I Asked Five Women About Body Image: You Might Be Surprised by Their Answers!

As a 21-year-old woman in college, I’ve had my fair share of body image issues. I spent most of my teenage years struggling with disordered eating, never liking what I saw in the mirror, no matter how thin I was. After therapy, time, and new healthy relationships, I’m reevaluating my relationship with my body. While I do this, I thought it might be beneficial to see how other women around my age feel about their bodies. Occasionally I see posts discussing body image on social media, but I’ve never thought to see if the women around me feel the same way. So, I asked five women in their early 20s about their body image, and here’s what I got:

  1. 1. What would you say your general perception of your body is?

    Person standing on scale

    Sara*, 21: "Well! I think I do have general insecurities but not to an extreme degree.  Most insecurities are focused on my face/chest. However, I feel like it is important to note that my insecurities are not linked to gender dysphoria, it’s centralized in body standards/desirables."

    Savannah*, 20: "Generally, I enjoy it. I have bad days sometimes, though."

    Ava*, 22: "It honestly depends on the day. Sometimes I feel very confident, and other times I am very insecure about my body."

    Kathy*, 21: "My general perception is I look at what the media calls... average? I’m more confident in my body nowadays and I’m slowly starting to appreciate it more."

    Holly*, 20: "I think I have a typical body type. I know I’m on the skinnier side as of lately, but I don’t always feel that way."

  2. 2. Have you always felt the way you do now? If not, when did it change?

    woman looking at her reflection in mirror

    Sara: "For the most part I’ve always felt that way. It was much more intense in high school, but after senior year/going to college and fully accepting that I was gay it got a lot easier accepting my body."

    Savannah: "Absolutely not. I hated myself and my body for most of my life. I really only started to become more confident about a year ago."

    Ava: "No! In high school, I was very confident about my body, but my body started changing my second year of college and that is when I started to become insecure. I just try to remind myself that everyone’s body changes as they age!" 

    Kathy: "I definitely didn’t like how I looked or what I saw in the mirror. Quarantine made my self-esteem hit rock bottom and everything became much harder. My partner is really into working out, so we went out to buy a home gym and he started to teach me to work out again. We made a schedule for ourselves and it became a routine that I looked forward to. Slowly, I started to appreciate what I was working towards and became more confident in myself. I’m still working towards that goal." 

    Holly: "No, all of my life I’ve been told that I could lose a little more weight by my family, but never by friends. Especially growing up when I had more "baby fat" on me. A few months ago I randomly lost 25 pounds and I do feel more confident because of it, but not as confident as I assumed it would make me feel."

  3. 3. What do you think influences the way you feel about your body?

    Sara: "Definitely media. It’s hard to feel human sometimes when the only stories being told are about people not like you. It’s something I’m conscious of now, but the damage is already done after years of being ingrained into me. Also, just…feminine beauty standards being pushed by older women."

    Savannah: "Growing up, everything felt like a comment on me and my worth. From TV to social media to social groups to cultural values. I also used to be really influenced by the comments I would receive from partners/guys I dated casually."

    Ava: "I think noticing that my body has changed influences the way I feel about myself. I also tend to get insecure when I see other people’s bodies sometimes as well."

    Kathy: "Social media definitely sucks. It just does. It makes me feel some type of way when I see all these filtered, picture-perfect Instagram posts or Facebook videos about these influencers and they all look some sort of way."

    Holly: "Definitely social media, my friends, and girls I meet that I consider the ideal beauty standard. I think it’s because I tend to compare myself to a lot of people in my life when I don’t feel the most confident about myself. It’s hard to appreciate your own uniqueness when society pushes certain beauty standards so hard."

  4. 4. What activity makes you feel the best about your body?

    Sara: "Yoga!"

    Savannah: "I love working out. It makes me feel good about my body, not because I’m working towards a certain look, but because it makes me feel in touch with myself physically. It makes me feel strong. Honestly, eating really good food makes me love my body too because eating is nourishment. That’s how I take care of my body, and in turn, it takes care of me."

    Ava: "Any type of cardio workout."

    Kathy: "There are two activities: when I’m calm and doodling, and when I’m working out. When I’m calm and doodling, I’m in a world where everything’s okay, and I’m in a place where I’m okay. Meaning, no negativity, and no shaming my own body or mind. Working out makes me realize I’m working towards a goal for me, not for anyone else and it’s empowering in its own way and that makes me feel really good about myself."

    Holly: "Wearing a nice outfit that compliments the way I look."

  5. 5. What activity makes you feel the worst about your body?

    Sara: "Parties are the most uncomfortable for me."

    Savannah: "I feel the worst about my body whenever I’m on social media, especially Instagram. It’s really a reminder that society wants you to look, be, sound, and present a certain way and it’s like, “Are you serious, can we please stop with this now?” It sucks knowing that’s the standard and it’s not just unrealistic, it’s purely ridiculous." 

    Ava: "Eating foods that I think are unhealthy for an extended amount of time."

    Kathy: “ 'Justified' late-night snacking. I tend to study a lot at night and I just want to chew on something to keep myself awake. I tend to drink a lot of tea but drinking isn’t the same as biting something, so I’ll justify my eating with, 'I studied enough, I’ll treat myself,' and end up with happy feelings for half a second and then realize the time that I decided to eat. I’ll try to make it up by fighting the urge the next night, but some nights are just harder than others."

    Holly: "Going to the beach and wearing a bikini in public over the summer is not really one of my favorite things to do and my body image has a large role in why I feel that way. I’ve always felt like I wasn’t meant to wear bikinis because of my body type and that mentality still hasn’t changed even when I lost a lot of weight. It’s weird because I feel that way for myself but all of my friends who wear bikinis, regardless of their body type always look genuinely beautiful to me. It’s almost like I can’t give myself the kindness that I give to them. I thought my mentality was something that would change and inherently become more positive with weight loss, but it doesn’t change if you don’t learn to love yourself more along the way."

  6. 6. What advice would you give to women struggling with body image?

    love yourself written on a sidewalk

    Sara: "I think being honest with yourself is the greatest gift. I do a lot of meditation for anxiety and one of the things I do is track what sparks my anxious/negative thoughts. And I feel like doing that and being honest where the insecurities come from in order to face them more clearly is a healthy option for anyone struggling!"

    Savannah: "The beauty industry was designed to make you feel bad about yourself so that you will cater to men’s desires, and contribute to their revenue stream. Whenever you’re feeling down on yourself, think about all the white men who profit from your insecurities. You’ll feel a whole lot sexier after you realize that."

    Ava: "Embrace your body! Even though it can be hard to accept, everyone is different and that is okay! One of my favorite images is a picture that says, 'Even if we all ate the same foods and did the same workouts, we would all have different bodies,' and I think that is such an important reminder!" 

    Kathy: "Do things for yourself. Sometimes we’re just in our own heads and need to get out of them. It’s hard, so it’s okay to ask for help or to rely on someone for those first steps. It’s what friends are for, it’s what partners are there for. Doing things for the pleasure of doing it for yourself is a different type of feeling. Empower yourself and take small steps."

    Holly: "Don’t let the love that you have for your body depend on the opinion and validation of others. I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but never give anyone the power to make you think less of yourself. You deserve to be kind towards your body, regardless of how it looks. And the sooner you realize and embody that mentality, the closer you will be towards living a much happier and peaceful life."

After hearing what these women had to say about their bodies, I realized that I’m certainly not alone in my struggles, and that’s something I didn’t realize I needed to know so badly until I asked. I’m so very thankful to these beautiful ladies for sharing their stories and tips. If you have ever struggled with body image, I hope reading these women’s responses will give you comfort and the courage to start the journey to self-love because I promise you, you’re worth it.

 

*Names have been changed for privacy.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.