Beauty is a word that sparks up conflict within me; whether I talk about attractiveness or think of myself as beautiful in front of a mirror.
For most of my adolescent life, whenever my family, friends and even strangers complimented me, it eventually boiled down to one small, yet distasteful, heart-sinking word.
I’ve had plenty of “you are so pretty but you’d be so much more so if you lost your extra weight,” or, the one that would always guarantee an eyeroll from me: “you’d be a babe if you lost weight.”
Despite the nonchalant tone those statements were often delivered with, they always felt like a knife dug deep into insecurities I have had to face ever since I was twelve. I rarely ever loved my body. This lack of love led me to an avalanche of bad decisions that I still regret.
I skipped High School graduation prom because no dress felt good on me, after hours of obsessing over every single detail I deemed as a flaw in front of the mirror. I have held myself from auditioning for school plays, despite my love for theatre, because I hated my body. Sure, there is no correlation between acting skills and loving your body; but my whole life used to be revolved around me hating the skin I lived in.
I have done many things to my body that I am not proud of. I used to binge eat, feel guilty, exercise until I dropped and repeat. I would drag my body into exhausting diets that left me with no energy and plummeted me into iron and vitamin deficiencies. I have not been kind to my body growing up.
When I turned eighteen, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism. Thyroid is a hormone regulator gland that, when dysfunctional, can cause weight fluctuations, anxiety, hair loss and fatigue among other things.
When I was freshly diagnosed, I cried for an hour. I cried because I thought I would never lose weight and I would spend my whole life haunted by ‘buts.’
It was a wake-up call. I had been attaching my self-worth and my self-love to a number on a scale for far too long. It had exhausted me, both mentally and physically.
I am now twenty-three, coming to terms with the fact that self-love is something I need to work on every day. I am not over my insecurities, but I have recognised them and choose to work on them. I have a lot more work to do. But I am no longer expecting anyone but myself to call me beautiful.
Making peace with my body is hard and insecurities pop up at the most undesirable moments. They will probably never stop; but my will to shut them out has weakened them and will continue to do so.
Learning to love my body is a journey I have put on hold for a long time; and it began with me apologising to myself for all the bad words and beliefs I have inflicted on every body part I’ve deemed unworthy.
Those are the apologies I can control, and, in the end, those are the ones that truly matter.
My body does not exist to make anyone happy but me.