Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Worthy

We all struggle with self-worth, on some level, at some time, in some way.

As I’ve been doing my own research and interviews I’ve learned: men struggle with porn. Maybe they did struggle, maybe they are struggling, maybe they will, but it seems to be inevitable. Maybe it’s not a direct struggle with porn, but it could be masturbation, cheating, or lustful thoughts from a movie, a magazine, or reality, daily life. Women don’t always make that battle much easier.

“Ninety-nine percent of guys struggle with porn, or have struggled in the past, and the other one percent are lying,” or so I’ve heard.

Porn is compensation for wanting to feel worth it, to feel like a man.

Women battle self-worth too. As I’ve never talked to a guy who denies a struggle with porn, I’ve never vocalized my battle with an eating disorder and had a woman say, “Huh, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Women fight to feel worth it by being beautiful, wanting to feel pretty, worth it, important. Why do we so readily associate women with shopping, hair salons, and fashion? It does not have to be a negative thing, but we are wired to be the beautiful half of humanity, someone has to do it. It is okay to want to feel beautiful and attractive. It is not okay to push extremes to achieve it.

Every woman has either said or thought, “I should not eat that.”

“I am fat.”

“I am ugly.”

“I need to go on a diet.”

“I need to lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy.”

“I wish I looked like her.”

Men and women want to feel worth it. We just attempt less than effective methods of doing so. We know by now how I’ve sought self-worth and you probably know how you’ve tried too.

I’m still trying to figure out if every woman has an eating disorder. I hear myself in other women’s words. I recognize my thoughts in women who claim no eating disorder. I realize I’ve taken behaviors to an extreme, but the more women I talk to, the more if feels like I am doomed to an existence of self-hatred for the rest of my life.

I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t dieted. I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t guilted herself into not eating something. I’ve never met a woman who always exercises for the right reasons, her health. I’ve never met a woman who loves herself truly. I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t compare herself to others and feels she comes up short. I’ve never met a woman who is confident, loves herself, and feels adequate and valuable in every way.

Dove conducted a worldwide survey asking women to describe how they look. Of the options “beautiful” was only chosen by 2% of the world’s female population. Two freaking percent.

Saturday night found me angry, crying, frustrated, and hating myself, again: hating what I look like, what I weigh, where I’m at, how I act, who I am. Jeremy held me as I cried, unable to do much else, though that is exactly what I needed him to do. We’ve been here before. Sadly he’s used to it. He just listens. He hears. He helps. I’ve realized that the act of just sitting quietly with someone while they cry, might be one of the hardest things for a guy to do. Jeremy doesn’t try to fix me. He doesn’t try to solve my problems. He understands that the battle for self-worth is not easily fixed. He is strength that I just don’t have, but desperately need.

Sunday I disappeared, well as much as possible amidst 150 people, staff meetings, registration, and arriving tween campers, no easy task. It can be painful to put on a mask, acting like you’re okay, when you just aren’t. So I didn’t. I didn’t put it on. I just was and it was okay.

When people asked me how I was doing, I told them. “Ya know it’s not the best day of my life. I can’t quite figure out how to stop hating myself.”

This might seem a loaded response to a simple question. But I mean “How are you” when I say it, so I always try to answer it honestly. Surprisingly, I gained helpful insight along the way.

“I know exactly what you mean. I’m so sorry,” Hannah told me. Kasia, Hannah, and I sat on the cabin porch and talked about it. Why can’t women stop hating themselves and comparing to everyone else around them?

I told them how I want so badly to be a woman who truly loves herself. Hannah said, “I’ve never met a perfect woman, a woman who loves herself totally and consistently. But I’ve met women who come close.”

As she said it I realized I was again again seeking perfection and that only worsens my situation. Perfection is what got me started in the first place. I may never find the perfect woman who loves herself completely, but I know plenty of women who come close, and that might just be good enough.

My roommate, Kasia stopped me, reached for my arm, and said, “I can’t believe you’re saying this right now. You are that woman to me. You are that woman who seems to be okay with who she is. You are confident and you love life. It’s so surprising for me to hear you say that you struggle with the same things I do, because I look up to you so much.”

My jaw dropped. I could not believe the words that were coming out of her mouth. I found myself in a similar position a week ago when Katie, a thin, beautiful, blond babe with a spunky personality, compassionate smile, and generous spirit, told me, “I wish I was more like her. She makes me look fat.”

My dropped again. How could Katie, the girl I compare myself to, feel as worthless as I do, when she’s 10 times the person I’ll ever be?

It’s sick really and it’s getting us no where. It’s a vicious cycle I refuse to contribute to or take part in. I’m not exactly sure yet how to avoid it or how to get out of it, when sometimes self-hatred seems to pump through my veins.

Someday self-worth will find me, loving, forgiving, accepting, and kind. Until then I’ll be the best version of myself along the way.

I dare you to do the same.

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