body image battles and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for where i am now!
[7 Minute Read]
If you are dealing with body image issues or have a friend, a sister, maybe even a daughter that may be struggling, I suggest reading this. This is my story and it won’t be the same as yours, as yours won't be the same as the next person. Please keep an open mind and an open heart... it is so very worth reading til the end, that's where the magic is.
For most of my life I’ve been the ‘bigger girl’.
Growing up our family showed each other love and celebrated with food - lots of food, ‘second stomach for dessert’ kind of food. It was comforting and fun and what our huge family did best. There was never any limits or worries about eating too much, and I guess it made me a little softer and rounder than others my age.
Like most kids, I was happy and carefree and unaware of my body image or what that even meant - which is a good thing. Let kids be kids right!? But as I got older negative body image views about myself seemed to surface. And by the end of primary school and early high school, around 12-14 years old I started to notice that I wasn’t ‘skinny’ and notice that people saw that about me before anything else. I started comparing myself to all the other girls and wishing I could look as skinny and as pretty as they did. These kinds of thoughts only peaked during high school. Shortly after I graduated from high school I looked in the mirror and decided I wanted to change, primarily to lose weight and look ‘better’, to be more ‘accepted’ and ‘normal’. Back then I didn’t know any better and thought that would solve all my problems. To be clear - it didn’t and it is not the answer. I thought this would make me feel confident, I thought this would make me finally love myself. I thought if I was skinny, life would be perfect, that it was the missing link. I want to make it clear before I go on that while my main goal was weight loss to look a certain way, I also needed to make myself healthier as I know my weight and diet was harming the insides of my body.
I lost the weight, became stronger and so much healthier and did create some good lifestyle habits such as moving my body often and eating more nutritious foods. I was happy... initially. People started noticing me more and suddenly people started treating me differently... but looking back on it now, it only strengthened the thought in my head that to be worthy and accepted I have to be skinny. Which is so VERY wrong. This is not the case at all!
Fast forward a few years. I’ve maintained my weight loss but what was now becoming an overpowering issue in my everyday life was my mental health. I constantly stressed about how I looked, god forbid I drank some water and my tummy bloated, or I weighed a kilo heavier - I’d put myself down and look at it with disgust. Everything I put in my mouth had to keep me thin and restrictive eating was at an all time high. I would workout so hard I’d feel like I’d nearly faint, because that to me said I had done a good job. My every thought involved my exterior self which is sad. This is when my anxiety was full blown too. I didn't know it was anxiety at the time. Just this constant voice in my head saying I’m not good enough at anything, and making me spiral out of reality and overthink everything. I never went to the doctor or a therapist and I was never diagnosed by a professional, because at the time I didn’t see any of the above as a problem. I thought it was normal. I didn’t love myself and I did everything for others to like and love me instead... maybe then I’d see myself worthy enough of self love.
The moral of the story is that when I was big I thought I wasn’t good enough. And to my surprise when I was small, I also didn’t think I was good enough and almost cared way more about what people thought of me! I was placing my happiness and worth on others, I was giving them the power to say if I was good or not. When the only person who can do that is myself!
It breaks my heart to think I spent so much of my life judging myself and hating myself based on what I looked like and whether people liked me or not.
Now, in my late 20’s after connecting and reflecting with my inner self, practicing self love everyday, giving gratitude to my body and becoming more present and aware of my thought patterns (which after years of negative self talk is really hard to rewire)... I have finally accepted my body for what it is. Somewhere in between small and big, and it doesn't even matter the shape or size, because it’s perfectly ME! I tell my body I love it, and I actually do - something I thought people just said and didn’t mean - but it’s not. When I look in the mirror I smile. I no longer care what others think of the way I look because all that matters is what I think. I now go to the gym to move my body for fun and to socialise with my friend, and I happily go out with no makeup on and strut my stuff knowing this is who I am and how I look and I am damn proud to be unique and one of a kind!! I am my own kind of beautiful! And I’m grateful that I feel like I’ve come full circle and can see my whole journey as a blessing - as I wouldn't be the person I am today without it, I wouldn’t be wanting to spread this message and help support youth to realise how amazing they are if I didn’t go through any of this. My learnings have made me a stronger and kinder person and able to use these experiences to help others.
But let’s be real here... Loving yourself is hard. Having anxiety and negative self talk is hard. And living in a world where filters, diets, ab blaster workouts and picture perfect celebrities exist to constantly compare ourselves to, is hard. And I think if you’ve gone through body image battles at some point in your life, it never really leaves you. But you do learn how to cope with it, to think bigger and more positively, to trust that you will be ok and learn to love yourself little by little. There isn’t an instant fix and it’s constant work. Every single day you need to check in with yourself. But most importantly you need to remember to be kind to yourself, be gentle. We are only human. We try our best and not every day will be amazing, some days will be bad days and that’s ok. And if you’re reading this now and thinking there's no way I will ever love myself or my body or be truly happy. Trust yourself. Close your eyes and take a deep breath right now and say “ I am learning to love you and I won’t stop trying until I do”.
As soon as we take away the comparison and other people's views on you, you’re only left with yourself to give the love. One day you will get there, I hope with all my heart you do. You are worthy of all the love and all the happiness in the world. You are perfect as you are right now!
This is only my experience.
This is my story and it won’t be the same as yours, as yours won't be the same as the next person.
I share this knowing that showing my truths and my struggles can help show others that they’re not alone, give people a chance to feel relatable in ways, but also celebrate that we are all different in shape, size, looks, background, personality - and that is an AMAZING thing. We are all worthy of feeling loved, happy and supported.
Keep being your incredible self. I see you. I believe in YOU.