Body Image: My Experience So Far

**Warning: This Post Contains Strong Language**

My relationship with body image? It’s not pretty, it’s turbulent. It’s actually disgusting and I’m 18. I still have many years to still get to grips with myself and how I feel. But despite my age, body image has been a massive part to my life, in so many ways. It’s been difficult and it’s crazy how much a small thing, words, images, can change your view about yourself. With other people, it’s also crazy how much body image can turn you into someone quite nasty in commenting or bullying someone for how they look. This is my story so far with body image. I’m doing a “Confidence Series” of posts, which include the following: body image, skin, your hair, your views and several other topics, so I will be talking about this further.

“shut up you double-chinned fat cunt”

These words have stayed with me ever since they were spoken. A boy rung me up on someone else’s number, and those were the words I received back after a simple ‘Hello’ from me. There were snickers of laughter in the background and giggles, so he wasn’t alone. I cried hysterically after the phone call ended, I was completely frozen with shock and I did not know at all what to do with myself. Then, I tried to starve myself, I didn’t know what else to do, but when I did eat, it would be all the unhealthy food, because they were comfort, the bad food lifted me emotions, it made me feel so good. It became a twisted cycle over and over again.

I was 12. 

Theres a reason why people say words can damage a person than physical fighting. Bruises fade, scars heal…but words? They’re with you forever. Even now, where I am at a point where I feel so confident and great about myself…I still see my chin, I glance at my stomach and love handles & what do I think? ‘Shit, I need to do something about that’. Those words are engrained into second nature for me every day, every time I look in the mirror, every time I catch myself against a glass panel or in the back of someones selfie.

My puberty years? My image of myself only got worse and worse and worse. I hated it. As a baby I was chubby, the normal kind where I was a baby and I was being fed – because that, believe it or not, is what happens when you’re a baby. When I was a child I was quite slim, athletic, always in every photo, I was so so confident. Secondary school? I was getting curves, my body was changing, hips were forming and I started to get boobs. My reaction? To cry and starve. I remember so vividly crying to my mum because there was a disco/party and everything I tried on made me look ‘fat’, when in reality I wasn’t at all, I was healthy. I just remember saying over and over that I just wanted it all to stop, and any time someone referenced me as a baby as being ‘chubby’ or ‘fat’, all I’d want to do was cry. I would never get changed for PE with all the other girls, I’d always run to the toilets. And god forbid if it was a swimming day. That was horror to me, I was reluctant to take my towel away even for a second, because I didn’t want any girl/others to see me.

I didn’t want to give anyone any reason to call me anything, especially the above. 

It didn’t stop people however, not even just about my body, but hair and everything else. I’d be called ‘curvy’, ‘Hagrid’, ‘frizzy haired cunt’, ‘double chinned’, even ‘Jesus’ at one point. For my hair (naturally curly brown and frizzed up in the wet and the heat), and my brows. Until it was fashionable to have big brows, I would get them waxed as much as I could. It was being called a man, being called ugly, being called fat…I wasn’t good enough in societies eyes from all the magazines and TV shows, but what was worse, I wasn’t good enough for myself. I withdrew myself from everything; being super social, going online to social media, straightened my hair every day because it was “prettier”, eating and photos. There’s hardly any photos of me, and if there are, it wasn’t wanted and I probably look miserable or gritting my teeth, waiting for it all to be over and done. Prom I tell you, 2014 and 2016, were my worst nightmares, I hated it. Having a camera shoved in your face, onto your body…no thanks. While flashes were going off, I was so scared of my arms (they’ve always been bigger and red where my skin is so sensitive), my neck, my chin, my knees (got knobbly knees), my hands, my feet; everything was on show and I hated every minute. I remember before the Secondary School & Sixth form Prom’s, I worked out for months and months, trying on the outfits multiple times to see if I looked any better, scrutinising every little detail you could possibly think of.

That was 6 months ago.

6 months ago I was having some of the many, many side effects of epileptic medication: weight gain. In 2015 I was actually incredibly happy with myself and when I looked into the mirror, it was the first time since puberty that I was loving my body. Then a lot of family and personal changes happened, I lost a bit of weight. But after a while, I found solace again in food, making me happier and I was back to where I was a few years previous. It was not a good time at all, I was all over the place with everything, and once I got epilepsy, it went further downhill. I wasn’t just putting on weight or getting cellulite because of the meds, it was a double whammy of food and meds. I remember eating so much takeaway and fast food, because we could go to the high street, eat whatever you wanted, it was glorious. For a while, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Gregg’s – all of those were my favourite places, because I wasn’t at sixth form, I wasn’t thinking about stuff that happened, I was just eating. It wasn’t the taste or the good feeling after, it was the fact that I could get away from everything, even for a moment.

Now it’s different. Once I got away from everything, all the negativity and stress of exams, my seizures were okay for a while, it was great. But…I changed during that little time last year – for the better. Even though I still have seizures, stress moments here and there, those down/crappy moments, I’m actually really happy with myself. I never ever got my head round why people call people names, and I never will. People think they have the right to comment on someone else’s body, or anything really. I think back to what I was like in school. I was so shy I never talked, I hated it, I couldn’t wait to leave. I was literally counting down the days till the end. But, no teenager, child or even an adult should feel that way…ever. The fact that I let words and stupid/horrible people make me feel ugly, unworthy, depressed during a time where you go somewhere to learn, grow and be yourself…that’s disgusting.

You don’t know how much of an effect you make simply by words until it’s too late. With social media now, it’s even worse – even a simple ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ – or the better question “why did I only get (-number-) many likes…am I ugly?” on a photo can be so incredibly damaging it’s unbelievable.

It’s not a miracle that I’m suddenly so confident, this stuff, mentally and physically doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of time, strength and self love to get to a point where you look in the mirror and smile, not cry. I have also trained my mind into knowing that, when I go to the gym, or a run and walk, its not for vanity, its for strength. It’s just a bonus if I get toned or definition – I work out because I want healthiness, not the twisted cycle that my life once was.
Everyone is different with what they do to feel confident, I’ve most definitely learnt that. No one is the same and they might feel amazing or crappy, you don’t know what others have gone/been through or going through.

Know your worth and don’t let others dictate how you feel not just about your body, but mind, heart and the decisions YOU make – they are YOURS. And its the same the other way round: don’t say something about someone when it’s not your right to say it, even in the heat of the moment. You can’t take words back, no matter the amount of apologies you make.

It’s been a hard lesson, accepting myself for who I am. I’m still learning now, but hopefully you – the person reading this – can stand up for yourself, speak back and say that you are beautiful / regardless of another’s opinion. Most of the time, with my experience, they’re just acting up as if they’re the king or queen bee, a show off to their mates. Don’t rise to their level either, honestly, it really is not worth your time, you’re better than that and you’ll be forever glad you didn’t. My mum actually would also say they’re jealous of you, and she’s always right about everything – so I’d say thats most definitely true as well.

Most of all however, what’s most important is that you love yourself, the only opinion about you that matters, is yours – so make it positive! 

Hannah Samantha x
remember: butterflies cannot see their wings. but the rest of the world can…

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