For over forty years I have been in an abusive relationship. I am not the victim in this scenario. I am the abuser.
Over these years I have blamed my body for the abuse it has endured. I have held my body responsible for my suffering and expected it to be the sole source of my happiness. I have told my body that she was never good enough. Day after day. Year after year.
It’s time to apologize.
I’m sorry that I told you that you were never good enough.
I’m sorry that I starved you.
I’m sorry that I compared you to every other body I saw. Measuring you against all others.
I’m sorry I made your worth about a dress size.
A number on the scale.
I’m sorry I never let you feel safe enough to just be you.
I never let you just feel safe and loved.
I’m sorry that I used you to get the kind of connection I thought I wanted.
I’m sorry these situations traumatized you.
Over and over.
I’m sorry that we separated at some point early on. I made you that thing over there. I refused to acknowledge you in any way other than what you looked like. I never cared about how you felt.
And I’m sorry that I judged you.
At your thinnest, at your fattest, at your youngest and at your oldest. At your most fit and least fit. I told you every day that you were not good enough.
I remember the moment it began. I was thirteen and someone I loved and looked up to made a comment about my "double chin." That’s how it starts. A comment from a parent, a sibling, a teacher. Teasing or bullying at school.
It stings and we decide to make sure we never hear it again. We can control our rejection.
Because if we don't, we will not belong. We will not be loved.
If we've been sexually molested, abused, or objectified we sometimes use our body just so we can be in control. We strive to take our power back. Sometimes in ways that our body doesn't understand, and that aren't healthy. The only alternative we know is abuse so we choose the lesser of two evils.
Our body pays the price.
Later someone said, “she’d be a lot hotter if she lost 30 pounds” so I told you that you weren’t worth anything, but you could be if you lost thirty pounds.
So I lost thirty pounds.
Still I told you that you weren’t good enough.
You continued to serve me faithfully.
You grew two beautiful babies. You birthed those two perfect humans at home, without drugs or medical intervention.
You nursed two humans. By way of the miracle that you are, you kept these children fully healthy and alive!
I did not appreciate this miracle.
You steadfastly complied with every physical demand and restriction I forced upon you.
Orange and hamburger diets.
Raw food diets.
High fat diets.
Low fat diets.
Aerobics, running, swimming, more aerobics.
Eat less move more, eat less move more, eat less move more.
It was never ever enough to make me love you.
I know now that it was never about you. It was not your responsibility to make me feel worthy. No one is worthy because of what their body looks like. (Or what their job is, or their GPA, their wealth, their list of accomplishments or any other external factor).
Everyone is worthy just because they are a human being. This knowing must come from within.
I am older now and so are you. Middle age.
I look back at photos of you at 23, 35, and 43 and am deeply saddened over how I talked to you.
How I treated you.
Time has given me the wisdom to know that no matter how abusive I am to you, I can not control my measure of worth by controlling you.
We are all born worthy. We don't need to earn it, nor do we need to work tirelessly for a false sense of control of it.
It is and always was there.
You are aging. I hear you saying to me, “it’s time for you to allow me to just be. I am not your measure of worth. I am just a container that you reside within. Temporarily.”
I am ready to honor you as this container. You have been healthy. You have been strong. You have created life. With each trauma you have experienced, even the ones I unwittingly put you through, you have stayed with me. Asking for nothing.
I am listening now, instead of looking and judging. When I do judge, I sit in that discomfort and remind myself that I am worthy of love because I was born with that worth. Each time I do this, we grow a little closer.
We are finally partners instead of adversaries.
We are walking this path together.
I am sorry it took me so long to honor you, love you and walk by your side through life.
I am grieving the time I have lost with you.
I am celebrating the time I have left.
Till death do us part.
Suzanne Jones is the author of There is Nothing to Fix: Becoming Whole through Radical Self-Acceptance. Silver medal winner of the Nonfiction Author's Association 2020 nonfiction book award.