It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment I started having issues with my body image or self esteem, because those struggles are typically culminations of years of negative experiences, self-doubt or blatant insults regarding one's physical appearance. I have had people tell me I am ‘skinny', I have had people my own age and older point out love handles and cellulite, I have also had people grow frustrated and angry at my struggle with seeing myself on camera. People's negative words stubbornly lived in my mind, while compliments I would receive from friends and family were just them “being nice”. When I started allowing the opinions of others to dictate my own view of myself I can't remember, but I can remember when I first started slipping into extremely dangerous, harmful and unhealthy habits. Comparison- we all fall victim to it in some form or another. Whether we are comparing looks, financial status, career or success, we are inadvertently telling ourselves that we are lacking something- that we are not measuring up in some (or all) categories. I first started comparing myself to my friends in middle school. I went to private school, and most of my friends lived in nice houses and were well off. I did not and my family was not. So, there was that. I also realized I was a lot less calm and cool than my friends, louder and, in many people's eyes, just annoying. I remember a boy in my 6th grade class telling me, in front of a group of other kids that, “nobody likes you.” It was a real vote of confidence. I was still lucky, though, because I did have a small group of really supportive friends. Unfortunately, I could not understand why they wanted to be my friends, and I compared myself to them, too. There was a time when I wanted to take pictures with my friends; I even wanted to take pictures of myself. Sure, I had my negative thoughts about not being as pretty as my friends, or pretty enough for the boys in my grade, but I owned who I was and had not yet been infected by the idea that because I didn't look perfect, I was inferior. So one night in 2012, my little 11 year old self posted a picture of myself on the then relatively new instagram. I remember getting hyped up by some of my really sweet friends, but my gratitude quickly disappeared when three boys, simultaneously (they were all friends, and apparently couldn't do anything alone?) commented “ugly”. These boys- who were a very bland spectacle- were popular, well-liked and put on a pedestal by me and other girls. Whether they were ‘joking' or not is unknown and honestly irrelevant, but I was not in on the joke, I was the butt of it. I think I deleted the picture shortly after. While I battled my fair share of self-doubt in middle school, I graduated from 8th grade relatively unscathed and with a decent amount of self-love left. High school was a whole other animal. Again, I had some really good friends, but they couldn't always be there. I definitely looked on the outside how I felt on the inside- nervous, vulnerable and uncomfortable in my own body. And I think some people preyed on that. I was never physically hurt, but rude and personal comments, along with snickers as I would pass by certain people in the hallway were enough to cut through what I had once thought was thick skin. Even with my loving friends and family, my anxiety and essential lack of confidence started to prevail. Somewhere around the end of freshman year, I started to eat. A lot. I was depressed, hurt and empty. In a time where most people my age were savoring youth through football games, and school sports/clubs, I was tucked away in my room, because I truly reached the point where I wanted to stay there. I missed school a lot because of this, and my lovely, incredibly strong mom did not completely understand, but offered endless love and support. This love and support led to me finally seeing a professional about my issues when I was a sophomore, and I did find a lot of peace in that. However, I still had deep rooted issues that I was not addressing. Around the beginning of senior year, things had picked up in terms of socializing, but I had found a new enemy: myself. Once I would get my eating habits on the right track, I would have a bad day and fall right back into my old ways; it wasn't simply physical, it was mental. Eventually, I started making myself vomit, and I would abuse laxatives. I was hurting my mind and my body. This went on for about two years, until I finally reached the point where I couldn't do it to myself anymore. Who am I doing this for?, I asked myself. The answer: not me. I had been so caught up in making sure I was living up to what I thought others wanted, that I had neglected the 11 year old girl inside of me who felt ugly and needed love. I don't think I could do that to her again- I love her too much. This is me closing that door once and for all. I still have struggles, but I know one thing now: I am enough, and I always have been.
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