Q: I never could have imagined I’d be in this predicament, but here I am. I plunged happily into wedding planning ten months ago, focused on having a wedding that represented both me and my future husband. My main struggle was budget and finding a way to include all our loved ones.
However, somewhere along the line I have completely lost sight of everything this wedding meant to me, and it’s now boiled down to my brain convincing me that I absolutely must look like a model on my wedding day. I’ve never had an issue with my body or how I looked before (I haven’t worn makeup or owned a scale in years), so this has caught me entirely off guard. I’m talking true body hating here, mostly regarding my shape, but also any sign of age in my face, my teeth, my hair—all of it suddenly matters so much. I’ve become obsessive, miserable, and exhausted.
The thought of miserably watching every bite I eat for another four months and examining myself in the mirror until I feel like crying isn’t healthy and it’s not what my wedding is about. I dream about desserts. I want to eat a cupcake so bad! And I feel guilty over having butter on toast once a week (carbs! fat!). But every wedding website I look at while planning my wedding is plastered with brides, and they are all thin perfect models! I can’t seem to stop comparing myself to them and I can’t seem to avoid them.
Is there anyway to reclaim my wedding day so I remember how to be excited about it again and not spend every day until then worrying about how I’ll look in photos? This is not who I want to be!
A:It’s weird how this stuff seeps in, isn’t it? You think you’re doing okay, swimming upstream against the tide of social pressure, and then something unexpectedly comes along and smacks you, sputtering under a wave. So many experiences where we have limited frame of reference can do that.
For me, it was pregnancy. I knew my body was going to grow. I knew I was going to gain weight and get stretch marks, my boobs would balloon and then sag. I knew all of this! And yet, when my belly wasn’t a perfectly round little basketball, when my body wasn’t looking like these mesh-draped maternity photos I saw, I was kicked off balance.
You haven’t planned a wedding before, right? You’re only just now beginning to look for cues of what a wedding looks like, what a bride looks like. And the messaging out there can be downright overwhelming.
So the first step is definitely to shut off any incoming pressure. Unfollow the Instagram accounts that only feature women that all look the same. But don’t stop there. Replace them. Start looking for ones that show beautiful women of all sorts (I mean you know I’m gonna link to our Instagram, right?).
Then pause to consider your stress levels here. When a giant project is overwhelming, it’s easy to choose one little aspect to fixate on, something to pin all of that anxiety to, something to dwell on when we can’t sleep at night. What’s another (less self-destructive) aspect of this wedding that can divert this energy? What’s a better way for you to handle the stress?
And one step beyond that? Think about how you’re feeling about yourself in general. When I’m feeling down on the way I handled a recent friendship thing, or I’m disappointed in something I did for work, I’ll inevitably notice something weird about my face or my posture or my paunchy belly that I should also feel bad about. How’s your general self-esteem?
Most of all, don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way. You’re human, and the pressure out there is real! Find some inspirational but realistic beauty expectations, look for ways to work out your wedding stress, and focus on your overall sense of self. And then remember all of the other times when you’ve felt stunning, and how many more there will be after this wedding (it’s not the last chance!).
If it all feels too overwhelming and nothing seems to help, think about talking to somebody. Intrusive thoughts, obsessive nitpicking, or experiencing a distorted sense of your appearance are all things that a professional is trained to help you with, even if they don’t seem like a “big deal.” And asking for that help doesn’t negate all of these years and years of work resisting social pressure about your appearance.