I’m going to start off this month by writing about a kind of love that we don’t often talk about, but something that I am glad I am speaking up for these days because I know that nobody else can do that for me. This is and will continue to remain my fight and anyone else’s who is going through what I have been through, maybe since the onset of puberty to this very day. I’ve tried having conversations about it but I have always been brushed off because people tell me that it’s all “in my head” or just that I’m being too dramatic.
I have caught myself wishing that were the case, every time I stand in front of the mirror and I don’t even like what I see, no matter what I do to fit into the kind of image that everyone clearly wants me to conform to. To put things into perspective, I came across a photo of myself from 7 years ago. I was in 10th grade. I had been bullied about my weight by almost everybody I knew and I had decided to practically starve myself to reduce weight. And it had worked, too! I was slim.
But looking at the photo made me realize that I looked dead in the eyes. I looked, for lack of a better word, sick. There was no sparkle in my eyes and no glow. I compared it to a photo I took recently and I realized that I may have gained a little bit of weight now, but I looked so much happier and healthier. But the thing is, nobody is ready for that conversation and everybody I know is back to bullying me about my weight and body shape, leaving me spiralling back to my crippling body image issues.
The kind of love that I want to talk about today is called philautia or self-love. It is so hard for some of us to be kind to ourselves. I have been trying to be kinder to myself for years now and I am doing better than I was before. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still struggle with accepting myself for what I am right now, while I still work on being fitter. So, no. Telling me that I look fat or that I have gained weight isn’t you being concerned about me. In fact, it’s you promoting a conventional standard of beauty that is often toxic and harmful, so much that it leads young minds to starve themselves.
I was watching Taylor Swift’s documentary, ‘Miss Americana’ today and there’s this one part where she says that she used to think that exhausting herself, more accurately, to the extent of ‘passing out’ after a performance was normal and even healthy. And later on, she realized that it’s not normal to feel burnt out like that. I could relate to that so much because I used to do that, as a 14 y/o, impressionable teenager. I remember that even after shedding all that weight back then, I used to look into the mirror and see myself as ‘fat’ because that’s what my brain had been programmed to see.
I’m still unlearning that I don’t have to fit into society’s standards of beauty. So when people tell me that I look fat, or that I should maybe change my eating habits, they’re not really helping. They’re only adding more fuel to the already raging fire inside me that I have been trying to put out for years now. So I am not going to apologie for any kind of lashing out that results from all the absolutely unnecessary comments about the way I look. I can’t let people take away the kind of progress I’ve made.
A very close friend told me today that people would only affect me as much as I let them. And it makes a lot of sense, too. But sometimes, it just seeps in somehow and all of my insecurities start acting up again. I know that a lot of people go through the same thing and that they have nobody to turn to because they’d be brushed aside and told: “It’s all in your head.” And it’s to those people I reach out today because I genuinely understand what you have to face when things get a little too loud.
Please, please be mindful of the kind of things you say to people, even if they’re said jokingly. You never know when you’re going to trigger something that they’ve kept hidden inside for way too long. You don’t understand the kind of strength it takes to do that. It’s the 21st century. We actually give a damn about the things we say to people now. We think twice about the repercussions that our words may have. We don’t just brush aside things as serious as mental health.
And to everyone who’s going through the same battle as I am, I am so sorry you have to. I know that loving yourself every day seems like a chore. I know that not wanting to get out of bed is a routine. I know how hard it is to show yourself even an ounce of kindness when the world outside clearly wants to change at least one aspect of you before they find you perfect or complete. But guess what? You’re already perfect and complete.
It can get a little too much on some days, but I can tell you that it gets better. Loving yourself in spite of what everyone else says is possible, even though it isn’t easy. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about the way we looked or the calories we consumed. And maybe someday people will stop caring about all those superficial things too. But until then, please be kind to yourself. Don’t let anybody tell you that what you’re going through isn’t valid. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
It never hurts to be mindful about the people around us, you know? There’s only so much that some of us can take.
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