A Journey with Body Positivity Part I

We live in a world in which we are constantly surrounded by bodies that are not our own. The general shapes of models that adorn magazine covers and television screens force us to look at our own perfectly beautiful bodies and think that we have failed in some unforgivable way. The pressures to slide into the puzzle piece of the body media has created for us effects us all to varied degrees, and yet it is a universal struggle to look in the mirror at certain points and feel unhappy. The media has told us to hate our bodies, to change our shape so that we can love ourselves better. Yet, despite the frequency of these feelings in our lives, we experience wildly misplaced shame surrounding the topic of body image and sense of self. So, along with my freind and fellow HC Skidmore writer Shari, we decided to share our experiences with body image to show everyone that we, and most everyone else, can relate to the constant and nonsensical war for physical perfection. We are here today to say that we are unashamed of our bodies, our experiences, and our feelings, and want to start a conversation in which we can all come together to realize that our bodies, all bodies, are beautiful.

I hated the summer time. There were so many girls with their long legs sticking out of their short-shorts and their flat stomachs peaking out of their crop tops. And then there was me, in my blue jeans, scarf, and cardigan, on the precipice of a heat stroke. I was never able to parade around fearlessly in a bathing suit, or in that pair of high-waisted shorts I so secretly wanted. My lumpy oversized body and I had submitted ourselves to the fact that we would forever be suffocating in denim pants and baggy t- shirts. I hated the itch of my stifling attire almost as much as I hated the summer, but not enough to expose my cratered, giggly legs under a pair of daisy dukes or my stretch marked stomach under a skimpy t-shirt.

But, at the very end of my freshman year of high school, I’d had enough of hiding, enough of hating myself for looking the way I did, enough of letting my body control me, enough of being held back by a roll or two of fat. So, on the hottest, muggiest New York City day of the year, I stood in front of the mirror, the open windows letting in a soft breeze, or a lack thereof, into my bedroom. It was there, as I stood staring at my fallible and flawed body, that I decided I would change it until I loved it.

Sixty pounds- that was my goal- and I would devote myself to shedding them until they were all gone. At first they came off slowly, as if the fat were tediously dripping from me like wax from a dying candle. As time went on and I became more and more comfortable with eating the horror that was once ‘health food,’ it all seemed to disappear. I had miraculously gone from a roly-poly, insecure blob of a girl to a chubby, content, sort of confident one. 

You actually did it, I remember thinking to myself as I looked into the mirror the next sweltering summer, triumphantly adjusting my new pair of high-waisted shorts. I felt invincible and brave as I sauntered around the city streets that day, not caring about anything but how un-heatstrokey I felt. I finally loved my body, and while it was still faulty and I was still “fat”, I no longer cared. I had done everything I set out to do that summer before sophomore year, and I did so for myself. 

Flash forward to a summer eternal, where beaches are covered in spindly sand and oranges are abundant. The Florida sun had been a constant in my life since I was a little girl, and while most of my body was often tan and warm with its heat, my stomach never was.  Abrupt lines on my body separated deep exotically colored skin from a pale something else entirely; I looked as though I were split in two, as if part of me lived in the sun, and the other half in the moon. While I loved my lines and my color I couldn’t help but feel as though I had no excuse to look so torn, so unlived in, and decided to make a change.

A bikini, the horrendous string of flimsy fabric that had daunted me so horrifically my entire life, would become my go-to beach attire. It wasn’t as though I didn’t feel swamped with fear as I clutched my cover up close to me, laying my beach towel on the nearest lawn chair, in fact I felt more afraid than I could ever have anticipated. Yet, as I mustered the pluck to whip my shirt over my head and sprawl out in the sun, I felt a comfort and joy entirely new to me. I was warm inside and out; comfortable in my own skin.

I didn’t write this article to say that losing weight is the key to loving one’s body, in fact I don’t even think that’s a little bit true. I didn’t write this article to say that a tan body is worth more than a pale one. I worry a lot about Melanoma, really. I wrote this to say that, despite all of the growth I have made over the years, my changed, thinner, tanner body is not what has brought me happiness. Loving my body as I have learned to has not stemmed from anything but me. Any joy or confidence I feel now comes from the utter adoration I have for who I am as a person; my peculiar kindness, my quiet courage, and off-beat sense of humor. I’ve come to admire it all. So, whether I’m in scarves and sweaters or swim tops and bottoms, I look at my body and see myself. And, most often, I love what looks back at me.

Editor's noteThis article is part of a two-piece installment related to body image and self-esteem