Female body image: standing out at school
Body image has always been and probably always will be a subject which causes the majority of us to feel insecure. This is because, historically, our worth has been based on the way we look. The ever-changing standards of ‘beauty’ that are set out by society are often unrealistic and unachievable, but we are left feeling inadequate if we do not adhere to these standards. This tends to be more of an issue for women, as it is planted in us from a young age that we are only beautiful and worthy of love if we look a certain way.
I struggled a lot with my body image during my teenage years, especially in secondary school. I battled with my weight, although not in the way that most people may think. I was skinny, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not gain weight. However, whenever I voiced my insecurities, I was often met with ‘Shut up, you could be a model’, or ‘I’d die to be as skinny as you’, or ‘You’re lucky you can eat what you want and not gain weight’. But I did not want to be a model. I did not want to be skinny. I wanted to gain weight. I had no boobs and no curves, so clothes hung off me. At that time, boobs were the most desirable aspect of women, so I felt unattractive, and like no one would ever want me. Boys would fight over the slim girls with big boobs, and call me anorexic. I started saving for a boob job when I was 14, and in the meantime I researched what I could do to make my boobs grow. I would go to the school gym during break to do weighted chest exercises. I made my mum buy certain fruits that contained hormones. I drank protein shakes in addition to regular meals to try and make me put on weight. I even considered starting on the contraceptive pill purely for the common side effect of weight gain. All because, at that time, society told me that I had to have this particular figure to be desirable.
As well as being very thin, I was unusually tall. I would get comments on my height multiple times a day which was draining and meant that I could never escape the fact that I looked different. I was the tallest girl in my school year, and was also taller than a lot of the boys. All I wanted to do was blend into the shadows at school, but my height meant that I literally stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt odd, and it was isolating. Schools often have strict uniform policies, and pupils are punished if they don’t adhere, creating the notion that diversity is wrong. This makes it extremely difficult for any pupil who is visibly different in any way, because it has been rooted in us that we should all look the same.
Once I left school and went to college and university, I realised that people were a lot more diverse than I had thought. I met people of different sexualities, genders, nationalities, and people of all different shapes and sizes. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I’m still thin and still taller than my friends, but if everyone looked the same, life would be pretty boring.
If your friend confides in you about their insecurities, don’t shut them down. Take the time to talk to them and figure out why they don’t like that part of themselves. Remind them that, just because every part of them doesn’t match up to society’s idea of ‘beauty’, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t beautiful. We must learn to not stop comparing ourselves to others, and instead simply embrace what makes us different.
How has your body image been impacted by your past experiences?
Would you be willing to start to love your insecurities?
If so, why not give it a go?