Growing up and body image

Growing up and body image

Paige Thompson

For most of my life, I have been bombarded with images of thin women and told by society, through unrealistic expectations about beauty and body image, that I was not beautiful.paige

Growing up, I was always one of those bigger kids. I can not stress enough how embarrassing this is for an eight-year-old in gym class. I would wonder why I could not keep up with the other kids in my class. I always thought that something was wrong with me. I wondered why no one else looked like I did, or why I didn’t look like them. All of the women I saw on TV were thin. I never had any bigger girls to look up to.

During my adolescent years, I always felt this desire to fit in, but because of my size I instead felt like everyone at school was taking one look at me and running off with their friends to laugh and make jokes about the shy, “fat” girl. Unlike many others though, I was lucky enough to never get bullied directly. But that doesn’t mean I never got hurt by the way that people looked at me when I walked down the halls in middle school.

From a young age, we are told that if you are heavy-set, you are unhealthy and that you need to lose weight. In theory, yes, being obese is unhealthy. But there is such a thing as being big AND healthy.

I can’t tell you how many diets I was on as a kid. I did Weight Watchers with my mom for the first time when I was nine years old, maybe even younger. Why couldn’t I have just been left alone to be a kid? Because society made me feel pressured to change the way I looked and because I wasn’t the size that everyone else seemed to be.

Every big person you saw, and still see sometimes on TV and in movies tends to be the same: they’re depicted as not very attractive, they never get the guy, etc. Why can we never just focus on a person’s personality? Or the fact that they are healthy because their thighs touch.

The bigger people always seemed to have smaller roles, were the butt-end of jokes, or played the person that no one wanted to be with. So I always thought that I wasn’t good enough and never would be. I have struggled with my body image my whole life. In fact, most people do. And society’s unrealistic standards about beauty are the No.1 cause of this if you ask me.

Unfortunately, I grew up with a love for disney princesses, Ariel in particular. The problem was, I never looked like them. I used to sit in the mirror and comb my hair with a fork and sing like Ariel, but I never actually felt like Ariel because I knew I didn’t look like her.

I didn’t have any ‘plus size’ role models to look up to. There still are not that many. I was never able to wear the cute clothes that my friends, cousins, and classmates were wearing because of a severe lack of choices for us bigger gals. Especially when you are a kid.

I didn’t start accepting myself or being positive about my body, finding things I LIKED about it intend of picking out everything I DISLIKED about myself until at least junior or senior year of High School.

I wish I could sit here today and tell you that I 100% love my body and remain positive about it every day now, but I would be lying to you if I did.

Some days, now more often than not, I’m lucky enough to wake up loving myself and having the confidence of Beyonce because I know that I’m my own person, and it’s okay to be different. There is more to me than my size. But there are also many days when I wake up hating the way I look and having no confidence at all. I’m human, it’s what we do. We like to nitpick everything about ourselves and others.

Luckily, the tides seem to be changing somewhat. Clothing companies are expanding their size selection, making it easier for all women to be able to look fierce. There are more and more role models that are bigger for people to look up to.

However, we need to stop it with the photoshopping and editing women to make them appear smaller or possess features that they do not. I’m looking at you Target…

Now that I have accepted myself and my body more than I ever have, I am also the most confident I’ve ever been. I’m obviously more mature and educated now…I now know that the images and messages sent out by society should not be taken literally.

Everyone is different, and every BODY is different. Why shouldn’t we be able to feel completely comfortable in our own skin 100% of the time? I finally decided to give up trying to please society because I knew it wouldn’t happen because their expectations are, again, outrageously unattainable and I know that this is my only body, and I better suck it up and love it because I’m stuck with it forever.

I also decided to give up because why shouldn’t I feel beautiful? Why not? Too often today we are told that we can not wear something (ahem, leggings, skinny jeans, etc. etc.) because it “wasn’t made for our body type.” What does that even mean? I don’t think there is one body type. If I want to wear a pair of leggings because they’re comfortable and I feel comfortable wearing them, then I’m going to wear them. I’m the one wearing them and if I’m comfortable, confident, and happy, then what else matters? Definitely not society’s opinion, that’s for sure.

There is not one perfect body. No one is perfect. There never will be one and only one cookie-cutter that everyone is supposed to fit into. It is simply not possible. So why can’t we just leave everyone alone and focus on ourselves for a change?