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Body Dysmorphia And Why It Sucks: A Testimony

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GCU chapter.

As someone who has dealt with body dysmorphia from a very young age, I can attest to its detrimental effects and the toll it can take on a person’s livelihood and emotional well-being. It is unfair, and – while deep down you may know that it’s a big lie you’re letting yourself believe – it’s near impossible to stop it. It’s extremely hard, especially as a girl living in the age of social media, to avoid comparison and to avoid feeling like there’s always something you could change about yourself to objectively look better.

I have struggled with body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. The first memory I can recall of it affecting my life was when I was about 7 years old. When I was washing my hands and looked up in the mirror, I thought to myself, “There is no way that is me”. I started crying, just from looking at myself in the mirror, because even 7-year-old me couldn’t fathom how THAT was what I looked like. That is incredibly hard to look back on because it is so unfair that any kid should ever feel that way about themselves, and it breaks my heart that such a sweet, innocent child was so disgusted by herself already at such a young age.

I recall in middle school when I took pictures with some friends and realized how much bigger my thighs were in comparison to theirs. I’d never thought about my weight before that, but when I started to think about it, I realized I didn’t physically match up with a lot of my friends. I tried to push it out of my mind then, but deep down I did not like what I looked like. It got to the point that I told myself that whoever I ended up with in the future must really love me for my personality since I definitely wasn’t the most attractive person. I had no clue how unhealthy of a thought that was, and it would take me quite a while to realize it. Around sophomore year of high school, I started to yet again struggle heavily with my mental health in all areas, which caused me to obsess over what I could do to change what I didn’t like about myself. I had the most unhealthy relationship with food, and at the same time I was on medication that had the side effect of suppressing my appetite. I struggled with eating and eating enough, and yet I started to receive more compliments than I ever had in my entire life. I had the people closest to me telling me I looked “so much better” – which not only validated in my mind that I had in fact not been “attractive” before losing unhealthy amounts of weight, but it motivated me to keep up the extremely unhealthy habits that were beginning to consume my life. I became underweight and proud of it.

I continued on like this all the way through my freshman year of college, and it wasn’t until the summer after freshman year when I stopped taking the medication that had been suppressing my appetite that I started to eat a healthy amount. I was also exerting a lot of physical energy over the summer because of my job, which required eating more than I was used to. This switch was extremely hard to make when I realized I was quickly gaining weight. Healthy weight? Yes, but nonetheless my mind did not see it that way.

I recall one especially hard night when a couple of my friends invited me to come with them to get food and ice cream after work. On the way there, I began telling myself in my head I didn’t deserve the ice cream considering how much weight I’d been gaining, and I began to feel completely overwhelmed with disgust for myself and the way I looked. I felt gross. I didn’t want to express that to my friends and ruin the night. My boyfriend ended up coming to pick me up realizing how upset I was, and I literally just sobbed in the parking lot about how gross I felt. That was the night I realized I needed to make a change.

I have people in my life who love me and find me beautiful for who I am inside and out. I realized how harmful my mindset toward my self-image was not only for me but also for the people who love me. Since this realization, I’ve pushed myself to stop purposefully skipping meals, and to start exercising and eating better with the intention of feeling better rather than changing what I look like. As a young woman living in the age of social media, having a healthy self-image is SO hard. Surrounding myself with people that genuinely build me up and love me for who I am without trying to change me has been absolutely vital to changing my unhealthy mindset.

As a Christian, knowing the way the Lord views me and describes me as a child of His own, I’ve come to embrace that much more than I ever have and rest in my identity being found in Christ, not my physical appearance. Having the proper people to talk to about this issue has also been very crucial for me. I’ve communicated this struggle to the people closest to me as well as what I might need while I’m struggling, and I’ve received overwhelming support. I feel so much more confident in who I am thanks to the people that have helped me see my worth, encouraged me, and pointed me toward my faith when I’m feeling low. With all of that said, it is still a steep, uphill battle.

Although I have embraced healthier eating habits and now consistently eat a proper amount, that has resulted in weight gain that has continued to challenge my self-image. Deep down I know that I am beautiful and loved, and I am proactively fighting voices that tell me otherwise. I still break down from time to time after standing in a mirror for too long or when my favorite pair of pants no longer fit me, but the difference now is I know my self-worth regardless. I refuse to slip back into unhealthy eating habits, regardless of the weight I’ve gained. I have made so much progress, and even if that progress has come with new challenges, it is progress nonetheless and I am so proud of myself for being honest and realizing I needed change. I love myself regardless of what I look like, and I know deep down I am a beautifully knit-together child of God.

A Christian Ministry major with a passion for writing about obscure and interesting topics as they relate to women!