As someone who has gone through formal treatments for an eating disorder and informal transformations of self-worth, reclaiming my body image and my sexuality seemed like the last thing that would ever happen. I used to look in the mirror and hate what I saw, so how could I ever let someone else see? I would reject the idea of love and intimacy before I even gave it a chance. I had closed off the possibility before any arose. And for a while, I was fine with that.
I was fine with avoiding mirrors and wearing only baggy clothes for a while when I was in the depths of my eating disorder and through treatment. I was fine not being intimate when I couldn’t stand to see my own body; let alone let someone else see it. I didn’t want to confront my own issues with my body, and staying hidden seemed to be the easiest way to do that.
Too often we switch between extremes – I recognize this pattern everywhere. Either we’re completely closed off to our bodies and our sexuality due to poor body image or we search for self-worth through intimate interactions. We see the world in black and white, one end of the spectrum to the other. But when do we get to live in the grey?
Once I realized my worth and began to see my body and all my curves, bulges, and edges as beautiful, I started to let someone else in. I saw stretch marks as beautiful stripes and badges of honor. I recognized that acne and marks don’t make me unworthy of love and affection, but instead the opposite. I was living in the grey. And it wasn’t easy at first.
Eventually, it got easier. Living in the grey and OWNING my body and sexuality is now one of the most important parts of my life. I wound up studying gender, women, and sexuality in college and I plan to make a career out of body acceptance, recovery, and sexuality. I’m not going to lie, it is hard to get there - but it is *so* worth it. I still make mistakes and I’m learning as I go, but I promise: as long as you keep trying, you will get there. And when you realize you’re there – and living in the grey – you’ll be so happy you did.
Emily Watne is a student living in Minneapolis studying gender, women, and sexuality studies. In her free time, she loves reading and hanging out with her dog. Find her on social media at @emilywatne.