As long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with body image issues. The mirror is either my best friend or my worst enemy, depending on how I’m feeling that day. I get irrationally upset when someone brings up my weight. I tend to hate myself if my clothes rip or get a little snug. I sometimes stress eat followed by bouts of crushing guilt and anger. I used to compare my body to others’ constantly: he’s in such good shape but I’m so fat, his eyes are so pretty but mine are boring, his hair is perfect but mine is a complete mess. It’s not so bad now, but I still struggle with appreciating any kind of bodily beauty without comparing it to my own perceived lack thereof.
As a kid, I was teased for my weight. I was an easy target who cried easily, so a couple of bullies in elementary school took advantage daily. I wasn’t the only chubby kid, either. I just hated myself the most for it and gave them the biggest reactions, so naturally they kept coming back for more. As I grew older, it became less about my weight and more about my plain appearance. One girl that I thought was very pretty once said to me, “Well Travis, you’re not part of the good looking crowd. That’s OK, though. You’re just not and that’s how it is.” The funny thing is, I thought she was trying show me kindness at the time. I took her misguided advice to heart and accepted that I was supposed to be invisible, and chose to dress in dark colors to disappear amongst the masses. I existed in isolation and didn’t participate in any activities with my classmates for most of my time in high school. I began to despise people and lost myself in video games.
College was a welcome reprieve. I met some nice guys who accepted me for who I was. I was still in the closet with my sexuality at this point, but that’s another story entirely. When I met my husband near the end of my schooling, it was the first time I felt wholly loved by anyone. It was a great feeling, but unfortunately not something I fully embraced or even believed for a long time. As I got to know more of the local gay community, I began to fall in with the wrong type of people. I saw how “athletic”, “fit”, and “masculine” guys were adored. I started getting a taste of some of that attention myself, as I had finally “blossomed” into a full grown adult.
I started working out, starving myself, and paying too much attention to the mirror. I craved compliments from random guys who found my newly sculpted body attractive, men who would have never batted an eye if they saw what I looked like before. I turned into a catty, petty, mean girl, MONSTER. As you can imagine, this caused a great strain on my relationship with my boyfriend (who was treated very poorly by these people, by the way), and it nearly destroyed us. It’s taken many, many years to repair the damage that was done. This goes without saying, but guess what happened to all the men who stuck around for my “good looks” when I needed some real support and friendship? They were gone with the wind, never to be seen again, and I rightfully lost the implicit trust and adoration I had from my partner. I was completely alone again and it was my own fault.
I entered a renewed phase of self hatred, and I felt stupid, worthless, and unwanted. I thought I was a terrible person for what I had become, which made me bitter and angry. I didn’t trust anyone. The world felt alien again, unwelcoming and scary. I had worked so hard to be loved, or at least what I thought was loved, and it turned out to be in vain. I had put the one man that truly loved me through the worst years of his life. With the passing of time and a lot of therapy, I’ve addressed that self hatred and anger. I’m able to love my body on some days, but not all. I can tell myself, with a great deal of conscious effort, that I’m a worthwhile human being with talents and values, despite what others may make me feel. Even though I’m back to being a chubby guy, I’m much happier and content with myself than I ever was in my entire life. On rare days, I even share selfies.
My life has been a journey. While my body image issues are only a cog in the complex inner workings of my mind, I wanted to share this particular story in the hope that someone can relate. Let’s all learn and grow together, shall we? I’m always open to talk or listen. ❤️