Words from anonymous
Whenever I see the words ‘body image’ and ‘positivity’ together I have a tendency to switch off. Originally this was because I was confident it didn’t apply to me – I didn’t have issues with how I looked. But more recently, it’s because I’ve become increasingly aware that ‘loving your body’ is so much easier said than done, especially when the people saying it appear to have already reached the goal. It sort of feels like someone leaning down to pat me on the head and saying “everything’s going to be fine” when what I really need to hear is that everything is fine, and will continue to be so.
I’ve been looking forward to summer this year, more than usual actually. Which I find odd, as also more than usual, I’m struggling to choose between wearing less layers or over-heating to the point of combustion. The choice is harder than it sounds. I both appreciate and envy what it’s like to feel comfortable wearing a strappy singlet or shorts that don’t go down to the knee, because two years ago bushfires would have been the thing I dreaded most as summer approached, not the exposure of my body. I am keen for summer – for spending time at the beach with friends, for getting to wear the clothes that have been shoved to the back of my cupboard for a year – but I’m worried the conflict in my head will only intensify in the coming months.
I know I’m not the only one dealing with something like this. For so long I felt like I was alone on the outside of a vast majority who didn’t like the way they looked, and through early high school I continued to observe, a little closer to home but still as an outsider, this apparent mentality norm. I saw its influence on society and it all seemed so obsessive and unnecessary – and honestly, it still feels that way sometimes: it feels obsessive when I catch myself avoiding mirrors while seeking them out, it feels unnecessary and I try to persuade myself that it’s not a real problem in the moments I stop feeling disgusted long enough that I can think about it and feel okay. Now I don’t have the numbers, I don’t know what percentage of any population has body image issues, but it seems common enough that while I’m wondering if someone’s noticed that thing about me I don’t want them to notice, they’re possibly too busy wondering if I’ve noticed something about them to even suspect I might be having the same problem. I find thinking that is a good way to get through situations.
So now I have an understanding of those once incomprehensible thoughts. Now I’m on the inside, and I still kind of feel alone. It’s because I don’t know anyone with the same experience as me, but then again, no one really has the exact same experience. So this comfort in solidarity that I’ve been looking for isn’t just about mutual understanding – it’s about mutual acceptance even when we don’t understand. Something my past, body-confident self didn’t know yet.
The acceptance isn’t just about other people either. Just being aware of my own body sometimes is too much to bear, and even outside of those moments, no matter how hard I try there are things about my body I just can’t love. This means that just around people I’m comfortable with, or even in isolation, I’m still acutely aware of how my shirt falls against my front, or which particular sitting positions will make my shorts ride up ‘too far’. The only thing that can really make feeling like that worse is the voice in my head telling me the whole time that I should be loving myself. I certainly don’t think that this dislike of my body is a healthy way or the right way to be, but if I constantly refused to accept what I’m dealing with by so-called ‘loving’ myself and ignoring how I feel, if I can’t accept the way I am mentally right now, then that doesn’t really sound like love.
So I don’t love the way I look. I don’t love the rolling in my stomach when physical contact brings a particular part of my body to my attention. I don’t love why I put so much thought into what I’m going to wear each day. But I refuse to spend every second of this summer obsessing over how exposed I feel, so I’m compromising: it’s okay that I don’t love it all, body image positivity just isn’t for me. I’m repulsed by parts of myself, but I don’t mind others. It’s not all positive but it’s balanced enough that I can (usually) get on with my life, and that feels so much better. So hooray for body image balance I guess, because I’m still looking forward to summer more than usual.