Grieving the Loss of Your Body Fantasy

I am going to assume that I was not the only little kid, teenager, or, adult to fantasize about what it would be like to live in a body that wasn’t the one that I was living in.

The body that I imagined myself in was effortlessly thin. She was so gorgeous, and her skin was always clear. She wore clothing like they were gracing her with their presence, as though they had just fallen onto her body looking that perfect and pulled together. It wasn’t just her body either, she was seriously cool. She had tattoos that delicately dressed up her perfectly pigmented skin, and hair that people would just die for. She was smart. She was eloquent. She was unbelievably charismatic.ย  She was effortlessly successful in every endeavor that she dipped her little toe in, because her smile was enough to make you pull out your wallet.

Sometimes, still, as an adult, I will catch myself fantasizing idly about how she would be dressed or what she would be doing, or, more importantly, how much better my life would be once she just hurried up and replaced me.

Equally important is how my vision of myself was understood in direct contrast to her obvious perfection. Next to her, I was basically nothing at all. Next to her, my skin was blotchy and my hair was lackluster. Next to her,ย  I was awkward and painful in my abrasiveness. Next to her, I was enormous, bumbling with the grace of an elephant in a very small room.

Just about enough to make you hate yourself, right?

Yep.

If you’ve been kicking around here a while, you will know that I often say that I was about twenty-two when I took my first breath. Up until that point, my life was locked up in an airtight room with life size photos of her on every wall – my every day existence taken up almost entirely with thinking about how my life would begin once she arrived to take my place.

One of the most painful things that I have ever gone through has been the slow and arduous process of realizing that she wasn’t going to ride up and save me from my life.

We talk about grief in regards to losing those that we love or having to give up possessions or places by necessity of circumstance. Less often, you will hear people talking openly about the grief that they experience at having to give up a notion of themselves that they clung to for dear life.

I hope that you will understand when I tell you – I clung to her for dear life because she was going to save me from all of my hatred and loathing and self-imprisionment. She was going to bring me a lover. She was going to find me a job. She was going to help me get dressed in the morning.

And I could chalk up every single disappointment or hurt to the fact that she hadn’t come yet – but she was on her way.

And so, during that time, I was saved the hurt and horror of feeling rejection and disaster and turmoil, because this wasn’t my real life, not yet, not until she got here.

I don’t think that I have to tell you that I’m 26 and she hasn’t come yet.

No one is going to ride in on a horse to save me from myself.

No one is going to magically make me ___________.

No one is going to protect me from my self-destructive tendencies.

I remember the slow process of grieving her loss, and I missed her like a best friend. I missed her like watching the that best friend tell me I wasn’t worth the effort and spin on her heel to walk away.

But, in her absence, I have to tell you – I found that am beautiful.

No, I am not saved, but without her to compare myself to – I’m not always failing.

Without her, I was able to step out of the shadow I had created for myself.

Sometimes, I feel like I notice her quickly in a mirror or window, or I feel the hole that she’s left in my consciousness, but on the whole, I’m so fucking glad that she’s gone.

Because, without her? I am good enough, exactly as I am.

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62 thoughts on “Grieving the Loss of Your Body Fantasy”

  1. Beautiful, Mara. But it could be that you are actually saved- from false notions and fantasies, let’s say- and that you saved yourself. Could you imagine not being this person– this body and soul championing, let’s all do this self-love thing gently, graciously together role model? Because I can’t imagine not having you here doing this work. And if she had arrived, I think she would have taken that from us. We need you- this Mara- worthy and beautiful as she is, and all the power you put in to telling us the same.

    What a cool program you are at. So excited to experience a little bit of it vicariously through you!

    • Oh Rosie, you are just wicked smart ๐Ÿ˜‰ Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about celebrating what IS. Thank you so much for commenting and for all of the lovely things that you’ve said – made my day. xo

  2. Mara, this is one of my favorite things that you’ve ever written! I had that “fantasy me” living in my head from the first grade up until I was 22 or so. She grew up with me, evolved a bit, got taller when I realized that I could never get shorter, became paler when I gave up on getting a tan, and got thicker legs when I realized that I’ll never have chicken legs. I wouldn’t say that she’s completely gone, she’s just become one with the real me as my goals and values have changed. I’m not waiting to be her, I’m aspiring to be her. Instead of a torment, she’s now the “higher self” that I’m stepping into. She helps me figure out what I need to do. It’s the same concept as setting a goal and working backwards to figure out what you can do now to reach it. Right now, the picture of my higher self is even further along on her intuitive eating journal, she has laid the foundation for her art career, and she knows how to drive a stick shift. She still looks like me, talks like me, and acts like me. We’re friends now.

    • Thanks so much McKella – I’m so glad that it resonated for you so much. I love the idea of integrating the idea of “her” into more of a concept of the higher self.

      I really truly very much want to learn how to drive a stick shift. Thank you for the reminder ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Lovely post! And I’m with Rosie — sometimes (at least for me) saving looks different than I’d expected. Also, we are so on the same page; I was just writing about this!

    Sounds like the conference is fab. Thank you for sharing your inspiration while there! xo

  4. That you have been able to do this at such a young age is nothing short of miraculous to me. At 26 I was still in my infancy in regards to wishing my fantasy self would come and save me. And I’m not saying this to beat myself up because it took me longer…hell, I am grateful that I was able to do it and to feel so victorious! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mara, you rock the world!

  5. I felt the same way as you, Mara. As a kid I didn’t really know what “fat” was, or if I was fat. But somewhere along the line I started to dislike my body and want to be magically changed into someone else’s body. I had fantasies that I’d go to “Fat camp” in the summertime and return to school a changed person.

    Even after losing over 100 pounds I’m still “Waiting” for my perfect body. I may be skinny now but I have loose skin and stretchmarks. At some point I need to just accept my body as it is. I’m not quite there yet.

    • Oh man, Lisa, thank you for sharing your story here. Because I have never lost a significant amount of weight in my life, I can’t personally speak to getting to the end of that type of journey and realizing that my body is STILL not what I wish it was – but I think about it all the time. I can imagine that the grieving process in that type of situation is also quite hard. xox

  6. I never felt that way as kid – despite being too tall, too clumsy, too big, etc. As an adult, yeah. At 43 I recognise everything that you’re writing, because it’s my story too. For me the issue is, enough is enough. I’m never going to be her. It’s about saying that’s fine, I love me and my body the way it is, now. What am I enough. I’m nowhere near that at the moment. But at least this year I’m going to actively try.

    • Annie – thank you so much for your honesty here. I think that is a gorgeous goal to work towards. This type of thing is so funny, because we have to remember that relapse is an integral part of the process too. Sometimes, I’m like yeah fuck that girl I’m so over her and sometimes I’m like PLEASE SOMEONE RESCUE ME FROM MYSELF, like, from the rooftops. The key that I’ve found is being seriously sweet to myself however close I am to loving myself – and that is a huge gift in and of itself. Good luck! xo

  7. I LOVE this. As usual ๐Ÿ™‚ Especially this:

    ‘One of the most painful things that I have ever gone through has been the slow and arduous process of realizing that she wasnโ€™t going to ride up and save me from my life. ‘.

    Mmmmhmmm. I’m 30, almost 31, and ‘she’ still hasn’t come, and this is just another fantastic reminder that it’s me. I’m the one who I’ve been looking for, and I just haven’t been confident enough to see myself as being that beautiful and sleek savior. Thank you for this. xo.

  8. Daynya – I guarantee that you are just as beautiful and sleek and amazing and generous and intelligent as any savior. xoxo

  9. Lovely post, Mara. Thank you for writing so eloquently about something that so many of us struggle with and, unfortunately, so many of us never get past. I agree with Karen — how wonderful you have made this discovery at 26. FYI, everyone at Green Mountain is marveling at what you’ve written, particularly the women who are sharing this experience with you.

    • That last sentence didn’t come out right. The staff is marveling, too. It’s just that the post resonates so strongly with the other women in the program.

  10. Oh, wow. This is so powerful. How did you get in my head?

    I’m finally, finally finishing that grieving process at 31. Next month, I’m going to Hawaii for the first time, and I was thinking the other day that the body I really wanted to have would fit neatly in the seat on the plane, and hike all day with no complaints, and look great in a bikini on the beach. And a few years ago, it would have stopped there.

    Instead, because I /did/ go through that process, I started building up my physical stamina a little bit every day, and remembered that no one is comfortable on planes, and that I can rock a bikini anyhow — and plan to.

  11. this post was everything about my struggle right now. so so so true. thank you. i usually just read your blog but i felt like i would be lying if i didn’t say something…it’s hard to not feel like life would be so easy if i were just beautiful & universally loved & a genius. especially because i constantly compare myself to others & think that SOMEONE must have it together!! but its SO not true. & often when i give myself room to just breathe & be the way I am, i find things BETTER & truer, than my ideal girl. thank you.

  12. My experience is similar and yet a little different. See, I WAS the girl you describe waiting for. I was that girl through middle and high school and into college. Of course, I didn’t think so at the time. I didn’t hate who I was but I never enjoyed a minute of being that girl because, to me, she was never perfect. She was always lacking something. On the day she had straight A’s, she felt fat. On the day her hair looked great, she’d worn the wrong outfit and knew everyone would judge her for it. On the day her boyfriend told her he loved her, she knew he would never feel that way if he really KNEW her. The weight came later, in college and in a significant amount, as a result of acknowledging some pretty significant abuses in my childhood. Twenty years later, I still struggle and still mourn, not for the girl that never came, but for the girl that was there for so long but who I never appreciated, the girl I will never be again. I feel very much like I wasted a lot of precious time and, on many days, that I “missed my window.” I can say the words “I am good enough, exactly as I am” and would love to feel that way, but I don’t. Still trying to figure out how to make that happen…

  13. My body story is an odd one in that I didn’t have self-image issues until about age 20. My childhood and teen years were blissfully free of the comparison monster – god only knows how I managed to dodge that bullet. But when the monster did arrive, it came with all the ferocity it had been building up in those absent years. I would beg and plead for that perfect woman to arrive; I spent hours talking to the air, telling whatever deity would listen that I would give up everything I am to be her.

    I couldn’t tell you the day I stopped wanting her to show up, but I haven’t missed her. I’ve never felt a moment’s loss at her disappearance because deep down I HATED her. I’m glad she’s gone.

    (Let it not be said, however, that I don’t get what you’re saying here. I’ve grieved the loss of many other abstract ideas in my time, just, fortunately, not this particular one.)

  14. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, authenticity, and light with us. Your courage and brave heart provide a sacred and safe space for us all to journey into the grief of letting go of what we will never be to become who we already are. Thank you for sharing yourself so freely! You are a gift:)

  15. Oh yes I know, I have been there too (helloooo teenage me!).
    Now well, I am not tall, I am not skinny. I am short and strong and I am grateful for my strong legs that carry me, oh and sometimes my arms do too ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. This is a fantastic post. I achieved what I thought had been my perfect body. At 5’4, I was 105lbs and ripped without looking scary. I wore a size 0-00 and XS. For two years I starved my body into perfection but I still found flaws and found myself lacking compared to other women. I think part of accepting yourself is recognizing that no matter what you weigh or the color of your hair or your skin or your clothes, you can always find a flaw. But what people don’t realize that it’s those flaws that make us unique human beings and essentially represent who we truly are. Once you love those flaws, you can love yourself just as you.

    Thank you so much sharing!!

  17. I for sure thought I had commented on this, but it appears I didn’t :/

    Anyways, I fully agree.. and love that you point out that sometimes you sometimes can grieve or mourn something other than a person… I also think there’s a certain mourning of that part of the identity that an eating disorder can take up… I do think it takes up by shutting off room for identity growth…

    Anyways, my point is I love this post.

  18. This is a beautiful testament to self-love and courage. We are so much more radiant when we accept ourselves for who we are. I wish we remembered that every second of the day and night.

  19. When I quit smoking, I missed my cigs like a friend who passed on too soon.

    I’m realizing that it’s just as hard to say goodbye to this “friend”. She’s just as bad for me as the cigs, though, and she’s got to go.

    Thank you so much for this.

    Envious of your participation at Green Mountain. All my best to you.

  20. The grieving takes years in my case…..so so much better than I used to be. She’s won’t save me from that sad and self-hating place, she’ll only keep me there. Now, I say, “You’re beautiful” a lot more often then I ever thought I would. Baby steps, you know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. What happens when you’ve intellectually accepted that losing weight/becoming X or Y won’t make you happy, but you can’t seem to accept it emotionally? I know for a fact, without a doubt, that if I lost 15 pounds, I’d still be a wreck, a self-doubter, a second-guesser, an unconfident, anxious pile of self-consciousness and despair. But emotionally? I still want to be that person, and thus, I still want to lose weight. Like being thinner will make all of those things about me easier to stomach. None of that is true, but how do you emotionally convince yourself of this?

    • Oh Koshinka, my heart goes out to you, truly. It takes time. I think that, as with so many things, we can emotionally tell ourselves that something is true and know it with every receptor in our brain, but still have an emotional experience that brings us back to previous hurt or fear, when the only solution that seemed possible was to lose weight. Work on the self-doubt and the confidence. Try to think about how to make your life better – right now, in this body. Hopefully some of the rest of it will begin to fall into place. xo

  22. Green Mountain is a wonderful place. I was there as a visiting RD and a participant. Marsha runs a wonderful program.

    I have never felt more free and satisfied since letting go of the imaginary woman I thought I needed to be. Love life and it loves ya back!

  23. I just started reading your post, and I’m really grateful I did. I’m a teenager, and I feel like this everyday. I think that I’m comparing myself to people that I’m close to, and I really need to stop. You are truly a very kind person. Thank you

  24. Mara, this is so timely for me. I’ve recently been grieving the loss of not just a fantasy of what I would look like “when I grew up” but also the romantic fantasies I’ve been recycling for, oh, twenty years. My body fantasy always went hand in hand with a relationship fantasy, and neither one is serving me well at 37. In a recent bout of depression I turned to my trusty fantasy – escapist behavior, for sure (and a story for another time is that this coincided with me making the very hard decision to stop binging – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I replaced one escape hatch with another) – and found that it didn’t feel good anymore. Instead it magnified my sadness and loneliness. Also, I realized that so many aspects of the fantasy that seemed like they could come true when I was 17, or 20, or 25, just can’t anymore (for example, I won’t be running off to another country anytime soon, because I know now that I want to be close to my family), and of course, I’m still short, I never did get around to getting a flat tummy, I still can’t sing, and clothes definitely do NOT grace me with their presence. I have a sneaking suspicion that letting these fantasies end can lead to great things – but like you wrote here, there is sadness that comes with the letting go. I am working on replacing ideas of what’s not possible with what is – that’s my word for the year: “possible.” Not “possibility,” because that seems to imply waiting for something to happen – but “possible.” What’s possible right now? Thanks for nailing it – as you always do. And I’ll echo what others have said – when I remember that you’re “only” 26 I am blown away by the work you’re doing and by everything that is “possible” for you. You are an inspiration.

  25. Mara, this is so timely for me. I’ve recently been grieving the loss of not just a fantasy of what I would look like “when I grew up” but also the romantic fantasies I’ve been recycling for, oh, twenty years. My body fantasy always went hand in hand with a relationship fantasy, and neither one is serving me well at 37. In a recent bout of depression I turned to my trusty fantasy – escapist behavior, for sure (and a story for another time is that this coincided with me making the very hard decision to stop binging – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I replaced one escape hatch with another) – and found that it didn’t feel good anymore. Instead it magnified my sadness and loneliness. Also, I realized that so many aspects of the fantasy that seemed like they could come true when I was 17, or 20, or 25, just can’t anymore (for example, I won’t be running off to another country anytime soon, because I know now that I want to be close to my family), and of course, I’m still short, I never did get around to getting a flat tummy, I still can’t sing, and clothes definitely do NOT grace me with their presence. I have a sneaking suspicion that letting these fantasies end can lead to great things – but like you wrote here, there is sadness that comes with the letting go. I am working on replacing ideas of what’s not possible with what is – that’s my word for the year: “possible.” Not “possibility,” because that seems to imply waiting for something to happen – but “possible.” What’s possible right now? Thanks for nailing it – as you always do. And I’ll echo what others have said – when I remember that you’re “only” 26 I am blown away by the work you’re doing and by everything that is “possible” for you. You are an inspiration.

    • Thank you SO much for your bravery in sharing so much of your story here – I know that it isn’t always easy to do. The reason that I wrote this post is truly because, giving up those ideas of what we “should be” or “could of been” is extremely hard. Often we have believed them for YEARS, and the become integral to how we understand ourselves. However, I really believe that when we are able to give up those fantasies, something that is so much more authentic and wonderful waits for us on the other side of our grief. As with most things that I discuss here – it is definitely not easy, but worthwhile. I love that. Thanks for sticking around. xo

  26. Woah. This describes my life so much right now. I broke my foot 3 months ago. My first thoughts were “I am going to be SO BROKE”, because I couldn’t work, and, “I am going to be SO FAT”.
    I have put on a bit of weight from lack of exercise, but I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that my body will never, ever be the way it was when I was 20 because I have more important things to do then count calories and exercise every day. Which was what I was doing back then because I had zero responsibility. I still have my days though where I trawl old photos and scrutinise my collar bones…

  27. She was taller, and had a bosom worth writing home about. I’m not sure when I realised that puberty wasn’t going to work the same magic it had on other girls, but by the time I started starving myself? Oh, yeah. I knew. So I tried to be a sylph instead, which wasn’t working out too well for a natural endomorph. Sometimes I contemplate breast implants, even now, even knowing my beloved would riot if I did it. “Just to a full B?” I keep asking myself. “Would that be a sin? And a small lift, while I’m at it?” So I go and look at the disaster stories about breast augmentations when I feel poorly, reminding myself how dangerous the pursuit of Her would be.

    …obviously, am still grieving.

  28. I was really excited about Green Mountain… until I read this on their website… “Green Mountain at Fox Run is the countryโ€™s first and only residential weight loss program” emphasis in weight loss program.

    It seems to me that they are still making the goal weight loss but couching it in “kinda HAES” principals. ๐Ÿ™ sad to see that. Would be nice to see a residential program where health-gain is the focus and not weight loss, even if that weight loss is still couched in “intuitive eating” as long as the person still pines and hopes for the scale to go down, they will be trapped in the same thinking as before and will not truly heal

  29. this is a practice. it seems i am constantly grieving, constantly disappointed. by when i let the feelings move through me, i usually end up refreshed. tweak your thinking, add light-heartedness, and know you are not alone.

  30. What an amazing transformation you have made. I have felt that same way and still sadly look at myself and alter the site in my mind. I think you are beautiful just the way you are and that’s what I tell myself everyday. Great post it is refreshing to see someone seeing themselves for the first time as they truly are.

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