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As a community, we are quick to talk about the appearances of those around us. However, many of us lack the ability to talk about the appearance of ourselves with pride and comfort. For many of us, it stems back to quiet whispers in our ears growing up about the ideal body.
These whispers started for me when I was about seven years old. Always rather lanky growing up, thin with a slightly athletic sense about me, it was the opposite of what you'd expect. They taught skinny, but there was always a twist to every expectation. As puberty began, because of my generally thin athletic posture, I struggled with my self image, because I wasn't developing to the general standard of what a young woman should look like. My mother use to say that I was straight as a board, from every direction and every angle. As the years passed, the discomfort only grew more.
Quitting my participation in sports would ultimately be the last pin pulled that would lead me into my down spiral. While I quit for health reasons having to do with breathing and joint issues, it led to a variety of other issues. I put on weight. Which, for the size I was at, wasn't the worse decision to come my way. I was young, standing at about five and a half feet, but weighing no more than 110 pounds. I was a bag of bones with a few muscles delicately wrapped around them beneath the skin. This was the image the whispers had driven me to be. So when the weight started climbing up in number, I became distressed.
The whispers quickly became louder and could no longer be ignored. While I was now statistically an average weight for my age and height, everyone surrounding me thought otherwise. My family and my peers reminded me of that daily. Almost every conversation I had, there was always some kind of picking involved towards me. Lose some weight, boys don't like fat girls. Wear your hair down, it makes your face look thinner. Get contacts, nobody likes glasses. Wear fitting clothes, comfort isn't important. It always went on.
But here's what I realized. While this all might have driven me to an unhealthy length of insanity that nearly destroyed my internal image of me and my body, it didn't matter. It wasn't about my body. It really wasn't. This was about the societal standards and peoples own discomfort with their bodies. It was about being groomed into this perfect image so that you could be desirable. It was about everything else, except my body. My body was just one of the easy targets, just like every single young person out there. Male, female. Everyone who was, and is, vulnerable about their appearance. They make you feel as if you don't have the right curves, hair, muscles, eyes, everything, that you won't be desirable. But realistically, at the end of the day, the only person you need to be desirable to is yourself. You need to be happy in your own skin. Because no matter how hard you fight to change it, you'll always see something that you aren't entirely content with. You will always see what the whispers pointed out relentlessly throughout the years.
It's not about my body. It's not about your body. So why focus on a handful of insignificant things you can spend years focusing and relishing on, when you can focus on more important things. Be healthy, be happy. That's what really matters at the end of the day. Be who you are, and be free of expectations.