The Price of Perfection: A Story of Self-Destruction and Healing

Tara Blair Ball
Silhouetted bodyPhoto byAlexander KrivitskiyonUnsplash

My future husband is 43 years old and looks like a Greek god when he’s shirtless. I have trouble not salivating when he’s dressing or changing clothes because how did this living breathing Clark Kent choose me?

And let’s talk about that me. I’ve always been slightly overweight for my height. Usually at the lower end of the BMI overweight scale. I’m curvy and parts of me jiggle and when I’m feeling good, I know these curves and jiggly bits really turn him on since he wants to jump into bed with me as much as I want to jump into bed with him.

But it’s hard. I sometimes imagine how the two of us look together when we are out: him of the bulging muscles and me of the soft arms and wonder what other people think, if they’ll whisper to one another, “Wow. They REALLY don’t go together.”

I am hard on myself. I know this.

But recently I started exercising to slim up, to LOOK (at least to myself), that we were evenly matched. No, I don’t want to bench as much as him, but I want to look like I take care of myself more so than I currently do.

And then I injured myself.

I was a runner before I married my ex-husband in 2011. I was so obsessed with looking great in my wedding dress that, two weeks before my wedding, I upped the distance I was running and the surface I was running on. I had been running three miles three times a week on a bouncy indoor track, and then I started running four miles three times a week on concrete sidewalks.

A week before my wedding, I limped into a doctor’s office. I had a pinched nerve on the lowest vertebrae of my spine. I had to be put on steroids and take a shot in my hip and start physical therapy. I went to four two hour sessions of physical therapy and downed anti-inflammatory medications just to be able to walk down the aisle at my own wedding.

Each time I’ve tried to start running again, I’ve inevitably pushed myself too hard and reactivated this old injury. And that’s just what I did this time. Yet again. I’d only been running for about three weeks when the old pain came back, and I was getting up and limping around.

My future husband told me multiple times, “Let’s go to the doctor. We need to go.” But what I was hearing was, “Why did you have to go up again? Don’t you know you need to be slim?”

This is, of course, not what he was saying to me at all. He has told me multiple times that he finds me attractive and irresistible, but negative self-talk is a loud nasty guest in my head.

After finally going to the doctor, I heard exactly what I’d expected to and came home with a prescription for steroids and non-opioid muscle relaxers. And then I went to the gym and sat on a stationary bike, which wouldn’t affect my injury, and I pedaled crazily because I still wanted to be thin.

I enjoyed running because it made me feel good about myself. Powerful even. I had made a promise to myself to run three times a week, and I had kept that commitment to myself.

But watching my stomach jiggle while pedaling like a mad woman on the stationary bike didn’t make me feel good about myself. It just made me self-conscious and angry.

As a woman, my struggles with weight have been quiet, but also quietly normal. Most women struggle with their bodies; I’m not alone in this.

I’ve never been too big or too small for anyone to think anything was amiss, but I can always remember food being a friend, available any time I needed it.

When my mother kicked me under the table at a restaurant or did something terrible and unthinkable at a family gathering, I’d put my nose down and swallow every bit of food on my plate and take anyone else’s too, enjoying some sort of satisfaction in that emptiness.

Many people have told me over the years how much they’re surprised I can put down, and I’ve felt proud of that truth. I should be bigger for what I can eat. I should take up more space in this world because of what I can throw down when I’m uncomfortable, but I don’t.

I’ve hovered around the 120–140 pound mark since I was sixteen. Twenty pounds of weight is a huge difference on my petite 5'3 figure, but I’ve never looked all that big. I’ve always just looked…average.

If I ate well all the time, my good genes would probably kick in and I’d be a perfectly fine 130 pounds. I know some people would be ecstatic to be the weight I am at my heaviest (140), so I feel silly for wanting to be smaller.


shouldn’t I be happy being small enough?

Most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by people who have hated their own bodies and taken it out in nasty judgments on other people’s.

My mother, who was obese my entire childhood, was the worst, delighting in stories of celebrities who had lost their slimness as if it cataloguing their downfalls from the throne of thinness excused or justfied her own struggles with her weight.

Ex-boyfriends of mine (all with less than perfect bodies) have sneered to me about their “fat” exes and how they had to “get over it“ because they really liked them, as if every extra pound these women carried meant they deserved that much less love and empathy.

Women’s bodies are so often public grounds for judgment, as if to be overweight is a moral failing.

I’ve had friends who participated in their own form of public body shaming.

“I’m so fat,” a woman with the figure of a lithe gazelle commented aloud once to a group of women as we were all out for dinner.

“No, you’re not! You’re gorgeous!” The other women chimed in while I sat mute.

And then one leaned forward and said, “God, I WISH I could be as thin as you!” and then the other women turned toward her and started their chorus.

This way of interacting, of begging for bids among friends seems so tired, so old. Yet I’ve always found myself silently agreeing with the one who wishes she was as thin as the other.

And too, I’ve thought to myself plenty of times before: If you truly believe that about yourself, we aren’t going to make you feel any better. Sounds like you need to work on you. Advising these women in my head in exactly the way I need to advise myself.

I gained nearly eighty pounds with my twin pregnancy. After they were born, I was down to less than my pre-pregnancy weight in a little over a month.

“What are you doing?!?” Several women asked me incredulously, like I’d somehow been going to the gym and dieting. All I could say is that for that month, I had barely slept, kept forgetting to eat, and was nursing two insanely hungry and irritable infants.

“Wish it was that easy for me…” they’d responded, and I could sense that they were quietly whipping themselves for their own bodys’ failings by comparing theirs to mine.

It has sometimes felt like my life would be easier if I’d been bigger, so my body wouldn’t make women hate their own more. Then at least we could have commiserated together.

But that’s not my story.

Sometimes it’s painful not being the same.

I’ve never felt like I was the “right” size: too big or too small, yes. Never just right.

And that’s my problem to work through when I walk around holding the hand of a muscled hunk and also those of my two little children, who should be responsible for leaving me with a body so much bigger.

My struggles with being okay with my own body have always been interior. I mostly want “ to act as if“ I’m confident and okay instead of sharing my very real insecurities. But some days, I simply don’t feel good enough. That is where I am today, but I’m doing something different by sharing that.

All of our goals should be to get and become healthy, to love the body we exist in no matter how it moves in this world, no matter how much space it takes up. I know, or at least I tell myself enough, that I’m worth every minute of hard work I put in, and some of the hard work is starting by acknowledging the negative and replacing it with the possible.

Maybe I can be “just right” just for today.

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Tara Blair Ball is a Certified Relationship Coach and author of Grateful in Love: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Couples, A Couples Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships with a 7-Step Guided Journal. She has a Master's from the University of Memphis and is accredited by CTAA. You can find her on Tiktok, Instagram, or YouTube at @tara.relationshipcoach.

Memphis, TN

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