I used to believe that my body would never be mine.
Whenever a photo of a young, teenage me resurfaces, I can’t help but be floored by how… thin I was. That’s what strikes me first. And I believe it’s probably because at that time, I always thought I was 5-10 lbs away from being at an even remotely acceptable weight. I still wonder who made me believe that “fat” is a label that makes you less of a person, that it’s the one adjective you do not want to be. The answer is nobody really, but everybody at the same time.
I realized that whether or not I was “fat” was a predominant concern of mine, because I had nothing else to justify to myself that I was worth anything more. So I looked to other people and their overwhelmingly enthusiastic comments on my appearance and accepted that as validity of my whole being.
Though this was years ago, I still see women who forcefully, sometimes violently and often bitterly carve themselves back into the perfect teenage bodies they did or didn’t have when their womanly shapes are burgeoning through. And while the better part of me wonders why, my good sense understands exactly. And sometimes I still am that woman, or rather, sometimes I still am that 13-year-old girl, and what that girl did in those days was assign ownership of her body to the people who would judge it. The same thing I still see grown women doing now.
I let the compliments and feelings of love and appreciation for my physical appearance compile and create for me a resting ground on which I knew I could always rely. But that wasn’t enough, because it was built from other people. People who could (and would) retract their doting comments of approval just as quickly as they dished them out. This is the core of instability, my friends. It was that part of myself in which I took pride and ownership, but it was not mine at all. I didn’t love myself for who I was, I loved myself for who I was because other people would love it.
I realized that I was in a place where I would spend forever asking the people I was dating “will you love me if I’m 300 lbs?” and I would spend forever at the whim of the dress that didn’t fit and the legislation that didn’t seem fair and the comments that made me feel whole because they made me believe that on the outside, I was worthy of that feeling. I would spend forever believing that my body would never be mine, rather, something to be adjusted for the sake of other people’s opinions. Opinions, I realized, that were rooted in their own sense of self-deprecation. Not because they were that invested in me.
It was only years and flurries of pant size fluctuation, months of self-loathing and days upon days of searching for the cure to my incessant need to be beautiful in other people’s eyes that a very important truth dawned on me. The problem wasn’t what other people would say or do or believe, it was what I interpreted from those words and actions and thoughts. The problem was me all along.
And so now here I am. An adult woman, defiantly redefining herself each day, moving farther and farther away from unhealthy mindsets and toxic opinions, but who still can’t help but wonder how many girls still believe that their bodies won’t ever be theirs. And it’s one of those things in which no words that I can offer can really heal, because it’s the journey that will save you from it. So wherever you are on that long, twisty road, reader who made it this far down because something in this struck a chord with you, I hope you realize what I realized far too late in the game. That acceptance is usually not something that arrives in bits and pieces. It sweeps through you when it’s present, it creates avenues where there were road blocks and understanding where there was frustration. Find it in you, dig it out from under the shit pile the world threw on it and let it infiltrate everything. That’s where we dawn on a life that doesn’t require other people to approve of it, and where we’ll all meet eventually, the day we realize that it’s in judging other people that we intoxicate ourselves.
I LOVE this. Literally still getting chills.