When I look back at pictures of me in my early childhood, I remember thinking I was beautiful. I always wondered what I was going to look like when I grew up and if I would look like my Mom, Cinderella, or one of the celebrities I idolized. As a little girl I had high expectations as to what I would look like as a 20-some-year-old, but I never expected to experience so much self doubt and self loathing as I did growing up. At what age do we stop looking in the mirror and telling ourselves how beautiful and unstoppable we are?
I never realized I was fat until I was told by another girl in the second grade that I should probably lose a couple of pounds or eat a healthier lunch. That was the first time I started looking at myself differently in the mirror and the first time I started using the word “fat” to describe myself. As a determined nine year old, I decided I would do everything in my power to grow up and be beautiful like the other girls in my class and my mom. Sounds silly, but I received constant reinforcement from my classmates telling me that I was “chubby”, “too big”, or “ugly”. At such a young age words like that have stuck with me even though I look completely different almost thirteen years later.
It started with classmates doing the bullying, but then it turned into me bullying myself into weight loss. I told myself that to be worthy, I had to be skinny. I counted calories, constantly did sit ups and ate salads for every meal until I had become so skinny that it was a danger to my health. My hair was falling out, I was constantly fatigued, and starving. Even though I was underweight, I still saw myself as “chubby”, “too big”, or “ugly".
I had family members and friends push me to get help and after about a year of therapy and nutrition work, I was healthy. My body was healthy, but my mind wasn't. I struggled with my body image and regaining self confidence. I danced competitively and worked out daily all through high school and this really helped with my self image. I still struggled time to time with what I looked like, but I was learning how to appreciate everything my body could do. My arms were there to give warm hugs, my legs helped me perform some of my favorite dance routines, and my stomach was were I felt laughter and butterflies. I started looking at my body as my friend and it changed the way I felt towards myself.
It’s sad and concerning to think how many girls develop body image issues and self esteem issues at such a young age and never shake the habit. Once they stop receiving the negative reinforcement in a verbal sense from classmates or bullies, they start to negatively reinforce those stereotypes in their head. Every morning when they wake up and look in the mirror they think: “you’re not good enough” or “you’re fat” or something much worse.
All I ask is that you look in the mirror today and thank your body for everything it does for you. You're beautiful, loved, and worthy no matter what you look like.