7 Ways Gustavus has Affected My Body Image and Low Self-Esteem

**DISCLAIMER: This piece of mine is exactly that—mine. It is not intended to represent others who deal with low self-esteem. This piece specifically represents my individual feelings and experiences of my time at Gustavus, and is not intended to convince people that this is how all people who deal with low esteem feel. I simply wish to report how my time at Gustavus has affected my life dealing with this lack of confidence. This is also not meant to fat-shame, skinny-shame, or body shame/food shame in general. That is not my intent. Do with this what you please. 
1. How I feel about myself can change in an instant, a moment. 
I can start off my day, waking up from my nice, warm, lover of a bed, and feel pretty damn good about myself. I get up, stretch, rub the sleep from my eyes, and start my morning routine. Shower, take my birth control pill, brush my teeth, the usual stuff. I get back to my room, and start donning my clothes and my makeup. Yes, I go through the routine that society tells me to go through, because I love having shiny hair and putting makeup on my face. I, unfortunately, am one of those people that DOES NOT LOOK GOOD WHEN I DON’T WEAR MAKEUP. (To those who don’t wear any makeup and look FLAWLESS, like my best friend, I applaud you, damn). Anyway, I go through my routine, choose an outfit, put some makeup on, jam out to some Beyoncé and Ariana on Spotify, and FEEL MYSELF. But then, I turn to the side to check out my butt. I walk out the door and see someone rocking an amazing outfit. The little voice inside my head says “What are you doing, trying to wear this crop top?” Pretty soon the “feeling myself” turns into wanting to hide, all in a span of a second.
2. When I see people staring at me, instantaneous insecurity ensues. 
This has happened to me SO many different times, it’s wild. Mostly in the Caf, but sometimes outside, or in the dorm while I’m on duty, or when I’m walking with my friends anywhere. Sometimes people just stare. I get it that they are probably just zoning out, which is also something that I’m guilty of. But honestly, when I catch strangers staring at me I instantly question: Why? Is there something in my teeth? Does my hair look unkempt? Is my zipper open? Or the biggest question of them all, which usually occurs when I am holding my food, are they judging me for my food choices? Do I look fat? And then the next thought is, Oh my god I want to go curl up in a ball and die. I always have to report back to my friends that someone or a group of people were staring at me and made me feel really uncomfortable. They are good friends and usually shout, “It’s because you’re so hot!” or something to that effect. But the burning thought always in the back of my mind is that people are staring at me because I’m fat, and then I get more insecure as my day goes on. It’s a problem. 
3. Someone makes a joke about what I am eating/wearing, and I automatically take it seriously.
This mostly happens when I am eating, so that’s what I’m going to talk about. Someone will make a comment about what I’m eating, saying something like “Got enough fries, there?” or “Didn’t you eat that same exact thing for lunch?” and I always take it seriously. Sometimes, if it’s a particularly rude comment, I will cry. There was a time my sophomore year that one of my really good friends made a comment about me being fat (I don’t even remember what the comment was, but it came from a really good friend), and I instantly crumbled and started crying. It destroyed me. They apologized profusely, obviously, claiming that it was a joke, but “jokes” go a long way, people. For real. I eventually got over it, but you have to realize that when you make a joke about someone, you don’t know how it’s going to affect them. Especially if it’s someone who has low self-esteem and troubles with body image. To quote Thumper from Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” 
4. When I’m not feeling body positive, I have to ask my friends if I look fat/pregnant in my chosen outfit.
Sidebar: I grew up with a parent who suffers from anorexia. This parent would wear my little sibling’s clothing. This parent, having suffered from anorexia since they were 12 years old, has so many complications with their stomach, intestines, colon, etc., that they can only eat specific kinds of food. When shopping with this parent as a developing teenager, they would say things like “That outfit is too tight”, “You can see everything”, “That is inappropriate because people will see your belly”. Because of this, I have self-conscious feelings DAILY about my stomach and looking pregnant in any outfit I wear. Therefore, my friends can attest to the fact that I ask them if I look pregnant very often. I HAVE to ask, in order to feel better. It all goes back to affirmation and being affirmed. Yay love languages. . .
5. When a friendly Gustie smiles or says hello my mood/confidence completely changes.
You never know when you smile, say hello, or even wave at a Gustie if it could alter how they feel for the rest of their day. You could completely change their day, and that is a powerful thing! When I’m not feeling the most body-positive one day, and someone smiles at me or says hello to me, it makes me feel better! Someone taking the time to stop listening to their music/zoning out/talking to their friends for 3 seconds in order to say hi to me feels really wonderful. (Unless they were actually saying hi to the person behind me and I wave at them, and then it’s SUPER awkward, but that’s for a different article about awkwardness…)
6. I have gained the MOST AMAZING support from friends, sisters, and peers for my low self-esteem. 
This is going to be the sappy entry in this post. I am sentimental, and you’re going to get a huge dose of sentimentality. Sorry not sorry. My friends keep me sane. My friends affirm me (which is wonderful because my love language is Words of Affirmation). My friends allow me to see my beauty when I cannot see it myself. Sometimes, I think it gets old for them to keep affirming me, but it really helps. It helps when you say I’m beautiful. It helps when you say that you love me for who I am. It helps. You help. And you know who you are. Friendship is one of the things that keeps me from looking in the mirror and completely despising myself. And if someone or a group of people can keep me from hating myself, there is love. 
7. OWN your body, Gusties. It’s YOURS.
e.e. cummings has a quote that says, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; never stop fighting.” I am a huge proponent of being yourself. YOU are the most beautiful you that you can be. If it seems like no one loves you, I love you. I love you for being able to live every day, and I love you for fighting your personal battles and seeing the sunrise every next day. I love you, and I want you to be able to look in the mirror and love youself too.