“What’s wrong with your arm?!” -multiple people asking about my left elbow, which is wonky because of breaking it when I was three.
“You’re pretty, but you look Ethiopian because you’re so skinny.” -my high school band director, who loved to comment on students’ appearances and make racist comments.
“I would love to have that problem if it meant I could be as skinny as you.” -a university ‘friend’ after I told her I had such severe hyperthyroidism that I lost twenty pounds in one week despite eating regular meals (I went from 115 to 95 as a 5’8” 20-year-old).
“I knew you were a late bloomer. I bet you’ll have nice, big boobs.” -a high school guy who was creepy and definitely wrong, and he pointed out my flat chest for the next three years.
These are just a tiny handful of comments I have received that have made a lasting impact on my life. All comments my appearance have caused me to become more self-conscious and aware of my looks (yes, even the positive ones).
I was taught to hate my body. To be ashamed of it. From hurtful comments and being told I should be happy I was sick to being forced to wear a t-shirt over my one-piece bathing suit at church and school events and getting into trouble when my shoulders showed at school, I learned to feel guilty whenever I showed any skin and never really felt pretty, sexy, or attractive at any time. I just tolerated my pain-riddled and “misshapen” body even when I had slightly more positive views of it.
I started to like my body a little when I started eating a bit healthier and doing yoga periodically a few years back. I wasn’t doing it to gain muscle, lose weight, or even get fit. I did it because I was exhausted, constantly tense, and dealing with chronic pain. As my energy levels rose a tad, my tense shoulders went from boulders to rocks, and my pain eased slightly, I started viewing my body as a potential friend and not just an enemy. I learned how different foods affected my energy levels and pain. I learned that yoga helps strengthen my mind and body as well as relax me.
After that, I learned how much my anxiety can affect my physical health. I’m still daily impacted mentally and physically by hypochondria, built up tension, panic attacks, and loss of appetite. Learning to properly rest has been a challenge, but the rewards have been amazing. I learned that I need to time my breaks and try to be productive or creative in small ways while I take breaks to help lessen my anxiety. As a result, my to-do list regularly has things crossed off, and my general anxiety is more under control. Seeing how much I can accomplish, doing the things I love, and completing the things I need to have risen my self-worth and self-confidence exponentially. And because of that, my body positivity has risen too.
I’ve also stopped paying so much attention to societal rules about attire and am finally learning what clothing I feel most comfortable and confident wearing.
I don’t really listen to advice about hair, makeup, or clothes because I get to choose what goes on with my own body. Most advice doesn’t fit my style anyway. I wear lipstick because I like the shape of my lips and it makes me feel more confident. I actually started wearing it because a woman in the same Creative Writing course as me used red lipstick as a symbol for confidence, saying that she doesn’t feel like she could ever look good wearing it and she imagines the people who wear it must be confident. I then wore it for a costume and felt silly, but I had fun. Then I decided to wear it again the next day despite feeling terrified of it. I received a few compliments that boosted my confidence, but what helped the most was seeing myself in the mirror and thinking for the first time in a while “I look pretty, powerful.”
I also noticed over the years that a lot of the feature I find most attractive in others are the feature I’m most self-conscious about. Pear-shaped bodies, big hands, deviated septums, long necks, and more. That definitely boosts my self-image if I’m feeling down.
It also helps that many of Turner’s favourite things about me are the “imperfections” and quirks. And he always lets me know how much he loves them.
But the thing that has done the most for my confidence is completely separated from me. It’s seeing others gain confidence and body positivity, sharing their stories. Their struggles show me that I’m not alone. Their successes give me hope and excitement.
What’s your favourite thing about your body?
What do you do when you need a boost in confidence?
Let me know in the comments!