Ever since I was little, I was always told that I was big. My family always commented on my body and on how much weight I needed to lose. I went to Spain one summer by myself at the age of 10 and I remember people commenting on the fact that I had lost weight by the end of my stay. I was too aware of my body from such a young age, something that lead to a secret anxiety about it. Shopping was horrendous and I would always end up crying on my mother’s shoulders, another person who highly regrets commenting so much on my body as much as everyone else did. I look back on pictures now and I was never big. My body just physically grew up fast.
By the time I was in 4th grade, my mom and I had already gone bra shopping. My first bra was white with pink straps. In the middle of the chest was a sparkling turtle. I remember racing kids at school in the park and one of the girls made fun of the fact that I was wearing a bra. From that day forward till the middle of my high school years, I always made sure that in no way was my bra or its straps visible.
In 5th grade, I went to the bathroom one day and thought I had legitimately shit my pants without realizing it in class. I tried wiping myself as best as I could and went back to class, nervous. As I got off the bus at the end of the day, I ran all the way back home and up to my room to change underwear. I threw the dirty ones in the laundry basket and hoped that my mom would not ask… a few hours later right before swim practice, I went to the bathroom and realized that I had shit myself again.
“MOM! I KEEP POOPING MYSELF!” I shrieked.
She walked into the bathroom and saw the sight. Her hand went to her mouth and I could see that she was trying to contain a somewhat laugh.
“Oh no honey, that is not poop… you started your period.”
“What is that?” I asked.
My mother then went on to explain what becoming a woman physically was. A few weeks later in class, we watched a film over how our bodies would be changing in the next few years… all the girls were scared, and I had confronted it without knowing about it.
I look back now, sitting here in this body, one that could probably most likely be in shape and lose some weight but one that I absolutely love, and see that I was big because my body was ahead of my age. Throughout my teen years, I worried about my weight. I compared my breasts to my friends and complained that they were too big. My thighs were humongous, when in actuality they were strong from the hours of swimming i had been putting into my routine. My shoulders were too large, also due to swimming. My dad once noticed my “rippling” muscles on my back as I raced in one of my best events, the 100 backstroke.
Isn’t it sad that in our most awkward stages of our lives, people judge? People don’t think of the baby fat that some have yet to grow out of? People don’t think of the millions of changes our bodies are going through those stages? At that stage in my life, I was told I was fat, but I wasn’t. I was awkwardly trying to grow into my body, which then grew into an anxiety. By the age of 10, I was already aware of my weight and I remember flying back into the states after visiting Spain and asking my mom, “do you think I have lost weight?!” I was 10. I was a mere child.
I look back at pictures now and can see the awkward, self body awareness spread across my face. I know that when those pictures were taken, I looked at them and my first thoughts were always if I looked big. I feel horrible as I see how beautiful I was and know the anxiety that lay behind that smiling face.
That’s why I decided to love myself now. I love my body. I have got curves, and shopping for the perfect clothes for my body type are hard, but it is part of a sick culture that claims it knows what a beautiful, healthy woman and girl should look like. I have decided to own the body I was born into. I have never felt that way before. I wear a smile now because I want to, not because I force it. I feel like I walk differently, with a somewhat poise.
Maybe I am not at my best physically, but mentally, I am pretty damn healthy, and that shows by the way I treat myself.