The rotating cast of stylish, smart, amazing women who contribute to this blog has gone through some recent changes. Nadine and Audi are both juggling too many work, life, family, and school obligations right now, and have bowed out. Soon you’ll meet Aarti and Joi, but today you’ll be joining me in welcoming Lily. Lily is a colleague of Nadine’s who has tons of expertise and personal experience to contribute to Already Pretty. I’ll let her introduce herself, but just quickly want to say that she’ll be discussing disordered eating so please skip this post if that subject is triggering for you.
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Hi there, my name is Lily. I’m a new addition to the incredible group of women who contribute to this fabulous blog! I must admit that when I was first asked to contribute, I totally laughed out loud. I have never thought of myself as “stylish” and certainly would never use the word “fashion” in the same sentence as my name. To me, style is wearing anything that makes the wearer feel comfortable, sexy, fierce, and whatever else they are going for. However, I LOVE to write and I do wear clothes, so there’s that.
Currently I am in the final month of my Doctor of Education final project (very similar to a PhD dissertation) so most days you’ll find me at my desk in yoga pants, a brightly colored long-sleeve, and barefoot. Really fashionable, right? When I am not working tirelessly on my project, I’m more likely to wear stretchy skinny jeans*, funky heels or flats, and some kind of top. I tend to be pretty simple in my style.
As a new contributor, I want to introduce myself. And now that I have covered my sense of style, I would like to talk a little about the journey that has brought me to where I am today. I am a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. My EdD is in Human Sexuality, a field that I love, and it has been in this final program that I feel I’ve become my whole, authentic self.
I have struggled with an eating disorder for more than half of my life. There are many reasons why I chose this way to cope with my chaotic childhood, many layers to the onion. For me it has been a painful yet lovely road to recovery and now I choose each day to love myself, including nourishing my body. But I can still empathize with each and every one of you who struggle when you look in the mirror, struggle to feel comfortable in your skin, struggle to accept your body exactly as it is in this moment.
And although I’ve come a long way, I am struggling with all of those things myself as I write this. It is the holiday season and although I LOVE this time of year, it can be quite a trigger. For me it’s not so much about the food as it once was, but rather the photos that will be taken.
Many of us will gather together during the holidays to take photos with loved ones. I want more than anything to have photos like these that tell our stories of today for the future, yet I cringe knowing what creating those photos actually entails. When I’m required to be in a photo all I can think as I pose is, “Will I look attractive? Will I like what I see? How can I pose to not look awkward AND look good?” I have become the most annoying person to take photos with, but even worse to take photos of. I will absolutely demand re-take after re-take. In fact, my husband and twin now have a four-take limit.
It’s hard not to look back on older photos and compare my current self to myself in those photos from years past. Like many people, I often think, “In this photo I was so skinny and pretty.” But here’s the thing: I can’t let myself do that anymore. Over the years I’ve come to accept that I am only that size when I am sick. Really sick.
This year, I am searching for something besides a body shape and size in those images. I am looking for happiness, authenticity, and vibrancy. And guess what? I can’t see any of those things in the older photos. I do, however, see them in so many of the photos that I have taken over the last four years. (Especially my wedding photos!)
These days I look so different and not just in size, but also in facial features. I can see myself aging, and I don’t say that to criticize myself. I am aging as we all are, every day. And I may not look like I did when I was much younger and smaller, but that’s entirely my point. I can’t look like I once did because I am no longer the same person, and I don’t want to be. It isn’t worth it to me to starve myself, isolate myself, or suffer to be a smaller size. I have challenged myself to let go of hesitancy about my size and capture photos of me and my life as they are right now. To not only create memories, but to document them in photos for years to come.
So I will not see my former self in holiday photos from this year because I shouldn’t. I have grown in every way; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am me and I will be photographed. I may not love the photos, but I will love the moments they are capturing. And that is more important.
*I have a sizable, lovable, ever-growing rump thanks to CrossFit, so stretch is vital!
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Lily A. Zehner is a sex therapist, blogger, and doctoral student at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. Her private practice, The Center for Authentic Intimacy, is located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
She is passionate about living authentically and helping clients do the same. She believes that letting our real selves shine is the key to self-love and finding true intimacy with others. She believes all bodies are good, beautiful, and perfectly imperfect. At times she struggles with this about her own body, but self acceptance can be a challenging road and it’s one she’s willingly chosen.
It’s taken time, but Lily has found her voice and she’s not afraid to use it! Her loud voice and boisterous laugh have become two of her most distinctive features. She’s also proud of her sizable, lovable rump, which grows ever larger as a result of CrossFit. She loves skinny jeans … so long as they have LOTS of stretch!
Lily’s definition of style is anything that makes the wearer feel sexy, comfortable, and confident.