TW: Body Dysmorphia, Body Image, Disordered Eating

Before I get into this article, I want to explain that I am in no way writing this to gain any type of sympathy, I just feel like I need to write this because I know so many other people go through this, and I believe that knowing that you are not alone is powerful and comforting. I also want to point out that every person’s struggles are different. So, although I am mentioning that a lot of people go through the same struggles that I do, it could be for completely different reasons and could look totally different. My journey through adolescence as a straight woman is completely different than that of a queer womxn. So, please understand that I am talking about my own journey in hopes that someone reading this will find a tiny portion of my life comforting, knowing that they are not alone.

 

Today is Tuesday. Today is not a good day. Today I woke up, looked in the mirror, and hated what I saw. Today I chose not to eat breakfast or lunch. 

I’ve struggled with disordered eating for a while now and there are good days and bad days. Today was a bad day. 

As I’ve grown up and had these eating problems, I have realized that they are heavily rooted in body dysmorphia and negative body image. For those of you who don’t understand what body dysmorphia is, it’s “a mental health disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can't be seen by others. But you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed, and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.” This desire for a perfect body stems from many things, from societal beauty standards to social media. I can’t speak for everyone who has the same problems as me but, I do believe that a majority of people would agree that these unrealistic standards are a big cause of body dysmorphia, especially within my generation. 

Since I was in middle school, I’ve had problems with the way I look, and every day there would be something new I wouldn’t like about my body. One day I’d hate the way my stomach looked and the next day I would hate the way my arms looked and so on and so on. As I look back onto myself and my life, I truly can’t think of one day where I wasn’t insecure about something on my body, and today was no different than any other day. I feel like every day, I am preoccupied with one of my perceived flaws, and this constant battle with myself has caused me to have social anxiety and miss out on so many things in life. 

I whole-heartedly believe that social media has ruined my perception of myself and to be completely honest, I truly believe that my generation is screwed. We grew up on social media, constantly comparing ourselves and our bodies to those who we see on Instagram and Twitter. Most of the time the bodies we’re comparing ourselves to aren’t even real. Even worse, now we have TikTok, an app that promotes the idea that being the ideal body type is equal to being worthy of attention and success. TikTok on its own is problematic for many reasons and in my opinion, promotes negative body image in people my age. Many times it has caused me to feel incredibly insecure. There are so many videos of girls on TikTok showing off their bodies, which isn’t a bad thing but, you’ll look in the comments and all of them are girls saying “Well, I’m not going to eat today,” and other comments just like that. TikTok has also given many people huge platforms, which is great! But, then you look at the people who have large followings on TikTok and it’s all people with the “idealistic body type” like Charli D'amelio and Addison Rae. This just shows that not only does TikTok perpetuate this societal beauty standard but also, we as a society still idolize people who are one specific body size, and look a certain way. How can I, as a teenage girl, look at myself and not compare them to these influencers who have millions of followers because of the way they look when they are being idolized because of it?

When talking about societal beauty standards, I think it’s really easy to leave men out of the conversation. Men, just like women, have body image issues and I want to acknowledge how important it is for all of us to try and redact the societal beauty standard. However, I think that one really important aspect of a young, heterosexual women’s journey through adolescence and body image, like myself, is young boys and their influence over us. Something that happens way too often to girls and women, is men constantly bringing us down and making us feel insecure. When I was in high school, as many 16-year-old girls do, I had a big crush on a boy. The boy wasn’t very nice to me and made me feel pretty bad about myself. As I look back into that relationship, I realize that he would make me feel insecure about myself and my body but then also make me feel bad about being insecure. This situation happens far too often and it perpetuates the idea that if you are not confident within yourself or your body, then you are not worthy of love and affection. 

To be real, I don’t think I have one friend that doesn’t have body image issues or body dysmorphia. Many of my friends also have eating disorders or disordered eating. It can become very toxic trying to talk to each other about it, as eating disorders and body dysmorphia are highly competitive mental illnesses. My point is, these problems and insecurities are incredibly common. Everyone suffers from the horrible societal beauty standards that are set for us to “achieve” to be deemed worthy. I think that societal beauty standards are BS, because as I’ve grown up and learned more about myself and the world in general, I’ve realized how subjective beauty really is. I’d like to point out that these insecurities and body image issues that many people go through do not make them weak. Yes, insecurities can be hard to deal with and in many cases, defeat comes along with them. But, having body dysmorphia/negative body image does not mean that you are weak, it just means that like many others, you have something that is holding you back and something that is a roadblock within your life. So many young and old people suffer from this incredibly hard mental illness. I don’t have all of the answers, I don’t know how to “fix” this issue, or how to stop it from happening. As cliche as this sounds, I just want to say that I truly believe that everyone is beautiful in their OWN way and that the way that your body is shaped/sized does not define who you are as a person.