My first memory of recognizing body image was in my fifth grade history class. I have always been thin; however, I hadn’t grown into my head, and on top of that, I was super skinny. People frequently teased me for being “too skinny” and would tell me that I needed to eat more. For some people, they’d see nothing wrong with that, we were kids, right?
One day, I’m standing in line and all of a sudden a girl in my class yells, “Are you wearing … a bra?” I was humiliated. In retrospect, it wasn’t a big deal, but when you’re eleven, and you just had the puberty talk, emotions are running a little higher than usual. I think I was also terrified because at the time I wasn’t even an A-cup, so, yeah I can’t explain this one.
Fast forward to age sixteen where I basically got boobs overnight. Suddenly, I was walking a little different. I felt grown up, and I was feeling myself to the fullest. During this time, I ran cross country and track, so my metabolism was out of this world.
Next thing I know I’m in college, and bam, everybody and their mother seems to have curves, and at this very moment, I realized I looked like a lanky teenage boy. It took me years to accept that as much as I wanted curves, I’m most likely never going to have them. But I think what opened my eyes to realizing I wasn’t alone in my insecurity was a new wave of women on social media taking on these journeys of their own.
As college students, our bodies seem to be forever changing due to birth control side effects, the lack of healthy food options, and busy schedules. But, despite this constant pressure for perfection, these college years of our lives are meant for personal growth — mind, body and soul.
I had the opportunity to interview three wonderful women on campus who spoke to their perceptions of body image in society, as well as their experiences learning to love their bodies.
Kayla Young, senior at Ohio University, spoke to me about the pressure to stay healthy and confident in your body while dealing with stress or anxiety. But one thing she preached was making sure that during your process to living a healthy and happy life, you should love yourself every step of the way, even the hardest ones.
“Healthy doesn’t always mean skinny,” Young says. “Love the body that you’re in, because at the end of the day you’re the only one who can love yourself.”
Young has been on her own fitness and healthy-living journey for two years now, and she explained that undergoing this type of commitment is more difficult than it seems on the surface. But what stuck with me most about what Young shared was the need to love yourself throughout the process.
“Don’t be afraid to have cheat meals,” Young says. “It’s not really about how you look, but how you feel.”
Which brings me to my next point … since when did being healthy and happy have to be limited to one size? More and more today we are seeing young women getting surgical procedures to fit the ‘hourglass figure’ mold. The mold that was set by us.
“We expect women to look like that when it’s not physically possible,” Young states. “There’s so much pressure, especially at a young age.”
As young people, our perceptions of the perfect body will forever be changing. It’s human nature, and greatly influenced by what we see in the media.
“What I considered to be a perfect body was a female who was skinny, [had] a butt, boobs,” senior Kayla Printup explains. “Stuff that is glorified by the world.”
When I posed the question of whether plastic surgery could have a negative effect on youth, senior Nia Hogue expressed her concerns about it.
“I think it encourages younger girls to pay and fix something they don’t like about themselves,” Hogue says. “But I do think it’s up to that person because if that’s what makes them happy then that’s up to them.”
However, what I personally have learned in my 21 years of living is that despite what you may consider perfect on one person, may be completely different than what they consider to be perfect. No one’s opinion of their body remains the same throughout their life, and that’s okay. Loving yourself, every little thing, is what’s important.
I’m a firm believer in building on your insecurities, and it’s up to you to find what makes you feel empowered and beautiful. Whether it’s getting plastic surgery, exercising, maintaining a balanced diet or just embracing your body as is, it’s your body, and your way of loving yourself. Learn to love your imperfections because I guarantee that there’s someone out there who will love them too.