I grew up with my beautiful mother always telling me beautiful I was. I was somewhat in awe of her- being only 23 when I was born, she was young and cool and I had no reason not to believe her.
I made it all the way to year 8 (age 12) before I stopped to consider that perhaps I was not as pretty as I had always known I was. I went to a boarding school, utterly different from anything I’d experienced and my two closest friends had started talking about their diet. I knew what a diet was, but I knew I didn’t need one- people were always telling me how thin I was. Those two girls once asked me what I didn’t like about my body and my reply (which once ashamed me and now I am so proud of my young self) was ‘Nothing. I like my body’.
That is not to say that I thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world, I just was happy with what I had. I definitely did have imperfections and insecurities. I spent a few years from the age of eight covering my knobbly knees when I wore skirts, and at the age of ten I grew two inches in two months and acquired a zebra striping of stretch marks on my bum and thighs. I knew I wasn’t perfect, but those imperfections didn’t make me dislike my body. To me, they were just there, parts of my body that were unchangeable and that I was happy to live with because that was the way I was.
My friends told me that this was really narcissistic and full of myself. They were pretty mean about it, telling me that of course there was at least something wrong with me and that I must think a lot of myself if I didn’t think I had any problems. Of course I did, but they were unimportant to me- I would rather worry about how to pass my flute exam, or understanding the book we were reading in class. So I stopped eating, and dieted and obsessed about the gym because I didn’t want to be narcissistic, and I didn’t want my friends to think I was a bad person. I pretended to be unhappy with my body until I eventually was. I lost all self confidence and stayed that way.
I am now 21. My weight has fluctuated over the last 3 years, at one point last year reaching 10 stone, somewhere I never thought I’d be. I truly began to hate my body. I hated that spare tire, the cellulite on my legs, the fat in my arms. I gained some new stretch marks on my muffin top, bright angry red ones that are visible over my jeans. I saw those and despaired. They looked horrible, how could I get rid of them? I spent so much money on Bio Oil that didn’t work and so much time frantically rubbing my skin to remove them, that also didn’t work. I was fat, stretch marked and unhappy.
So how did I get back here, loving myself, in a few short months? I love the freckle on my collar bone. I love the ringlets my hair forms. I love the shape of my boobs and the size of my toes. I think I have perfect lips and a nice nose. What I’m saying is, I began to focus on the things I love and accept my body the way it is, loving the good and the bad. Yes, I am losing weight and happy about it, but we don’t need to lose weight to love ourselves. I am allowing the good things to lift me up higher than my insecurities are dragging me down. I focus on the good things because they are good. I’m not going to pretend to be modest and unhappy about them in order to make other people happy. Women are allowed to love themselves and be happy in the skin they inhabit. Sure, we all have things that maybe we’d change or that aren’t our favourite parts, but we’re allowed to celebrate the good and love ourselves regardless of what anyone else thinks.
P.S I hope I didn’t come off a bit Samantha Brick here..