What I wish I could tell my younger self about body confidence
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first compared my body to another female’s. I was six years old, in my first ballet class. I could hardly contain my excitement. I talked about it for days, and my mom even bought a purple tutu that was just fabulous. I walked into the class for the first time and I remember seeing all the other girls looking different than me. Not just because they all had on black tutus, and I had on a sparkly purple one, but they looked physically different. I knew right away that I didn’t feel comfortable in the class.
I wasn’t that husky of a child, but you could tell that I was a little chubby. We started learning pliés right away and as they were all bending their knees I was looking at their stomachs, thinking to myself “how come my belly sticks out and theirs goes straight down?” We then proceeded to do “leaping exercises.” My legs didn’t work like the other girls. I didn’t really understand how theirs could get so high off the ground. Were my legs made of cement? We had to demonstrate our leaps in front of the class. I felt like everyone was looking at me, and I hated every minute of it. That was the last ballet class I went to.
Body consciousness starts earlier than most people realize. It is a different experience for everybody. Young children absorb emotions from all over and pick up their characteristics along the way from family and friends around them. When I have children, I want to make sure I am giving the best example I can so they can grow up in a household that has positive and healthy body image. I think the younger the negative body images start, the harder it is to break that thought process.
Here are some things I wish I could have told myself when I was younger about being positive about my body
Food is not evil
I used to loathe my appetite. I confused “healthy” for “then.” I felt guilty after meals. I wish I could go back and tell myself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying food. Eating is not an “indulgence.” You need to eat! Carbohydrates are not the enemy, trust me. You can take your time and enjoy your dessert without shame. It’s all about balance. There are so many healthier ways to cope with anxiety.
Have positive role models
Look up to positive, strong women. You need someone with healthy values and someone who respects themselves among other women. And you don’t need people in your life who will nitpick every calorie you eat and every dress you wear. Find a group of women who love themselves, and follow suit.
Don’t fall into the body-shaming trap
Judging people’s bodies is something that is pervasive in our culture, and it’s sometimes hard to know that you’re doing it. But really, try to be openhearted and not judgmental. You have no idea what that person is going through. Everyone has their battles that they deal with. Next time you start to judge yourself or another person, take a moment step back and think, “Where is this coming from? What is going on with my own body image that I am deflecting this negative energy onto others?” Sit down and really think about it.
Your weight does NOT dictate your worth
You are a beautiful, you are a warrior and you are more than enough. I was told that you should look in the mirror every morning and say one thing a day that you love about yourself. Trust me; I know it is a lot easier said than done. I felt so awkward doing it at first. But it really helped. Remember that fat, skinny, large, small, all shapes and sizes: we’re beautiful because of our humanity, not because of a number on a scale.
To be honest, it’s still awkward for me when I get a compliment. I used to think that when I accepted a compliment it made me sound full of myself. Now, I look them in the eye and say “thank you.” Don’t dismiss someone else s perspective because you don’t believe it yourself. Stop always looking for flaws. Just be you! You are allowed to fall in love with yourself. You are allowed to think you are a gorgeous human being, because you are.
No one knows your pant size
Dress for your body. You will gain confidence if you feel great. No one knows what size pants you are wearing. Sometimes I wear a 14 sometimes an 18, it all depends on the brand. If you feel good in them, then the size of the pants shouldn’t make a difference.
Romance doesn’t have a size limit
From the television and movie images of romance, you’d think that the only people who find love are perfectly fit movie stars. Not so, my friend. Look around: Love happens to people of every imaginable description. It doesn’t depend on what you weigh or what your body looks like. You’re beautiful. Believe it.
Cassandra Schwabe is a 27 year old woman from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who is trying to spread body positivity and humor around the world. Follow her on Twitter @schwabec.