Body image is a subject I broach tenderly + fiercely.
Because I have seen the way you touch a girl, just brush her shoulder, and she crumbles under the possibility of care. Because I have curled into myself and watched the clock digits blink back at me, paralyzed by my own wobbly heartbeat. Because I know we walk a fine line by pretending it is easy to smother but not knowing where to begin.
In tenth grade, I made fun of the girls whose very self-worth was typed into Xanga posts and passed around the Internet like tickets to a grand and alluring place: a place where they could push past their dwindling digits and hyper heartbeats and just be smaller.
And because I once sat in front of this very same computer and decided to tell the blogging world that I had loved food too much, that I had loved the idea of controlling it, that I had let anorexia just come full force at me and demand a few months, a few scary and life-threatening months, I can’t walk away.
Loving your very core does not come easily to everyone; some people, maybe, but not those of us who pinned our purpose to being small and strong at the same time. Or filling our insides with food instead of fears of inadequacy or inability.
I have read hundreds of blog posts about loving yourself. I have written dozens, probably, at this point. I have heard the mantras. I have hugged the notion that we can pin a couple hundred inspirational sayings and toss away the scales and just be.
So you can understand why, after years of emails from girls and boys who have read my story and know my heart from the other side of the county, it feels like the worst thing to tell them this:
I don’t have it all figured out. And there are days, weeks even, when I wonder if there was some point in my life that shattered the possibility of ever moving onward without doing double-takes in the mirror.
There are days where I wonder if we ever come out on the other side, if there is some playbook for life as a small girl trying to own that smallness without worrying it’s a sign that something still isn’t right.
And if something isn’t right, well what is wrong? Am I wrong? Are we wrong?
You can imagine how that’s more than enough to keep you awake, keep your heart racing and your palms sweating and your stomach churning with fear and anxiety and the sureness only in that you are so very far from qualified to tell these strangers sitting in your inbox that they can beat this perpetual longing they’ve been subjected to.
The truth is, I don’t know if some people can ingest those pump-up speeches and love-your-body manifestos and walk straight out of eating disorder clinic doors. I don’t know if that’s normal or abnormal, or if I’m the only one who doesn’t feel better when someone says simply to love myself, that I am beautiful, that I am perfect the way I am.
A few wires must’ve missed being welded in my brain. A handful of neurons are not properly firing. I have quotes on quotes on quotes on my walls but the ones about my pants size or my messy curls or my small frame? Those just don’t always stick around.
So I can’t give you a quote today. Not the way you want me to.
I can give you a truth that’s much simpler but often messied by our own plastered portraits of people: some of us, many even, are worried they are not good enough—whether in their talents and skills or their shape and weight.
And when we talk about it, openly + honestly + fearlessly, we feel this burden shifting from our hunched backs and shoulders to the ground beneath our feet. We feel the lungs in our chest open up and, maybe for the first time in a long time, we know ourselves to be in the company of a couple hundred thousand like-minded and unsure individuals who want nothing more than for it to be okay to speak our stories out loud without losing any dignity we scraped up in order to find ourselves in their company in the first place.
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