Coming home for winter break always brings a wave of nostalgia, and as I’m going home to the same places with the same friends doing (slightly) the same things, I can’t help but feel I really am back in high school.
For some, that could sound like an absolute nightmare, but I’m one of the lucky ones who came out (mostly) unscathed with some pretty good memories.
One of those being my senior prom.
My hair looked perfect, my makeup looked perfect, my date was perfect…
But most importantly, my dress was perfect.
Yes, I was young and in love…with that perfect dress.
Now, in my small world of high school, hiding behind the dream of ‘perfection’ meant smiling through the pain of knowing what it took to get your ‘big ass’ into that perfect dress.
And there was only one thing in high school I was more infatuated with than my super-cute, athlete boyfriend: the number I saw when I stepped on that scale. It never mattered how low I could get it to go, I was never happy with how I looked.
Looking back now on those high school memories, my girlfriends and I talk about how wonderful we actually looked back then, though we didn’t feel that way at the time. We all agree that if we could talk to our former selves, we would tell them how beautiful they were and explain that feeling good about yourself is about far more that the number on the scale — all the while laughing over wine and brownies and cheese puffs and the extra poundage we have gained since the freshman 15.
And here’s the thing about my high school body: none of it was real.
I know, huge revelation people! So let me give you a minute for it to sink in.
You ready now? Okay!
When most people are 16 years old, their body isn’t even fully developed yet. On any given day they may be bigger, they may be smaller, they may even be taller, and it is all due to constant change and an influx of hormones.
For me, fluctuation was a huge part of my life in high school, and while 10 pounds wouldn’t be noticed by others, they had a dramatic effect on how I felt about myself. Imagine looking for your perfect prom dress, getting it in your little size, and being so excited to try it on when it comes in… and it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t even zip. Clothing shopping was and is stressful enough, but adding that fluctuation into the mix led to breakdowns and constant feelings of inadequacy. I mean, how could I not hate my body when we were all obsessed with the idea that pretty meant skinny?
I’m so happy to not feel that way anymore. While my negative feelings about my body haven’t vanished completely (do they ever?), coming to college and being surrounded by so much diversity in body type has really helped me to gain some perspective and to accept my weight gain. I’ve also come to appreciate that all bodies are beautiful, conventional or not.
So here’s the thing about my college body: she’s a little bigger, she’s a whole lot better, and she gets me where I need to go. (She’s downright fabulous, but that’s beside the point:)
Even though I still frequent the gym, moderate the food I eat, and try to keep a healthy figure, I am no longer obsessive about my ‘number.’ Instead of stepping on the scale (which I actually try not to do now), I listen to her. How is your body feeling? What does she need? What is she telling you?
If I could change the world of body image I would — but all I can do for now is change myself and tell you all about the things I’ve learned. I think younger girls going through high school today are lucky to be surrounded by fierce, body-positive women around the world. The body positivity movement is growing every day, and all women are welcome.
Here’s the (last) thing about my body: I am more comfortable now than I ever was in my little high school body. I accept my fluctuations, I put good in, I stay active, and I never forget to treat myself on taco Tuesday!
So ladies, it’s up to us to change the way we talk about our bodies — to ourselves and to each other. Tell your friends how healthy they look, how their skin glows, and how genuine their personalities are. Beauty comes from within, and you can only radiate it on the outside if you have accepted love in your heart for yourself on the inside. Pining for the past won’t get you there, but accepting and loving where you’re at? That’s where the change happens.
I want to hear from you in the comments below!
How do you practice self-love? How has your body journey changed? What would you say to your younger self if you had the chance?