My Journey To Body Positivity, and What That Means to Me

From the age of about 13, I distinctly remember having this feeling that I didn’t look like everyone else. Where every other girls my age were getting tall and skinny and had perfect skin, I had braces and frizzy hair (that I honestly had no idea what to do with) and leftover “baby fat.” Somehow, overnight, it was like everyone started looking like the girls did in magazines and on YouTube, and I was left behind trying to figure out why that wasn’t me.

Everyone has that one girl that they are friends with who can eat literally anything they want and they never look any different right? I envied that girl. I have never been, by any means, a tiny girl, and sometimes that made me hate the girls who were. My friends always seemed to be able to wear whatever they wanted, without a care in the world while I spent a lot of my time hating the fact that my jeans were a size 10 instead of a size two and trying to hide it as best I could. For instance, I would almost never post a full body picture online, because I was afraid of what everyone else would say.

By the time I hit high school, I realized that cheerleading was something I really wanted to do, but that came with its own set of messed up body concepts. I looked around, and all of the girls on my team were tiny, athletic, and seemingly perfect. Again, it dawned on me, that I looked nothing like the rest of them. I spent my Friday’s stressed out about how I was going to look in my uniform at the game that night, and I was always worried about how I was going to hide this bump or that roll. For four years, I wasted my time in high school trying to cover up the fact that I hated my body by dressing up and trying to look nice more often than not.

I would straighten my hair, always wear makeup, wake up just early enough to make sure I looked perfect in the morning, and more, just to cover up the fact that I was deeply uncomfortable with the way I looked.

Fast forward to college: I was on my own for the first time, and I knew literally nobody in a sea of 30,000 people. For once in my life, I had nobody that I was trying to compare myself to (because I didn’t have anyone to compare myself to), and I felt like I could breathe again. Not only was I no longer worried about trying to fit in with every single person I went to school with, but I was also making friends with people who looked like me alongside people who didn’t. The more time I spent getting to know the people around me, the more I realized that A) literally everyone feels like they don’t love their body or that they don’t fit in at some point, and B) most people really didn’t care about the fact that my thighs might be a little bit thicker than theirs, or that I might wear a size large instead of the usual size small. We all had our own stuff to deal with, and nobody had the time to spend judging everyone else.

Learning that nobody valued how I looked more than how I acted was almost like a slap in the face to me. I had spent so much of my life worrying about the fact that I didn’t look like everyone else, only to learn that I had been wasting my time. If I had known back then that I would get to college and feel like I fit in for once in my life, I might have saved myself lots of sleepless nights and stress in high school.

All of this being said, however, I am far from perfect when it comes to loving the way I look now. Just like everyone else, I stress about having to wear a bathing suit, or how I look in jeans and a crop top when we go to parties, but I have also learned that this stuff only matters for so much. Sure, it’s cool if my outfit looks good, and I feel like I look good in it, but I have also learned that I have far more to offer to the world than what I look like. I am a fiercely loyal friend, I am compassionate (to a fault sometimes), and I have thoughts and opinions that deserve to be heard. I am more than a size on a pair of jeans or an extra roll here and there.

It has been a long road for me, but changing the way that I view myself has honestly changed the way I feel every single day. I am definitely not a hundred percent body positive all day every day, but that’s okay. Just know that if you feel down because you don’t look the way society expects you to, or if you feel like everyone is staring at your love handles in a certain top, you’re not the only one. Odds are, most of the people around you have felt or are feeling the same way. The thing to also keep in mind, however, is that you are more than a stray love handle or a size on a pair of pants - you have something to offer the world, and you deserve to be heard.

 

All photos are author’s own