The Photo that Started it All- A Double Take
I’ve mentioned in a few past posts, like this one, the photo that pushed me into restrictive eating and over-exercising. I have been very happy to see on social media lately fitness stars and celebrities celebrating their bodies. Whether they are showing their bodies in different positions, baring all to show scars and cellulite, or reclaiming their "trouble" areas, I think this is all insanely valuable conversation.
When I saw the photo my friend took on my 19th birthday, my initial reaction was confusion. I was looking through the camera with a bunch of other friends, trying to figure out what to Instagram and I did a double take. I didn’t know how it could be me. I knew I would not Instagram that one, instead making my decision based off which picture made my stomach look the flattest. To my horror, two of my other friends ended up posting the picture I hated, claiming it was so cute. I didn’t want to say anything in fear of seeming ungrateful or consumed with something so many people would ridicule me for, since I was a lot smaller than others. I thought they would tell me I was being stupid and I didn't want to seem like I was fishing for compliments. But that image stayed with me and every time I scroll through my friend’s Instagram feeds, I would be lying if I still didn’t feel a bit upset when I saw that picture.
More than anything, I get upset when I see the picture because of what it did to my life. It took about a year away from me, a year when I should have been experiencing college but instead was focusing only on body image. At the same time, I am so grateful every time I see that image because I believe individuals grow into themselves through hardship. Without that image, I wouldn’t have realized I actually had been underweight for the majority of my life, not un-healthily, but also not the healthiest I could be. I wouldn’t have known that my eating habits were unsustainable- I had to eat more than two meals a day. I wouldn’t have grown into myself and developed a passion for health and wellness, as well as body positivity. I wouldn’t have discovered my strong attachment to the outdoors. Surprisingly, there have been so many amazing outcomes from my internal struggle with body image. I won’t say I am grateful for this struggle 24/7, because guilt and dislike still pop up, but remembering what it has given me makes that struggle a little easier.
In the picture, I am slouched forward, I am sitting down with no back support, tilted to hold onto the pool toy. My stomach protrudes outwards over the band of my bathing suit on the side and in the front. If I had been sitting up straight, it may or may not have done the same, but it would not have been extended so far- this is how the body naturally changes with your position.
If you look at the picture of me, you may laugh too. You may think I’m crazy or self-absorbed or have no clue what I am talking about because I am not overweight. You may be comparing yourself to me and thinking I am insensitive . You may think, “How can she worry about this when she clearly has a fortunate life?” You may think I am selfish or self-absorbed or an idiot. And that’s fine—I don’t care if you think any of that about me because I know it’s not a true depiction of me. Yes, I am naturally small, and yes, I am grateful every day for what my family has given me. But that doesn’t mean I should look at myself and hate who I am—nobody should ever have to feel that way. Just because I am smaller or fortunate does not mean I am immune to the power of social media and societal expectations on women. I cannot identify with your singular journey, and you cannot identify with mine. But that does not mean we should not support each other and work towards promoting a world in which our daughters, sons, friends, everybody, are proud of who they are.
Beauty regulations are always changing according to the “powers that be,” so how could we ever live up to them? I love who I am and everyday I am learning to love who I am. Nobody else is me! Isn’t that beauty in itself? It is not a perfect journey and I truly believe that in an era designed around embodying perfection, like what we see on social media, no journey can ever be completely perfect. That’s why loving yourself is more important than ever. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but hey, why does that have to be a bad thing?
When you look back on difficult events, do you focus on the positive aspects instead? How? Do you ever try to re-write the script, like many B-pos influencers are doing right now?