There’s this preconceived notion that women should feel bad about their bodies. It’s almost as if, no matter what you look like, you’re programmed and conditioned to hate yourself. In a room full of women, if you were to pick one who had your ideal body type, chances are she has at least three different things that she dislikes about herself, and you didn’t even notice them.
Body trends change, all the time. Remember when thin was in, and there was this huge obsession over being a size zero? Now everyone wants a tiny top half, teamed with a massive arse and toned, thick, cellulite-free legs. Then there was the big boob trend of the noughties. I remember this vividly because it was shortly after that I became a teenager and all of my friends were blessed with giant tits while I remained a solid A cup until I turned 18.
Anyways, the point is that body trends change and so do our bodies. When I moved away to college I gained two and a half stone in three months, and suddenly I had these huge boobs that I’d wished so much for. But, was I happy with my body? No I was not. Now that I was blessed in the boob department, I had other things to worry about. Is that back fat? Jesus my calves are gone awful chunky. Why are my arms so flabby? No matter what weight you are, you’re going to find problem areas.
You can’t and you won’t stay the same weight forever, it’s pretty much impossible not to fluctuate throughout different stages of your life. Comparing yourself to the way you looked when you were 17 is not realistic for anyone. Almost a year and a half ago, I lost a good chunk of weight when I started on antidepressants. When this stopped, I went through a rough patch while studying abroad so my eating got worse, and I lost more weight. At this stage, I was a teeny tiny size 8. But while I was fairly confident with my figure, I was just thin and miserable. More often than not we equate thinness to happiness, but I definitely was not happy.
And now? I have no idea what I weigh. I know that if I stepped on a weighing scale, I’d probably get really upset. I have this bracket of what an “acceptable weight” is for myself, and I just know I’m way over it at the moment. But the difference is that I’m the happiest I ever have been with my body at the moment, mainly because I’ve worked hard to change my thought process and the way I look at, talk about, and think about myself. Because I’ve spent so many years trying to change my body, and I’m tired of it.
It started with changing the way I looked at myself in the mirror. More often than not, when we look at our bodies we focus on the perceived “bad stuff” for so long that we forget there are parts that we like as well. What do you like about yourself? I like my lips, my eyes, and my tattooed legs. I like my boobs and my bum and my jawline. It’s weird to see somebody saying positive things about their body, isn’t it? We have it instilled in us from such a young age that we should hate our bodies, that listening to somebody talk about liking parts of themselves almost feels foreign to us.
You are not defined by your body parts. When I looked in the mirror, for a long time all I could see was my hips that were “too wide”, my stomach that was “too big” and my boobs that were “too small”. I would obsess over these things and completely overlook the fact that, hips and stomach and boobs aside, I was an actual human being and not just a body. That there was more to me than my flaws; I realised then that people see you as a whole. They’re too caught up their own insecurities to notice yours.
Other people do not notice the things you think are wrong with your body, I can guarantee you that. That girl who’s slim, toned legs you admire and compare to your own? She probably doesn’t even pay attention to her legs because she’s so fixated on the size of her nose. People are too busy obsessing over their own problem areas that they rarely notice anyone else’s. When I take a full-length photo, I often find myself staring at it for a couple of minutes. As time goes by, I notice more and more things that are wrong with myself and by the end of it I think, “Jesus, I can’t show anybody this”. But nobody else looks at you like that. Nobody scrutinises you the way that you scrutinise yourself. They don’t stare at you intently, on the lookout for your flaws and things that are wrong with you. They’re looking for the best parts of you, and more often than not it expands to more than just your body parts. Start looking for the best parts of you too.
On to clothes, sizing and the fashion industry in general. I used to get so upset if I had to go up a dress size. To the point where if I needed a new pair of jeans and the size 8 didn’t fit me, I’d leave the shop empty handed and spend my day anxiety ridden and feeling bad about myself. That or I’d buy the jeans anyways, squeeze myself into them and feel bad about myself every time I put them on. They were a reminder that I was uncomfortable with my body (mentally and physically) and that my body was not “good enough”. Even after I’d stopped torturing myself by wearing them, I’d leave them in my wardrobe in the hope that one day I’d be good enough to wear them. Every so often I’d take them out and try them on, and continue the cycle of feeling bad about my body.
I realise how fucking problematic that was now. I realised that, who the fuck cares about the size of your clothes as long as you feel comfortable in them? Now when I shop in places that are notorious for bad sizing (Penneys and H&M, I’m talking about you) I bring a range of sizes in with me when possible. In I go to the changing rooms with a size 8, 10 and 12 in hand and I buy the one that I feel the most comfortable in. Fuck squeezing myself into clothes that are too small for me.
I was making myself physically uncomfortable with my clothing choice. But why are you uncomfortable? Is it because you’re physically uncomfortable wearing something, or because society says that you can’t wear it because of your body shape? We have it instilled in us that if your problem area is your belly, you shouldn’t wear tight skirts or crop tops. But who ACTUALLY says that? Who makes these stupid rules? Are people with this body type supposed to go around in loose bin bag type attire, slim arms and legs hanging out at each side? Fuck that. Challenge these views. Know that you look great, and feel great in your crop top whether you’re a size 10 or a size 18.
If you really don’t feel comfortable wearing clothes that are “not suited to” your body shape, that’s cool too. It’s only recently that I’ve started to feel okay wearing certain styles of clothes. I used to have a wardrobe full of clothes that made me feel bad about myself, not just the jeans I was squeezing myself into. Then one day I decided I was sick of it.
I took everything I owned out of my wardrobe and made a decision. I was getting rid of EVERYTHING that made me feel bad about myself when I put it on. Didn’t matter how nice it was, how expensive it was, or the potential I had to look good in it someday. If I didn’t feel confident wearing it now, it was gone. I also got rid of anything that was too small for me, or that I hadn’t worn in the past two months. No excuses, if I wasn’t wearing it now I was never going to wear it. I got rid of well over half my wardrobe that day, it was scary.
But with all this extra wardrobe space, I was forced to rethink the type of clothes that I actually wanted to wear. My fashion sense and style changed completely after that, because I stopped dressing the way that I felt society expected me to dress and started to wear whatever the fuck I wanted to. Getting changed out of my pyjamas used to feel like such a task for me; I hated my body and on top of that I just didn’t feel confident in my clothes. Once I’d bought a couple of new things that felt more like “me”, that task started getting a lot easier. And updating your wardrobe doesn’t have to be expensive either, I did it gradually and found bits and pieces in charity shops. That said, it’s also nice to save a bit of your wages every week and treat yourself.
If your attitude to clothing is, “I can’t pull this off” I can tell you now that you’re wrong. Realistically, you can pull anything off; you just have to have the confidence to do it. Next time you see a girl and compare your problem areas to hers, i.e. “she has such clear skin and my acne is awful”, compliment her instead of making a comparison and feeling bad about yourself. I can guarantee you that she has insecurities too, and you might just make her day.
And by the way, everyone looks weird naked so stop stressing over that.
*Disclaimer: I know that, at a size 10, it’s very easy for me to preach about body positivity. But we all have things we dislike about our bodies, and that’s what I’m trying to highlight. I’m a firm believer that you deserve to be happy with your body no matter what size you are. If you’re sick of hating your body, I’d recommend following @bodyposipanda on Instagram. Her posts completely changed the way I viewed myself, and I’m in the process of reading her book “Body Positive Power” which can be bought here.