#instalibrariancloset

Over the last few years, I have been getting to know a great group of women in the Central Valley who are interesting, vivacious, funny, and passionate. One of these ladies posted this video this past summer.

It struck me. I saved it. I watched it several times.

I have struggled with body image since middle school. I was always chubby. I had awful glasses, braces for years, and I never had nice clothes. When I was 19/20, I lost a lot of weight, about 70 pounds, with diet and exercise that got out of control. I was skinny. I only felt pretty because of compliments from other people. I really struggled with some of the attention I got because I was still the same person I had always been. As awful as it sounds, people do treat you better when you’re thin. I have been on both sides and everywhere in between.

I was in a good place with my weight between ages 22 and 25. I gained a little weight due to life changes and stresses, but it was nothing major. I felt great. It wasn’t until I went to Washington, D.C. for a graduate school fellowship that I started feeling uncomfortable. I gained 10 pounds. And then I sprained my ankle when I got back. I couldn’t walk for a month. I never gained all my weight back, but I was no longer comfortable. I didn’t really recognize myself in the mirror a couple of years ago. I felt terrible. I hid at home a lot.

But watching the video one of my new friends posted really helped me feel a lot better. I’ve always enjoyed clothes, and the video  made me realize that over the last couple of years, I’d gotten into a funk because of my body image. You can be stylin’ at any size or shape, and I should know because throughout the years, I have been a size 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.

This past fall, in an effort to reclaim my body and clean out my closet of too small clothes, I started documenting my work wear outfits on Instagram with #instalibrariancloset. These are mirror selfies in regular bathroom lighting–nothing fancy. My Instagram is a private account, so I wasn’t looking for followers or anything like that, but it really helped force me to wear all of my clothes and to spend a little more time on myself. I was really not comfortable doing these pictures. It was hard. I did these because I felt myself falling into the “gaining weight is not beautiful” mindset. Facing yourself in the mirror everyday helps you accept yourself.

One of the more surprising things about doing this was a message I got from a longtime friend who I don’t see very often.

I’m so proud of you. I see that you take pictures and you share your style/outfits. A few years ago I wouldn’t have ever thought you’d be posting pictures, sharing them. You used to not want to take pictures or share them. I’m really glad to see you out of your comfort zone per se and sharing you!! It’s encouraging to see!! I see them every now and then and I’m like wow… I don’t even feel comfortable to take pictures of myself and post them often. So, I like that and proud of how strong you’ve become over the years!

My last #instalibrariancloset post was yesterday.

IMG_20160428_185833

There were only a very few things that I didn’t wear this academic year, but I am going to do one final clothes and shoes purge. Not only did I clean out my closet by doing this, but I discovered new combinations, wore more of my jewelry, and I was even able to be better about my exercise and eating. I am actually down a jean size.

I intended for all of my IG posts to be on Pinterest, but I only pinned a few. I am planning to pin the rest. I am also in the process of creating a “Bodyful” playlist to be a source of encouragement when getting ready in the morning, and I also started following body positivity accounts on social media.

What things do you do to help you make peace with your body?

31

It’s been a while. March and April are busy months for me at work, and there was a stretch of time where I was feeling pretty disorganized on top of it. And maybe distracted knowing that I am heading to a new job in June, but, as always, I eventually come around. I bounce back. I turned 31 last Friday, and I can tell you that “bounce back” is my 21-31 theme.

I’ve written about some of this before, but it’s good to reflect. I grew up in a small religious environment that was mostly built around immediate and extended family, and although I went to public school my entire life, I was shy and didn’t really live a life outside of school, home, and church.  When I was 19 and 20, I lost a lot of weight–almost 70 pounds. It started well enough, but by mid-2005, I was dieting excessively and addicted to exercise. I was finally thin and happy for a while, but in 2006, at 21, I was in a very sad, confusing period. I was unsure and insecure. Not that you can really tell in the photo below, taken on my 21st birthday, but I wore sweaters and blazers to cover up my thinness. (And I didn’t even eat any of that cake!) It took me a whole summer, fall, and winter to get out of my funk. I took off the Fall 2006 semester; I just couldn’t concentrate.

21

I didn’t know just how much my life would change that following spring. Around my 22nd birthday, in 2007, I met my now husband online via MySpace. (Hey, now, it was popular back then.) We had our first date on my birthday, and we’ve been together for nine years now.

I graduated from college in 2008. I got married in 2009. I graduated from graduate school in 2011. We bought a house in 2013. I also got my first full-time librarian job in 2013, and now I’m headed to the library at University of California Merced, the first library I ever volunteered at, in June.

At 31, I am really pleased with where I am. I am happy about where I am in my career and in my relationship with my husband. This is also the best I have ever felt about myself. I have come to accept many things about my(INFJ)self. Here’s a little list. 

  • I have a little rebellious streak. I wish I were a Phryne Fisher, but I’m a Dot who is at least brave enough to team up with Miss Fisher. I did go to both D.C. and Vegas by myself, after all.
  • I am creative. I sometimes wonder if I followed the academic path because I didn’t know any other alternatives.
  • I am a reflector.
  • I am always going to be a little shy. For example, my little secret is that I enjoy singing. But I will die first if you think I will ever reveal that side of me. I have the worst stage fright. Comparable to my fear of heights; just ask my husband about when we went to the Grand Canyon.
  • Underneath my reserved exterior, I am actually a little funny. Like, honestly, I did not see that one coming.

Also, rather than hate myself for not living up to certain standards, particularly expectations of others, I just focus on what I can do with the time and energy I have to give away. Lately, that’s taking care of me, which means no longer saying yes to every project or opportunity that comes my way: I quit that OER adult learning MOOC I mentioned I registered for a few posts back, and I am rethinking my plan to go back to graduate school, also mentioned a few posts back, too. Life is too short to do things you think you have to do, though my little overachieving heart is breaking as I type this.

Here’s to 31!

Weight Lifting

weight-plates-299537_640I meant to write something the last few weeks, but I’ve been preoccupied with a summer goal I made in June. This summer, I decided that I needed to get back into fitness. For the last ten years, I have been all over the place when it comes to health, exercise, and eating. There is definitely a reason I don’t follow food through social media or blogs.

Ten years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, I decided to change my life. In October 2004, I started eating healthy and went for long walks outdoors with a friend. Then we worked on incorporating jogging, also outdoors. I got to the point where I was running outside twice a day for quite a few miles, and I HAD to exercise. I was addicted. I also started eating less and less over time. By August 2005, I had dropped 67 pounds based on what I weighed the summer before I started college. Who knows? It could have been more, but I knew not to weigh myself prior because I didn’t want to feel discouraged by the number. My mind and body had definitely not caught up with each other. I felt exposed when I went back to school as a junior–my first test in this new body happened when I went to the orientation for my student job. I don’t mean it the way this is going to sound, but I felt like people treated me more nicely. Or maybe I was feeling better about myself and it resonated with others.

I was really in trouble with my health by the end of 2005. I was still technically not underweight based on the BMI, but I was too thin and hungry all the time, although I didn’t actually know it was hunger. (I still find it really difficult to say the word anorexia.) Then I started dating someone–my first dating experience–and it was surreal. I finally felt accepted, but I struggled with my self-image and confidence. I was still growing up. I had a difficult spring dealing with things. Summer came. My brother went off to the Army. I made it to the beginning of October before I took a leave of absence for the rest of  the semester. It was the right thing to do. The university gave me a year to finish that coursework. I went back to school for the Spring 2007 semester with 10 units, so I could still keep my grants and scholarships to pay for school. Later that spring, I met what would be my husband, and, together, he and I did healthy exercise together, and I learned to eat normally again.

I was in pretty good shape for a while, and then I went to graduate school. I was weighing 20 pounds more than my normal. For the last 4 years, I have struggled with 10-15 pounds, and I decided to do something about it. I re-started a regular exercise routine that is more than just cardio. I am working on building my strength with weight training at the gym near my house, and I have, surprisingly, been enjoying it. My goal for this semester Monday-Friday is to continue yoga (I started last summer) on Monday, a little cardio and weights on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday, and a little cardio and weights again on Friday. I have a very tight schedule with my commute, so it’s going to be a challenge to keep it up. I also plan on walking during my lunch at work. If only I could will myself to get up 30 minutes early to hit the treadmill or neighborhood.

My weight hasn’t changed since the end of June, but my body has changed in muscle tone, and I have lost some inches. I am also feeling a lot better about myself. I feel like a weight’s been lifted. (Punny, I know.)