This is the time of year when I generally start thinking about what I want the next year to look like. You may have noticed that I am more than just a “New Years Resolution” kinda gal, seeing as how I am in my forty-eighth week of my 2021 challenge to buy no clothes. I often wonder if this isn’t a personality disorder or something… but I do love a good challenge, with rules and outcomes and KPI and rewards.
And every challenge starts with a few small steps.
There were a number of reasons why I was motivated to do this year’s challenge, the very most sharp and pointy one being that fully-formed thought from the end of last year which said, “you need to stop throwing money at your self-worth problems.”
The end goal, therefore, of deciding I wanted to stop shopping had nothing to do with shopping, or an overfull closet or a desire to save money. It had to do with my self-worth, which can usually be found in the sewage system along with the city’s flushed goldfish and alligators. Dealing with my own abusive thoughts about who I am and my value as a person meant I that I had to stop the mechanism by which I would attempt to make myself feel better after I had been particularly nasty or critical.
The question, therefore, becomes: did it work? I mean, it’s one thing to complete a challenge (and feel good about it). It’s another to stop hating oneself and to stop treating oneself like a rat that has gotten into the garage and has taken up residence in the dumpsters.
Aside from the rules I set up for myself: stop coveting things I couldn’t or shouldn’t have and buy no clothes or accessories; complete an inventory of my closet and wear everything once; make a catalogue of Go-To outfits that I like so that I don’t have to always be creative; do mise en place every night so that I don’t have to think about what I want to wear in the morning, and lastly, mend, repair or learn to alter to turn things I don’t love into things I do love.
By setting rules up, I was assuring that I would not buy anything, and also that I would learn to love everything I had in my closet. This was all fantastic–I was eliminating the possibility that I could indulge in this aspect of my abusive relationship with myself. This is fantastic, I tell you.
And, I mean, how hard could it really be to not buy any clothes for a year, right?
Enter peri-menopause and hormonal mood swings, stage left. These two headwinds added a level of difficulty I did not expect.
This is true for two reasons:
1. This year in particular, peri-menopause has begun to impact my body size, and sometimes, during the course of one single day, due to hormonal bloating I can go from looking and feeling “normal” to looking like someone who is 7 months pregnant by bedtime. This year, I had to find a way to dress that could accommodate this kind of dramatic shift. I’ll be honest, my self-worth took a gigantic hit as this symptom started becoming more and more common. So not only did I have to deal with my normal self-loathing issues, I had to welcome a whole new palette of body-trust issues.
As someone who has always had body-trust issues and has dealt with them by being critical and then “buying myself a little something nice”, to have removed the mechanism by which I could buy back my own good graces was very, very, very challenging.
I wish I could say I have entered a new phase of self-acceptance thanks to my challenge, but that would be untrue. If anything, I have become a little bit shell-shocked that I can’t seem to do anything about what has become more than a minor inconvenience. The attack is coming from within my own body. I am quite literally sleeping with the enemy.
I am determined to love my body, no matter what it looks like or its size. This is one of my Ideal Life themes, one I call Body Positivity and Health. But this determination has been tested more and more as that body I am trying to be positive about has developed a mind of its own and is being influenced by hormones over which I have no conscious control.
2. Hormonal mood swings: that familiar PMS you love, but now every day! And more intense! (I was really trying to sell it there for you. How’d I do?) If I had a dollar for every time this year I have said, “I’m losing my mind,” I would be rich.
The cycle of determination-disappointment-doubt-loathing-hopefulness-determination, one I used to experience on a monthly basis is now chaotic and unpredictable. I used to be able to plan around the times of the month when my disappointment, doubt and loathing would be at their zenith, and have a strict and specific to-do list of items to accomplish for when those would strike. I can’t plan for anything anymore, and this is killing me.
The only way I can prepare for this now is by being strict all the time with my mise en place (and not just my closet. I mean, getting items together in the evening for school the next day, or meal planning or sorting the laundry as it goes in the hamper) and putting things away where they belong. Because it only takes the bread knife not being where I expect it to be for me to cry and go into hysterics about losing my mind. This all takes so much time and requires buy-in from the people I live with.
One unexpected disappointment can send me into a self-loathing rage that can impact everyone I live with. They don’t deserve this. It’s not as if I needed yet another reason to hate myself. And yet…here we are.
The results are still pending. I am genuinely grateful that this challenge began before these headwinds began blowing full-tilt. I don’t know how much money I would have ended up spending trying to buy back my good graces after blowing up at myself for my shortcomings had I not had the challenge in place.
I’m certainly thankful that the challenge was interesting enough to me and that I had enough accountability to it to muscle through. But did my self-worth get a boost through the challenge? No, it did not.
But, then, on second thought, the ultimate goal of challenge was not to boost my self-worth. It was simply to stop throwing money at it. That, at least for this year, I was able to stop doing.
As I start thinking about my goals for 2022, I want to take into consideration the headwinds which started blowing this year. I can’t control those headwinds, but I can have strategies in place to mitigate them.
The same voice that said I needed to stop throwing money at my self-worth problems also just recently told me that “THIS” was the life it wanted for me. So for all the things that THIS might have meant, my body issues and my mood swings are surely part of it. Whatever I undertake in 2022, the things I don’t love about my life today are indelibly part of what I need to learn to accept as part of the blueprint of who I am and what the purpose of my life is.