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Author Topic: 20something questions the skin I'm in
MissTK
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Hello everybody!

So I'm a twenty-year-old girl with some body issues (yeah, tell me something new right?) but growing up, I never had anybody to talk to or give me advice about all that stuff. This site has literally changed my life because I come from a family where emotions aren't really expressed or talked about, let alone sex and body issues!

I've been overweight my whole life (*literally* my whole life) and it was never a problem until I was about 13. Until then, I just accepted it as one of the things that made me, me. Then my friends started getting male attention and I didn't (and still haven't really) and I've always just assumed it was because of how I look. Throughout high-school I grew to genuinely hate my body, my whole being really. Even now, I make a pointed effort not to look at myself in any reflective surface when I'm out in town or something.

Every time I see girls smaller than me, I just feel this irrational dislike towards them. I don't even see a person. I just see this body with perfect breasts or legs or a nice figure or how they can wear vests and I can't because of the stretch marks I have all over my body. Even if it's not somebody who's conventionally "skinny" I just find other girls so much more attractive than I am. This year I made a concentrated effort to lose weight and people have been commenting on how much thinner I look but I hate my body. I still hate it so much.

Everywhere I go I feel like people are looking at me in disgust or judging me for being overweight. I mean, whenever I go home from university and I'm with all my slimmer friends, people always comment on how big I am first. They don't ask how I am or anything, just tell me how fat I am and how they "can't have a fat doctor" (I'm a medical student). I see how they look at my friend's slim waists and proportioned hips with approval, like they've achieved something so spectacular and their comments feel like they're emphasising what a failure I am. Like, they're proper women and take better care of themselves because they have attractive bodies and I'm just not.

When one of my old school friends lost quite a bit of weight, all the people who saw her congratulated her (rightly so) and told her things like "THIS is what a woman should look like!". I mean it was as if the way she was before was some kind of aberration, like she could never gain acceptance or be good enough until she had that slim figure. Even when I'm out with my friends, they always have guys chasing after them and hitting on them and all that while I... well don't. And it's not as if I'm a shrinking violet, I have a really outgoing personality and I'm great at starting conversation and making people laugh and I think I'm smart. But none of that matters unless I have a nice body to attract guys to it in the first place. I used to get by on just being smart at school, it got me places and won me awards and got me in med school but I feel like I'm a complete failure at being a real woman. I can't study my way out of this.

How am I supposed to like this body I'm in when I'm covered in stretch marks from head to foot and have all these ugly fat rolls and ugh... It just feels gross. It feels impossible to let go of. Like, every time somebody tells me "oh you're beautiful the way you are" or "love your body" it just feels like they're lying to me to make me feel better. Where do I even begin and if I ever get the point where I feel positive about my body, how do I keep that mindset once I'm out in the open amongst beautiful women?

Posts: 24 | From: South Africa | Registered: Sep 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Welcome back, MissTK. [Smile]

I'm so sorry to hear about some of the size negativity that you've been dealing with. It should be obvious -- and hopefully even if people around you don't know better, you can -- that doctors come in all shapes and sizes, including fat. That who people are and aren't attracted to not only isn't just about size, but includes a whole range of sizes and shapes. That what our bodies look like generally has very little to do with achievements, and way, way more to do with genetics. That guys are not only attracted to one kind of body, just like women aren't. That 'real" women come in all shapes and sizes.

I hear that you've internalized a lot of these crummy ideas and attitudes -- wrong ideas, honestly -- and I'm not surprised. It's very, very hard not to take in negativity when we're getting a lot of it.

But you know, your body is no more "gross" or "ugly" than other kinds of bodies are, and really, that's always going to be a matter of opinion. And you know, I have friends of size who feel terrible about themselves and go bananas to try and change their bodies, and then I have friends of size who think they are the hottest things on earth and totally enjoy and celebrate their bodies.

When people tell us to love our bodies, they're using a shorthand - and one that, I feel you, can feel dismissive sometimes of how hard that can be -- to tell us to work to accept ourselves and our bodies. because really, if we don't, others are way, way less likely to. While it can seem like what we look like broadcasts the clearest messages about is, I'd disagree. I'd say that how we feel about ourselves tends to do that more.

I'd posit that you are probably amongst beautiful women every day, just by being in your own skin. I get you don't feel that way about it now, or yet, but you can, and that probably will involve both learning to toss off negativity you get more, ditch your own poor or wrong ideas about size and maybe also take a look at your own beauty standards here. In other words, I hear you expressing that those of others don't include you, but I'm hearing you voice beauty standards yourself that don't include you. I hear you not including yourself and the way you, and other women who look like you, look, too: see what I'm saying?

If it helps, I encounter similar things as I'm aging and the women around me are aging. Just like a lot of people's ideas about beauty, and what we see in media rarely includes women of size, the same goes for women aging in the ways most normal people, people who aren't celebrities, don't do plastic surgery, don't live at the gym or the dermatologist or get airbrushed, et cetera.

But you know, I look around amongst my friends and they aren't any less beautiful to me. They're not, perhaps, the same kind of beautiful they were to me when they were 20, because we can look so different as we age. But then they(and me) have some things going on we didn't when we were younger, like how aging adds so many new planes and textures to our faces, how it can change the lines of our bodies, how our coloring shifts, etc.

Our bodies are going to be changing our whole lives, and few people, if any, will be able to meet strict, momentary beauty standards for a lifetime. At best, they will for a decade or so, if that, especially since beauty ideals change all the time. I've seen them radically change at least a few times just in my 40+ years of life, for instance, and people who were put up as the most beautiful in the mainstream 30 years ago, for instance? people who looked similarly, at the same ages they were, now? Would not be filed in those lists anymore.

In other words, the folks you know who get a lot of external validation now? They won't always. We all need to figure out how to validate ourselves in this respect, and find our own bodies awesome, regardless of if anyone else does or doesn't. We need to do that anyway, just because our bodies are so much more than about sex or romance or looks, but also because if not now, there will always come a time when the only person who likely will validate our looks is ourselves.

So, let's try this: what do YOU think you'd need to accept yourself just as you are, and learn to accept and appreciate the way you look more? It's nothing someone can magically do overnight, but perhaps we can talk some about where you could get started?

[ 09-27-2013, 02:42 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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MissTK
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Hello Heather:)

Can I just mention again how amazing you are? After all these years of all these thoughts bouncing around in my head and making me feel awful, it's wonderful to talk to somebody who understands my point of view.

Well, in terms of where I can start... Wow. That's a really difficult question. I just don't know. I remember a few years ago, before I was diagnosed with my depression, I became so miserable about myself that I even contemplated harming myself. All my friends left me because they couldn't deal with my negativity and I was just completely isolated from the world.

The year before I came to university, I realised how much I hated being alone and how much I missed being around people so when I got here, I made an effort to do stuff on campus and talk to people I wouldn't have otherwise met because I was trying to repair my soul really. Personality-wise, I'm like a different person now. I behave confidently (even when I don't feel it), I smile and interact with others all the time and people generally enjoy my company. But there's always that lingering thought in my mind that I'm not good enough or sometimes it feels like I'm being fake or like I don't belong.

I've always felt dissociated from my body. My brain was most important. I didn't take care of my body because it felt like it was serving me no purpose except having people judge and reject me. I mean, I see other overweight people and I cringe because I feel like that's how the world is reacting to me. I guess what I feel I need is some sort of validation that I am good enough. But validation that I can believe. Like you said, it's become almost second nature for me to write-off people who tell me I look good because it feels like they're just saying it out of pity because I'm fat. Yeah, I guess I just want validation.

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Heather
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What a lovely compliment: thank you. [Smile]

And by all means: you ARE good enough. But one big thing I'm hearing in this reply is both that you don't think so, and your treatment of yourself doesn't give you, and your body, the message that you think so.

In other words, it sounds like one thing you could start learning to do that could make a huge difference is some self-care, particularly around caring for your body, and using your body to do things that feel good to and for you. It'd probably also help you get through the tough haul that is med school a lot easier, as an extra bonus.

I hear you saying, "Really, I want validation," but you know, positive self-image and esteem really can't come from outside. Not for any of us. Outside support -- which is more than validation, and richer than validation -- is super-important, for sure. But it can't do the work FOR us when it comes to accepting and embracing ourselves. That's our work to do. I get that's a want, but I think trying to get away from that and learn to self-validate and self-affirm is really the ticket here.

So, how about we talk about some ways you can positively connect with your body and get started with that? For example, what do you like to do that's physical, or mostly physical, that feels really good to you, physically and emotionally? What, if anything do you do with your body that, while you're doing it, makes you appreciate your body, and not just for how it might look to you or someone else, but where it just plain feels overall good to be in your own skin?

How about what you do FOR your body, like ways you pamper it, or ways you nourish it?

I'd also add in here that with women of size, something I've noticed that seems to be a common thread with people I know of size who do a good job accepting and celebrating their own bodies are things they do to basically rebel against messages or culture than demean fatness and only celebrate or hold up thinness. For some, that's writing pieces critiquing those message or culture, for others it's like wearing things "fat girls aren't supposed to wear," (I'm sure you know the bullshit I'm talking about with that), or doing things fat girls aren't "supposed" to do. can you think of one or two things you might be able to do that are basically a rebellion against the ideas and messages that are hurting you so much?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Btw, this cartoon piece floated past my desk a couple weeks ago, and I thought it was seriously fantastic. Might be a good one for you right now: http://kelsisprogressionobsession.blogspot.com/2013/07/fat-is-not-feeling.html

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 67973 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
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(I've got another idea, as well, but don't want to overload you, so just holler if and when you're ready for more!)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 67973 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MissTK
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Well, I really enjoy singing. It may sound weird but for me, it's a full body experience. I get shivers when I'm up on stage performing and I feel completely at home. It's odd, when I'm on stage I'm not self-conscious at all and I feel absolutely amazing. Also, this year I started going to the gym regularly and I discovered that I do actually enjoy it because it made me feel so much better. I used to hate exercise because I'm so unfit and it was a source of bad memories from back when I was at school.

At the moment I'm at university in a coastal city and the weather is warming up again so I think most of my friends are going to go to the beach. I absolutely LOVE the ocean but I'm always so afraid to go because my friends wear bikinis and swimsuits and whatnot and I feel like because of my body, I shouldn't. Like, I go fully dressed and just sit on the sand and watch them swim and surf. So I guess that's something. Maybe I could find myself a really flattering outfit to wear to the beach? One of my friend's parents has a beach house and we might go there again soon. And I've never actually owned a proper swimsuit before.

I also understand what you mean by me having to accept myself first and do it myself. Even though I've had support from others in dealing with depression, I had to actually get the process going by *wanting* to get better. So maybe I should want to appreciate myself too, yes? It's just so difficult for me to keep it. Sometimes I just feel, why bother if people aren't reacting to me differently? Especially since I'm already 20 and I feel like I'm falling behind so much in terms of life experiences when compared to my friends. Thank you so much for your responses, they're really helping me put things in perspective:)

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Heather
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I spent years in vocal training: I completely understand! When you're doing it right, singing really IS a full-body experience! (You probably already know this, but it's also one of those things where extra mass on your body usually helps.)

Hopefully you can spend some more time singing then? And maybe, at the gym, pick ONLY things you really enjoy doing?

I love that idea about the beach. I'd say find something you just really like. Who knows what "flattering," really means, you know? I think, though, something you just like -- you like its colors or pattern, it feels comfortable on, etc.

I think the 'why bother" per how other people react is that YOU are people, and the most influential person, no less, when it comes to you, so how YOU are reacting towards yourself and treating yourself? That matters all by itself.

The extra idea I had, btw, related to what you were saying about the tough feelings you have with other people who look a way you think is better than you, or what's right. What I was going to say there is that if and when all we are seeing other people as is things or objects or status? We're both going to tend to see ourselves that way, but it also makes it SO easy to really lose some of our humanity, get so negative and also miss out on a lot. Plus, that bitterness has a toll, both on you and on others. And you know, no one body size or shape has the market cornered on self-loathing. Very thin girls can also hate their bodies and themselves just as much.

I'm wondering if it might be a good exercise, whenever you see someone who fills you with envy per their bodies or attention they are getting to work to find and think something nice about them that isn't about that. If you know them, make a mental note of something you like about them, a positive character trait about them. (NOT: they don't have rolls, or something similar.)

I think if you can do more of that, not only will you be less burdened by all this negativity, it'll also get a lot easier to do the same thing for and about yourself. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 67973 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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