A History Of Bad Body Image

Girl faces away from the camera, hugging herself
Unsplash / Daria Nepriakhina

I am two years old and I’m already a menace to society. At least, that’s what my mother says. We’re at a department story and I wait until no one is looking before I pull my dress over my head and throw it to the ground. My baby fat belly jiggles as I laugh triumphantly until my mother forces me back into my clothes. “You can’t do this in public,” she chastises me. But once we’re home, I dance around the back porch in nothing but my diaper just as it begins to rain. I am happy, exuberant. There is nothing I feel more comfortable in than my own skin.

***

I am six years old and I’m just starting to notice how sometimes my classmates talk about me when they think I can’t hear. I pretend I don’t. I’m washing my hands in the elementary school bathroom when another girl tells me my leggings are weird and that I should start wearing jeans like everyone else. She doesn’t like my shoes or the way I tie my hair or my glasses, which I’ve had since I was four. My peers have started paying attention to how I dress and what I look like and I feel like I can’t do anything right. In my head, I still look like the beautiful girls I draw in my sketchbook with perfect hair and perfect bodies.

***

I’m ten years old and now my baby fat is just regular fat, but I don’t like to admit it. I wear bras now, but I keep it a secret and lie when someone asks because the boys in my class make fun of girls who develop too quickly. My shirts never fit quite right and I always wear the same ripped up jacket to hide it and ignore the other kids when they ask why I won’t take it off. My face is already starting to erupt in acne and my mom apologizes every time she notices because she thinks it’s her fault for “having bad genes,” but I know, deep down, it’s my own fault that I no longer feel pretty.

***

I’m fourteen years old and somewhat depressed and it’s only partially because of my body. I only wear t-shirts that are two sizes too big and baggy jeans that need belts to stay around my hips. “She only looks fat because of her boobs,” I hear one boy assure his friends, and I consider finding shirts that are even bigger so that no one notices that, either. I don’t talk very much at school — I don’t like that it draws attention — and I grow my frizzy hair out long so it covers my face, because my acne only got worse with age and I hate my glasses now and I feel better when I think no one can see me at all.

***

And then I’m eighteen and my friend takes me shopping for the first time in years. She gives me a stack of dresses to try on and when I tell her they aren’t my style, she shrugs and says “So?” And so I reluctantly put them on. I look at myself in the mirror and think about how much prettier they’d look on someone else, and even though I’d rather disappear into the fabric of my old clothes, I agree to let my friend see. “Oh my god, you look amazing!” she exclaims, and I can’t help but smile as she fawns over each dress and the way they hug my body. It feels like I haven’t been called pretty in a long time. Or maybe I have, but I just forgot because I never really believed it. “You’re going to buy them,” my friend tells me, and though I hesitate, I do.

***

I’m twenty-two years old and my newest motto is “Dress to impress.” I only wear bold patterned dresses and bright lipsticks and heels and people tell me it makes me look put together. I don’t always feel put together. I’m about to graduate and I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life and sometimes I feel like I’m just barely getting by. But I’m different than I used to be. I’m not as quiet anymore, and I’m not as insecure, and I exude a sense of confidence I haven’t had since I was a kid. Sometimes I still look in fitting room mirrors and feel like a fraud, but most of the time, I know exactly who I am — and for the first time in a long time, I think I like her. TC mark

Callie Byrnes

Callie is a professional Thought Catalog blogger by day and an amateur Tumblr blogger by night.

This is me letting you go

If there’s one thing we all need to stop doing, it’s waiting around for someone else to show up and change our lives. Just be the person you’ve been waiting for.

At the end of the day, you have two choices in love – one is to accept someone just as they are and the other is to walk away.

We owe it to ourselves to live the greatest life that we’re capable of living, even if that means that we have to be alone for a very long time.

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