What to Remember About Body Image
Last summer, I was the thinnest I’ve ever been to. I fit into anything I wanted to wear. I felt somewhat confident in my bikinis, and I took pictures of myself in my bedroom mirror. I was also starving myself, and it was difficult for me to walk from the beach to the condo beneath the blistering sun without wobbling from exhaustion and dehydration. Even though I knew I was thin, I always found pieces of myself I didn’t like and would resolve to lose more weight. It took several months of therapy for me to admit that I had major body image issues, and was spiraling into an eating disorder.
This summer, I am writing from the same condominium. I am at least ten pounds heavier. My clothes are a little tighter, and I have cellulite on my thighs, booty, and tummy. When I arrived at the airport, I told my boyfriend that I am living my “Fat Summer.” I’ve only now realized that sexist lies have woven their way into my own vocabulary, and I voice hatred towards my natural body. I eat food now and have thus gained a healthy amount of weight. But my body insecurities have persisted.
Women are particularly predisposed to body image disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and body dysmorphic disorder. We are inundated constantly with images of perfect bodies and are often taught that our bodies determine our value. Body shaming is rampant, and often, certain body types are glamorized, while others are tarnished. I grew up feeling pressure to look perfect, to eat less than my male counterparts, to be sexy, but not slutty, and to cater myself to the male gaze. Those demands were so toxic that they spawned my disordered eating habits. Many of my friends struggle similarly.
I have learned that I cannot love others well if I do not love myself. Part of self-love is acceptance and tenderness towards your body. It is a recognition that you are valuable and beautiful in your own skin. It is understanding that much of the hatred many women feel for their bodies is nothing more than sexist and arbitrary social standards woven into our daily lives.
This summer, though we are in the middle of a pandemic, those who struggle with their body image will be particularly vulnerable to poor mental health. Here are a few things to remind yourself of when you are feeling low.
- Beauty is more than physical. Your intelligence, joy, kindness, compassion, artistry, and so many other things exemplify the beauty of your character and personality.
- Health looks different for everybody. There are so many different body types in the world, and health is not one-size-fits-all.
- You are valuable because you are human. Your body does not make you valuable. You have innate value because you are human, worthy of love, and respect.
My journey with my own body image is far from over. As I learn to love myself regardless of my size, I hope that my story and these tips will help you grow to love yourself, too. What are some ways that you have learned to love your body more?