On Body Image Struggles and Rejecting Society's Expectations
Last year I did what most millennials do when they want to share a personal experience: I wrote a Facebook post about it. Facebook posts are unusual for me, but I wanted to call attention to National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders which, like NEDA, raises awareness about eating disorders. That Facebook post was a confessional—because I had never told anyone about my struggle to accept my curvy 4'11 and three-quarters (the three-quarters matters when you're 4'11!) body.
During my junior of high school I flirted with body dysmorphia and a restrictive diet of of only 800 calories a day. Although my weight never sank to medically unhealthy levels, my body image was very unhealthy. My mind warped the body reflected in front of me when I looked in the mirror, making me see a heinous doppelgänger of myself. And I thought it was normal for a woman to feel this way, to hate her body. It’s not normal.
The overwhelming support I received from teachers, family, and friends was almost unbelievable. Girls from my freshmen hall and high school messaged me to say that they also struggled with body image issues. My confession became a bittersweet moment of camaraderie. I was lucky that this issue lasted for only a couple months of my life and I never needed to seek medical help. Others are not as lucky as me.
There so many girls that go through a time in their life where they feel they need to lose some of themselves (literally and figuratively) in an attempt to feel beautiful and confident about their bodies. The late General Organa noted that when directors hired her for roles, "they didn't want to hire all of [her]—only about three-quarters of [her].” Girls are still taught that only part of them is acceptable, that their worth is based on traditional standards of appearance and beauty. I don't want more girls to lose part of themselves to feel whole.
Diversity of bodies has recently become more accepted both in and outside of media, which is such a great step in the right direction. But I believe we need to see more diverse representation.
The pressure placed on the appearance of girls and specific ideas of how a girl should look is too pervasive. Every girl should feel confident and beautiful about her body. Nobody should decide that for her. As we believe in our beauty and believe that we will not be reduced to our appearance, we will continue to march stridently forward. We will be seen and we will be heard.
February 26-March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which aims to spotlight the various kinds of eating disorders—and provide resources to help. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, contact someone you trust or the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
By Quinn Falter, 20