A couple years ago I went through some really bad body image struggles.
I was having trouble believing that I was beautiful.
That my outward appearance deserved to be seen in a bathing suit, or a pair of jeans.
I believed that my physical beauty, had to be perfect, otherwise, I was ugly.
I had to look the best I could because that dictated my worth.
My belonging. I believed that having the title “beautiful,” or “pretty,” would give me something I didn’t have.
I thought having that title would give me purpose.
I would know what to do with my life.
I would know who I was, and I wouldn’t feel like nothing anymore.
But I couldn’t achieve it.
I wanted to have the perfect body.
The body that is shown on Instagram, TV, and in other girls wearing bikinis.
I stopped eating meals and used excuses as for why I couldn’t eat.
“I’ve already eaten.” “I’m just tired.” “Not hungry right now.”
And soon I became used to my stomach growling and grumbling.
I became used to the feeling of never being full.
I told myself it would be worth it, once I believed I was beautiful.
Once I was beautiful.
The number on the scale didn’t change much, but I did.
I got headaches, I started over thinking everything, my social anxiety kicked in, and I was tired all the time.
I wasn’t interested in any activities, I just wanted to read or sleep.
I stayed away from the kitchen because if I saw food I might slip up.
I might eat just one cracker. I would crumble, then.
My resolve for growing beautiful.
And then I would eat.
I would be full.
Then I would feel like a failure.
I was searching for acceptance and beauty the only way I knew how.
I wanted to be seen as beautiful. I wanted to be skinny.
I wanted not to see a number I was ashamed of on the scale or the waistband of my jeans.
I didn’t want to have to feel embarrassed when my size of the t-shirt was called along with my name at camp. I wanted to fit underneath labels that society had created. “Beautiful” “popular” “skinny” I didn’t like the labels I imaged over my head. Over my name. “Ugly” “misfit” “fat” “nothing” “weirdo” “not loveable” Those dictated my worth.
They dictated who I was a person, and what I could do……..or at least that is what I thought. I asked a few of my friends, and they answered they too had seen this. They had seen the molds we were expected to fit in, and that if we wore size 6 jeans, we couldn’t. If we wore clothes that didn’t fit into the newest fashion, we couldn’t.
I came across a woman online, who told her story. She compared two pictures, one of her thirteen-year-old self, and the other of her twenty-one-year-old self. She asked everyone to spot the difference. People said things like, “Thinner”,”prettier”, and “happier.” She answered and said the difference was one of them hated herself. One of them curled her arms around her tummy because she was ashamed. She sucked in her breath and tried not to slouch because then her stomach would poke out more.
The difference was, one of them had chosen to fit into a mold. To change herself, or to be ashamed because she didn’t. The other picture was of a woman, who was proud of who she was. She was the director of her own life, not being puppeteered by names and labels. She was not being controlled by society. After I saw this, as well as several other body-love promoters, I paused.
I thought of all the times I had skipped meals, wanting to have a label more than I cared about my health. I thought of the side effects like headaches, always being tired, listless, being angry or sad all the time, and my social anxiety being worse than normal. I thought of my mom, that once held a perfect baby girl, and thought her one of the most beautiful things on earth. Then she had to be told when her daughter was twelve years old, that she hated herself. I thought of my friends, the ones I had lost because they didn’t understand me, and the ones I had.
I thought of all the books I had read by Jane Austin, Louisa May Alcott, and other modern authors. I never pictured the heroine as anything less than fearless and beautiful. Why couldn’t I do the same to myself? So, I started accepting. And letting go. Everything that I had wanted to change about myself, I now accepted as part of me. I quit trying to follow the latest trends, and allowed myself to become the girl I had always wanted to. I’ve been hungry for things for too long.
Like relationships that never would have worked, friends that long since been gone, and memories I could have made. But most importantly, I think I was hungry for truth.
I wanted to hear the truth that my weight did not define me as a person, or what I could do.
I wanted to see a person who truly loved their body. I never saw a girl at school who did, and so my idea of self love was built on fake confident. The fake confident everyone wore like a mask, just painting on smiles.
I asked so many questions. One of the biggest ones was:
“Am I enough?”
Am I pretty enough, am I smart enough, am I kind enough, am I excited enough, and am I strong enough to love myself.
And so are you.