Are you ok? – Confidence: the lifetime struggle of body image

By Sophia Sajan (’22)

If you’re a girl, you’re familiar with the average greeting: “OMG, hey girl! You are so cute, ilysm.” And you are surely no stranger to seeing another girl’s gorgeous body and pondering what the world could be if you looked like that. 

The age-old struggle of confidence and self-love; it’s a hard one. Made infinitely worse by the rise of social media showing young, impressionable kids what their lives and bodies should look like. Because, of course, my eight year old cousin should believe that her body isn’t beautiful unless it looks like Kylie Jenner’s. Totally. 

Despite my frustrationthat my little diva has Kylie Jenner as her lockscreen — “because I wanna look like her one day”- I found it even more frustrating when I tried to explain to her why I don’t want a Kardashian to be who she wants to look like when she grows up. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 6.23.02 PM

She will not grow up to have near 90 degree angled hips, not naturally, and she is already so pretty she had 11 boys doing her bidding in the first grade. It bothers me that she may grow up one day and see her beautiful curls as ugly because they aren’t straight like a Kardashian.

In my own experience, seeing models or really gorgeous people in general, has always made me doubt myself. Finding myself saying “man, I wish I could look like that” has led me down a path of insecurity that was hard to get out of. 

It took me a long time to start thinking of everyone around me as being in the same place with the same perspective. Just as I look at that girl in Choir A1 as a living, breathing Jasmine from Aladdin with the waist of a Barbie, someone else could be looking at me seeing someone beautiful as well. While I believe that she is perfect because she has the midsection of an anime character and eyelashes for days, she may look at me and wish she had curly hair like mine.

I’ve found that feeling beautiful was a matter of trust. I tell my friends that they are beautiful whenever I see them and they are shining superstars. I go out of my way to let them know they are looking wow. They did not fish for compliments, they simply existed in all their fabulousness and I couldn’t help but take notice. And as a human being it is my civil duty to let them know.

The same could happen for you or I, right? Why would it not? Some days I am just doing my thing in Chemistry at 8 o’clock in the morning and someone tells me I look pretty. Those are the compliments I tend to believe. Nobody had to tell me that I looked much better on this particular day than on any other, but they did anyway. It wouldn’t have occurred to them if I hadn’t actually looked half-decent for once, right?

There is a difference in the compliments that follow “I look like my dogs butt”, because those were warranted. Following that comment, one would usually receive a stream of “no, you’re gorgeous, no you’re pretty, no you always look great, omg you’re the prettiest stop.” We all have that one friend who fishes endlessly for validation. It’s okay, they’re insecure and we get that but, my goodness, it can get excessive. 

My point? Try not to be that friend. You can take a compliment and not be full of yourself. 

 

Do:  “Hey, your hair looks great today!”Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 6.23.09 PM

“Awe, thanks, I really tried!”

Do not: 

“Ew, what, I look like a toe.” 

 

 

 

Take the compliment. They didn’t have to tell you how good you look. What do you expect them to respond with, “You’re right, I made a mistake, you look like the underside of my shoe.”? 

You can be insecure sometimes, everyone needs a little validation, but not from everyone 24/7. It’s unhealthy to rely on others so heavily for that security and confidence that you need to have for yourself. 

To successfully perform the act of confidence— and I say “act” just because it’s just that: an act— you have to look around you a little bit. Do not go out and pick out everyone else’s flaws to make yourself feel better, go out and remember your assets. 

I was talking to a friend about this article, asking her what she was insecure about. We’ll call her Nancy. For context, Nancy, with a perfect body,skin like silk, and cheekbones that could make Angelina Jolie jealous, is also insecure. The first thought in my brain was “No. Way. Could. This. Flawless. Human. Have. Anything. Bad. Anywhere.”   

In the past, my response would always be the cliche: “Dude. You are literally perfect, shut your mouth this instant.” 

It became abundantly clear through our last conversation that everyone has insecurities. Even with perfectly straight white teeth and perfectly blushable cheeks and being super skinny and being good at sports and having very straight/shiny/silky hair and sparkling blue eyes. 

Yes, this girl is insecure. 

It was hard to understand after comparing myself to her for an entire year of my life. Just because she is the living replica of my Barbie dolls from second grade doesn’t mean her life is as perfect as her physical appearance.  

When I asked her to tell me about some of her insecurities, her response changed my perspective entirely. 

“For me most of my insecurities come from my weight. All of my siblings (specifically my two sisters) were and are skinny and I never was. I was chubby in all aspects and I think that living with those skinny people had always made me feel bad about my body image because I was the odd man out because I didn’t look like them when it came to the size of my body.”

Looking at her, I always wished I was her size, that I was as skinny as she was. But just like “beauty”, the word “skinny” has no definition because each and every one of us has a different idea of what it should be. Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 6.23.17 PM

 

“To give you a frame of reference, in the fourth grade I was most likely within the range of 85-95 pounds. My sister who is now in the seventh grade is still smaller than I was in elementary school. I know that girls come in different shapes and sizes but I always did and do just feel fat.”

A lot of what Nancy feels stems from her childhood and environment. Being where most of our insecurities come from, it can be hard to carve new pathways of thinking to change our own minds. One way to do this is by acknowledging what is good about yourself. Let your ego soar higher than the cat in every Shooting Stars meme. For every time you think about how fat or ugly or oddly unsymmetrical your eyebrows are, acknowledge one good thing. Internal or external doesn’t matter. Me? I have never once walked into a room and found myself to be the smallest. I’ve always regarded myself as “fat”. However, I have hair that women pay 100s of dollars to get just by waking up in the morning. Yeah, I am so thick sometimes my friends have tricked me into thinking it’s 2020, but I can give a speech better than most kids my age.

“It’s weird because when I look at girls who are the same size or relative weight and I don’t see them in the way that I see my body. I just see how pretty they are on the outside and on the inside.”

 Like Nancy, everyone around me seems much smaller than me. Somehow the girls around me who weigh the same or supposedly are the same size seem smaller. They’re gorgeous. I may look exactly the same, but I am fat and they’re not. 

“I don’t notice other people’s weight in the way that I feel like everyone sees me. I feel like body image is a difficult thing because there is really no way to talk to anyone about it because anytime I get insecure people usually just yell at me because I am ‘skinny’ or ‘pretty’.”

Responding previously with “shut it, you’re gorgeous” was not the best idea in hindsight. Just because she is a breathing Barbie with ‘skin like buttermilk’ as my great-grandma would say, does not mean her insecurities should be dismissed as insignificant. Everyone has something.

“They only see me when I am like sucking in or wearing clothes that I know won’t make me look to huge. They don’t see me when I am just looking in the mirror disgusted at the mound of flesh that replaced myself in the mirror.”

The idea that Nancy– Nancy, who is known for being drop-dead-beautiful– could look in the mirror and be unhappy? Mind blown. 

We are all people. Confused and insecure people. Some of us are better at walking through the halls like we know what we are doing with our lives, others not so much. As one of those people who carries herself like she totally knows exactly what she wants when she wants it, here’s a secret: I have absolutely no clue what I am doing. Many kids come up to me telling me I am confident or smart or nice, but I am that kid who asks what the instructions are 0.5 seconds after Mrs Juco gave them. I spend every waking moment feeling like a sack of somehow stressed potatoes. 

However, I found comfort in the idea that the same way I am looking at Nancy, she is looking at me. The same way I find her insecurities far fetched and ridiculous, because they simply aren’t true, she feels the same toward mine. Even though I feel like a walking whale on certain days, she finds it ridiculous that I think so. She calls herself ‘fat’? Nancy is the last person on earth one could associate with being overweight. Her false perception of herself is clear to me even if it isn’t clear to her. I take comfort that it works vice versa and my insecurities in the eyes of everyone else are non-existent. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 6.23.26 PMEven when I look in the mirror “disgusted at the mound of flesh that replaced myself in the mirror,” as Nancy put it, nobody else sees what I see. Most of my fear of body image focuses on what other people think. With that, comes the constant anxiety around what other people are saying about me or if they’re laughing at me when I am not around. 

But why would other people lie to you or I? Who would put in all that effort into lying unless it was the truth? Other people are not the problem. Other people don’t see what you see! You may think you have outrageously huge pores, but nobody can see them unless they look into the 10x zoom mirror in your bathroom with you! 

Nancy, darling, you said you see everyone as beautiful. Everyone sees you as beautiful too. Nobody can see what you do. Do not forget that you are the only one who sees that version of yourself. All I see, all anybody ever will see, is your phenomenal personality and sunshine smile.

To combat all those horrible things you notice about yourself, say yeah, but I have pretty eyes or yeah, but I am way smarter than my brother. You have to start noticing these things about yourself or you will never be able to appreciate yourself the way everyone around you appreciates you.

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