By Awande Mabaso
Awande is a Mindfulness Coach, Body Positivity & Mental Health Advocate, and the founder of Powerfully Mindful.
Looking back at my life, it always made sense that I had a terrible perspective of my own body – destructive even. When my body was put through so much from a young age – criticized, used and abused – I almost felt like my body deserved punishment in its own way. Equally so, I thought I was comforting my body just trying to cope. Truthfully, I was still being self-destructive.
I had been sexually abused at the age of 4 ½. This already began a confusing relationship with my body, trying to figure out what about my body would make a grown man hurt it. The shame I felt and the feeling that came over me whenever I would have to be in a shower, a bath, or just having someone give me a hug. My body felt foreign to me.
Only a few years later, my extended family started bullying me for my looks and for my weight, adding a new thought complex to the already skewed one I had about my body. I felt even more disconnected from my body despite having to walk around in it daily. In fact, I really hated what it represented: a body to be used and a body to be shamed. Feeling any kind of acceptance, let alone love, for my body felt impossible growing up.
I believed that I inhabited a body that was there for the pleasures of others, even against my consent. I believed that my body would never be good enough. Being in my skin felt difficult. The one thing that didn’t feel difficult was food. Food didn’t talk back. Food didn’t criticize me or bully me. I felt like food didn’t hurt me. While it filled my stomach, it filled the empty space in my broken soul too. My relationship with food felt glorious!
As time went on though, it became really difficult to deal with looking in the mirror, so I ate. It became difficult to deal with flashbacks, so I ate. The more I ate, the more it felt like a high. I thought that if I could eat, my feelings, the memories and the voice inside myself that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough would go away.
It never took long for the crash after the high. I felt even worse than before. I tried to make up for my binge eating with excessive exercise and dieting. It became a roller coaster of binge eating, dieting and exercise. I became obsessive with looking a way that I couldn’t and feeling a way that I possibly couldn’t with all the abuse I was putting myself through. Something had to give. I felt like I would snap.
I found myself in a therapist’s office every second Saturday talking about my depression, anxiety and all the trauma I had been through. It became wildly apparent that not only was I not to blame for any of the trauma I had been through, but my body most definitely didn’t deserve the torture I was putting it through. The thing that became apparent to me was how my body was the only vessel I had on this earth to live in, and it was crying out for more than just being stuffed with food around the corner, away from where anyone could see me.
My body deserved to be treated with love, but that started with self-acceptance.
What dawned on me during my body journey is that I didn’t have to love every inch of my body 100% of the time. I needed to accept it, for the good and bad. I won’t ever have the infamous thigh gap or have my hip bones stick out, but I love my face, my arms and my hands. Knowing that we aren’t all perfect but that what we have is beautiful and amazing in its own way is the awareness that sets one on the journey to self-acceptance and then later, self-love.
Perfection is not the aim with your body. The feeling of wholeness, comfort and love is the aim when you’ve fully inhabited your body. It starts with being aware of how you view yourself now compared to the world and why. Are all of those things true? Do any of those things make you less than? No, they don’t. But what are the things you like about yourself? What are the parts of yourself that you wouldn’t trade for the world? Well, why can’t you start looking at those other parts of yourself with the same eyes?
Slowly start embracing those parts of your body. They don’t deserve any less acceptance from you. If anything, they deserve more. Our bodies give us so much, do so much, so why be harsh to them? Instead of controlling the scale, take control over finding joy, awareness and acceptance.
Read Awande’s full story here: