Body shaming; From overanalyzing our bone structure to punishing ourselves for putting on water weight, self-criticism is something that is predominant and frightening in most women. As I write to you, I’m tempted to tell you that I’m currently guilty of drinking two glasses of wine and noshing on Ghirardelli squares. When it comes down to it, “guilty” is the most trivial adjective I could select, so why does it seem so natural to say?
Several weeks ago I posted a picture of myself in a bikini on Instagram for Body Confidence Week, and guess what – the internet did not crash, I was not publically shamed, and I’m still living to tell the tale of my imperfect torso broadcasted across social media. For the most part, I followed through with the challenge by posting requested pictures of physical features I embraced or had grown more comfortable with overtime. According to AmplifyYourVoice.org, approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies, so I figured I was (unfortunately) in good company.
Towards the end of the challenge, I had reached the day I had been dreading: “Post a photo of yourself in a bathing suit or beach wear.” As a girl who is hardly a size 2 and a Floridian who has managed to avoid the beach for years, I was not so enthused by the challenge. Feeling obligated to follow through, I begrudgingly found a string bikini and selfied away. Overtaken by some alien form of courage, I kindly let everyone know my lack of abs does not change my intelligence, perseverance, beauty, strength or success.
Within minutes my single photo received an immense amount of positive feedback from friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. I was showered with generous compliments about how I shouldn’t have to feel the need to cover up at the beach, that I should wear bikinis more often, and to be proud of my figure. I had won the body confidence war for the day.
In the days following the challenge, I felt the pressing need to bury the photo on my Instagram feed. I couldn’t stand the sight of looking at my curves and seeing my body exposed on such a public platform. The only valid feeling I could relate this to was disgust. I soon learned that nothing anyone could say about my figure would be believable to me. I hated the way I looked, causing everyone who had offered their positivity to be casted as a liar. I rationalized my thoughts with negative ideas like “they probably just feel bad for you,” “they probably are embarrassed for you,” “they’re only being nice because it’s not them,” and any conviction I could muster from my ill-willed mindset. The photo came down, no one said anything, life went on, but where did that leave me?
If you asked me, I would have told you I failed the Body Confidence Week Challenge, yet failure is not a plausible outcome when we’re strictly up against ourselves. The challenge wasn’t to impress friends or receive compliments, but to establish an understanding of my self-perception and force myself to recognize the things – although far and few between – that I find beautiful about myself. I immediately identified that in the dark cloud of confidence, my weight is my largest downfall, a weight that is perfectly healthy.
As an overweight child with a sluggish thyroid and a love of dessert, I was always on the chubby side of life. I teetered in size, weighing my emotions on a scale, especially during difficult challenges in my life. At my smallest size, I wouldn’t put a morsel of food into my mouth until I had accurately logged it into my trusty calorie tracker. My nutrition controlled me so much that I felt a plunging guilt that could lead me to tears on the occasional cheat day. Earlier this year, I wouldn’t even start a blog because I didn’t want people to judge me for my size – a size medium, sometimes even a small. It took research and accepting to realize my body type isn’t made to be an XS, just like a majority of women around the world.
According to DoSomething.org, more than 1/3 of the people who admit to “normal dieting,” will merge into pathological dieting. Roughly 1/4 of those will suffer from a partial or full-on eating disorder. Understanding these statistics and recognizing our own negative habits is stepping on the correct line between healthy and unhealthy nutrition.
My short-lived Instagram photo just proved this resurgence of temporary self-love overshadowed by petty hate built up from every life rejection and image of a friend who could confidently wear things I could never imagine to. Similar to hate, guilt is a heavy feeling to carry with you forever. Women feeling shame towards their bodies can generate a lack confidence throughout all areas of their life; it’s an unforgiving butterfly effect.
Can we take 10 notable seconds to realize that the trivial thigh gap is not the epitome of our body’s greatest accomplishments? Humans are outstanding – your body just regenerated 50,000 cells in the amount of time it took you to read this sentence. Your eyes can distinguish more than a million colors and take in more information than the world’s largest telescope. Your body is responsible for your energy, happiness, and ability to give and sustain human life. We should be proud of our bodies, success, careers, intelligence, hobbies, relationships, and all of life’s efficacious joys. We’re much more valuable than a number a scale, far better than our reflection in the mirror, and far more important than anyone who tells us we aren’t.