As young women, you and I are both well aware of the pressure that is placed on us to look a certain way. Body image is an integral part of our lives and how we view ourselves. We live in a consumer culture that wants us to be insecure about our looks, so we’re enticed to purchase products that will supposedly help us feel better about ourselves.
This is a topic that hits close to home for me, as I have struggled with body image and disordered eating since I was ten years old. Growing up, I was similar in size and shape compared to most of my friends. However around the age of thirteen, I grew five inches in the span of six months and began to notice changes in my body that were scary albeit completely natural for someone my age. I became extraordinarily self conscious when I had to start wearing women’s sizes because kid’s clothes no longer fit me.
The girls I watched religiously on television all seemed to look the same way – petite and slender, and I thought there was something wrong with me because my body looked nothing like theirs. A toxic cycle of not eating enough/ eating far too much consumed my preteen and early teenage years.
It took me awhile to realize I was not the only one who felt this way about my body. One of my close friends revealed to me that she was also suffering from an eating disorder. I was shocked — how could this skinny fit friend of mine possibly hate how she looked?
“My hips are too wide”, she told me “I can pinch the fat on my arms and stomach”.
Although we bared little physical resemblance, we had both been trapped in a seemingly endless web of self-hatred and guilt.
The first time I began to form a positive image of myself was about a year ago — and it didn’t come from losing weight. I joined a gym and started exercising regularly, it wasn’t until I started conquering my fitness goals that I realised my body had a purpose that wasn’t purely superficial.
I soon realized that everyone looks different and is built in different ways. If we all looked the same, that would be dreadfully boring and ultimately unfulfilling. Once I stopped comparing myself to others, I became my own biggest competitor in a positive and life changing way.
The scary part is that my story is not unique. A recent study conducted by Dove noted that 40% of girls between first and third grade wish to be thinner. I fear that I may one day have a daughter who feels the way I once did (and still sometimes do). Young girls should be worried about who they’re going to play with after school – not how much they weigh.
What do you think?