HOW I LEARNED TO FIGHT FOR MYSELF

What made me put on the gloves and get in the ring.

For the majority of my life, I was misguided. I have no illusions about this. 

I went through some heavy stuff when I was younger (that I don’t feel comfortable disclosing), and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me and the relationships with the people around me.

I don’t need to tell you too much to paint the picture. I’ve thrown up in someone’s parents’ flower bed, yelled at my parents while drunk, fooled around on a soccer field and been taken home in a cop car. I was never one for drugs, which to this day — I’m still very scared of.

IMG_0569
I think I’m 16 or 17 years old here? Honestly I couldn’t tell you.

If you know me now, some of this might come as a bit of a surprise to you. I do talk like a trucker most of the time, which is one of my old habits that hasn’t quite bit the dust yet.


A guy I dated when I was 22 called me something along the lines of “a drunk whore,” (that’s G rated for you) and that was the first time my inner fighter lifted her head, provoked.

I had taken those hits before from people before many times. Metaphorically, my ribs were bruised, lips fat. I was sitting in the corner defeated for most of my late teens and early 20s. But this time was different.

Why? Because prior to that moment, I would’ve said “you’re right.” I’ve written about this before: I hated myself, and I wore the insults people flung like a fitted leather glove.

But I had begun rallying and building up strength in the corner, and I was determined. This was the period in my life when I first discovered self-help books and realized I wasn’t alone in my struggles and flaws.

Everyday it felt like it took all my mental capacity and emotional energy to try to change my thoughts about myself. For those who have never tried to change destructive thought patterns/loops: it’s the mental equivalent of continually practicing a jab-cross-hook-uppercut on a punching bag all day every day. For years.

I worked so hard to make the small amount of progress I had made, I wasn’t about to let someone-that-I-will-not-name come and knock me out cold.

I don’t know how to describe it, but it was in that shitty moment that my months of repeating affirmations changed into an actual belief. Before I would say to myself “you are worthy of respect,” but didn’t believe it in my gut.

But it dawned on me that’s not who I was. I didn’t deserve that title. So put my boxing gloves on and got in the fucking ring. And I’ve been fighting for myself ever since.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve never claimed to be. 

I’ll admit to my flaws and the harm that I’ve caused.

Not all of my choices have been smart. 

Not all of my words have been kind.

I’ve struggled with alcohol use.

I’ve done uncharacteristic things out of shame.

I’ve been deaf and blind to my own emotions.

My words and actions have come from a place of insecurity.

I’ve been self conscious and acted accordingly.

I am sorry for my mistakes.

I do not come from a self-righteous place where I’m claiming that I have figured it all out. I do not come from a place where I’m standing before you saying I’ve always known better. I’m still learning in every way.

I didn’t always understand what it means to be body positive.

I didn’t reflect on my internalized misogyny. 

I didn’t always know about intersectional feminism.

I wasn’t always capable of admitting to my faults. And I don’t deserve a medal now for doing so.

I absolutely haven’t always been the person I am now. Everyday I’m fortunate to wake up and try to live out my values better than I did the day before. I am ready to be wrong and call myself out when I slip up.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the reason I am the way I am now is because of what I’ve been through. I have so much empathy for people who are in the middle of that struggle where they want to fight for themselves, but aren’t ready.

With all of that being said, I’ve come to a place in my life where I know I’m flawed — but I’m learning, growing and still deserving of happiness.

I deserve to love and care for myself. 

I am worthy.

I am enough.

And that is the biggest and bravest statement I can make out loud. That I love myself, not despite my flaws and experiences, but because of the person they’ve made me into.

There are people who have tried to put me in my place again since that moment, but I’m still ready to fight for myself. Elbows are down, gloves ready at my chin, ribs are protected. I’m not trying to throw punches, but I am ready to protect myself when necessary.

All we can do is the best we can in the moment, with the knowledge we have at our disposal. I believe that applies, always. We can have the “wrong knowledge” and still believe we are doing what’s right.

I know now he called me a whore from a place of pain, and I don’t hold it against him. We all do shitty things when we are in pain because we’d do anything to make it go away. I know this firsthand.

Admitting your flaws is cool, but you wanna know WHAT’S EVEN COOLER??!?? ADDRESSING THEM! WORKING ACTIVELY TO UNLEARN HARMFUL THINGS YOU TOOK IN GROWING UP! That’s the growth bit. But it starts with stepping up and being able to admit your wrongs or harm, say you’re sorry (when relevant), speak your truth(s) and move forward (ideally with self-compassion, because that tends to make things easier).

View this post on Instagram

In my personal guidelines of engagement under ‘Read First’ in my highlights, I’ve included this super helpful graphic by my sis @killing.georgina. The reason I’ve included it is because, as stated in today’s posts – most people with white privilege don’t know how to make a sincere apology when they’ve caused harm to BIPOC. This simple but powerful graphic teaches you how to make a sincere apology that doesn’t include ‘buts’, explanations of intent, fragility, defensiveness, further harm, passive aggression or falling apart. Ria also wrote a post about it on Medium in an article called “Oww, Ouch: How to Apologize”. If you find this graphic useful, I highly recommend supporting Ria and her writings on her Patreon at Patreon.com/killinggeorgina.

A post shared by Layla F. Saad (@laylafsaad) on

Nobody wants to come out, be vulnerable and say they haven’t been perfect. It’s scary and it gives people a chance to hook you in the ribs; but showing up in that way and exposing yourself (in a positive way) puts you on a path to living your full potential. We’re all human. We’re all flawed. We still deserve to shine and love ourselves.

We don’t need to fight each other, but we do need to fight for ourselves. That’s why my  affirmation is “fight for yourself.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

GETTING OFF THE HOT MESS EXPRESS

In college, I learned to live with burnout. But now, I need to change to survive as an adult.

burnout

ˈbərnˌout
noun
Definition — Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or chronic stress.
  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • cynicism and detachment
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

A month ago, I was laying on the carpeted floor of my apartment sobbing uncontrollably. My nose was dripping. I couldn’t even bring myself to get up and get a tissue. I couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel (or to-do list, rather).

I wish I was just being overdramatic, but for the first time in years, the idea of self-harm played itself out in my head. For context: I haven’t engaged in self-harm since I was 17. When it bubbles up in my brain as an option that’s a RED FLAG.

I don’t know if I’d call it a panic attack, or a breakdown. But I eventually reached for my cell phone and called my Mom while still laying on the ground. I eventually calmed down and started to feel really numb. I came back to reality and eventually got off the floor. I finally booked a counselling appointment the next day.

I cannot express enough how stupid I feel telling you this since professionally, I am doing ‘well’ (those are air quotes). I just started a new job that I’m totally meant for, I was asked to speak on a panel about a topic I’m very passionate about and I’m finishing a video project that I can’t even believe I was approached to do.

So why am I laying on my living room floor totally losing my shit? 

There’s a big part of me that ACTUALLY STILL FUCKING BELIEVES that if I do everything right, I can do it all: juggle all my professional responsibilities like a winner, stay on my workout schedule, meditate, make time to write, have a clean apartment, cook and grocery shop, see my friends and family, shave my legs and the list goes on. That part of me is wrong, because that is a Big Fat Boldfaced Lie. I struggle to accept the truth — that not only will I never ever be perfect, but striving to be comes at a cost.

I want to tell you I’ve smartened up after seeing a counsellor. I want to tell you that numb feeling has gone away. But last Friday I cried at my desk in front my coworker as soon as my boss left the office. I literally couldn’t keep it in till I was alone. It erupted out of me like that science fair project when you put a mentos in a bottle of coke.

The go-hard goblin

I’m going to call my inner workaholic voice the go hard goblin.

The goblin likes to call the shots, screaming bloody murder and cackling, usually taking the wheel in a convertible with Guy Fieri riding shotgun, driving down a flaming highway that’s heading straight to burnout hell.

“You’re not smart or talented, which is why you have to work hard,” says the go hard goblin.

The goblin tells me I’m not doing enough. It points out other people that are working harder than me and not losing steam or breaking down. It tells me I’m just weak and I need to work on my mindset.

The goblin whispers, “if you stop, you’ll lose momentum. If you stop, you’ll implode. So full speed ahead, fucker.”

I tell the goblin to go to hell, but he’s latched on pretty hard and wants to drag me with him.

I’ve never in my life thought of myself as a workaholic, but someone called me that last week and the goblin said, “you don’t work hard enough to be a workaholic.”

There you go, I guess.

Self-love and self-care are two things I value very highly, and I’m certainly not living those values when the goblin is driving.

Old habits die hard

My counsellor pointed this out (shout out to her) but my go-hard-at-all-costs-and-don’t-stop behaviour is how I got through my post-secondary education. I put my head down and pushed. Pushed through exhaustion, all cues of sadness and distress, all needs, desires and more. The thing is when you stop pushing you sort of….emotionally implode.

During my degree, the crushing workload (and my inability to recognize the need for balance, breaks and pacing) drove me to seek literally any form of fast, easy comfort I could find. Alcohol and food were my two top choices, but there’s a long list.

By the end I was so burnt out I was severely depressed and I was basically only capable of escapism. Being alone with my own thoughts was SCARY and man oh man did I ever do some truly questionable shit during this time in my life. No wonder.

Now that I’m not putting head down and pushing toward something short term, that strategy won’t work. I’m aware of that now that it has been brought to my attention. I need to come up with a strategy for sustainable high performance that doesn’t demand all of me at all costs. I’m trying to figure that strategy out and put in the work on my own, but I’m nowhere near a new normal. But I’m trying.

Chill is the new hustle

I heard the phrase above at a Babes Who Brunch event and I think I need to tattoo this on the underside of my eyelids. Being able to say I’m “sooooOoooOOoo busy” has become part of my personality, but it sure doesn’t make me happier or more interesting.

News flash Raegan: everyone is busy. You are not a snowflake.

I can fully admit that being so busy I can’t handle my shit has served as a great crutch to avoid being left with my own thoughts (admitted, I get lonely, also — should I be making RRSP contributions????).

But I certainly don’t get a busy badge of honour for curling up in the fetal position on my living room floor.

I used to joke about the fact that I’m basically white knuckling it through life. Short term, once in a while to get something, ok fine. But I know that without a shadow of a doubt I do not act like the person I want to be when I’m functioning this way. I’m detached, aggressive and foggy. I cry a lot. It takes me twice as long to get things done.

It doesn’t matter how well someone else seems to juggle 50 things. I have to remind myself I don’t live in their head day to day and I don’t know what’s going on in there. I live in my own mind and it’s screaming PUMP THE BREAKS RAEGAN YOU’RE GONNA RUN US INTO A GODDAM WALL.

Car Crash Nbc GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Find & Share on GIPHY

Instead of saying “I’ve got this figured out guys,” and write some sort of rainbow ending I thought I’d share what I’m doing to try to get off the hot mess express! Because it’s not about letting myself sleep for 12 hours, watching 12 hours of Netflix holed up in my apartment and/or eating a jar of peanut butter to make myself feel better. They are all temporary fixes to a much bigger problem.

Self-care, to me, is doing the stuff that’s hard to get momentum on, and you don’t wanna do, but honours future you.

View this post on Instagram

Something I learned the hard way: for a lot of us, including me, “self-care” does not mean “allowing yourself to do whatever the hell you want.” For a long time, I was like “Pint of ice cream!” “Sleeping until noon!” WOO SELF-CARE! And then I realized that none of those things helped me be any less of a mess or feel any better. I need to think of “self-care” as “self-parenting” in order for it to work, and self-parenting means I end up doing a lot of stuff that I actually don’t wanna do. I consider my self-parents to be, like, Mr. Rogers and Oprah. And they make me take care of myself by getting off my ass and exercising, meditating when I’d rather watch some Housewives, and eating a dinner with nutritional value instead of a Haagen-Dazs bar from the gas station. Discipline as self-care: WHO KNEW? 🤷‍♀️#emilyonlife #selfcare

A post shared by Emily McDowell Studio (@emilymcdowell_) on

  • Saying no

Yeah I suck at this. See how I started that sentence?

I have a bad habit of not valuing my time very highly which blows up in my face frequently. I get excited about things and I say yes right away before actually thinking it through, so my strategy is to take 24 hrs (or at least two hours) to think and respond back before I take on any new projects/meetings/tasks etc.

  • Daily gratitude journaling

I use the Five Minute Journal now (I leave it next to my bed so I remember to fill it out when I get up then throw it on my pillow so I finish it before I pass out), BUT I used to just try to think about or jot down three good things from the day. I learned this trick from the first self-help book I ever read: The Happiness Advantage.

  • Reading and sleeping

So stupidly simple, but goddam it is this hard. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off every night at 9:30pm reminding me to go to bed — that’s how bad I am at this.

I noticed that I was in a pattern where I’d lay in bed watching Netflix to “destress” at the end of the night (escape and quiet the yelling in my brain until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and pass out). Then my alarm would go off at 5:00am and I would be instantly mad at myself while I dragged my body out of bed. For the short term, I’ve had my mom change the password to our shared Netflix account and I got myself a stack of fiction books from the library that I’m excited to read before bed.

  • Scheduling in time for self-care

I could never have free time if I wanted to. I try to cross off everything else on my to-do list, but self-care never makes it on there. I literally wrote “take a goddam bubble bath” in my agenda today. I tell people to help hold me accountable to leave work at the time I said I would leave. I’m trying to remind myself I’m not a hero if I forgo this.

  • Seeing people I love

I am very good at isolating myself when I put the busy blinders on for too long. I tell myself I’m not fun to be around and I need the time to work anyway. I have zero compassion for myself, so I find it significantly harder to give off a positive “aura” as my friend Lauren would say (also hard to hide what you’re feeling when you are exhausted).

I’m lucky to have people in my life that know I get like this and wait patiently for me to surface, OR sometimes don’t take my no’s and cancelled plans for an answer. They come to my apartment when I can barely bring myself to get out of bed on a Friday night after a long week, hold me and let me cry on them. They make me laugh when it doesn’t feel possible. They listen to my irrational babble and bring me back to earth.

100% of the time I feel at least a little bit better once I’ve reached out.

  • Deleting the email app on your phone, blacklisting Gmail using SelfControl  and/or leaving your phone at home

I am a slave to my four email addresses — they may as well be wearing leather boots and holding a whip. We only have so much willpower. I’ve found removing the source of temptation helps a lot (this applies to a lot of things, as you’ll see below). I’m so much clearer once I’ve been away from screens for 4+ hours.

  • Avoiding alcohol + drugs + food + other easy numbing behaviours

Get honest with yourself here about your “why.” For me, I would have a few (too many) pints at the end of the week in college because I couldn’t cope with the impeding dread of doing homework at my dining room table all weekend. These behaviours become bad when the why becomes problematic.

Again, I know my willpower can be weak so I like the whole “handcuff myself to a radiator” strategy where I try to remove the temptation altogether if possible (hence why I do dry months). Tell people about what you’re trying to do and have them ruthlessly hold you accountable. Clear out your cupboards. Whatever it takes.

  • Meditating

I can’t say I’m very consistent with this, but if my head feels chaotic and I do a guided meditation it’s like pulling a parachute. As much as I sometimes avoid being alone in my own thoughts for too long, (like you pretend to not smell that thing that is rotting under the porch) good things happen when you get quiet. Again, I sort of have to force myself to do it but once I open my eyes again I always feel at least a little bit better.

  • Repeating affirmations/phrases and remembering to breathe deep

Recently, when I’ve been about to list off a confusing combo of swears and talk about how I want to set something on fire — this is usually over text message by the way — I do my best to  lean back, breathe deep and say “let go.” I swear I’ve said “let go” to myself in my head 100 times a day for the last two weeks since my friend Amie said it to me, but it’s true. I really do have to.

And you know what? It works. I haven’t lit a single thing on fire. It’s the little victories y’all.

Adult Art GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

 

I LEFT THE FAMILY BUSINESS

Why Jessica Antony walked away from a career in publishing (and what she’s doing now)

GUEST WRITER INFO

Jessica Antony is the owner of Anchor Editorial Services, where she provides editing, content creation, consultation, and facilitation services to a wide range of clients. She also enjoys making immature fart jokes on Twitter, and posting photos of her dog and passion for powerlifting on Instagram.

I was raised by hippie parents. But not the “we use crystals for deodorant and don’t believe in vaccinations” hippies – the “we’ve dedicated our lives to social justice and think capitalism is a scam” hippies. My parents are ambitious, incredibly intelligent, and have worked hard to support my younger brother and I in whatever we want to do with our lives. I looked up to both of them growing up – my Dad a book publisher and my Mom a professor – so it’s perhaps not surprising that my career path followed both of theirs. I finished my Master’s degree in Media Studies at Concordia when I was about 25, and shortly after started working for my Dad’s book publishing company, while also teaching a writing course at a local university.

My Dad’s company had its head office just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia, so when I started working for him he moved from his home office to a “real” office in Osborne Village. Working for my Dad was amazing: he is hilarious, passionate about his work, a very patient teacher, and was dedicated to my learning and growing within the company. The joke was that I was his retirement plan, so naturally he wanted me to succeed. 

I learned so much in a short time when it was just he and I in that office. We quickly grew to include an office manager and promotions coordinator, so we had to move to a bigger office. That’s when we bought the property I now live in – a house with a separate office built onto the front of it. I was literally living and working in the same building. No more waiting for the bus in -30 degree weather: I could roll out of bed and be ready and at my desk in 15 minutes.

IMG_3364
My Dad and I were co-editors, along with Les Samuelson, of the sixth edition of a social problems textbook, Power and Resistance: Critical Thinking About Canadian Social Issues, the most successful of all of the book’s editions.

The work I did for the publishing company was just what I had envisioned for my life: I read manuscripts, I edited, I collaborated with authors, I travelled to conferences, I pitched book proposals, I vetted book proposals, I pushed professors to use our social-justice-focused texts in their classes instead of the multinational publishers’ bullshit designed to bankrupt students and perpetuate the status quo. I loved it. I took on more responsibility at work, I got more comfortable teaching my writing course, and after a few years I even started a side hustle, Anchor Editorial Services, doing freelance copy editing and proofreading.

About six or seven years in, my Dad approached me and asked if this is truly what I wanted to be doing. He was going to retire eventually, and the idea was that the company would be passed on (in some way) to the employees. Did I want to be a publisher? Am I happy editing books all day? Of course I was. I had gone to school to do this. I had settled into this being my forever. But he could sense that I wasn’t as motivated or focused as I once was, and because he’s the Best Dad/Boss Ever, he checked in with me a few times to be sure I was truly happy. But, and perhaps this is because he was not only my employer but also my Dad, he was right.

I wasn’t as focused or motivated. I eventually found myself going into work and staring at the list of things I had to accomplish and feeling immediately overwhelmed. This feeling didn’t manifest overnight, but crept up on me slowly, unnoticed. The book publishing business is a long game – it takes over a year to turn a book proposal into a printed book. Editing manuscripts takes months. I was starting to burn out and I didn’t realize it until it got to the point that I became unproductive at work. Eventually, though, I couldn’t ignore it any more. I was exhausted. I was losing my passion. I needed more than a vacation. I realized I didn’t want to do this anymore and it terrified me. I was the retirement plan! I can’t quit my Dad! He’s done so much for you, Jessica, and this is what you do? Work for him for a few years, learn everything about the industry, and then bail?! You have got to be kidding me you are the Worst Daughter Ever.

Admitting to myself that I wasn’t happy at work anymore was hard enough, but telling my father felt impossible.  I felt overwhelmed and couldn’t keep my thoughts straight – everything confounded me. So I decided to go see a therapist, and this is gonna sound ridiculous but at first I genuinely didn’t know what I needed to talk about (seriously?!), I just knew I needed help organizing my brain.

I was unhappy at work, I was dating a guy who was…maybe fine (spoiler alert: he wasn’t), I was teaching an undergraduate course, I was doing freelance work on the side, I had taken up powerlifting and was training for competition…there was a lot going on. As you might imagine, the first and only thing the counsellor and I talked about was work. She helped me deal with the process of breaking it to my Dad that I wanted to leave, submitting my official resignation, and coping with the outcome of that.

The actual process of quitting was heartbreaking. I cried like a baby when I finally told my Dad. It wasn’t until I officially submitted my resignation to the rest of the company that it became real. I had been working for this company for ten years – I had a stable job and a stable income and the potential to become a stakeholder in the future and I was just…giving it up. Is this the dumbest thing I’ve ever done? All because I was kind of bored of reading academic manuscripts? What if you never find another job again and you can’t pay rent and you end up a shameful scorn on your family’s name?! The terror was real.

At this point I had already been looking for a new job, but I wasn’t really sure what direction I wanted to go in. I had applied for probably forty jobs before I decided that I needed professional help and hired a career coach. Turns out my resume was trash and, perhaps unsurprisingly, not having any exposure to the job market in over a decade meant I had no clue what I was doing.

My career coach suggested that I only apply for jobs that I would be genuinely excited to dive into. When I started actually thinking about being in these offices and working for these companies I had be submitting my resume to, I stopped applying altogether. I didn’t want to work at any of these places! Why the hell would I leave a comfortable, stable job where I was actually contributing positively to the world, that was located quite literally in my house, to go to some corporate office where I have to wear pantyhose and write press releases about some horseshit nobody cares about? Pump. The. Breaks.

This whole time Anchor Editorial was still garnering new clients – entirely through word of mouth. I really liked the variety of work I got to do, the fact that I could do it anywhere, and the fact that I could do it all in my sweats. When my career coach asked, “What does your ideal work day look like?” I laughed and said “it starts with coffee and sweats.” Well, shit, why can’t that be my work day? I had never seriously considered freelancing full time. Who did I think I was? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the only option that made me simultaneously scared and excited.

Anchor_Editorial
Hire freelancers! Like the freelancer who redesigned my logo, Nicholas Luchak.

I’ve been working for myself for over a year now. My days always start with coffee at the dog park, and very often include sweats. I still teach a writing course and I still edit academic manuscripts, but not so many that they burn me out. I’ve also had the opportunity to facilitate a leadership workshop, speak at a teacher’s conference, edit books, consult clients on obtaining literary agents, write and facilitate a conflict resolution course, pitch and write news stories, edit dissertations and proposals, work as a client liaison for a tech start-up, and contribute regularly to a blog for women entrepreneurs. In the last year I’ve also competed in four strength competitions (including one at a national level), travelled across the country, and met more ambitious women entrepreneurs than I have in my lifetime.

Jessica Antony
You need something edited, written, or facilitated? I’ll get it done for you. Right here in the woods. I’m all business, baby. (Photo credit: Brenna Faris)


Leaving the security of a career path that wasn’t making me happy anymore was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, because it forced me to put myself first and actually acknowledge and address the fact that what I had banked on wasn’t working for me. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Put your sweats on and do the scary thing. It’s worth it.


WHAT COMES NEXT FOR JESSICA

You can find Jessica teaching at the University of Winnipeg, writing for clients like The Ace Class, and working as the Media Liaison for the 2019 Canadian National Powerlifting Championship (you may even catch her on the platform!). 

HOW I’M UNPACKING YEARS OF SELF-OBJECTIFICATION

This narrative of “how to be a woman” hung over my head playing puppet master, making me do things I knew weren’t right for me.

When I was 19, I won a booty shake contest at a local bar (specifically, The ‘World Famous’ Palomino Club, if you live in Winnipeg).

View this post on Instagram

Me at 19 😂 Sweating profusely, wearing a Hollister plaid and clutching the cash I just won courtesy of booty shake Monday at The Pal. Exhausted, six or seven drinks deep likely and ready for an after-bar McDonalds run. I don’t regret participating, but I recognize now that shaking my 🍑 in front of a crowd of strangers and doing things to get them to cheer me on is the perfect marriage of objectification and self-objectification.  Self-objectification is what happens when you think of yourself as an object of others’ desire first, and as a person second. I wrote all about realizing the impact of self-objectification on @whatcomesnext.co this week, and wrapped it up with the things I’m doing in my everyday life to undo the damage. This post took too many drafts and discussions to finish, but it’s out there and I’m proud 🤷‍♀️ Link is in my bio. #tbt #truestory #olderandwisernow #throwback

A post shared by Raegan Hedley (@raegjules) on

Why did I do it? I was drunk, a friend was egging me on and my boyfriend at the time was unimpressed when I said I was thinking about it. So naturally, I did it to prove a point.

But when I was up there, it felt weird and performative. Even with four (maybe even five?) shots of Fireball in my system, I couldn’t reconcile that feeling. But I walked away with a bunch of cash and bought myself a Big Mac so I wasn’t thinking too hard about it.

Self-objectification (SO) is thinking of oneself as an object of others’ desire first and as a person second. 

In simple terms, self-objectification is objectification coming in an incestuous full circle.  

According to a study done out of Eastern Michigan University by Kroon & Perez, “regular exposure to objectifying experiences socialize girls and women to engage in self-objectification, whereby they come to internalize this view of themselves as an object or collection of body parts.”

As someone who attended my fair share of therapy growing up, and went through an eating disorder treatment program, I’m surprised that the first time I heard about the concept of self-objectification was when I started trying to put words around this thing I was feeling and noticing.

Let me paint you a picture: A guy sees a beautiful girl in a crowd. Maybe she’s sitting in the corner, or has an imaginary spotlight following her as she floats around the room. Her personality or character doesn’t matter. Everything else melts away, and nothing shines through but her beauty. He chooses her because she’s a mythical creature who’s MYSTERIOUS!!!! Why? Because we know nothing about her other than what she looks like.

Oh, not to mention the fact that we’ve also been socialized to believe that beauty = goodness of character.

Iliza Shlesinger has a bit in her Netflix special Elder Millennial on the fun scenario I described above.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve shoved myself into a tight dress (the one in the photo below is leather and especially terrible) and hoped somebody noticed me. I was totally oblivious at the time how much I was setting myself up for disappointment.

11118374_812108472209772_1739368760191184668_o.jpg

Typing that makes me want to light my computer, and my entire soul on fire. Don’t try to tell me that’s not what we’ve been force-fed in movies and TV. That’s what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner growing up; If we are picked out of a crowd based on looks, it means we are valuable and valued.

The danger with self-objectification is that it is associated with a number of ills including body shame, appearance anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Think about how that manifests itself for a second: women who self-objectify put all their value on being seen as a sexual object, then when they finally get to the part where they are supposed to be *~SExuAl*`~and have sex, they’re supposed to shut off everything they’ve learned up until that point and “enjoy themselves and be free.” BUT they are typically so preoccupied with the way their *INSERT BODY PART* looks that they can’t. Even. Enjoy it. (NOT THE FIRST TIME I’VE TALKED ABOUT THIS FOR A REASON)

When I did let good men into my life, there was almost a part of me that discredited them for liking me for who I was as a person. After all, I had been completely brainwashed into thinking the only thing that was valuable about me was my looks, and I found it hard to believe someone was going to give a shit about my personality, goals, dreams and hobbies.

I shrugged off accomplishments and thwarted off feeling proud for YEARS. I didn’t think it all meant anything compared to the cultural currency of beauty.  This narrative of “how to be a woman” hung over my head playing puppet master, making me do things I knew weren’t right for me.

The worst part is — I had no clue.

My self-objectification was so internalized it was totally undetectable. I wanted to be mad at myself, but I know from reading other women’s stories that I’m not the only one.

Not only had I objectified myself, but I knew I had also done it to other women. For example, every time I would worship someone for their body on Instagram without any regard for their humanity.

I actually felt sick to my stomach when I initially started doing research for this article because it felt like too much to wade through. But here I am writing this, so I guess you could say I put on some rubber boots and I’m getting to work.

I don’t regret participating in that contest (being under 20 is the perfect time to do dumb stuff like that), but I recognize now that winning money by shaking my ass in front of a crowd of strangers and doing things to get them to cheer me on is the perfect marriage of objectification and self-objectification.

Once you understand self-objectification and see yourself acting it out, you can’t unsee it.

I’m still coming to terms with the catastrophic damage that years of self-objectification have done. The diet pills, drinking to be less self-conscious, jealousy, following fit girls on Instagram as weight loss motivation and the *all-consuming concern* that someone will see my cellulite.

_MG_6208
2015. Closest I’ve ever come to doing a boudoir shoot and I look so serious. I’m wearing a HUGE pushup bra (I have small boobs, don’t be fooled) and I didn’t want to take off my jeans because I was too self-conscious about my cellulite at the time. Photo by Kanisha Szekely.

When you strip it all away, it’s simply a way of existing in the world. A story we tell ourselves that has been told to us for generations. Awareness is everything. You can contribute to the narrative the media has rammed down your throat, or start to rewrite it.

For me, this isn’t in line with who I want to be, so I’m ready to let it go.

I read in a Psychology Today article that learning about SO reduces its impact (thank goodness), and they suggest that we actively work to…

  • Override self-surveillance (e.g. sitting a certain way to look skinny, looking in the mirror constantly to check yourself)
  • Reduce our contact with sexually objectifying media (e.g. stop reading appearance-focused magazines)
  • Reduce contact with sexually objectifying people or groups (e.g., discussing another woman’s appearance with your friends because of something they posted)
  • Choose clothing based on comfort
  • Challenge sexual objectification when we hear it or see it
  • Decline to participate in demeaning the appearance of ourselves and others
  • Counter critical self-statements
  • Compliment on things other than appearance
  • Cultivate sustainable ways to affirm our worth

Learning about SO helped me find the missing puzzle piece in understanding why my self-esteem was non-existent for most of my life. I’ve gotta say, it’s actually kind of a relief to know what to call it now.

I know it’s going to be a struggle. I know I’ve stumbled already. I know it’s worth it.

The most interesting thing about me has nothing to do with the way I look, and if there’s something I’ve learned in my self-love journey I know I’ll never be satisfied with a well of validation that always runs dry. I have a feeling the next time I get on a stage to prove a point, it’ll be empowering. Not objectifying.

964421_647229975333005_9035708644672532332_o
2014. Winning a community radio award. This photo captured a spark of genuine pride.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

‘WHEN I LOOK IN THE MIRROR, I DON’T SEE A FAT PERSON’

Charmaine Jennings’ weight loss journey didn’t start because of a lack of confidence

GUEST WRITER INFO

Charmaine Jennings is the owner of Strategic Charm Boutique, a boutique marketing and public relations agency in Winnipeg. She also created Hustle & Charm Community, a group for female entrepreneurs and bloggers to gather, learn and grow together.

She’s an entrepreneur, marketing and copywriting whiz and all around boss bitch.

I ran into someone I went to elementary school with the other day. As soon as she recognized me I knew what must’ve been going through her mind, “Wow. Charmaine’s still fat!”

Now let me be crystal clear, I NEVER call myself fat. Not out loud, not in my head – never. I mean do you know what fat is? It’s yellow globs of gloop (that’s the scientific definition) and I can assure you, I do NOT look like yellow globs of goop. In fact, I’m quite adorable if you ask me. But I’m not ignorant to the fact fat is a word many people use to describe people who are overweight.

Anyway.

I’ve been overweight my entire life. Even when I was just a little kid and it shouldn’t have been that big a deal. Looking back now at pictures of me when I was 8, I wished being 15 pounds heavier than the other kids was something I didn’t notice. Was something no one noticed. 

Charmaine at age 6 or 7.

 

I always had a lot of friends, but there was always someone who had to comment on my weight. Although I was only called fat a few times before I hit puberty, I can’t pretend it didn’t make me sad when I heard it.

Once I hit grade 5 or 6, I started to hear it more frequently. Mostly from grungy boys, but from some of the older girls too. But you bet your booty I’ve always been able to hold my own. Sure I would get sad and upset when kids teased me, but I wasn’t the girl to bite her tongue and go home crying. I mean crying came at some point, but it wasn’t my default reaction. I dished out what I had taken, and kept reminding myself that I was cute, generally a good person (I had my bad girl moments, okay!), smart, and ambitious. And funny. Yes, I was funny as a kid too.

In about grade 7 or 8 I started to notice a bit of a pattern between the people who would call me fat or allude to the fact that I’m eating once again.

“Gotta eat to live gotta live to eat, tell you all about it when I’ve got the tiiiiiiiiime” (name that Disney movie!)

Angry Aladdin GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

By this time the older girls had moved onto high school, so it was mostly those grungy boys in my grade who kept yapping. The pattern I noticed was that these were boys who weren’t happy. Boys who had a hard time with their school work, and who would have a hard time making it to high school graduation. It’s hard to put into words, but I decided that if calling me fat was the only thing that was going to put a smile on their face that day, then so be it. Plus, I was going to spend the summer after grade 8 getting nice and skinny before high school, so who cared what they had to say now?

Grade 9 rolled around and I still wasn’t skinny. I was close to 200 pounds if my memory serves me correctly. Although I was fairly confident in middle school, I was nervous about what might be in store for me with high school kids. I was scared I might get teased more than I was before, and that someone might dump pig’s blood on me at the dance.

I watched a lot of high school horror movies growing up, okay?!

I won’t bore you with all the details of my high school experience grade by grade, but overall I had a blast! Tons of friends, new positive experiences, and I was a total joiner so I had my hand in almost everything. Band, drama, student council, yearbook committee – you name it, I was in it. And you might not know this about me, but booty shaking is one of my not so hidden talents. This talent obviously stemmed from my love of dancing. So what was one of the groups I immediately signed up for? Cheerleading!

Again, I was all about high school movies so being a cheerleader on the field at the big game was totes one of my life goals. And I did it! Sure I was nervous because cheerleaders in the movies were always thin, but thin or not, I was getting myself on the squad. And just like grade 5, the older cheerleaders looked at me with judgment. Like, how dare I think I belong on the squad? But I wasn’t going anywhere so they were just going to have to deal. I defied the odds, but not the laws of gravity so obviously, I wasn’t tossed up in the air or anything. But it felt good to be part of the team.

As far as I can remember, there were only two older boys who teased me consistently throughout high school about my weight. One of them even threw a shoe at my one day as I was walking through the halls, and you know what I did? I picked it up and threw it in the toilet. Boy, bye!

When I dished out what was thrown at me (literally!) some people didn’t know how to react since they expected me to crawl in a hole and hide in shame. Some left me alone after they realized they couldn’t shake me the way they wanted to. Others persisted but with hesitation; they waited to see if others would join in or not before making a move. A select few continued until they dropped out of school – their coping mechanism for dealing with their own anger and emotions.

Every summer in high school was the summer I was going to lose a bunch of weight and be thin and greatly desired by all of the popular fellas. But nah. All I did was gain weight year after year as if someone had put an obesity curse on me. Ugh!

My beautiful picture
Charmaine at age 18.

Once I hit my graduating year, I decided this would FINALLY be my chance to shed all the pounds and get it right and tight for university. Guess how that turned out?

Now here I am, 30 years old, still thinking this is going to be the year where I shock the universe and lose 100 pounds.

As you can see, I’ve been on a weight-loss journey my whole life. Last August I decided to make that journey very public by documenting my progress or lack thereof on the gram, using the hashtag #journeyto200 to categorize all of my posts about health and weight-loss on my way to 200lbs. For my first post of my public journey, I shared a video discussing what this journey was all about, and included a picture of me on the scale, weighing in at 327.4lbs. This is the first time I’ve ever disclosed my weight to anyone, and I decided to share it with the Internet. I paced back and forth in my apartment right after posting it, thinking I should take it down. But then I got immediate positive responses to the post, so I figured what the heck – it’s out there now for the world the see. Let the journey begin.

It’s 9 months later and I’m sitting at 315lbs. I haven’t even dipped my toes into the 200s yet. Ugh!

I’m frustrated by a number of things:

  1. I went from 312 to 279lbs in less than a year when I was living in Alberta, so I know I can do this
  2. Pastries are my weakness and I hate that I let them consume me
  3. My confidence about my body is part of my problem

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a fat person. I see a woman with curves, a juicy booty, muscles, and cheekbones that make my smile cute. I never shy away from wearing a bikini to the beach or a short skirt to go dancing. I don’t go out of my way to cover my arms because they’re almost as big as my thighs. I truly and deeply love my body. And as grateful as I am for the confidence I carry, I can’t help but notice that that very confidence sometimes holds me back from becoming a healthier version of myself.

IMG_1723
Charmaine at age 27.

I’m not waiting until I lose 150 pounds to finally wear that two-piece I’ve been dreaming of or those short shorts that show a little extra cheek. I’m already there and I’m enjoying every minute of it. And I know a dramatic weight-loss isn’t all about how I look and what I wear – it’s about living a longer and healthier life. 

There are times where I want to stop documenting this journey because who the hell cares that I’m averaging a loss of 1.3lbs per month. What I remind myself is that I’m doing this for me — but I’m also doing it to inspire others who are struggling to get their voluptuous booties over the same hurdles. And hey, the feeling of knowing there are other people on a similar journey who can feel even the teeniest inspiration from my story, might be just the motivation I’ve been looking for all these years.


WHAT COMES NEXT FOR CHARMAINE AND HER JOURNEY TO 200

Guess you’ll have to follow her on Insta and keep up with her blog to find out!

View this post on Instagram

✨A N N O U N C E M E N T 🙌🏼 Are you interested in learning more about the Body Positive Movement? Do you find yourself wanting to get more involved but don't know where to begin?! If so, we’ve got just the event for you! It’s the BoPo Panel, a podcast event created by 8 other like minded people who all feel so passionately about the BoPo Movement! We're all on a mission and have one common goal: to expand education on the topic of body positivity and reach a broader audience of diverse individuals in our community, to open up a dialogue about each complex topic under the umbrella of body positivity.🤗❤️ Each time we meet, we will discuss topics such as Diet Culture, Weight Stigma, Eating Disorders, Perfectionism, Language Around Food and Bodies, Media Literacy, the Beauty Industry and so much more! We’ll also be bringing in guests when we meet who are experts/who’s voice will be crucial on the topic!! 🎙 There will also be time for a Q&A period after the one-hour podcast, where you will hear from all 8 of us and our individual thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the subjects. The first event will take place August 29th at 7PM, at @fhcoffee_ Tickets are $10 💕 And the best part??? Proceeds from this event are going to the Women's Health Clinic (@whcwpg), to support those struggling with eating disorder and other body image issues!!!🙏🏻 You can find more information on how to purchase your tickets from the link in our bios! SIGN UP MY LOVES!!❤️❤️❤️ 👊🏻👊🏼👊🏽👊🏾👊🏿 BoPo Panelists: – @tillieandtrue – @mybodywpg – @_risingstrong – @strategiccharmboutique @hustleandcharmcommunity – @jenihaileyyoga – @nakedskincareapothecary – @blondesovereign – @caseylanxon

A post shared by Charmaine Jennings (@strategiccharmboutique) on