A few times of year I sit down and write a post that makes me uncomfortable. In the past I’ve talked about surviving divorce and about how I never wanted to be a mom. Sharing in that way is always liberating, but also really frightening, which I guess is a good segue for admitting that writing this post scares me. Today I am writing a post called, “The Very Real Reason I Don’t Share Photos of Myself Online” and I’m opening that post with a photo of myself. In a word, I am terrified. Over the last nearly ten years I’ve built a brand and a business online, and I’ve done so in a way that puts nearly all of the focus on the work I’m doing and the things I’m creating, and very intentionally not on myself. As much as I cherish my relationships with my readers, I’ve also been completely freaked out by the idea of making myself and my face the center of attention in any way shape or form. And the reason is simple. I don’t look like a lot of bloggers do. I am not perfectly thin, and petite and cute, and no clothing brands are going to want to send me their fall collection to feature on my Instagram feed. Ten years ago I lost over 100 pounds and after maintaining it for a few years, I’ve gained much of that weight back. I judge myself every single day for that and I think that part of me is always afraid that you’ll judge me for that, too. I don’t share photos of myself online, because I’m not skinny. And even though I truly, authentically love who I am on the inside, I can’t get past the fact that for me, the two images of who I am (the one I see in my head and the one everyone else sees) simply do not align.
This post is not a post about weight loss. I have every intention in the world of getting back to the weight and size that made me feel most alive and most joyful. I hope someday I get there. I don’t intend to ever stop trying. But in the meantime, this post is about getting real. I read endless articles about body empowerment and self acceptance, about loving ourselves and feeling worthy. I would spew endless rhetoric about the same to any of you if you were down on yourself about your weight. You are beautiful, you are loved, you are valued, you are you. And I would believe every single word. The problem is, I don’t actually feel a lot of those things for myself, and for whatever reason I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I should share that truth with you. There are few things in life I’m as passionate about as my career, and over the last couple of years I’ve come to the mounting realization that I am holding myself back professionally because I am too afraid to flip around to the other side of the camera. Because I’m afraid people will realize I’m not thin and they’ll judge me or think differently of me and so I stay hidden away. On so many levels, I am confident and secure. At times I’m even outright proud of the work I produce, the content I create and the business I’ve built from the ground up. I also know that I’m a kick ass mom, spouse, sister, daughter, cousin and friend. Like, really really kick ass. But somehow, I still don’t feel quite as worthy as everyone else around me, because I don’t feel cute. And that might just be the saddest thing I’ve ever admitted to myself, let alone to the internet at large. The reality, though, is that in my industry, most of the bloggers you see are attractive. Like, really really attractive. And because many of them are actually my friends, I can tell you that they’re also really wonderful, caring people in real life, too. So, being me? Living in this body? It feels so incredibly isolating.
I imagine this is the part of this post where I should confess that I am crying as I type these words. I’m not even quite sure why. Probably in part because of fear, but also largely in relief. For too long I’ve held myself back from the things I’ve really wanted in life, both personally and professionally, because I have this huge mental and emotional block surrounding my weight. I think the tipping point for me was last week, when a giant film crew spent two days at my house and I realized I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to look at the photos or watch the videos we spent countless hours creating, because I didn’t think I’d be able to bear to look at myself. Even knowing how thrilled the client was with my work and that they were ecstatic with what I was doing on screen, I still felt like a complete and total fraud. Because I don’t look the part. And that breaks my heart. No one should feel that way, especially on a day when they hit a grand slam in every sense professionally, and I hate that I do.
I am not sure how all of this plays out, but somehow the last couple of weeks have changed my outlook on life a little bit. It has made me determined to put myself out there, no matter how scary it is. To not limit myself before I even try to achieve something because I’m already pre-judging myself based on how I look. It would kill me if my daughter ever judged herself the way that I judge myself every single day, and I want to be a strong and confident role model for her so that she feels empowered to grow into the kick ass little girl and woman I already fully know she is going to be. So in part, I had to write this post as a way of drawing a line in the sand. There was before. And now there is now. The now where I am going to try really hard to sort through all of my complicated emotions on all of these things and actually grow to believe that I am worthy, no matter what size the tag says in my jeans. And if nothing else, I hope perhaps this post will resonate with even one person who feels the same way I do. I hope it brings some realness to all of the picture perfect photos and Instagram Stories and carefully edited videos we watch every day. I hope it reminds you that we only have this one precious life and we can’t stop living it, because we’re afraid we don’t live up to the internet’s standards of beauty and perfection. I promise that from now on, I am fighting every day to live my truth, right out loud and in the open, and I hope you promise yourself the same.
[Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]