn to love and accept all parts of ourselves.

3) Each of us deserves to be treated like a queen. No. Matter. What. 

YES. YES. YES. It does not matter who you are, what you do, what you look like. We all deserve love – it is our birthright. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I binged on all those cookies last night – let me just do a ton of torturous exercise and really restrict my food today and make all of last night disappear.” We can’t punish the “bad” out of ourselves.  We have to love ourselves through everything, because there is no other way to drive out darkness. We are all made of light and deserve to be given love, even when we “mess up”. The trick is learning to see our roadblocks as new turns in a different direction, and a willingness to be playful when these challenges come along.