Updated: Feb 16, 2021

I snapped these pictures last Friday morning after my workout. I didn’t have the intention of posting them, thus, the dirty mirror and closet floor. Although, admittedly, I’m not THAT chick, my mirror is rarely clean and I almost always need to vacuum, but that’s not the point of this post 😉.

I took these pictures for me, not to post. I wanted to keep them as inspo for myself. Particularly on the hard days. A reminder of the women I am learning to love; me. As the day went on, I kept thinking about the pictures. I would go back and look at them. I kept thinking about my body, how I felt, and how far I’ve come in learning to love me, and felt like I wanted... no, I felt like I needed to share them. I felt like I was being lead to share the pictures and part of my story. I don’t know if this is intended more for me as a way to “get things off my mind." To see my story written so that I can reflect and continue to heal, or someone else who needs to see this. Maybe it’s all of those things. Either way here goes.

Friday morning I woke up to the sound of my alarm going off at 4:33am. I rolled out of bed just as I have done for the last three years and proceeded to get dressed for an early morning Boot Camp class. Boot Camp is my favorite, I love the workouts and I love my friends there. Really though, with an injury here and an excuse to quit there, I am no stranger to working out and have done Boot Camp off and on for the last eight years. In January of 2018, something clicked and for the last three years I have consistently and willingly pulled myself out of the bed three times a week to move my body. While I initially started going to Boot Camp for the same reasons most everyone does; to lose weight, my desire and my need to work out now, three years later, has nothing to do with the physical aspects, anymore. While I love how it feels to move my body, I go because I love feeling lighter, not in weight but in negative energy. My soul needs my body to workout, to sweat, and to move.

With my eyes still closed, I made my way to the bathroom; brushed my teeth, took my vitamins, and had a nice long streeeetch. I walked into my closet, put on some work out leggings a sports bra, and my shoes. I normally lay my clothes out the night before but, for whatever reason on Thursday evening, I only grabbed what I had on my body so far and still needed to find a shirt. Without thinking, I grabbed one of my favorite blue Nike shirts and threw it over my head. As I gave myself a quick look in the mirror my brain finally woke up enough to start sounding all the alarms in my head. I was immediately flooded with emergency signals, “ALERT. ALERT. This is an emergency! Abort mission, Tabitha! I repeat, ABORT mission.”

As I stood in front of the mirror looking at the reflection of my body shining back at me, I became imminently aware of the shirt I had selected. While it is one of my favorite shirts, I DO NOT wear it to work out in. No, this shirt is usually only reserved for lazy days when I want to feel as though I "tried" but, have no desire to dress up. You know, the days when leggings and a t-shirt is as good as it’s getting. But why? I thought. As I stood looking at my reflection. Why didn’t I ever wear this shirt to workout in? It’s light weight, not tight, doesn’t touch me, and I can move freely when I wear it; almost everything I require in a workout shirt. So, why not? But, I knew why. The early morning fog no longer clouded my brain and I knew exactly why I was feeling panicked and overwhelmed with feelings of dread. I was having a full-on, existential crisis standing in the middle of my closet and it wasn’t even 5am, yet.

I didn’t wear this shirt to work out in because it was missing one of my “work out approved requirements,” perhaps the most important one in my mind. It showed my mid-drift. Only when I lifted my arms above my head but still, my belly was exposed. DISGUSTING! Yup, my first thought was, "that's disgusting, Tabitha, change your shirt, right now!" While I would consider myself to be a pretty modest person, my belly being exposed in that shirt had zero to do with modesty and everything to do with how I looked at my body. The thoughts I’ve carried around like weights my entire life. The thoughts and ideas I have slowly deconstructed and healed, and evidently the ones I am still healing.

My belly has never been flat. My body has never been thin. Curvy is probably how most would describe me, not my favorite term but whatever. “Oh, just wait, once you hit puberty, you will grow taller and you body will thin out,” I remember hearing these words more times than I can count, as a kid. And honestly, as a kid, I couldn’t wait!!

Oftentimes, I would pray silently to myself, “Excuse me God, I know your busy, but if you could please bring me all the puberty, that would be great. I am told that puberty will help me; I’ll get tall, thin, and have boobs. So, if you could make that happen, like, right now, that’d be great. Thanks.”

In December of 1995, at the ripe old age of 10, it happened. I wasn’t nervous or scared about it like some of the women in my life told me I might be, instead, I was freaking ecstatic! “It’s happening! It’s finally happening! I am going to get taller, thinner, and have boobs! I don’t know what all the fuss is about, this is freaking awesome!”

For a hot second, it was awesome and I was in fact taller than some of my classmates; very few, but still. And, on the days my un-coifed, pre-teen hair was extra frizzy from the South Georgia humidity, I was even taller. You couldn’t tell me anything or convince me otherwise; taller was taller. And, I had boobs, like real- I need to wear a bra- kind of boobs. IT WAS HAPPENING! I was living my best life, just waiting to sprout; Victoria’s Secret run way, here I come!

Okay, so it wasn’t ALL sunshine and rainbows, and there were definitely a couple of annoying issues I quickly noticed. For starters, I grew up with with two older brothers and for many years I was the only granddaughter; I was surrounded by boys. I WAS NOT a girly girl. And, I was not mentally prepared for all the ways periods, pads, and bras would really put a damper on fort building in the woods, pine cone wars, and playing outside with the boys but, as women often do, I figured it out. I adjusted, and I learned how to survive through the awkward stages of puberty while still running barefoot with the boys.

However, little did I know, 5th grade would also be the year I “peaked.” I laugh when I think about that now but, it hasn’t always felt humorous to me. I was counting on puberty, I had been impatiently waiting for years. I was fine not being a “girly girl,” but I didn’t want to be considered the chubby “tom boy” anymore either. I absolutely despised being called, “chubby” and “chunky,” and sometimes even, “fat.” “Oh, you will hit puberty and thin out,” I continued to hear.

NEWSFLASH person, I already did!!

Unfortunately, it is frowned upon to tell perfect strangers who choose to make observations about your body, and even more so to tell the sweet little church ladies, or aunts and uncles you only see a couple times a year, to shut their friggin' pie hole. Luckily (for my parents), I did at least have SOME manners and learned quickly that I was to “respect my elders.” Although, I must say, on more than one occasion, I remember thinking, “Why the hell do I have to respect them? They clearly have none for me. My body isn't any of their business.” Sometimes, when I would hear, "oh, just wait for puberty you will thin out." I SO badly wanted to fire back, “Oh, well, lucky for me I have puberty to look forward to because from the looks of your chubby, squishy, little body, you clearly skipped puberty, entirely!” But, I didn't. Instead, I stayed quiet. I always stayed quiet. I knew they didn’t mean to hurt my feelings but, the fact is, their words DID hurt my feelings. And, those words and feelings stuck with me throughout my life. Not always on a conscious level but, they were always there.

“5’0 and an A cup?”

*tap tap tap*

“Is this thing even on? “EXCUSE ME, God. I’m not sure if you are aware but growing less than two inches and then stopping at a whopping 5 foot tall, leaves absolutely NO room for ANYTHING to thin out. I-mean-SERIOUSLY, God, did you give ANY thought to how important the length of a persons torso can be? What about the length of their legs? OH AND, while I’ve got you on the line...AN A CUP, GOD? I’ve got a sense of humor, but c’mon, AN A CUP? My little baby cousin probably has bigger boobs than me and honestly she’ll probably be taller than me by next week...she’s 5, God...SHE IS ONLY 5!”

But... that was it, that was all I got and, at 35 years old, I’m still only 5 foot tall. And, except for the 37 1/2 weeks of pregnancy and a few weeks following the birth of my babies when I was living the dream and proudly sporting a full C, I am still, just barely an A.

The years of my life have been filled with so many moments to celebrate. On the outside, life has almost always seemed good but, on the inside, I’ve always struggled with my weight and how I chose to see my body. The voices, the name calling, the “wait until you hit puberty,” always echoed in my mind. All of the words; those meant to hurt me and those that were intended for good, continued to shape and distort how I chose to view my body; a barrier between me and the self-love I so badly desired.

It’s taken years, A LOT of years to heal the distorted image I have of myself. The image of a chubby girl who no one even knew felt so broken inside. I have tried so hard through the years to not let other see or notice, making excuse after excuse and being perpetually late for anything that required me to get dressed. Why? Not because I planned poorly or waited until the last minute. I mean, if I knew anything about myself, it was that I had to start picking out clothes hours before I needed to be somewhere. My bedroom floor always, and do mean always, looked like my closet had vomited every where. It had been that way since I was a kid. Most wrote it off as me just being a messy person. I’d always agree with them because that was much easier to explain and accept than what was really going on but, I knew. I am kind of messy (see mirror and closet floor above..haha), I’ll be the first to admit that but, I knew that wasn’t the reason. I knew of the meltdowns, tears, and full-on panic attacks that happened almost daily. I knew of the hours spent trying on this shirt or those jeans only to throw them on the floor feeling defeated and fat. Tears streaming down my face, looking at my reflection in the mirror and just feeling so disgusted with my body. And, on particularly hard days, I just wouldn’t go anywhere. I’d miss whatever event or gathering, making up some random excuse to tell others while silently feeling so unworthy, disgusted, and ashamed.

Looking back, with exception of a couple of years where I was in the middle of a pretty deep depression that lasted much longer than I care to remember and I weighed more than did when I was 9 months pregnant with twins, I was never really “that” big. I’ve wore a size 10-12 almost my entire life. I’m not fat. My belly has never been flat but, did I really give a shit? And if so, WHY? Why was I so ashamed? Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I realized how exhausted I was. How tiring it was to pretend like I could cover myself with clothes and magically feel worthy of affection and love from others. I finally decided it had to stop.

I started praying and meditating. I started journaling and eventually, I found my way back to Boot Camp. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that none of the work I was putting in, none of the praying, meditating, or journaling mattered if I didn’t love me. If I couldn’t show compassion, forgiveness, patience, and love for me, absolutely nothing was going to change. I had to quit looking to others for validation. I had to quit assuming their was a quick fix. I had to heal and learn to love myself.

Working out is no longer a punishment I put myself through because I “need” to lose weight. Working out frees my soul and strengthens my mind. Somewhere along my journey in the last three years, I’ve come to love my body, my curves, my stretch marks, and saving money on bras; one of the many perks of being small enough to buy sports bras out of the little girls department...true story, I’m not kidding. Somewhere along the way, I realized the broken and wounded little girl inside of me, deserved to be loved, to be cherished, and to be healed.

I started seeing my body differently than I ever had. I started appreciating my body for all that it was capable of and for all that it provided. My skin is soft but, my body is strong. My stretch marks tell a story of change and creating life. Of course my belly stretched, that’s what it is supposed to do. My body was functioning exactly as it should to make room for the life of two growing babies inside of me. My body has created and carried life. And, after suffering the heart break of miscarrying our third child, my body has even carried death. At the time, this was soul-crushing and in many ways, many years later, I am still healing. My soul is still healing and there are still so many painful memories attached to my body not being able to fully provide what my baby needed but, what I have come to understand is that healing is a part of my journey. Grief, loss, and healing are, unfortunately (or fortunately) a huge part of my journey. But, my body is still strong. My body is still powerful. My body is still beautiful.

I no longer seek external validation. The little girl inside of me is still healing, but I have learned to nourish her, cherish her, and learn from her. I have learned to quit looking to others to make me feel good about me. Understanding it is not someone else's responsibility to ensure I am okay or that I am doing all of the things I need to in order to love myself; fully in the way that I desire to be loved. It is my responsibility. It is my responsibility to appreciate my body and it is my responsibility to heal the wounds I have allowed others to leave as well as those that were self-inflicted when I chose to feed into and believe the lies. When I chose to believe I was unworthy and didn’t deserve to be loved by anyone, including myself.

I have come so far in my journey, and the moments of panic, tears, and disgust no longer happen daily. Actually, they occur so infrequently that, with the exception last Friday morning, I cannot remember the last time I felt that way. But, from time to time, every now and then, my brain likes to throw me for a quick loop and for a moment I’m am flooded with memories of the falsely distorted ideas I used to think about my body. The difference between where I started and where I am now, though, is that in those moments, like the one last Friday, I am able to quickly recognize what's happening. And, last Friday, as soon as the alarms started sounding, rather than continue seeing myself as disgusting and unworthy, I instead hear the alarms and choose to think, "Yeah, it is an emergency, we haven't celebrated us in a while!"

I take time to pause, notice, and appreciate my body. To stand in front of the mirror and reflect love, because on the inside that’s who I believe I am; I am love. I also know that I am worthy and deserve to be loved, first and foremost, by ME. So, I as I stand there reflecting and appreciating; physically in the mirror and mentally on all that I am, all that have, and all that I am becoming, I choose to give and accept love; from me to me.

Sure, it might sound odd to think of it like that but, then again, so is the thought of waiting for someone else to make me feel loved and whole. I am whole and perfectly enough. I have always been enough. I have always been worthy but, now I understand this. Now I truly see this. Now, I truly accept this. I love me, I love my body, and I am whole. And, on Friday morning, when the alarm sounded in my head, I chose to celebrate, I chose to love me, and I chose to wear the damn shirt.

***I dedicate this post to everyone in my past, including myself who said words that were not meant to intentionally hurt me but stayed with me, distorting my perception. I appreciate and give love to my past, my wounds, my pain, and my struggles. Without them, I wouldn't have the understanding and love for myself or others that I do now. I needed those moments, they helped cultivate the ground my future self would sprout from. They helped nourish the seeds of faith my higher self planted long before I ever consciously knew what would blossom. I dedicate this post to those in my present. I appreciate and give love to those who are here now. The people who speak life into me and allow me to speak my truth; my Boot Camp family, my soul family, and those who have been sent to teach me, to walk with me on my journey of becoming, and to help me rise. And I give love to every hard moment, challenge, and test of faith that may come in the future; may I appreciate the moment when it arrives, see the moment as the blessing that it is, and recognize the necessity of the shadowy hard moments of resistances; Without the shadow, we never learn to appreciate or celebrate all the beauty that can be seen in the light.***

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