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My Relationship With Myself

**Content Warning: This article contains discussion of body image.**

 

Let me start with a disclaimer: everyone is born with a different body that demands different things. We all have unique relationships between food and our body, and food has different effects on all of us. And that is okay.

This article is not necessarily going to be about me, or my own personal relationship with food, because that has been a long and windy journey that may not necessarily be riveting or helpful for anyone else to read. Rather, in reflecting on my relationship to food, and sharing that relationship with my friends, I realize that we all have our own struggles with food and body image, whether positive or negative. So in telling personal anecdotes, I hope to possibly share lessons that I’ve gained that can possibly be helpful to other students out there struggling with food and body image.

 

Culture

First off, I grew up in a city that is largely concerned with food and body image. Like most kids, I watched TV shows and perhaps Disney princesses and Barbies influenced me and my attitude towards my body, but what got me most was the people around me. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but there was definitely a time in elementary school when I stopped and looked around, and realized that I looked different from my other friends. As I got older, my friends lost what little baby fat they had and slimmed down, and I did not. Living in a city where fashion and food are huge components of the culture, I felt like a fish out of water. I couldn’t share clothes with my friends, didn’t look good in the trends, didn’t look like the people walking around in Hollywood or Beverly Hills.

Coming to Kenyon did wonders for my self-esteem. Back at private school in Los Angeles, I constantly felt like an outlier. I did not dress preppy, I was not considered fashionable, I felt ostracized for wanting to dress the way that I dressed. Because I was bigger and didn’t look like the other girls in my grade, I felt like I had to almost hide in my clothing. And then Kenyon welcomed my closet and me and my body with open arms. It was wonderful to feel like I could wear patterns, bright colors, and use fashion the way that it should be.

In coming to Kenyon, I understood the importance in freedom of expression through clothing. I learned that mainstream fashion may not always be correct in what they state is and isn’t fashion. I learned that you don’t always have to conform to fashion norms; or rather, you don’t have to look like the people around you in order to be beautiful. 

 

People

I remember when I was in middle school and sitting in my friend’s kitchen talking to her mom. The concept of boys was becoming more prominent in our lives, and consequently, we were becoming more critical of ourselves, the way that we dressed, the way our bodies looked, the way that we acted. My friend’s mom walking in and telling us to not eat too many snacks, because “boys like smaller girls.” I know that her saying that had a longtime effect on both my friend and me.

Even at Kenyon, I’ve noticed a culture around eating. Last year, my friends and I all ate salads, loudly wondered whether we should get seconds, lamented about cravings for ice cream, voiced frustration about how we looked. And yes we all have days when we dump on ourselves, but I think it’s imperative to rechannel that energy, because it can be contagious. I know that days when I make a point to tell my friend that they look great the are days when everyone feels just a little bit better.

But like I said, sometimes you just have days where you look in the mirror and you aren’t feeling yourself. Or you have days where you eat froyo and don’t go to the KAC. And you feel gross, and the negative feelings build and build on each other, and you just want to let it out. Feeling negative emotions are important, but it’s what you do afterwards that matters. It’s important to think, is it help or hurt in the long run to publically voice those icky feelings? What can you do for yourself to make yourself feel better?

 

Your Actual Body

Ultimately, you are the one who lives in your body. You are the one who chooses what you put into it. You choose how you live in your body, your feelings towards your body, and how you want your body to look to the outside world. If you wanted, you could eat pizza, chips, and ice cream every day. I wouldn’t recommend that for health reasons, but hey, you could. And isn’t that incredible?
We, whether we realize it or not, have the power to decide how we want to look. This summer I got news that I needed to lose weight for health reasons, and I was surprised at how quickly I was able to actually commit to that goal of losing weight. Likewise, my friends and I all had a conversation about how it was mutually dangerous for all of us to voice our insecurities, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the positive effects.

And I know that body image is a journey, trust me. There are days when I look in the mirror and I think, nope not today. Or I look in a magazine and see an image I know is photoshopped, but still feel inadequate. And it’s a bummer, I’m not going to lie. But it’s about learning to be not only comfortable in your skin, but also grateful. And it starts by treating your body right, but also treating yourself right. If you eat a lot of junk food, things aren’t going to get worse if you beat yourself up; acknowledge your indulgence and make a plan for the future. Like I said, it’s a journey, not a destination.

Anywho, I know that this is an incredibly difficult topic, and I am only personally just starting to truly accept my body, its imperfections, and what I love about it. And while I’ve recently found success in eating healthy and learning tips and tricks to love my body, I know that everyone goes down a different road. Be good to yourselves, and your bodies, and the process.

 

Image Credit: Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (via Pinterest), Giphy

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