For a very long time, I struggled with accepting who I am, both physically, and mentally. I would always have doubts, thinking I’m not pretty enough, or I’m too annoying and loud for people to want me around, etc. It has taken years for me to realize that one, I am fantastic, and two, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. Yes, not everyone you meet in life is going to like you; I have plenty of people I don’t particularly favour. I’m sure there’s quite a few who don’t like me. But I do have friends and family that love me for who I am, and that is what has really supported me in accepting myself. They were the first step. The rest was my own personal struggle.
I’ve struggled the most with loving my body, mostly because of how the media plays such a huge influence in dictating what is “beautiful” and what’s not. You have to be skinny, but not too skinny. You need to have a flat stomach, and big boobs, and big hips. The media’s idea of beauty is complete bullshit, and it makes me angry that young girls and women are looking at photoshopped ads and photos, and feeling self-conscious about themselves because they don’t look like a fake image. I hate that we are constantly body shaming people, men and women alike, as if we have any rights to tell them how to look. We are told to love ourselves and be happy, but if we do, we are seen as arrogant and full of ourselves. Our society is stuck in a sick, vicious cycle of thinking we have a right to comment on other people’s body’s as if they are our own. And it makes me sick.
I wasn’t as concerned with my appearance in middle school. Then I reached high school, and suddenly appearance was everything. You needed to be thin, and pretty, and have the right clothes, and wear make-up every day, because we all considered ourselves “grown up” or something. Other people’s opinions mattered. That random girl, in your science class? She gave you a disgusted look when you walked in wearing that shirt. Burn it, never wear it again. You don’t wear make-up? How do you even walk out the house? He’s never going to look your way if you wear those loose jeans and hoodies, what are you thinking? You don’t wear thongs? What are you, like, ten? It was a consistent battle of wearing clothing I liked, while trying to be socially accepted by my peers, because there was new people to impress, people I had never met before.
It wasn’t really until high school that I began judging my body, particularly my stomach, face and chin. I always felt like they were too fat and unattractive. I had been made fun of for having a large chest in middle school, but now we were in the “big leagues”, so it was considered a blessing to have big boobs. In grade ten, I had a bad year mental health wise, and had to quit all sports. I put on ten pounds. I was still a healthy weight, but apparently it was noticeable. I noticed my “spare tire” on my hips, and I began to hate those too. Every time I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw, with a deep, burning passion. I was unhappy with myself. I wasn’t proud of who I was. I was the annoying, ugly friend. I had to get braces just before my 16th birthday, when everyone else was getting them off. I would cry when I looked in the mirror. I just wanted people to accept me.
I got through the mental health problem thanks to help, though I still struggle as it never really does go away. It’s a chemical imbalance, so it is always possible to return. Anyways, I was happier again going into grade eleven, but I still wasn’t happy with my body. I was out of shape from not exercising in months, and going back to hockey was tough, as I had quit mid-season the previous year. I decided to make a change, and signed up for the fitness course at my school in second semester. It was honestly life changing.
At the beginning, I would work out at home as well, so that I wouldn’t cry in class, because I was so disappointed in myself. I had little stamina, and almost no strength. I felt horrible next to everyone in the class, who all had gym experience and already worked out on a consistent basis. I was the newby, the one who had no idea what she was doing and was out of breath in five minutes. I needed motivation. I followed fitness accounts on instagram, which posted inspirational quotes on the daily. They made me realize that everyone was a beginner at some point. So I tried. My friend and I motivated each other. I would go as hard as I could in class, and if it was a lesson day, I would work out at home. I could feel myself getting fitter, and it was amazing, to know that I had the power to make a change. I began to love my arms, as I gained muscle, and my stomach shrank a bit. I could see my ultimate goal in sight, although it was months away. I was eating healthy again. I had so much energy. I was boosting my self confidence. And then summer happened.
Ice cream is my ultimate enemy. I stopped working out, as the heat made me tired. I would always put it off, because I was lazy and my energy went down again, as I was eating crappy food and waking up at noon every day. I feel gross thinking about it, although I still looked better after working out consistently for five months. But as they say, use it or lose it, and I lost most of it. I didn’t put weight on, but all the stamina and some muscle went out the window. Fat sits on the the top of my hamstrings and in my butt. All of squat work – gone. By the end of August, I felt sick with myself again. I couldn’t believe I’d let myself go. But I was going to bed at 3 am almost every day, and eating irregularly. By the time school came around in September, I felt awful again. The only part on my body I liked were my calves, because I walked to school every day, and walked everywhere in the summer, so they were a nice shape. As I tried to get my act together, I got into this weird mentality of “I don’t exactly love my body, but I’m comfortable in it”. I’m not sure how else to describe it. But I began eating less and less, because I only had first period off, and would have to eat in class. I’d have a cookie for breakfast, and would only ever have snacks, like kiwi and yogurt, because I was embarrassed to eat a sandwich in class. If I didn’t pack a lunch, I’d buy two slices of pizza from the cafeteria, because they’re cheap. I’d go home and maybe eat half of dinner, because my stomach was shrinking as I ate less and less. My mom was beginning to get worried, as I lost five pounds within a month. It wasn’t healthy.
At the end of October, I dropped my third period class, which gave me a lunch period. But I had lost my appetite. I began to feel sick when I was only halfway through my food. It took about two months to build my appetite back up to my regular, “I-can-eat-forever” appetite. And even then, I had gotten lazy. I would just buy lunch from the cafeteria every day, as I was waking up at 8 am every day, and didn’t have time to pack a lunch in the morning. I ate almost no vegetables or fruits. The only thing I did right was drink bottles and bottles of water every day, as I would bring a reusable water bottle to school, which I still do.
Throughout all of this struggle, my boyfriend broke up with me, due to lost feelings, which is understandable when we’re so young. But people began telling me that they “couldn’t believe I’d dated him, because I was a hot bitch, and the best he would ever get,” apparently. I thought he was attractive, but that’s not the point. So many people told me that I’m a great person, and a hot bitch, that one day I thought, you know what? They’re right. I am a hot bitch. And no one else can tell me otherwise. Not some boy, not the media, not even my friends. I’m a hot bitch and I fucking own this.
Ever since that day, I’ve always been thinking positive things about myself, so that this mentality will stick with me forever. I began eating healthier again. I bought new clothes that make me feel good. I have dance parties in my bathroom in the morning. Every time I look in the mirror, I think, damn. I like how I look. I’ve found my true friends, who I know will support me no matter what, and who always have my back. I study hard, and my success is paying off. My average is the highest it has been all through high school. I tell myself that if I never try, I won’t succeed, and that I owe it to myself to try my best at everything. I listen to motivational songs that make me feel like Beyonce, and make me even more proud of who I am. I imagine I’m a badass heroine in a novel or movie. I walk with my head high, and with confidence in my step. I own this. I love who I am, and nothing you say will change that.
It has taken me almost 18 years, but I am finally, completely comfortable in my own skin. I am happy with who I am. I know that I am capable of great things if I try my hardest and never give up. And so are you. You are capable of so many things. You are beautiful on the inside and outside. If you think positively, you shine like a star. Negative thoughts make you see yourself as less, and that is not true. You are never less. If something makes you feel beautiful, wear it. Compliment yourself. Don’t feel like you have to hate yourself because the media says you do. If people call you arrogant, who cares? You will be much happier than they are if you are confident in yourself. I know it’s not the easiest thing to do. It takes a lot of inner struggles to finally reach the loving point. I empathize, I’ve been there.
But please be a little easier on yourself. You are wonderful. If you read all of this, I love you even more. Smile darling, you’re a star.