I remember being 10 years old and having my first experience with not liking my body. I learned from that young age how to dress in a way that hid my flaws as best as possible.
By middle school, I was already ashamed of my body, and I did anything I could to try to make myself look the way I thought I should. The way that women looked in magazines and on TV.
High-rise pants to hide the tummy I’ve always had. Shirts I tied on the side to make my body look like it had a better shape. Pulling my bra down in the back to cover any signs of back fat.
Sucking in my stomach at all times to the point where it was painful and hard to breathe. Limiting how much I smiled and doing everything I could to hide my messed-up teeth. Wearing makeup from the young age of 11.
I’m 28 years old now.
My body has been through traumas, neglect, abuse, three pregnancies, and years of aging.
The times have changed since I was a young girl. We’re no longer told to hide our bodies in shame if we’re not a size two with zero fat to be found on our bodies.
But the things you learn as you’re growing up stick with you. And though things are getting better, they still aren’t perfect.
Beauty and sex are still used today to sell. Whether it’s movies or products or whatever it may be, we’re still bombarded with images of beautiful women and impossible standards.
In the age of social media, filters, photoshop, and crazy makeup hacks, we’re constantly reminded of where we fall short. We’re constantly being shown images that are fake or altered and impossible to mimic, and we’re told that’s what beauty is.
And it’s corrupted the way young girls and women see their bodies. The way they feel about beauty.
I still find myself thinking my curves are bad and I need to be skinnier. I still find myself ashamed of my tummy which is now a mommy pouch. I still find myself criticizing and picking my body apart at every turn, from my hair down to my toes.
I still find myself reaching for these unrealistic ideals of beauty and falling short every time.
A part of me knows very much just what my body has been through and how proud I should be because I’ve really not treated it well at all until recent years.
I used food as an escape and a coping mechanism. I lived on pop and junk food for years and often binged on these comfort items during times of stress or depression.
I starved myself for periods of time thinking that if only I didn’t eat so much my body would look the way I wanted it to. I went through crazy diets and exercise programs and diet pills and anything you could think of to try and fix myself.
To top it off, my body housed three beautiful babies over the course of four years.
It’s been through a lot.
I should be proud now to be a healthy size and weight and to know how to eat a good and balanced diet even if guilt over food still creeps in on occasion.
I should be proud of my tummy and the stretch marks as they are signs of the lives I brought into this world. I should be proud to have overcome all I did and be where I am today.
And even though I know now that everyone has different genetics, metabolisms, and health struggles that determine their size and shape, I still find myself comparing my body to standards I know I can never reach because of my body type.
I still find myself feeling less than.
Not good enough. Fat. Ugly.
Still dressing to hide my flaws and trying to suck in my stomach. Still embarrassed of my natural face without makeup and anxious about things like the size of my nose and my underbite or the gap in my front teeth.
No amount of diet, exercise, or change to my appearance has changed this—even now at the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life.
No amount of therapy, prayer, reading my Bible, or trying to tell myself that my worth and beauty is found in Christ and Christ alone, has fully stopped these negative feelings toward my body though they have helped to lessen them.
No amount of reminders that my worth is not determined by the standards of this world but by the standards of Christ has eased the deep ache I feel in my soul over my appearance.
And the older I get the more I realize I am not alone. That most women feel this way to some extent. That we all long to feel beautiful. And I mean truly feel and believe we are beautiful. To be honest, it is so saddening to come to this realization.
That so many girls and women are walking around feeling ashamed and broken.
I want better for my daughter. I want her to know fully and always that she is beautiful no matter what. I want her to have a healthy relationship with her body, unlike the toxic one I have had for my entire life.
And I know that starts at home with me. But I can’t shield her from the rest of the world forever, and this is one issue that goes so much further than me and my home.
I don’t have the answer to this problem. I wish more than anything that I did. But I can say this for myself and for everyone who may need to hear it . . .
We are beautiful just as we are.
We are worthy just as we are.
And we are not alone.
I know reading those words won’t magically wash away the pain and all of the doubt and insecurities. But it still needs to be said. We still deserve to hear it over and over again until we can fully accept and believe it.
It’s at least a place to start.