We are not born with negative body image, it’s developed. How and when our body image is created varies depending on our environment and/or experiences. It would be easy to blame societal expectations as the reason for my negative body image, but the truth is, that isn’t how it happened for me. It did play a role in the continuation of my struggle, however, that isn’t how it began.
An eight-year old little girl. Hispanic. Long, dark hair, up in a ponytail. Standing in line waiting her turn to run down the runway, jump on the springboard and jump over the vault. The line was formed up against the mirrored wall of the gym. She could see everything that was happening inside.
The older and more advanced girls were doing round-off, back- handsprings off of the very narrow and tall beams.She could see another group of girls practicing stretches and doing the splits on the floor. Another group was at the uneven bars working on toe releases.
As she came back to her reflection in the mirror… there it was. For the first time, she saw it. Standing sideways towards the mirror, she could see the profile of her body.
None of the other girls had it. Just her. How did she never realize or see it before? It was so obvious! And gross. And weird. And in that very moment, her entire life changed…
Okay, so spoiler alert… that little girl was me! What I saw in the mirror… a round belly. At the time, and in my head, that belly looked like I was carrying around a large basketball in my leotard. In reality, it was nothing close to that, but seeing that all the girls around me had completely FLAT stomachs, made it all the worse.
I remember being obsessed with the way other girls looked in their clothes after that. They all wore tights and form fitted clothes and there were no round bellies to be seen. I was always on the lookout. I became obsessed with flat stomachs. Wishing and hoping that if I wished and hoped hard enough, I would have one. A flat stomach.
I convinced myself that there was something wrong with me… because I didn’t have a flat belly. I had a fat one. Which meant that I was fat. And just like that… a simple observation in a mirror took over and consumed the next thirty years of my life. Did I mention I was eight years old? Because I was EIGHT-YEARS OLD!
If you’re here, and you’ve read through the entire post above, thank you, and welcome to thatssohazel. I hope you’ll stay until the end, and I hope that what I have to say and share will resonate with you or someone you know. I hope to be helpful, and I pray for healing for anyone who needs it.
The moment I just shared with you has defined my entire life. My struggles with body image, eating disorders, lack of self-worth and self-love, and overall way that I have lived my life over the last thirty years. My mental health struggle and journey.
I can’t help but wonder how many other little girls have been out there, experiencing moments like these. The moments that became essential pieces to who they would become. The moments where body image became an issue and they started to hate what they saw in the mirror. Consumed in the obsession.
This moment was only the first of so many more to come. And I would like to share them all with you because there is healing in knowing that you’re not alone, you are normal, and that things can change and get better.
If I could go back and tell that little girl that she was beautiful, that her curvy belly would not always look that way, that it doesn’t define her, and that her self-worth has nothing to do with what she saw in the mirror that day… well… I wouldn’t. I would allow it to happen all over again.
You see… I have no idea what my life would have been like without that moment. Everything would have been different. I would have been different. But that means that I wouldn’t be here, sitting at my dining table, writing the very first post for my own blog. I might not have wanted a space to tell my story, or even had a story to tell.
“But, your life could have been better.”… Sure. But I guess it depends on what you consider “better”. I have an opportunity to be helpful, and what’s better than that?
I’m not an expert in mental health and I don’t have a Ph.D.
I am an expert on my life, my feelings, and my struggles.
I’m an expert at managing the depression I’ve developed after years of hatred towards myself.
I’m an expert at getting myself through the darkest moments.
And I’m also an expert at pretending. At making myself look completely put together, confident, poised, and happy, when in reality, the pain was raw and fierce inside. But you would never know it.
I have thirty years worth of stories, experiences, struggles, and insights. And I want to share it because I’m hoping that other women who were once those little girls can have a place to go and know that they weren’t ever alone in their struggles.
I’d like to continue to tell you my story. It’s a long one. I will share how I navigate through the everyday and somewhere in the middle of all of this, I hope to help you see yourself the way the people who love you do.
I hope to encourage you. And I hope that in getting to know me, you’ll see that I am always just me. I’m going to be honest with you. I’m going to tell you how it is.
I want you to know that I love Jesus, but I’m human, and I behave as such. I get angry, I lose my sh** sometimes, I curse (working on it), and I mess up… a lot!!!! Which brings me to…
No matter what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you… He loves you!
I’m not here to convert anyone, but I whole heartedly, 100% believe, so… I’m going to say it.
God made you, and me, in his image. NO. DOUBT. ABOUT. IT.
And none of what I’m doing here is without him.
Thank you for being here!
I hope you’ll join me on this journey to healing, self-love and growth. I would love to hear from you and if you need someone to talk to, (or write to) & get those thoughts out, I’m here and I welcome you.
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The wins, the losses, the struggles, and the successes of the everyday
Depression, self-love, & body image, among others
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