I, like many other people, often struggle with keeping a positive body image. I am constantly trying to remind myself that my body by no means equals my self-worth, but it is always nagging on me the way others perceive me.
10 year old Amanda in Scotland, fully covered up as usual.
I have been a small person my entire life, and I constantly have people asking if I eat, or if they hear of me exercising (which I’ll be honest, has been minimal as of late but I am getting back into the habit), they tell me not to overdo it because I’ll waste away. As someone who eats three meals a day plus snacks, I can assure you that I am not wasting away anytime soon. Burgers are my favourite food and I am lucky enough to have the metabolism that I do.
18 year old Amanda in the best shape of her life.
But here’s the thing, when people make direct comments about someone’s appearance/body to their face it hurts. No matter how high their self assurance is, your comments are going to sting somehow. You’re telling someone that you don’t approve of the way their manage and take care of their own body, the only one they have. Most of the time these comments are being made in malice, so they are intended to hurt you (regardless of what they say when you defend yourself).
24 – going through a weightlifting phase, notice there’s a bit of a ‘bum’. Found out there was some ‘sub-tweeting’ going around about this picture, kept it up despite everything my gut was telling me.
Personally, I’ve come to loathe the word “petite”, I have never heard someone say it to me in a way that didn’t cut like a knife – “Oh Amanda you’re so petite“, “I bet you don’t even eat to be that petite“, “Why I’d have to cut my right leg off to be petite like you” or my favourite “I bet your boyfriend hates that you’re that petite, what is there to grab on to?” All of these comments hurt, and I don’t know about you, but I would never comment on someone’s appearance like that.
25 – bum gone, so over weightlifting. Wasn’t my idea. Hair’s even longer now.
I have been classified as “underweight” for my age and height my entire life (which I honestly think is a horrible construct – my blood pressure, heart rate and all that were good and consistent – the doctors couldn’t ask for better), my pediatricians growing up knew how much I ate, and how active I was (I did soccer, softball, bowling and swimming in elementary school, soccer and track & field in high school) and that I was eating more than enough to replace the calories I was burning (not that I have ever been a calorie counter). My doctors had no worries about me, but everyone around me (outside of my immediate family) took it as their personal mission to “fatten me up”. If they had succeeded, they would have shamed me for being fat – there really is no winning.
26 – choosing to portray myself in non-sexualized ways. I went as Rosie the Riveter (above) and Olive Oyl that Halloween).
I have spent a good portion of my life absolutely hating my body, solely because other people hated it. I’ve learned that in many cases, when someone makes a negative comment about someone else’s appearance, it’s because they are trying to make themselves feel better by bringing someone else down.
27 – not thinking about what anyone thinks about me in this dress or that I have tan lines. Picture by Chris Jensen Studios.
So here’s what I want to propose, let’s all try three easy things this week:
- Give someone a genuine compliment that isn’t about their appearance (ex. “I really admired the way you handled [enter thing here], I wish I had your [enter quality here]”
- Give yourself a genuine compliment everyday, right before you go to bed. When you are brushing your teeth each night, think of something you did that day that you’re proud of. Did you keep your patience when you found out your dog ate another one of your flip flops? (something I need to work on). Did you wake up early enough to have breakfast at home? Did you get that project finished that you had been stressing about? All of those things are little victories that you should celebrate at the end of the day.
- Bring a water bottle with you when you leave the house and make sure you finish it by lunch, re-fill it and finish it again before you go home at the end of the day. Drinking lots of water makes us feel better, clears up our skin, prevents headaches and keeps us from drying out. While not directly related to the points above, it’s important and even if it’s the only thing you’re happy about at the end of the day, at least you’re hydrated.
Let me know in the comments what you got up to this week to bring about positive feelings and celebrating your small victories!