This is a topic I knew I was going to get into at one point and I finally feel inspired to put my thoughts into writing. Just like every other girl, I had my ups and downs with “body image” so here is my story.
I have never been overweight or underweight. For my whole life (so far) I have had a ‘healthy’ body and by that I mean my BMI and fat percentage have always been normal. The first time I remember feeling uncomfortable about my body was around year 2 of Primary. Yes, you read that right, PRIMARY. In year 2 I was around 7-8 years old. For P.E. we had to wear our gym kit which at my school was a white t-shirt with the school logo and blue (tight) bicycle shorts. I HATED THEM! For a reason I still don’t know to this day, I thought my THIGHS looked too fat in those shorts and I remember feeling so self-conches wearing them. For some reason, in my head everyone else’s thighs were totally fine but mine were too big. Looking back, I realise that I was exactly the same size as all the other girls in my class. Luckily, that didn’t affect me further. I hated those shorts and that was about it. My problem right now is that I cannot understand WHY as an 8-year-old I was thinking that way about my body. I wonder why I was conserned about my “body image” at all.
I started going through puberty pretty early on and I started growing boobs (which were probably growing for about 3 hours and then they stopped lol) but none of that really affected me. Around year 5, I want to say I was about 10 years old, I got my first stretch marks on my butt (which at first were super faint). My mum actually noticed them first and she freaked out. I am not throwing her under the bus by any means. Talking about it now, she says she freaked out because she thought it would affect me and also in her mind if I got stretch marks it was because I must have been gaining weight (in a bad way). My mum only got her first stretchmarks when she got pregnant so she was shocked to see myself getting them so young. At that time I might have gained a few kilos but nothing unhealthy (I personally don’t remember feeling like I was gaining any weight). I am not going to lie, my mum’s reaction kind of freaked me out because at that age I didn’t care if I had stretch marks on my butt but my mum made it seem like a big deal. – Right now, I have stretch marks all over my butt, my thighs, and on the side and the back of my knees and it truly doesn’t bother me because they are really not that bad.- During the next couple of years, many of my friends started getting stretch marks as well (and none of them had gained or lost a noticeable amount of weight but they got stretch marks anyway, just like me) which reassured me that it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
In secondary school I felt very OK about my body. Except, when we had pool parties. And we had a few of them. Looking back, my body was totally fine! At the time I didn’t feel that comfortable in a swimsuit and the worst for me was having to wear a bikini because my belly was the thing I was most self-conscious of at the time. I was also very hairy, and still am, so that was another reason why I didn’t love having my belly on show. I felt uncomfortable and I thought I needed to have abs or at least a flat tummy to wear a bikini (even though all my friends were normal girls that looked just like me). Luckily, once again, this didn’t get in my way. Yes, this would cause me some anxiety leading up to the parties but that didn’t hold me back. I still went to all the pool parties and I truly enjoyed them as well.
Around that time I also started taking ballet more seriously. I started spending more hours at my dance school, which I loved, but seeing myself in the mirror wearing nothing but a leotard and tights, wasn’t that fun. In fact, I remember one day I walked into the studio, looked at myself in the mirror, and all of a sudden (out of nowhere) I had love handles!!! I wasn’t a fan of that so I started googling exercise to get rid of them. I was doing a lot of oblique exercises and planks desperately trying to make them go away. They wouldn’t, so eventually, I just gave up. I even remember talking to my ballet teacher about it and she kindly informed me that the changes to my body were just part of growing up and I wasn’t gaining weight or anything like that. That was really comforting to hear.
Over the next couple of years I was focused a lot on ballet and I thank God Instagram was different back then and my feed wasn’t flooding with amazing dancers and their even more amazing bodies. I honestly think that protected me so much. My best friend and I would talk about our bodies all the time and our ballet teacher (aka her mum) was always giving the best advice. She would encourage us to eat healthily and fuel our bodies with good stuff and work hard in class. That was all we needed to have healthy dancing bodies. I actually have sooo much more to say about body image specifically in ballet and the dance world, especially after watching a video by Lun Montana. I will save that for a future post.
Where I am today.
Fast-forward to my last year in school I was so chilled about my body. To this day, I feel at peace. Sure there are things I want to work on (just like everyone) but I am happy. If I feel like something doesn’t look good on my body, I am not going to wear it. I still don’t like wearing traditional bikinis because I don’t feel “good” in them. I feel amazing in my beautiful one-piece swimsuits so why should I try to force myself to feel confident in a low rise bikini?! My point is, even if I had a “flat tummy” or abs I would still wear a one-piece or a high waisted bikini because this is what I genuinely like and that’s my style. My belly is still the part I am the most self-conscious about, but I can live with it. I naturally have a stronger lower body so I am really trying to strengthen up my back and my abs. I want to improve my technique as a dancer and have a strong balanced body. I am not working on my body to make it look a certain way! I do it because it feels good. Just a year ago I noticed my hips got wider from one day to the next and again it had nothing to do with my weight. It was 100% out of my control. My body is changing and it will continue to do so.
Going back to the beginning of this post, I think a small contributor to me being so aware of my body at such a young age was basically my mum and my grandma. I know everything they did was out of love but they would always talk about my body and how “thin” I was. Sure I wasn’t eating well but what kid eats well at that age anyway?! Instead of focusing on me being healthy on the inside and eating good healthy food to feel strong, it was always about the weight and my physical appearance. I think that just made me hyperaware of the way my body looked on the outside as all the importance was put on that. I know they didn’t care about what I looked like and they wanted me to have a healthy body altogether. Unfortunately, I think they went about it the wrong way. Whether you are being told that you are “too thin” or “too fat” or that you eat “too much” or “not enough”, it feels exactly the same and it is not a nice way to feel. It should never be about what we look or how much we eat. It should be about what we eat (getting all the nutrients we need) and how we feel (energised and awake and not tired, sleepy, lightheaded, and out of breath).
This had been a long one so thank you if you have made it this far. Please feel free to share your own experience, struggles, triumphs, tips, or advice. You can comment below or message me. Either way I would love to hear from you and start a conversation about something I know so many of us have gone/are going through.
Shirt – Next
Shorts – H&M
Scrunchie – Amazon