Something occurred to me the other day as I was watching a movie on Netflix. There was one particular scene that made me wish I could go back to my late teens, early 20’s. The girl was trying on some clothes and admiring herself in the mirror. And it was that comfort that she felt in looking at her reflection that gave me pause.
I cannot recall ever looking at myself with such confidence. Ever. To be honest, it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Watching her made me sad. And I’ll tell you why.
If I go back and look at pictures of myself around the same age as her, I now see a young woman, that should have felt more confident, more at ease in her body. Not because I was all that, but because I would soon be past those days of youth, and regret that I didn’t embrace them, embrace myself more than I did. My low self-esteem held me back from so many things.
I hated how I looked and felt that if I looked different the world would open up for me. So, I became anorexic in high school. I didn’t set out with anorexia as my goal, but it seemed the smaller I became, the more people noticed me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being ignored prior to that, but I wasn’t exactly being “seen” either. Losing weight got me compliments. Losing weight made me feel better about myself.
The pictures from those days paint a different reality. I was sick. Not only mentally, but physically. There are so many things I would do differently if I could go back. I imagine that if I had projected more confidence (real, or imagined) I would have had the life that I so desperately wanted.
In some ways I feel like that girl now – just decades older.Wanting to fit in the pages of the magazines, but finding that I’m exhausted from decades of trying to fit a mold that was invented by an industry that constantly set me up for failure – then and now.
Over the years I’ve seen the standards being tested by different body types. But it still bothers me that women are being categorized by body type at all. Plus-sized, full-figured, skinny – all these define women by shape. We are bombarded with headlines about losing weight. Flooded with photos of beautiful, happy, people who just happen to have the perfect body.
I’ve been fed, and have been “eating” these images since I was in 7th grade. And even though I know there is no one size fits all, and that photos are altered, it has never stopped me from second-guessing how I look.
My body isn’t perfect in any way. It doesn’t look the way I wish it did. And I’m not sure that it ever will after a lifetime of being brainwashed.
But at the age of 51, what I’m trying to focus on is not what my body looks like, but what my body has done:
- brought two beautiful souls into this world
- survived heart surgery
- run a 1/2 marathon
- survived a suicide attempt
- overcome an eating disorder
I encourage all of you to give a shout-out to the body that has gotten them this far. After all, you wouldn’t be here without it. 🙂