I had a bit of a meltdown today. I didn’t break out in loud screeching wails. I didn’t throw myself down to the ground and beat the innocent concrete with the palms of my hands. I didn’t even shed a silent tear in hopelessness, allowing my sorrow to expel itself from my inner being. No, I did none of that; but I should have. I should have because by not expressing my feelings in an outward motion, I kept them in, allowing them to fester. Internalizing my feelings has become a habit to me. It’s something I learned very early as a child, and never recognized until decades later how negatively it affects my well-being.
I don’t have meltdowns very often, but I would be lying if I put a number to it. I could go days or even weeks at a time without something rattling my insides. I go months and often years and not confront something that shakes me to my core. But the result of the meltdown, no matter what the cause, usually causes me to resort to less than desirable self-soothing remedies. My go-to remedy is food. It is a self-destructive habit that causes me to carry more pounds on my frame than I should carry. I would say it has made me fat, but hearing that may just cause me to have another meltdown!
But, let me digress for a moment and address the meltdown issues of the day, because while some are weight related, there are some that have nothing to do with how much I weigh, but still much to do with my self-esteem. Nevertheless, an endless circle of circumstances has left me spiraling into despair.
I have been searching for a pair of black capris. Black capris are a staple of my spring and summer wardrobe, it has been for years. I prefer cotton, with a flat front, and no elastic in the waistline. The length needs to be about 2 or 3 inches up from my ankle. It must fit my waist without drooping, cover my rear end without binding, be roomy enough in the rise to fit comfortably, be loose through the thighs and knees, and taper only slightly down to the ankle. Did I tell you I am 5’11”? Just go ahead and try all of that on for size…and if you find a match, I’m offering a large reward.
I also need a bathing suit for my upcoming honeymoon to a pacific beach destination. Remember the little detail about my height, waistline, rise, and thighs? Let me just say that cursing the designers of bathing suits would have been a better option than instead wanting to punch the reflection in the mirror for not fitting into what the industry creates. I want a cute two piece that slims my thighs (boy cut), builds up my chest (full coverage with support), covers my rear end (hello!), and shows off my shoulders, arms, and waist….the remaining assets this 50 year old body has. Never in my life, regardless of my size (many years at a normal weight), have I had a bathing suit without compromising on something.
Let’s talk about shoes for a moment. My size 11 foot has absolutely nothing to do with my weight….but it sure doesn’t help my self-esteem when my choices are so limited. Many stores don’t carry size 11. Many brands don’t make size 11. I find myself entering a shoe store searching for the number 11 on the fronts of boxes instead of gleaming over the variety of shoes on the racks. I gave up years ago searching first for the perfect shoe, and then searching for it in my size. Disappointment is all I departed with when I left the store. Now when I see a box labeled size 11, I anxiously remove the cover in hopes that I can accept what is inside. I have worn some extremely uncomfortable shoes using this method, but it beats going out of the house only in slippers because no one offers cute slippers in a size 11! All I want is a low heel, cushioned arch, roomy toe shoe that is cute as well as functional. Why is that too much to ask?
Why so picky with the details, you ask? Because I found that anything less just isn’t comfortable. In the five decades that I’ve been dressing myself (ok, really only four because that first decade of fashion when my mother was in charge just needs to be forgotten), I know what works on my body and what doesn’t.
I know that at 5’11”, most women resemble bean poles. Even if they don’t, they usually at least still have “legs up to here”. I’m neither a bean pole, nor leggy. I’m more like a tree, sturdy with tree trunk like legs, long arms for branches, a waist that bends in the spring breeze, a neck that reaches to the summer sun….oh, never mind, you get the picture.
Have you ever tried to dress a tree? No wonder a tree loses all its leaves in the fall. It gets tired of what it is wearing and decides to start all over again.
I don’t get to drop all of my clothing and start all over, because unlike the changing seasons, the fashion industry really doesn’t change. I don’t conform to their standards, and instead of accepting that some of us will be outside of the realm of what is standard, I learned to hate my body for not conforming. In hating my body, it allows me to abuse it without compassion. Instead of despising all of the choices hanging on the racks in every department store, I despise my body for being too different to fit in. I walk into each store with high hopes, and leave deflated, having left yet another little bit of my self-esteem on the dressing room floor.
My self-destructive meltdowns hurt only me. I feel bad and then I grab a snack to ease the feeling of self-loathing, only to end up feeling worse for treating my body so badly. If I would redirect my disappointment and let it out instead of internalizing it, maybe I could start putting into perspective the real issues that cause my self-esteem to suffer and stop giving it so much power.
It’s just clothing, for goodness sake! I’m discussing material things that provide cover over a physical being. The food takes controls, destroying not only the outward image but more importantly the inward image of a body seen by my mind and soul. I’ve got it all wrong. I may not be able to find the perfect pair of capris, or wear the cutest bathing suit, or walk in comfortable shoes to my liking all the time. But, I’ve got a good heart (and so far a healthy one beating in my body), a curious mind, and a beautiful soul.
I do my body a disservice when I abuse it for feeling bad about things I just can’t control such as the offerings of the fashion industry. I take away my own joy when I beat myself up for being different, instead of embracing the very fact that I am different. I should rejoice for being different. That shouldn’t be what causes a meltdown. How less damaging a meltdown would be if I took a moment to release the feelings outwardly, instead of keeping them inside. Harboring feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing steals my joy, and keeps me from seeing the beauty that I am inside as well as outside.
We’re all beautiful beings, we all have attributes that we can appreciate, and we should never compare ourselves to someone else. We weren’t meant to be cookie cutter beings. How boring it would be if every 5’11” woman were as thin as a bean pole, we’d all look the same! Why would I want that? Why did I allow myself to be brainwashed by the greedy marketing executives to believe that I’m only good enough or pretty enough when I can conform to the standards they created? Make up, hair, fashion…it’s all a façade. The inner beauty is what really matters, and when the inner beauty shines, the outer beauty radiates in an expression of confidence. Freedom is what builds that confidence. Freedom from the judgement of other (who cares what they think!). And most certainly freedom from judging others (how exhausting that is, anyway!).
I want to be free to be me. I want my mind to be free of self-criticism. I want my soul to be free of self-loathing. I want my body to be free of clothing that just doesn’t work for me…unless the only other option is no clothing at all…then let me at least be free to accept a reasonable compromise and still radiate confidence!
Now excuse me while I sweep up the scattering of my self-esteem that lay upon the floor as I throw out that bag of chips.