Trigger Warning: Discusses eating disorders and body dysmorphia

I sometimes wonder how it comes so naturally to respond to our peers self loathing comments with “No, you are beautiful,” yet when we stand in front of the mirror we pick apart the very things we encourage our friends to take pride in; it’s like we view our own bodies through a different, much harsher lens. We compare ourselves to others who wish to change the features we adore. For me personally, I always hated the way I looked growing up, as many children do. I was much larger than my team mates who I did gymnastics with, and I deemed my lack of confidence fixable through a change in my outward appearance.

During my teenage years, my insecurities escalated into disordered thoughts which pinpointed non existent flaws and warped my reflection. I kept wanting to fix and improve my body to the point my appearance was completely changing. This seemed ideal at the time, but I was sacrificing my mental wellness, physical health, and individuality in doing so. With every pound I lost, meal I skipped, pant size I went down, nothing fulfilled me the way I expected. I wasn’t gaining happiness, instead I was losing my identity. Nothing was good enough when it came to myself, and yet I found all the diverse bodies surrounding me in the world so beautiful. I didn’t criticize the width of anyone else’s thighs, and yet the idea of going up a pant size was terrifying for me personally.

Recovering from an eating disorder wasn’t easy. Being a teenager in general isn’t easy. I’ve concluded it’s our nature to dissect our flaws and strive for a ‘better’ appearance. Now there’s nothing better about another’s appearance, but media, society, and the self-doubt that come with teenage years can easily make us believe that. Learning to love your body isn’t easy and it’s a different journey for everyone, but it feels like a huge success when you get there. You don’t always stay there, and bad days are allowed, but treating yourself with kindness can help you maintain a healthy relationship with your body.

Currently, I am heavier, but more importantly, happier then I have ever been. I accept my stretch marks as visual pieces of my identity, my curves as an elegant resemblance of a sculpture, my freckles as soft kisses from the sunlight, and thick thighs as the embodiment of strength and power. All the beauty that I once considered flaws, I accept with warmth and pride. It is difficult to defy my very own nature, and ignore the standards of beauty society has put on display, but it is possible. Remind yourself of the beauty you see in others, because that is the same clear lens they use when they see you. As for the people who are unable to see your beauty, do your best to ignore them and the shallow values they immaturely share. More often than not, their words are meant to hurt and do not even carry their truest opinion.

Your body is magnificent, unique, and carries traits that are completely your own. Your appearance is does not have certain requirements or a standard to uphold. Your appearance is a part of your identity, a visual representation of the complex being you are. Your appearance does not require change, our outlook however is something we must teach ourselves to improve. We must be kinder to ourselves, though it is much easier said then done. Try to convince yourself to cherish your body’s value. If you do, you will likely eventually possess the power to truly accept it.