How I learned to love myself just the way I am
I remember very clearly the first time I wished I could change something about my body. I was sitting on my bathroom floor with two other girls who lived in my neighborhood and we were painting each other’s toenails. I looked over at the girl sitting next to me and thought, man, her thighs are so skinny, I wish mine where that skinny. Why I don’t look like her? I was only eight years old.
Looking back I can reason with myself and say with certainty that the reason why this girl had skinnier thighs than me is that we had very different body types. This girl was petite with narrow hips, and skinny legs — the exact opposite of me. Of COURSE she and I would have different bodies! And while I am tall, and have always been naturally thin, I have my father’s wide hips and butt. I wish that I could look back and tell that little girl: you are beautiful just the way you are, and you shouldn’t want to be anyone other then yourself.
I wonder when other girls have that moment. The first time when she looks in the mirror and says to her reflection: I wish I could change my nose, or Why can’t I look just like her. I was eight when I first started having these thoughts, but the more young girls I meet, the more I realize I wasn’t the only one.
So, where does this desire to be perfect come from? Is it the media? Beauty magazines? Other girls? A product of societal expectations? Could it even come from our parents, coaches, and teachers? While I never had an issue with food, or really questioned the relationship between my body and the way I eat, I knew others who did. Girls who struggled with anorexia and bulimia. I thought I wasn’t like them though, because I still ate, and I never purposely deprived myself of anything. But that doesn’t mean that I was comfortable in my own skin —I would never have what I had deemed as the “ideal body type”: tall, thin, narrow hips, and small but perky boobs. And because I didn’t meet my criteria for a perfect body, I felt ugly and disgusting. While I wasn’t binging and purging, or starving myself, clearly I did not have a healthy relationship with my body.
It took a long time for me to learn how to embrace and love my body. This kind of self-love is something that needs to be worked on and thought about every day. It is a process, and a journey. It wasn’t until the end of high school when I really began to realize that I was beautiful just the way I was. I realized that there was no point in worrying about aspects about myself I couldn’t change. Maybe I didn’t think my body was perfect, but it was my body. And it deserved love.
In this journey learning to love myself I have come to realize that when Audrey Hepburn said, “The happiest girls are the prettiest girls.” She was right. And I believe that we can take it a step further and add “confident girls” to that as well. When I look back on all of the most beautiful girls I have ever met, they are the ones with huge smiles on their faces, and beaming with self-confidence. They know who they are and what they are capable of. They are all different shapes and sizes and come from all different walks of life.
I have come to accept and love the body that I have been given. And it is true, I still have days when I look in the mirror and wish that I saw something different, days when my self-confidence is lacking. But when I do have those days I focus on the positive. For every bad thought I have about my body, I tell myself to come up with 10 things that I love about not only my body, but my mind, because women are so much more than their jean size. And while we live in a world that loves to compare us to society’s current standards of beauty, we don’t have to play that game anymore. As women, we have a tendency to beat ourselves up. But it should be our goal to build each other up and celebrate our amazing differences.