Body Positivity: The Story of a Big-Eyed, Hopeful Middle Schooler

I wanted to write this as chronologically as possible, but I don’t even know where to begin. Do I start with the story of my “friend” who saw me in a bikini for the first time and laughed so hard I cried myself to sleep that night in the fourth grade? Do I start with the story of the time my “friend” turned in an essay called "Chrissy the Ogre" in the seventh grade? Do I start with the story about why I never wear low-rise bathing suit bottoms? I really don’t know where everything went awry.

What I do know is that I, like hundreds of millions of women on this planet, suffer from body confidence issues. Even now, lifetimes away from the days I was bullied into suicidal thoughts, I still get self-conscious about my weight and the way my body is shaped.

I still feel shame and anxiety when I wear crop tops or low-rise shorts and I still feel scared that everyone is still whispering and laughing at me and my body.

The laughs and teases of the middle schoolers who were my alleged “friends” still haunt me to this day. I hear them almost every day when I look at myself in the mirror of my bathroom. Even after all these years, I can still hear them as if they were on the other side of the mirror, yelling at me.

The mirror has been an enemy and a friend of mine for years. It reflects me at my worst and my best. Sometimes I look at it and don’t see myself but rather that sweet little middle schooler with the short hair and big brown eyes, hopeful that one day she can smile in the mirror.

It took around 19 years, but I finally smile in the mirror on most days. Note the “most.”

Fortunately, the daily bullying stopped by high school. I went from a graduating class of 20 to a freshman class of around 700 kids and not a single one came from my middle school. It was glorious to have a fresh slate.

I didn’t have to face the kids who aggressively poked my sides and called me tubby until I fell down, or the kids who literally kicked me after falling, or the kids who called me pudgy, fat, weird, ugly. I could finally go to school without seeing them. I could finally be free.

I was relatively popular in high school. I had a lot of friends—the kind that don’t require quotation marks around the title. I got along with most people and avoided the people who caused me problems.

There were certainly hiccups in my high school career when it came to being bullied, but there were never bullies. Some ex-friends would make comments about how my stomach stuck out a little more than “it should” or how I looked fat in certain outfits, but that’s why they are ex-friends.

All of this has impacted my mental health, but with time it has gotten somewhat better. Last fall was my first semester of college, which meant going to the gym could be convenient. I purposefully lost fifteen pounds in that semester. My family was stunned but exceptionally proud.

I have not talked to my bullies in a very long time. Most of them probably don’t even remember my name. If we’re being honest, I have forgotten some of theirs. I don’t need to speak to them, though, I have nothing to say to them.

The only thing I ponder is why they went after my weight. I was never overweight, in fact, I wasn’t even a size large in middle school. I was always at the average weight for someone my age and height, yet my weight was still a target for the boys who were significantly above their ideal weight. Ironic, isn’t it?

If there’s anything positive that I took from all this, it’s to show kindness towards others and never judge a person for something they can’t control. I can’t sit here and lie to you by saying that I learned to love myself and my body. I lost 15 pounds because I hated the way my stomach, arms and legs looked. And even 15 pounds later, I am still trying to tighten up my stomach and make it as flat as possible.

This is the ugly truth about body positivity. You’re not going to love the way you look overnight. You may not love the way you look for nineteen years. There isn’t some breakthrough day where you look in the mirror and forget everything that has ever been said to you. You just have to learn how to not let others’ words and actions negatively affect you and try to move on with your day.

I want you to remember it’s crucial to never give up on yourself. You may not always love the way you look, and that’s okay. If you normally love the way an outfit looks on you and then one day it just doesn’t look good, then wear something else. Don’t throw it away because of the one day you see yourself differently than normal. I have made that mistake way too many times.

Also, please don’t hurt yourself. I know people will tell you this time and time again and sometimes it may go in one ear and out the other, but seriously don’t do it. If you ever consider harming yourself, please get help. Even if you don’t think you need it, you do. 

UF offers free counseling sessions through the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) near the Lakeside area. There are also several therapists in town to look into if that’s something you’re interested in.

Body positivity is something our society needs to stress more. We need to push the importance of loving yourself at a young age. We can’t raise another generation of children who don’t love their bodies—it simply isn’t right to do that to them. Our future deserves better.