I remember getting up early in the morning to put on my favorite blue floral dress for church. I was in third grade and was visiting my dad for the summer. The dress had to be tied in the back, so I simply asked my dad for help.
He got down on one knee and as my step sisters ran around us, he took the strings and wrapped it around the front in order to tie it in the back, since the tie was so long. He paused, looked at my step sisters, who were always slightly bigger than me and then looked back at me while tying my dress and made a smart remark about how skinny I seemed to be.
This was the earliest event I can remember that made me question how I felt about my body.
I remember being the nerdy girl in elementary school who had one friend for the majority of the time spent there. People always had comments about us, whether it be the way we dressed or how I looked in general. I remember feeling like my body was more awkward than anyone else’s, even though everyone was going through somewhat of an awkward phase at that time.
This was the first time I remember not feeling 100% okay with the way my body looked and felt.
I remember walking home from school in eighth grade. It was a nice day outside and I had just finished a pretty easy going day at school. I was about two blocks away from my apartment when a car drove by with someone yelling out the window, “Do you have anorexia?!” Before I could process the nature of the comment, the car was long gone.
This was the first time I remember someone assuming I had a form of eating disorder based on the way that I looked naturally.
I remember being in the junior year of my high school career and watching one of my best friends struggle with anorexia. There wasn’t much I could do to help her through what she was going through and it broke my heart to just stand by. I almost lost a friend that year.
All of these memories compile into what I now understand as the source of my body image issues that I am working on.
I remember sitting in on a body image awareness talk my freshman year of college where I was asked to reflect on events like the ones listed above. I sat in a room full of strangers and shared my story while fighting back tears. One of the women in attendance approached me afterward and hugged me, telling me to stay strong and that I was beautiful. It was at that moment that I realized just how vulnerable I was when it came to the topic of self love and body image.
This was the first time I realized the importance of finding healthy ways to love myself and accept the way I look because I only have one body and there is nothing wrong with it.
I have learned that I control what is in my life, people included. I trimmed the fat and surrounded myself with the people that love me for who I am. The people who don’t tell me I need to eat a hamburger or question how much I weigh. Eventually the love these people had for me started to rub off on me and I even started to love myself.
I am still a work in progress, but I have come a long way since that Sunday morning 11 years ago and I will continue to grow and love myself. I am still learning to feel comfortable in crop tops when people give judgmental stares or how to feel like my hips don’t stick out too far when I’m wearing my swimsuit. These are things that I am conscious of and count as a few of the many beautiful things that make me who I am.
Photo: courtesy of author