I learned that my body wasn’t “normal” in primary school. At this point in life, it was mostly my peers who very often pointed it out. Not because they wanted to hurt me, but because there is no taboo for the words “skinny” or “thin.”
In my early teens, my body became something that caused other people to worry about me. My mother took me to diet counseling, which did just about nothing. But it seemed to calm my mother down in the sense that it showed her that I just was the way that I was.
The concern that was harder to deal with came from strangers. I had doctors ask me if I threw up after meals or didn’t eat on purpose. Even though I was telling them the truth when I said no, I felt ashamed because I could feel that they didn’t really believe me. The worst was when people I barely knew would talk to me and tell me that I needed to gain weight and that my body wasn’t in the healthiest state. I believed them and would agree with them.
One time, my German teacher came up to me after class and said to me, “Mamie, you are getting thinner and thinner. You have an eating disorder.” I was so dumbfounded. It took me a while to tell her that it wasn’t true, but she insisted.
She told me this several times until she went to the head teachers’ department to inform them and my parents about my “eating disorder.” Now, my teacher was trying to help me, even though her concern was misplaced. Because of that, I couldn’t let myself feel very upset about it. I just felt ashamed, once again.
The idea that “skinny girls can wear anything” is what led me to write about body image this week.
I have been hiding my shape under baggy clothes for years, and I’ve felt like I wasn’t allowed to talk about my body issues because I’m skinny. “Skinny” isn’t a bad word. It’s the thing that many people want to be. People have told me how much they want my metabolism or my legs.
For the past four years, the oversized jumper has been my number-one choice every morning. It gives me the freedom to concentrate on things other than my body. I don’t think I stand alone when I say that I feel afraid of judgment. I hide because I don’t want to think about what I know from experience that other people are thinking when they see my body: “She doesn’t look healthy. She’s too skinny and probably anorexic.”
But my biggest fear is that people will hate me because they think that I’m showing off. The worst part for me is the thought of making other people insecure. I have always thought that my body will give people a reason to dislike me.
Phrases like “skinny girls can wear anything” never really felt like they applied to me. In fact, I’ve often felt like tight jeans and dresses and skirts make me look like a beanpole. Shapeless and uninteresting.
On the other hand, I see how the ability to hide anything remotely “sexy” about your body just by wearing a jumper and baggy jeans is a privilege of sorts.
Maybe I am wrong, and maybe I shouldn’t be the one voicing my opinion here when fat-shaming and fatphobia are so deeply ingrained in our society. Yet I feel like we often forget that there aren’t just three types of bodies: skinny, “regular,” and fat.
There are endless ways to be skinny, and endless ways to be “regular” or plus-size.
Even though models are often skinny, I don’t feel represented by them. Their features are still different from mine and I still feel inferior to them in many ways.
As I mentioned before, it seems to be generally accepted and even considered “nice” to tell me, or other very thin girls, that they are thin and are obligated to change that. In a way, it makes sense—”skinny” has been something that we use to compliment others, and “fat” has been something we use to insult someone.
In the end, I really like the idea of seeing these terms as neutral descriptions. I am skinny, but I don’t have to change. There’s nothing wrong with my health, even though I have been told otherwise by many people without doctor’s degrees.
Being skinny is still a privilege.
I, and other people who are skinny, rarely suffer from verbal outbursts of hatred and are generally seen as something that people want to be. Thinness get tons and tons of representation in media and is considered the ideal.
Many companies are just now starting to show more diversity, and that’s great—we should be more aware of what over representation of one type can do. But I hope that representation will become even more diverse and show even stronger differences, as there’s still so much to cover.
In a way, I wanted to write this to show that a certain size is not going to keep you from finding things you dislike about your body. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t exercise or look at your caloric intake, but you should do it because you love your body—not because you hate it.
Changing your size alone, without changing your attitude toward your body, probably won’t do much. It’ll just shift the problem to a different aspect of your body.
Over and over again, we hear that we should love ourselves and be kind to our bodies. And it’s true—it’s just very, very hard. Sometimes it comes easier than on other days. Sometimes you can look in the mirror and say, “Damn, I look cute as hell!” Sometimes you don’t want to be near any reflective surface ever again.
Over the past few years, I have gathered a few pieces of advice that I’ve found to be the most helpful when I’m trying to overcome insecurities:
- You are your body. It is not separate from you.
- What you say or think about yourself is even worse for you than what others say.
- If you keep repeating something, it will become more true to you. For better or for worse.
As much as we need to have these conversations today, I hope that, in the future, people won’t have to fear judgment based on their appearances. I hope that we can all just feel comfortable living in our bodies.