For most of my life, I've believed that if a guy didn't like me, it was because I wasn't as pretty or skinny as other girls -- or because he thought I was fat. I grew up being told I was 'big-boned' and if I just exercised more, I would tone up and look better. There was always a striving and never-ending feeling of not being enough.
I didn't want to be big-boned and I didn't want extra meat on my bones; I wanted to be the enviable thin girl -- the one with the perfect hair, body, clothes and life.
As an adolescent, I begged my mom to send me to fat camp. I mail-ordered juice fasts and she would go ahead and send them right back. I resented her for that. I went to the doctor and exclaimed I was too short and must have a growth problem because I should have been taller.
When I got my period at age 12 and developed faster than other girls, the boys on the school bus called me Thunder Thighs. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to be accepted and cool. But beyond that, I wanted to feel wanted and loved and chosen for just being me. And because I wasn't, I felt something was wrong with me. Otherwise, I would have had a boyfriend.
Instead, I tried and chased and needed and pleaded to be loved in all the wrong places and with all the wrong faces. I kept piling up evidence of my life-long belief of not being 'enough' and figured that if I were thin, if I were skinny, that would solve all of my problems. Most of all, I'd be wanted.
It's a creeping old thought that sometimes resurfaces as an adult: if only I were thinner, blonder or or had bigger boobs, then life would be good. However, now that I see this thought for what it is -- so limited and small and vain -- I can choose a new one to replace it.
People value, respect and choose us when we value, respect and choose ourselves.
It has taken me years to discover this. I set parameters for myself, followed them for a bit and then fall off the bandwagon. I started over and asked myself the same questions and came up against the same challenges and struggles -- and it all comes down to the lack of consistency I have in my routine for how I care for myself.
Whether its managing my time -- balancing meditation, writing and exercising; sleeping at a consistent time; or taking breaks from work instead of piling through when I'm exhausted or need a break -- those choices impact whether I indulge in foods that are not good for my body, or whether I drink too many cocktails to numb myself out. It has been a journey to realize the many things I put before my own care in order to achieve something or please someone. I'm learning how to manage my energy and I'm learning what drains me and what truly feeds me.
In the past 90 days I've started listening more and talking less. Partially, because I've been sick a couple times and from that place of forced surrender, I have seen how everything is energy. What I put out to the world, what I give, what I receive and the people I'm around all impact my ability and level of focus and energy.
After launching the Bare Campaign by Women Enough, I shut down. I received a lot of media attention for the cause and subsequently, many women reached out with interest to partner, be involved or go bare. Now, while it's something that I've wanted and I'm grateful for, I didn't know how to energetically respond to it all. I felt like everyone wanted something from me and it was overwhelming.
And the reason why I shut down and felt overwhelmed was because I'm learning how to really care for myself, how to manage my energy and time and it takes practice to discern what feels and what is really right for me.
I've observed that boundaries come up when we aren't comfortable managing some aspect of our lives, and when we are learning to love, care, value, choose and respect ourselves, it can be difficult to define what is 'right' for us and subsequently communicate it to others.
As I've ventured further into the unknown, with a nomadic lifestyle that's outside the prescriptive "American Life,' I've become more deeply attuned with myself. I believe that when we take ourselves out of our comfort zone -- the world of distraction from life and work and technology and accessibility -- that's where we are forced to deal with ourselves.
And in that dark place, that little dark room is where the self love is developed.
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