NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
I love clothes… and I hate clothes. Whether I love or hate clothes at any given point in time is very closely aligned with my body image.
If I’m feeling okay about my body (I almost wrote “good,” but sadly “okay” is about as good as it gets for me…), I embrace the clothes in my closet and the process of shopping for new clothes. Conversely, if I am feeling fat and unattractive, I don’t want to wear anything besides the workout clothes I wear when working from home each day.
Searching for a Feeling
I have a closet full of clothes, yet I generally only wear a small fraction of them. I have a tendency to be a compulsive shopper (see my post titled “Overspending” ) and I’ve come to decipher the reasons why I shop for articles of clothing I don’t even need. I’ve learned that I’m searching more for a feeling than for a pair of pants or a blouse. Subconsciously, I believe that if I can find the “right” pair of pants, I will magically be able to relax and stop hating my thighs so much.
Of course, clothes do not possess such magical properties. They cannot heal our damaged body image or our negative feelings about ourselves. However, I do believe it’s beneficial to dress in clothing that flatters our bodies and is comfortable and stylish. I feel better about myself and the day ahead when I make an effort to dress nicely, but there are many days when it seems to take a Herculean effort for me to do this. Today is one of those days…
The Downside of “Comfortable”
I need to leave in about an hour to run some errands and attend two classes. I am looking forward to getting out and I find that it uplifts my mood to be outside and around other people. However, if given the opportunity, I tend to hole up in my apartment and sit in front of my computer wearing clothes that are scarcely more structured than pajamas.
I tell myself that I wear these clothes because they are “comfortable,” but there is more to it than that. I get to avoid feeling my body and experiencing an awareness of my shape and size while wearing these clothes. I feel less anxious, but I don’t feel very attractive or confident in this attire.
Usually, when I push myself to make an effort, I am able to compile an attractive outfit in which to make my way out into the world. So why do I resist doing this simple action? I secretly fear that every pair of pants in my closet will either be painfully tight or showcase my (to me) large hips and thighs in a way that is tantamount to shining a spotlight on them.
I never know how I will look and feel when I put on “real clothes.” I rarely weigh myself and my eating habits are erratic, so I’m sure my weight fluctuates more than I would like. Avoiding the truth doesn’t make the truth any less real.
What a Waste…
It’s a waste for me to buy beautiful clothes and then hardly ever wear them. It’s also a waste to stick to only “tried and true” outfits when I do change out of my workout clothes a few days each week. I’ve read that most women only wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. It’s part of the famous 80/20 rule, also called the “Pareto Principle”… Sadly, however, I think it would be more accurate to say that I wear only 10% of my clothes 90% of the time!
Most people who look at me would call me slim. I’m tall with long limbs and broad shoulders. I know a lot of women would be happy to have my body, so why can’t I be happy with what I have? Why do I constantly wish for my body to be different? Why is it that when I look in the mirror, my focus is on what’s wrong instead of what’s right about my appearance? I only wish I knew the answer to these questions…
A Good First Step
I’ve decided to stop shopping for more clothes as a form of spiritual band-aid for my inner discontent. I need to face my own demons and somehow find a way to embrace my unique and wonderful body. A good first step is to push myself to wear “regular clothes” more often and to step outside my comfort zone a little bit more each day.
I’ve been giving some thought to setting up a series of challenges to complete in order to navigate the hurdles that exist between me and a healthy body image. More on this in a future post… I’m open to any suggestions from readers on how I can heal my damaged body image and reach a place of peace and freedom about my appearance.