“And I said to my body.softly. ‘I want to be your friend. it took a long breath. and replied. I have been waiting my whole life for this’.”- Nayyirah Waheed
As early as the age of 4, I can remember feeling different and not like the other girls. I started pre-k and during recess we were allowed to play outside on the swing sets and see saws. As I was guided to a see saw by one of the teachers I felt excitement about being able to play and enjoy the outdoors. As I sat on one end of the see saw and another child sat on the opposite end I quickly realized that something wasn’t quite right. It took three children being on the other end to get me off the ground and even at the age of 4 I can remember feeling what I now know is embarrassment and then that feeling of knowing that I was not the same as the other girls. And so it began….the discovery of my body and journey into poor body image.
As I continued to get older things didn’t get better. That sense of self awareness and comparing myself to others heightened. I was acutely aware of not only my skin tone and hair texture but also my broad shoulders, large hands and nonexistent hips. My chiseled facial features and lack of overall “feminine” features according to world views. Boys didn’t like me and I didn’t like them but I wanted to be liked, if that makes any sense. I wanted to belong but no one saw beauty in me. At the age of 9 I got my period, a face of acne and MY HUGE BOOBS! My self esteem took a big hit in my developmental years. As I think back I am still amazed at what I picked up at such an early age. Poor self esteem and lack of confidence started early due to comparing myself to others and the need to belong. By the time I got into high school I was promiscuous and seeking attention. I craved it in any way I could get it and I learned to further hate myself by expressing love in the wrong way. My self esteem continued to take blow after blow. My friends were blossoming and filling out in “all the right places”, according to societal views and here I am…here I am continuing to fill out like a boy, excessive weight gain, my hands continued to grow and I never got any hips in…AT ALL! Large stomach, no hips, no ass, and boobs for days and the way I felt about myself was supported by how I was treated by my peers. They thought I was unattractive as well. I heard things like “well, you have a nice personality so you don’t have to be pretty” as if thought that was supposed to make me feel better. I continued to carry this well into my adult years and the ways it affected me were too numerous to count. The combination of massive weight gain and lacking feminine bodily features was almost too much to bear at times.
I am 44 years old now and have been working on changing my perception of self for only the last 7 years or so. Ha! I know 7 years seems like a long time but it’s only a shot in the bucket when you think about how long I have been living with these bad habits. It has not been easy breaking the habits that I have learned over the years but doing the work is so rewarding. Learning to love yourself, as is, is the most beneficial piece of work one can do! I get up every day, look in the mirror and am mindful of the self talk that goes on inside of me. That old me that wants to creep back in and say “wow, look at that fat roll” or “geez!, your belly is so big!” Old habits die hard but being mindful and consistent about replacing negative self talk with positive words of encouragement are so well worth my time. I strive to rid myself of living up to others expectations of me and living/walking in my own truth and purpose. I am not a supermodel and this would be an unrealistic goal for myself, however, I am very much a model, in my own right, and I refuse to be a standard that has been set for me. I am THE standard! You are your own standard. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and learn to love our bodies for what they do for us and learn to appreciate the uniqueness of self!