By DaiJhah Owens
Have you ever looked at old pictures of yourself from high school or your college/under-grad years and thought, “I wish I was that size again” or “Where did that body go?” If you answered yes, you are not alone. These are common thoughts I see posted on social media. It made me want to think deeper about my relationship with my body and how diet culture combined with unrealistic/toxic beauty standards has shaped how I see myself. It also prompted me to think about ways I can fight back against a society that makes women hate their bodies so much!
I was looking at a picture I took my senior year of under-grad circa 2015 and began begging (jokingly but also seriously) God to give me that old body back. That slim-thick size all the rapper guys talk about loving. But I stopped. I sat with my feelings for a moment more to try and get to the root of that thought. I remember being that slim-thick size, that ideal body shape, and I STILL hated my body. I couldn’t remember a time in my past when I didn’t hate my body. No matter how small or ideal my body was, I always felt like I was 600 pounds; I always felt disgusting. This has a name; it’s called Body Dysmorphia.
Body Dysmorphia is a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others. But you may feel embarrassed, ashamed, and anxious. It’s the idea that when you look in the mirror, you see something negative about your body that’s not even there. In the past, when I looked in the mirror, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t 600 pounds. When in reality, my body was fine, my health was fine, I was fine.
This leads me to think that, if no matter how big or small my body was, I still felt I wasn’t enough, then maybe my problem wasn’t with my weight at all. Perhaps it was the pressure from society to look a certain way from a very young age that was my true enemy.
Some people will try to turn this into a healthcare issue to derail the conversation. Yes, eat healthily; Yes, exercise; Yes, follow your doctor’s orders. But what we’re not going to do is continue gaslighting women into thinking this is all about health. The fact that women come out of the womb feeling insecure and hating their bodies speaks volumes. That 5th and 6th-grade girls are being bullied based on their body size speaks volumes. This is a health issue, a mental health one.
Society tears us down so they can build us back up in the image they deem acceptable. But, if you’re a woman, you know there’s no arriving at this acceptable image; the goal line is constantly being moved to ensure you stay in the cycle of self-hate.
So how do we fight this? It starts with having these honest conversations void of any gaslighting: Getting real with ourselves about how we have been complicit in our own harm. Then we begin radically loving our body. Speak life into those back rolls and that fupa! Dare to love yourself unconditionally. This will make others and even yourself uncomfortable. To not be constantly working towards that unattainable beauty standard is extremely radical.
Take a moment, think back over your life and everything your body has carried you through. The times you didn’t think you could go on, but somehow, your body healed itself, and you survived. Your body is sacred. Your body had always had your back when no one else did. How dare you hate it based on what strangers think?
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!