Monday, November 24, 2014

From Loathing to Loving: My Ongoing Journey

At the end of my junior year of high school, I won a glamour photo shoot.
My camera-shy, awkward high school self was excited to have some nice pictures taken,
but part of me felt highly self-conscious as the photographer coached me on how to pose and how to smile. The teal rubber-bands on my braces caused me to smile unnaturally in an effort to disguise them and at one point during the photo shoot the photographer told me with some exasperation to "put some attitude into it!"

I was relieved when the last outfit change was complete and she was finally done taking pictures. I followed the photographer into a small room in the studio and she plugged the camera in. We went through the images, weeding them out until we were left with the one I decided I wanted edited and printed.
And then I sat in the chair and watched as she magnified my face to about 10 times its normal size and zapped out every imperfection. As she edited away the smattering of acne she looked at me and said, "Too bad we can't do this in real life, huh?"
I was further demoralized as she darkened my lips, increased my eye-makeup, whitened my eyes and teeth to meet a disgustingly artificial standard, and ultimately pushed the "magic button," as she called it, that gave me a flawless glow.

I walked out of that studio feeling ugly, incompetent, and objectified.
Seeing myself manipulated into some kind of Barbie-doll ideal--distorted until I conformed to the world's standard of beauty--was disheartening.
And it only added to the self-image struggle I had dealt with for years.

For some reason, as I had approached my teenage years, any youthful confidence I had in myself withered away and an attitude of self-loathing became rooted within me.
I looked in the mirror and saw only imperfections.
My struggles to make friends and fit in contributed to feelings of insecurity about my personality and I became uncomfortable in social settings.
My perfectionistic attitude caused me to focus on my faults, and my self-esteem plummeted.
I knew I was of infinite worth and didn't question my divine nature as a child of God.
But I doubted that which I had to offer in my mortal realm and earthly capacity.
And for a while, those feelings of self-loathing were dominant in my mind and halted progress in many areas of my life.

And then, due to a variety of factors, I started to recognize my erroneous thinking.
Thanks in large part to loving, supportive parents and leaders, I started to see how this self-obsession was unhealthy and spiritually damaging, and I started to leave it behind.

But not really.

More accurately, I began to bury my feelings of self-hatred and send them to the back of my mind. I hated myself but was convinced that a focus on self was wrong and tried to direct my thoughts elsewhere. 
As I looked in the mirror I thought,
"I hate who I am, but it doesn't matter. I need to not dwell on myself."

And this mindset did help.
My confidence grew and I developed some deep and lasting friendships in college.
I had the opportunity to date a fair amount and met my husband early in my college days.
My marriage boosted my confidence. Knowing that someone had sought me out of his own accord, loved me unconditionally, and saw enough good in me to want to be with me forever was a rock I could fall back on when I encountered self-doubt.
I was happy as a new bride and young mother, and every time those feelings of insecurity tried to surface I would again push them to the back of my mind, bury them deep, and forbid myself to focus on them.

But recently those feelings of insecurity resurfaced and refused to be ignored.
Try as I might, if my mind wasn't occupied with something else it was kept busy criticizing everything about me.
And ultimately I stopped trying to bury them once again and acknowledged them.
And with that acknowledgment came a moment of profound realization:
It's not enough to ignore self-hatred. We have to develop a true love of self.

As I analyzed my many insecurities more closely, I realized that negative thoughts about myself actually prevented me from loving and serving others fully.
If I saw someone who was sitting alone, my feeling that I was an annoying person stopped me from sitting with them because I didn't want to bother them.
I had a hard time befriending people I classified as "beautiful," because my association with them brought to the surface feelings of self-criticism I had tried to bury.
I even had trouble accepting the compliments my husband gave me and occasionally wondered if he was actually genuine because I couldn't fathom how he could appreciate me.

Attitudes such as these were impacting my behavior in ways I had never before realized.
And it was then that I saw that a big change was needed...
a change that would lead to a sense of security and love of self
yet simultaneously increase humility as I recognized the divine Source of any good trait.
I realized that my self-hatred was a manifestation of ingratitude for the gifts and traits with which I have been blessed.

And while I have a long way to go in the journey of loving myself,
I feel that recognizing the problem means the battle is more than half won.
I can look in the mirror and see not imperfections, but the miraculous gift of a healthy body that can heal itself and nurture children in and out of the womb.
I can recognize that it's impossible for my personality to jive with everyone in the world but also acknowledge the fact that God has given me unique gifts that may help someone in need.
I can choose to accept the love of others and thereby love them more fully.

The Savior said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Let us follow His counsel and love all of God's children--
including ourselves.

17 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for writing this! You have no idea how much it means to me. Seriously, I came across it at the perfect time.
    I too have had feelings like this as I have gone through out my life comparing myself to friends and others. I have never felt "Good enough". This has really helped me to step back and realize that i need to start thinking more about what wonderful things i have been blessed with rather than the things that make me feel so down on myself. Gratitude is a magical thing...

    And I am not just saying this because of what you wrote, I have actually been wanting to tell you this for some time... but I just want you to know how awesome I think you are. I seriously read your blog and it makes me want to be a better person and mom. Not in a "I feel bad for myself" kind of way, but in a truly inspiring way. The time and interaction you give to your children is so heart warming. They are so lucky to have you. Reading your blog always makes my days better! And as for that personality of yours, I LOVE IT. I always looked forward to family get togethers because it meant i could hang out with you and you are so fun.
    and kaitlyn, you are BEAUTIFUL. And not just on the inside (which we all know is far more important) but you really are beautiful on the outside as well. sometimes its hard to see that for ourselves. But you really really are.. You're a White! of course you're gorgeous! :)
    anyways, I'm done with my novel... love you

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    1. Hailey...thank you so much for your "novel!" I was so happy to see this comment after being a little hesitant to post this. And the things you said mean so much coming from one of the most truly beautiful people I know--and not just in your beauty queen/magazine cover bride ways! ;) Love that we can stay connected with our blogs!

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    2. How could either of you two ever doubt your beauty! Seriously!!! Come on girls, you KNOW how hot your grandpa is??? Hahahaha. Love you both! And you ARE both beautiful, kind, wonderful women.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this!! It was definitely something I needed to read and need to work on myself!

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    1. Thank you Katie!! It's so nice to hear from you, and your comment is very encouraging. :)

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  3. Have you read "Making Peace with the Image in the Mirror" by Steven Hawks? I worked with him when he was doing his research for the book "Intuitive Eating" and love the way he thinks. I'd recommend it.

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    1. I haven't read it--sounds like one I ought to read, though! I checked and our library has it, so I'll be checking it out soon. Thanks for your recommendation!

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  4. We are so hard on ourselves. For the record... when I look at you I see someone beautiful. I think you are truly a remarkable person. I have a handful of people that I think of and reference when I am trying to figure something out or decide what to do. You are one of those people. What would Kaitlyn do is something that I have asked myself many times. I mean that in all sincerity. Thanks for writing this... I think it is a universal struggle.

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    1. Thank you, Rachelle! How funny that you think of me, because I have used you as a positive example of mothering for a long time now. I still think back to conversations we had--like about it being okay to lose your identity to motherhood--and learn from them. And when my kids are taping their creations on the walls it makes me think of your house and I feel happy to see that maybe I can follow in your footsteps. So I guess, in a roundabout way, you're using yourself as a reference. :)

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  5. I really enjoyed reading this. I can relate so much to parts of it, it's unreal. I hurt for you and for me as I was reading this. Love of self is huge. I've had so many revelations of sorts in regards to body image. For me, my feelings about myself are better when I take better care of myself. I start to love myself because you love the things you care for. While it seems like it's a physical thing, it really isn't. I also looked at other people and for a long time felt like if they were thinner than me they were better, more attractive, healthier, more disciplined, etc. I put a lot of weight on someone's weight. I have recently started to rewire my thinking. While I need to lose weight and get back to my pre-pregnancy jeans, I need to realize that the weight I'm attaining is for health and that weight once seemed like too much, I now realize it's enough. A great resource that has helped me rewire the way I think and view others and especially the way I view advertisements is an Instagram account: Healthy is the New Skinny. She shares some powerful messages and it has honestly really helped me. Thanks for telling me about this today. I am a new follower of your blog!

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    1. Thanks so much Sharlee! I really like what you said about feeling better about yourself when you take better care of yourself. I can see a lot of truth to that. And I definitely agree that it's not a physical thing--self-hatred is no respecter of beauty or body size. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Hi Kaitlyn!!! We miss your family so much. It's not the same without you guys. I saw your blog link from Rachelle's family blog. I have loved reading your words. I am drawn to the things you write about and the way you verbalize your thoughts. Thanks for taking time to write this post. It is very powerful. It is interesting to get a glimpse of how you have viewed yourself. Especially when my view of you is so very different. I have always been in awe of your beauty and abilities. You are amazing. We especially miss your musical talents. I wish we would have had more time with your family. I hope everything is going well for you. Love, Alyssa

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    1. It's so great to hear from you Alyssa! Thank you for your kind words...while we love being close to our families, I miss Texas much more than I expected, and especially our ward. Sam and I learned so much from the kindness of your family and I love how that is carried over to your girls as well. I never saw any cattiness or cliquey tendencies in them, and I know they learned that from their parents. I'm grateful for your encouraging comment!

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  7. Kaitlyn, This struck home with me. What you have felt about yourself is a lot like how I have felt my entire life due to being molested at the age of 6, and throughout my life. My self worth was shattered before I was old enough to even realize that I was of any worth. I hope that you will believe when I say, that picture of you where the true essence of your beauty was removed, is not even close to the beauty of the Kaitlyn I know and love. And your beauty is so much more than skin deep. Being that I am also one who struggles in social situations, I fully understand how it hinders our growth and our ability to serve. One thing that you failed to mention, and actually took full responsibility for all of this, is that Satan is the one who planted these feelings within you. He is the master when it comes to taking away our feelings of self worth. If he cannot accomplish it one way, he will find another. That is how he took 1/3 of our brothers and sisters in Heaven, and how he continues to do so here. If he did not have this ability he would be unable to lure us away from Father and what is right and true. Little Sister, I know this is true, yet, I still struggle, so I am not saying that it will ever be easy. Satan will never stop working on us, and the world is his strongest tool as it has been tainted. Every compliment that I have given to you over the time that you have known me, comes from my heart. In you I see a beautiful daughter of our Father, an amazing mother and wife, and a sister who's heart is so full of love for others, that you serve us valiantly, and you made me feel so loved. In my mind, there are not enough blessings in Heaven to repay you for all that you, Sam, and my boys did for me. I love you more than mortal words can express. Thank you....

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    1. Cindy...your comment was absolutely beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes when I read what you wrote about the true essence of my beauty being removed in the picture. You have some great insights about the lies coming from Satan, and it's certainly something I need to remember. It makes it that much more motivating to overcome them when I realize they come from him and I don't want to give him any triumph in my life. Thank you for your sweet remarks. We love you, Cindy!!

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  8. Kaitlyn, I hope you write a book someday. You have such an amazing way of saying things. Your blog always brings tears and laughter. Thank you for helping me see things as they should be. I love you and your family so much and think the world of you all. Please keep sharing!

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  9. Kaitlyn, although I definitely see you as beautiful, I don't think think self-loathing comes because of a lack of beauty. Even the most glamorous of celebrities have lives littered with self-hate and defeating behaviors. Discouragement of every kind is just a very effective tool of the adversary to cause us to be ineffective at blessing the lives of others. The work you do on your blog to lift others is really wonderful. If you spend time absorbed in self-hate, your time can't be spent lifting others like it is here. It is a trick he uses to replace our good intentions with self doubts. Keep up the amazingly good work you are doing! Love you.

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