Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Body Image Guest Blog ~ Body Dysmorphia

In my teens I was a stick figure and got teased for being a ‘rake’ although I didn't really understand the insult.  Family and friends told me I was pretty and I didn’t believe them because no-one at school agreed or if they did they didn’t say so.  More than that, I was aware I didn’t look like the girls in Dolly magazine so I figured those who said I was pretty were lying.  I knew my strengths; I loved acting, singing and dancing and art was my favourite class.  Even knowing my strengths and what I was good at did little to lift my self image.  I was convinced I was seriously ugly and had body dysmorphia.

By mid to late teens I was exercising an hour each night to work off body parts I thought were disproportionate (fat) to the rest of my body.  I thought my thighs were tremendous and the top of my arms were too fat (funny because now they really are).  I had what I call the ping [otherwise known as saddle bags] on my thighs and hated it because this made my body less than perfect.  I thought I was hideous to look at and unlovable and that I would never find a boyfriend because I just wasn’t good enough.  No amount of family and friends telling me otherwise made a difference. 
My view of myself began to change in my early 20s as I moved away from school and my peer’s judgments.  I began to date and found that boys liked me.  They complimented me on my art, my talents, my looks, my body and some even complimented me on my smarts.  I began to realize my warped view of myself was just that - a warped view of myself.  And what my peers had thought about me wasn't how the outside world thought of me.  No longer exercising an hour each night, I was keeping fit through dancing and martial arts.  I felt great, looked great, I was fit and healthy and was feeling positive about myself even though I still didn’t look like the people on TV or in magazines.  I still had my ugly days!

In my early 30's I got pregnant and I took this time to eat like I’d never eaten before.  Big mistake.  I went from obsessing over my body to neglecting it and I gained a whopping 16kg.  Thinking I’d lose the weight once I’d had the baby, it took a while and I did lose some weight, and then I had another baby and the weight was even harder to shift.  The will power I had in my teens and early 20s disappeared.

After liking myself in my 20’s I find it impossible to feel that way now that I’m older and bigger (over 10kg heavier).  I didn't bounce back after three weeks or even three years after having my last baby and I'm heavier than I've ever been and too chubby.  Also I'm constantly worried that the media's images trick my husband (they way it tricks me) into thinking I should look like those women (superstars) and that scares me because I'll never be what the media tells me I should be.  I'll never be good enough.

It is a constant struggle to remember that looks and body image don't define me.  What is underneath, who I am, what I’ve accomplished and what I'm good at matter just as much.  And also that I’m not as bad as I think.  My husband still finds me attractive even though I look nothing like the women in media and nothing like my younger self - I struggle to understand his attraction to me especially now that I've gained weight.

I constantly think about what if I still have body dysmorphia and don't realise it?  What if I'm still not fat just like I wasn't as a teen and I just can't see it?  When will my body image stop ruling my life?

If I could give young girls (and boys) advice I would say: like and love yourself because you don't realise how attractive others think you are and you will find love regardless of what you and your peers say.

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You might also like to read Guest Blog "Negative Self Talk" & "You're Too Skinny"

[We are accepting guest blogs regarding how women (and men) perceive themselves, their body image, their looks and what influences their opinions of themselves]

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