When I first started writing this post, I launched straight in with ‘I’ve struggled with body image on and off for a few years now…’ and I wrote a bunch of paragraphs and insights into my relationship with my body and why my perception of it and of myself is sometimes difficult.
I wrote it all out around midnight one night when my mind was telling me to work on writing something. But as you can see, I’ve changed the beginning of this post to give you some preamble, because the fact is I don’t feel 100% comfortable writing about body image, or at least, I’m okay writing it but not okay sharing it.
It’s not a subject I feel I should rush to write about, because there are multiple aspects to it, and it’s easy for my mind to tell me that when writing about ‘body image’ in relation to mental health, I should only focus on the bad stuff. But having thought about it, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The things I love about my body:
- MY HAIR: It’s a huuuuge part of my identity and having it short got rid of so much anxiety and worry about how I looked. When I cut my hair off, I actually saw the person I am on the inside reflected on the outside.
- EYELASHES: Okay, they are a really tiny part of the whole of me, but they’re super long and I love them. I don’t wear make up, but if I did I don’t think I’d need mascara.
- EYES: They can’t see very well, but my glasses are also part of my identity and suit me way better that not having glasses. But my eyes are also green, and I love this. My name is Jade, of course my eyes are green. (I’m also a Slytherin but this is completely unrelated).
- HANDS: I love my hands. There’s nothing particularly special about them, but I like the way they look. I keep my nails short, because when they grow long I start to dislike my hands. Both my middle fingers are slightly bent, but I’m happy to be a bit different. Who wants to be completely straight anyway?
- ARMS: I like these in the same way I like my hands. There’s not a particular reason for it, it’s probably that I don’t not like them. I tan when it gets sunny, and that really comes out on my arms, so I guess that helps.
The things I don’t like about my body
- LEGS: They hurt a lot, and I haven’t cared for them enough in my life. They’re stiff and I can’t really do a lot with them. I can walk (which usually turns into a limp) so I’m thankful for that, but I just feel like my legs are old while the rest of me is still fairly young.
- CHEST: Far too big. Plus, I have Fibroadenoma, which means I have lumps most of the time. They come and go, and are harmless, but they can be pretty sore and painful sometimes, and just means I have to be extra vigilant sussing out whether a lump is just one of my regulars or something I would need to get checked out. I’d rather not have my chest at all.
Now you know how I feel about certain parts of my body, here’s some snippets from the midnight writing I did:
“I’ve struggled with body image on and off for a few years now. I’ve always had a positive reaction from other people surrounding my body, giving me the impression that it is something that’s been admired for how it looks, in its natural state and that I am lucky for this, and the source of envy because of it.
All of this would be true and wonderful if this ‘ideal looking body’ belonged to someone who wanted their body to look this way. But it doesn’t. Besides, most people perceive how they think my body looks based on how it looks with whatever clothes I choose to wear.“
Whenever I see my body, even just for a moment this is what happens in my head:
- That’s your body.
- Why does it look that way?
- I wish it looked different.
- Oh, but that’s just how it looks, and being upset that it looks that way isn’t going to change how it looks.
and so on and so on and so on. Or sometimes its:
- There’s someone out there who would give anything for this body.
- Why don’t you love it?
- Can I just find that person and say, hey do you want to swap bodies?
- They would say yes.
- Then your body would look the way you want it to.
- But that’s your body.
- Why does it look that way?
Aaaand I’m back in the room. For anyone reading this who might be thinking I’m not okay because of this relationship with my body, please don’t worry. I am fine, I am working on it all the time and finding ways to love my body how it is. In terms of my self-image and the way I look as a complete person (see below: ‘me now’), I couldn’t be happier. Well, I could, but that’s where the body image comes in. But take that away and I am super happy with the way I look, and the way I present myself to the world. I’ve never been more ‘me’ than I am right now. And that goes a really long way, so much that sometimes I look at my body, and instead of all the turmoil and circling thoughts noted above, I just say: ‘you’re you, and that’s okay’.
Here are two photos, one from 2014 when I didn’t really take notice of my body as much as I do now or embrace how I wanted to look. And the other from just last month, which is a true reflection of the person I am. However, there are hardly any photos of me showing my whole body from head to toe, cause most of my happiness about my self-image is from the neck up! Seeing my whole body makes me feel kind of weird.
You might also have noticed that when writing about my body I write as though it’s a separate person, that’s just how I perceive it sometimes and it helps for me to do that to be able to write about it and not be a mess.
Visit the ‘Mental Health Foundation‘ website for more information on mental health, what they do, how you can help them/get involved, and to read other people’s stories and experiences.
If anyone wants to add their own ‘body image’ thoughts below, then go for it. Thank you for reading!