It takes a lot to “move me” these days or to keep my attention long enough to get through what you’re trying to convey. But today, on three separate accounts, it happened.
I’m in bed listening to my really epic “Pop Punk” playlist on Spotify (you should follow me, I’m great) and I’ve just read these articles and it made me feel like a person. People don’t keep it real enough these days.
The first one was about Against Me!’s Tom Gabel and his (now her) first year as a woman by Cosmo. Incredible. Tom is now Laura. Laura is awesome and Joan Jett tucked Laura’s daughter into bed, which is probably cooler than anything that will ever happen to you. So punk rock. But for real- read this story.
Next came a story about how selling your stuff on Craiglist can change your life, in which the author explains how doing so restored some of her own faith in humanity, but that is really unrelated to what I’m trying to say, so moving on.
Then this happened. Lily, thank you. This is one of the most genuine accounts of how women deal with body image I’ve ever encountered.
Accept it, fix it? Accept it, fix it? This is a question that I have been grappling with my whole life. When it comes to the shape of my body, I have constantly and perpetually struggled to decipher whether my physique is inherently wrong in some way (something to work on fixing) or whether it is beautiful and perfect as it is (something that I need to work on accepting). Do I need to try to become a slimmer version of myself in order to feel amazing in my clothes, sex appeal, and general swagger, or do I need to unlearn a fabricated societal notion that beautiful and slender are synonymous, while having curves implies that something is broken?
First off, the fact that we as women feel like this- this amount of pressure, sense of inadequacy, dissatisfaction and so on, is so insanely fucked up. I’ve struggled with body image since I was probably 12 or so. I was gawky and awkward and actually quite skinny looking back, but at the time I was certain that my thighs were fat. I had an obsession with my thighs being “too big” for years.
Let me put this into perspective for you, I don’t even think I was a size two at this point. I think in 7th grade I hit 100 pounds and that number scared me. 100 POUNDS. Are you kidding me?
I was 5 foot 4 and I got big boobs in high school and teetered between a size two and four for its entirely. Not fat. At all. And yet, I thought I was.
Then I moved to Chicago for college and instead of gaining the “freshman 15,” I lost maybe 10. I was 105 pounds that year and I loved my body at that weight, but that wasn’t normal for me and I probably wasn’t being very healthy. I wasn’t happy. I was lost and I didn’t even know who I was or who I was trying to be.
I gained weight that summer. Went up a jean size. Got my boobs back. I probably looked better, but instead a guy I used to see commented to my co-workers about how I had “put on weight.” Which lead to a whole new phase of obsession and self-loathing.
Now I’m 22. I do the whole full-time job thing, I’ve got the Bachelor’s degree, I blog and eats lots of fruits and veggies. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful man. But most importantly, I’ve sort of got the whole “me” thing down. I like myself. But I still don’t like my body. And that’s bullshit.
I’m 115 pounds and I pick myself apart in the mirror every single day. Why do I do this?
It’s probably obvious at this point, but I’m sort of a big fan of fashion. And I love models. No, I don’t want to emulate them. Not only is that unrealistic, but I like having boobs and a booty and all of that. Despite this, I poke at my thighs and tummy and arms and think “not content.” It’s not about trying to be something that’s literally impossible. It’s not about blaming fashion or the models who display it. It’s about the way I feel when my own clothing doesn’t hang the same way because I’m a C-cup and a size four instead of a zero. It doesn’t look the same on me or fit as effortlessly, etc.
The problem isn’t the fashion industry and the girls who walk the runways. Fashion is an art and the models are human portraits. That’s not real life. That’s not the rest of the population. And why would any woman want to have the body of a 14-year-old boy?
The problem is the fact that we view this as a standard of what a beautiful, sexy woman should look like. The type of women who are placed in advertisements to try and make us long after material goods are not a reflection of who we are. Why don’t they look like us? But as someone who loves fashion and devours countless Tumblrs looking for inspiration via models’ impeccable street style, is it even possible to draw a line between that sort of “art” and life?
I’m sure my personal interests lead you to believe that I’m setting myself up for disaster when it comes to my own body image. But I would never categorize myself as an insecure person. I wear miniskirts and daisy dukes and little dresses and I am capable of feeling very sexy and comfortable in my own skin. I know I’m not fat.
But how can we teach ourselves, our future daughters, our friends to embrace our own unique shapes? Especially when one of my favorite hobbies is fashion blogging. Is this impossible? Am I a hypocrite?
I can say that today’s models need to gain some weight. 100% on board with this needing to happen ASAP. I’m thinking curvy 90s supermodels before heroin chic happened. Those women didn’t look sick. They were slim and fit and healthy looking. Nowadays we see a whole lot of skeleton action, which needs to stop. Some regulations have been passed here and there, but it’s not working. Yet at least. But enough about that. Let’s talk about you.
What I’m trying to say with all of this is that if you see these pictures of women and the supermodels and the fashion shows and the style blogs- you see the size zero jeans at the store and you see your own body in the mirror and wonder why that’s not you, take a step back. Skinny, curvy, whatever. The cool thing about being you is that there isn’t anyone else like you in the world. You probably have really wonderful qualities that people envy you over and I’m sure sometimes you’re less than admirable. THANK GOODNESS. You’re real!
The best part about being a person are all the things you’re capable of feeling. Joy, bliss, love, jealously, rage. All of that makes a life meaningful. You’ll accomplish things and you’ll fail and most of that- most of life- has nothing to do with your weight.
It was becoming increasingly clear that I was actually attempting to fight nature. Around that same time, I was beginning to delve deep into my work with StyleLikeU. Inspired by the confident women I was exposed to — no matter their shape or size — I realized for the first time that it was truly possible for women to tailor their style to their bodies rather than tailor their bodies to trends. This revelation, while it seems obvious in retrospect, was perhaps one of the most liberating moments in my journey with my body.
Liking fashion or looking beautiful or being sexy shouldn’t coincide with being skinny. If we’re lucky, we’ll also achieve a similar revelation of sorts as Lily. But if you take nothing else away from this post, hear me out on this.
Embrace your weirdness. You know the things you hate about yourself the most? Learn to accept that these so-called flaws are what make you a person. And that no one is ever content with themselves and that’s fine. Instead, let’s take all of that self-criticism and attempt to use it to our advantage. Be hard on yourself when it comes to your work and be hard on yourself when you haven’t treated people as nicely as you should have.
Don’t be hard on yourself about your body. Your body is hot and you’re probably a total babe and I want you to know that if you read this blog that I want you to look at the fashion posts as art and as inspiration for cute outfits and nothing more.
Hashtag self love.