Updated: Jun 18, 2020
It's becoming more and more apparent to me that body positivity has been replaced with body shaming. As we are constantly inundated with posts on social media and images of "perfect" (read: unrealistic, unsustainable, deprived, and photoshopped) bodies, it's no wonder that all people, myself included, are impacted by some form of body image shaming. Although varying in degree, all of us have, do, or will feel the societal pressure to be fit, skinny, and conform to conventional standards of beauty and attractiveness.
An athlete from a young age, I grew up viewing my body as a tool - an extension of my will to achieve my goals. My body was strength and power. It gave me the ability to run and jump and dribble and shoot. It was my body that scored 1,000 points in high school, and it was my body that played varsity basketball in college. I knew that without my body, none of those things were possible, so I loved it, and I fed it (maybe too much), and I thanked it every day for helping me do the things I loved.
During my sophomore year of college, when I was at my biggest and most muscular, some guy in my dorm room told me I was built like a man, with my broad shoulders and thick legs. I thought I looked good and strong and athletic, but his comment totally deflated my confidence. I felt completely and utterly embarrassed and ashamed.
I quit basketball the summer after my sophomore year so that I could study abroad. I retired my jersey and began to see the gym as my enemy rather than my friend. I started caring more and more about how broad my shoulders were and how thick my thighs were. I didn't want to be built like a man anymore. I started eating less and watching the foods I ate. Within a few months, I lost about 20 pounds of pure muscle. I found myself in a body that I had never known before, and I liked the newfound attention. I started to view my body as something for display rather than a personal tool. I began to link my self-worth to the way I looked.
Over the years, I've gone through months when I refuse to step in the gym and fall into unhealthy habits and months when I'm in the gym 7 days a week 2 hours each day and prescribe to unsustainable (bordering on obsessive) "healthy" habits. I struggle with finding and maintaining a balance, although I know that balance is really the only healthy and sustainable way to live.
Some days, I look at my body with love, praise, and adoration and other days with disdain, embarrassment, and shame. The saddest part is that, as a society, we have come to accept this as normal.
BUT IT'S NOT NORMAL. IT'S NOT OK.
I wish, for myself and for everyone else, that one day soon I can view my body the way I once did when I was younger - as a brilliant and beautiful tool to help me get to where I want to go, regardless of how big or little it looks and regardless of how it compares to mainstream ideals of beauty.
Weight and body measurements can never quantify self-worth. So please, let's collectively commit to loving every ounce of ourselves just the way we are.