Battling Body Dysmorphia
Body dysmorphia is a mental condition in which a person believes a part, or parts, of his or her body is extremely flawed. I didn’t know there was a name for what I experienced, or that anyone else experienced it too, until just last year. As a teenager growing up with the lack of heavy-handed social media influence (from 2003 to 2010), I never really had a problem with my body. Of course like any human on this planet, there were things I liked and disliked about myself, but I didn’t think much about it. I knew I had a larger than average Italian nose, hips for days, was shorter than all my classmates at a whopping 5’ 1”, and that my skin wasn’t the best, but I still had confidence. I knew I was a good person and took care of myself, and that was enough for me.
As social media lay thicker and thicker on society over the years following, something inside me changed. Without realizing it, I began to hate my appearance. I didn’t just dislike myself, I loathed what I saw in the mirror, and the worst part was, I didn’t know why my thoughts on myself had changed; I looked nearly exactly the same, maybe just with longer hair and a brighter outlook on life. As I thought deeper into it in my usual dream-state, ultra deep thinking shower session one day, I realized that my presence on social media had turned me against myself. It was as if every time I logged on, I was met with rioters and picket signs in bright red, “You aren’t good enough!” “You don’t look like these models so you must be ugly!” “You suck!” Even suckier, is that I usually listened to these imaginary warmongers and eventually, I gave in completely. I despised walking past mirrors in public or private; I avoided them like I do Walgreens during flu season. I never wanted to be in photos with my boyfriend, or for him to take photos of me. Each time he called me beautiful, I would scoff and reject his well-intended compliment. Then, like an addict, I would get on social media and envy the curvy, tan women I saw. Some were younger, some were older, but they all had something in common: they were better than me.
The one thing I didn’t realize until recently is that confidence doesn’t come from outside sources. Confidence doesn’t give a donkey’s ass if you’re wearing makeup or if you have a blemish or if your swimsuit is a little more snug than it was last year. Confidence just is. You cannot get it from your boyfriend. You can’t get it from your mom who likes the way that dress fits you. You can’t get it from posting a photo on social media and getting reactions. All of those things help but true confidence shines from within without second thought of the outside world.
So how did I gain my confidence back, you ask? It took work, and a promise to myself to do better, feel better, live better.
You are your best friend. Treat your best friend with all the love and respect she deserves. Realize the triggers that make you feel bad about yourself. Suit up for battle by unfollowing fitness accounts and swimsuit models that make you desire to be an envious version of someone else instead of inspiring you to become a better version of yourself. When someone hands you a compliment, graciously accept it all the way deep down to your soul. Realize that the things that make you truly beautiful cannot be fully seen within a mirror. You will never be able to see how your eyes twinkle when your niece makes you laugh and scrunch your nose. You can’t see the kindness in your eyes that the elderly woman at the grocery store saw when you helped her unload her cart. You will never see how the first bit of summer sunlight graces over your skin and makes your freckles peek out of their winter dwelling. When it’s humid out and the hairs that frame your face become tiny unruly curls that your fiancé adores, or the special laugh you do when you grasp your sides and shake uncontrollably from the memory of an inside joke- those are all what make you uniquely beautiful. Not a tiny bikini. Not tan skin or plumped lips. Not being someone else. You are you. You are different. You are more than enough, just as you are. Find what makes you different, and accept it with your whole heart.
Imagine if a diamond looked in the mirror and said “I only see this one side of me; I’m not good enough to shine.” Each time you diminish a compliment, or pick and prod and stare longingly in the mirror, you are dulling your radiance. Your shine is better spent elsewhere. The world needs your light and sparkle and it needs you to switch sides to fight against what the media qualifies as socially acceptable beauty.
Realize that there is so much more to life than stressing over your appearance, and you will begin to see yourself in depth- faults and beauty, all in one- and you will learn to love yourself again. Devote yourself to fighting this mental stigma. Put on your armor and figure out your battle cry, because this war is going to get pretty.