At 20 years old I stand at 4 feet 9 inches tall, the same height I have been since approximately 12 years old. With this package came tremendous insecurity, not only about my height, but about my body in general. From the way my friends loomed over me in group pictures to my size of my jeans I am no stranger to the body image issues that plague so many today, especially teenage girls.
The monster that has been my body insecurity has taken many forms over the years. In middle school it was mean comments from boys who, looking back, were probably as self conscious about how much they were growing as I was about the fact that I wasn’t. Some days it was disgust at constantly being mistaken for my baby brother’s kid sister, and others the voices that lived in my own head. These voices were vicious, reminding me of how alone and worthless I truly was, always at what seemed to be the most inopportune times. I found these negative feelings creeping into every part of my life and only after losing nearly 30 pounds in a desperate attempt to take up as little space as possible, since I would never take up as much as everyone around me, did my loved ones realize that something needed to change. My insecurity had manifested in tremendously disordered eating but was so much more under the surface. It was a struggle for a control over my body that I had never been able to experience before, it was a coping mechanism for the shame I felt looking in the mirror, and it was my way of apologizing to the world around me for not being enough.
The first major step I have learned through the professional help I have started to receive (and cannot recommend more highly) is learning to celebrate everything that my body has and will do for me every day. My body is the shelter I will take from the beginning to end of my life, and deserves the respect of being treated as such. This respect can take on many forms- self care being one of them but just the tip of the iceberg. It was suggested to me that my perspective on my body would only begin to change once I could recognize it’s capability- so I made a list. My body has taken me to foreign countries and back again, it has walked me across the stage at my high school graduation, it has allowed me to run every morning (something I find incredibly therapeutic- call me crazy). Most dear to my heart, it has allowed me to dance- on stage at dance competitions that I went on to win, with my family- recreating a scene straight out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and at my senior prom alongside the friends that I know I will have forever, and that’s incredible. I, and every other human being, am worthy of self love and acceptance of the skin I was born in, and the shape my spirit takes, regardless of size.
So I will stand a little taller when informing the TSA agent that no, I do not have paperwork to fly as an unaccompanied minor, I am 20 years old. I will assert myself in moving towards the front of the pit when I watch my favorite bands perform live, reminding myself that I am a complete person packed densely into a slightly smaller package, and I will face my fear of taking up space. My journey towards body positivity is far from over, but I am NOT done growing.