Since childhood, I have always been one of the bigger girls in class. Though I tried my hardest, I was always the one struggling to fit in physically and emotionally. I knew from the media, from the looks of others, and my own brain that I was not the size I was supposed to be. Even now at 240 pounds, I know that I am not what I am supposed to be, but I am exactly perfect the way I am. I still struggle with body image and self-love, but today I am better than before. Although I would like to say that the progress to my current mindset was quick and easy. However, I’d be lying if I said that it was not a long and tiring journey.
Starting in elementary school, I noticed that everyone was super fast when running and I always seemed to be out of breath. My asthma definitely was not helping, but I was not that much different from them, and yet I seemed to fall behind. I remember distinctly after school one day going up to my mom and asking her how to be smaller. Little did I know that my mother had gone through the same battle and sympathized. That is how I started my first diet, though in reality it was a family diet and it was beneficial to all of us. However, despite losing a couple pounds, I still faced the fact that during recess my friends always made me play the ugly character because it “just fit.”
In response to this, I began to show everyone how strong and athletic I was because I did not want to be seen as the ugly one but rather the fit one. So, I began to pick up people for fun and played four square like no other, but nevertheless I was still the “bigger one.” Not long after, I had to stop wearing Justice for Girls and moved into wearing blunkier less fitting clothes because someone my size couldn’t find anything that fit in cutesy clothing stores anymore. I did not let it stop me from loving myself, but I knew I had to change my looks by modifying my habits. I remember looking into the mirror as a kid and saying, “I want to be tall and skinny with blonde hair and pretty eyes.” I got the pretty eyes and the slight height, but the blonde hair and skinny was never to be found.
By middle school, I became fully aware of how I should look and why I did not fit in. My family tried everything from diets to exercise every day, yet nothing really changed for me. I tried to fit in with skirts, but my proportions told me not to, and my jeans always rubbed out in the inner thighs a lot faster than anyone else. By then I was already 140 pounds which to me was gigantic as I knew I was at least 2 sizes bigger than the other girls in 7th grade. I did not want to change in the locker room for P.E. class because I knew I would stick out. I remember always being self-conscious of the size of my gym uniform and my pants, but nevertheless I reminded myself that I could always change. Even when a girl started to call me “piggy,” I knew that they were simply words of an angry person. Deep down, however, the words hurt and I began to compare myself more and more to those around me. My stomach stuck out, my arms were a little flappy, and my footsteps were a little too heavy.
When I reached high school, my own mentality multiplied my weight problems as I continuously compared myself to others and the media. High school to me was a sea of beautiful people and me, your local fat friendly gal. Every girl was as beautiful and perfect as the last and I was happy to have so many great people. Both good on the outside and on the inside, and I envied them all. I tried so hard to become like them, from diets to extreme exercise regimens. None of it worked. I tried joining a sport, but all they had was archery. I joined and I loved it, but I began joking that the only reason I liked this sport was because all I had to do was stand. By junior year, I realized that I just needed to be happy and began to think that maybe, just maybe, I could love what I looked like because constant self-doubt was tiring. I wanted to stop feeling so drowsy and avoidant just because of how I viewed myself. That’s how I ended up making #IAMME, a body positivity campaign, with my friend Khristine for a school project. My friends made me realize that I needed to love myself and that no matter what I looked like, I was beautiful. However, by the end of junior year, I fell off the self-love wagon and back into self-hatred and doubt. As personal incidents arose, I found myself eating at my emotions which led to weight gain, and my self-image deteriorated. I knew when I went to a friend’s house, there would never be any clothes I could borrow. I was the only one my size, but at least I was huggable. By the time high school came to an end, I tolerated my size knowing that in college I could change and start anew with a better body image.
As I sit writing this reflection I still find myself critiquing my looks during my final year of college. I started freshman year by developing an eating disorder which led to unhealthy weight fluctuation–up and down like a boat in a stormy sea. I was lucky enough to recognize how horrible I was treating myself and how dangerous it was after a couple of weeks of feeling as if my brain was constantly lagging and my body seemed drowsy all the time. So I reached out for help on how to modify my habit and how to better myself both mentally and physically. I realized what the disorder had done to me. I was then put on antidepressants and I started to focus on my well-being. My friends were the ones that encouraged me to act confidently in myself and to try to dress up to embrace myself. That is how I discovered crop-tops, and they were the key to my self-image turning around. I realized that it did not matter how big I was, I looked cute, and if I thought I was cute that was all that mattered. As I became more confident, I realized people were attracted to me, even as big as I was, because I was attractive, beautiful, sexy and worthy. I went on dates and had flings, and I realized, even though I was single all of high school, that a lack of a relationship did not mean that I was unattractive. I was hella attractive and I just had to discover that myself.
Even now I struggle from time to time with my self-image, but I have gotten stronger and I know that I am beautiful no matter what size I am. I love myself and I have to keep working on loving myself through every moment of my life. This is my body and I am happy even though sometimes I struggle to accept myself at times. Body image is something that is an ongoing struggle for me, but I will continue to work to love myself. I may be a bigger girl in a small world, but that does not mean that I am ugly. For any girl out there experiencing body issues, there are brighter days but it is up to you to discover that no matter what, you are beautiful.