Since I was in middle school, I’ve been self-conscious of my body. VERY self-conscious. Somehow throughout the years, I thought I wasn’t beautiful because I wasn’t super skinny, and I didn’t look like other girls. It started in seventh grade where my anxiety plays a huge role. Middle school introduced the concept of locker rooms, where girls dressed down for PE in the same room. However, I didn’t follow the dress code, which was a grey t-shirt and shorts or leggings; instead, I bought a grey sweatshirt specifically for PE since I felt too uncomfortable without it.
I started to hate not wearing sweatshirts because I felt too vulnerable. It didn’t seem to be too much of a problem for me, except during hot days, but I eventually got used to it even though people would always ask why I was wearing a thick coat or sweater in 80-100-degree weather.
I didn’t know it then, but it is SO important to have confidence. It wasn’t just PE that revved my anxiety over my body. Twice each year, I’ve been a part of a dance performance in my small church, along with my two best friends and their sisters. We would practice every Sunday for a couple of months before each performance; and of course, all of us wore pretty dresses for the dance. It just so happened that we all got ready for the dance together in the same room. And every time, I hid behind the rack that all the dresses hung from because I didn’t want to be noticed.
In eighth grade, I made the transition from public school to an online school at home, because my anxiety had reached a point where I cried often and begged my mom to be homeschooled. I was happy to never have to worry about how I looked. I just wore pajamas every day and that didn’t matter. Then, my family decided to try out a diet to be healthier, and I wanted to try, too. The first two weeks I started seeing noticeable changes that made me feel so much better about myself, but for some reason, we quit the diet. I still continued to be as healthy as I could, but nothing ever seemed to work the same as that diet, and it proved to be difficult since my family didn’t officially do the same diet all together.
Flash forward a few months later, my family decided to become vegan for health reasons, as well as to benefit the planet. I tried it out, too! But I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty in trying to be vegan around my friends who are very much NOT vegan. Every time I went to a friend’s house, they had very little food that fit into my vegan diet, and I was often left hungry all day. Plus, being vegan didn’t change me physically like the first diet.
When high school started, I returned to a public school because while I got to wear pajamas all day, the isolation was unbearable and my anxiety built up later on during that year because of my ADD and my difficulty with the tests. I wanted to make new friends, and I promised myself I would dress up in cute clothes everyday because it made me feel good. But instead, I reverted back to wearing my sweatshirts and jeggings everyday. I tried everything I could to get the body I wanted including working out, yoga, more and more different diets, but nothing seemed to stick. Then I would notice myself downgrading, so I’d switch diets and workouts. Again.
I lived an entire year of discomfort, anxiety, and a roller coaster of dieting, which wreaked havoc on my emotional well-being. Despite switching everything up several times, I did not get the results I wanted. I tried to focus on the positive: my legs were getting stronger. I felt stronger. But still, I constantly looked at myself and criticized everything I didn’t like: I don’t have a small waist. I don’t like my hips. I have love handles. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not pretty. Why is my body so complicated? Nothing’s working! Why do I have to be the only one of my friends that has to workout and diet and be sensitive to so many foods? Why can’t I feel even a little bit good about my body? Is there something wrong with how I look because I don’t look like her?
Obsessive much? No one told me I was wrong, but through years of comparing myself over and over, I sure learned it myself.
It took me so many years to realize I was thinking about myself incorrectly. Years to realize that it wasn’t my body that was wrong – it was society. You don’t need what society calls “a perfect body” to be BEAUTIFUL!!! You can be skinny, or not, curvy, flat, have love handles, have a butt, or not, or whatever! How much time, emotion, and energy have you wasted feeling bad about yourself or your body? I don’t want to spend one more minute of my life hating what I look like.
Confidence doesn’t have to come with a new look or a different body. It can be you right now. You will find so much freedom in just embracing what you look like. The beautiful you that God created. I wish I’d never worried so much about how I looked. I went swimming recently with my best friends, and we all decided to “wear a bikini anyway.” You know what? It felt freeing to me because I just didn’t have a care in the world.
I hope you know that you are awesome, and you shouldn’t let the fear of what other people think control how you want to live your life! Have self-love right now. It’s a decision. If you don’t have supportive people around you right now in your life, find them. Join a forum or a Facebook group. They are everywhere. And WE are here to cheer you on through your journey until you get where you want to be. Until then, Do Brave! Just be you, and know that you are truly amazing exactly the way you are.