Body Positive Journey: How a Bad Break-up Improved my Body Image

2011: The year I legit lost my mind.

After the longest, most intense romantic connection I ever had shattered, I felt my sense of worth swept away along with its debris.

Among our social circle, we had been the “It” couple. No one could trump our cuteness, our mutual adoration. We were together for years. We never fought.

Photograph by the amazing Kacy Crider. Used with permission.
Photograph by Kacy Crider at thesunshinemachine.com. Used with permission.

That is, we both feared losing each other so much, we glossed over major issues. For example, we never discussed my eating disorder and poor body image at length. Rather, sensing tension, I wouldn’t let these problems come up to breathe or touch the light, where they might disturb my blissful union. Instead, I smothered them. We were childishly, magnificently in love.

When I graduated collegegrad on ground, I directed my characteristic drive to “adult”-ing my life. To me, that meant working out problems in my personal growth and my relationships. I tried to rip open the lines of communication, to foster maturity in our romance.

I tried to make hard topics unintimidating, even fun. But, because we were both so adept at avoidance and prone to defensiveness, every time such an issue got unearthed for discussion, someone would quickly pack it down into the Earth.

We “separated.” I thought of this period as “the space/pressure he needs to get motivated to overcome his fear of commitment.” On the other hand, he thought of this period as, “Get lost, Amanda. It’s been less than two weeks, and I have a new girlfriend that I met on Facebook. Oh, and she fancies herself a model, and will be posting a lot of bikini photos indefinitely.”

Swaddling myself in guilt, I plunged myself headlong into grief. I had no reason to veil my neuroses anymore. Every issue I had bubbled towards the surface with a vengeance, emboldened by my weakness. Instead of fighting them off as they nipped at my fingers, I drew them in close to my chest. I let them burrow, form new channels. I languished. I didn’t know what I was living for.

When we’re teetering over the abyss, we’re in the best place to change.

I had failed to entice my ex-boyfriend to change. I had managed instead to put myself in the position where I MUST change, or destroy myself.

I waded in misery for a long time before this happened. I got stuck there.

Lonely, I perused my bookshelves one day and found a book a dear friend from college had given to me called, “Cultivating the Mind of Love.” When she gave it to me I was still with my ex, naively thinking I had all the love in the world, and hadn’t bothered to crack it open. Now, allowing myself to linger with nostalgia, I picked up the book and opened it for the first time.

I had intended to cut myself with recollections of him, to drown my sorrow in sorrow. Instead, as I read that book, Thich Nhat cultivating the mind of loveHanh grasped a thread in my heart, and he pulled it. I fell open, more peaceful and clear-headed than I had been in months. It renewed my motivation to navigate my life.

Ever since that time, I have continued to return to Buddhist wisdom for replenishment. Buddhism didn’t just get me through a rough break-up, it has helped with the biggest issue of all issues I have; my body image. It has also helped improve my coping mechanisms and my overall mental health.

The first step for healing, for me, was being driven into a corner where I HAD to admit that, “Hey, I’m not in the best shape mentally. I have a lot of room for improvement and growth.” Before, I had felt powerlessness in the face of these issues – and I did not know where to start the transformation process. The only method I had developed to minimize my body issues was, “Don’t dwell on it.”

There’s an anxiety underneath the facade of peace. Silencing yourself and denying your body image struggle inhibits happiness rather than maintaining it. More important, I have ascertained that the proper approach to a problem doesn’t demand a trade off between peace and problem-solving. There are constructive methods of working through problems with yourself and others that don’t create more strain than they smooth away.

I’m excited to share some of the Buddhist ideas that have helped reshape my thinking about my body and life in general. I am eager to share these tools with you – and I promise they will deliver results if you practice them. Oh, and you don’t have to declare yourself a Buddhist to do that, either.

Look for my next post on Equanimity coming up in the next few weeks!

Have you ever experienced a personal revelation after a bad break-up? How did you grow? Share your thoughts!

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