Bend, Not Break

When Taylor asked me to be a guest author on her blog, I was overcome with emotions. I’ve had my personal blog up for a little over a year now. I usually write poetry, but every now and then I’ll write an actual “blog.” I was excited that she considered me when hunting down writers. I was nervous that whatever I wrote wouldn’t be widely accepted since I’m sure the audience consists of people who don’t even know who I am. But mostly, I was worried. Worried that what I had to say wouldn’t resonate with anyone; that it wouldn’t matter. I know that seems horrendously stupid, but writing purely for myself also seems stupid. If I wanted to do that, I’d keep a diary.

Taylor suggested I follow her initial post and write about Body Positivity. It’s something I’ve always been interested in and I’ve really started to be an advocate. However, my story is not going to be like Taylor’s. And I won’t have any pictures for you to compare. Here is my journey. Here is how I learned to love a body that bends, but never breaks.

Growing up I was enamored by food. I’d eat almost anything and heaps of it at that. Feeling full was not what mattered, but my mom allowed me to eat until there was nothing left. If it tasted good, my body seemed to make room for it. My mother and sister would have to stretch my shirts out as a child when they dressed me. My “love handles” developed earlier than most, so my shorts and pants were almost always pulled up too high to hide them. I had actual boobs in third grade. So, here I was rounding out in every place that could make a girl want to retreat inside of herself.

The comments came around fifth grade. The pushing to start every diet in the book, even when I was not unhealthy. No doctor had looked at me and proposed I make a change. It was my mother, the women in my family. I don’t know why so many women want to disappear completely. It’s as if they think they can exist without a body.

Middle school introduced a new factor. Skin. Not only was I larger than girls deemed commonly beautiful, but I was diagnosed with two separate skin disorders. I have Sebaceous Gland Disorder and Folliculitis. The first means my skin doesn’t produce enough oil, and the second means my hair follicles are easily irritated and infected. Taking care of myself back then wasn’t even something I considered. I had no motivation at age 12/13 to constantly exfoliate and moisturize. I was told I looked like I had a disease, and that making friends would be difficult for me.

Ninth grade was when I really began to obsess with my weight. I would exercise for hours each day after school. I counted calories and drank water and imagined all of the fruits I began to consume would somehow magically make me thinner. After a while, I realized my body would not change. I was making so many “good” choices, yet I looked and felt the same as before. Actually, I felt worse. Exercising is not fun to me. I don’t enjoy sweating or being hot. So, why was I putting myself through this? Our bodies aren’t even finished developing and growing until the early twenties, so why was I trying to force myself into a different body when my own wasn’t even complete?

Around 11th grade, I started to forget the hatred I had been holding inside myself. Not completely, but the constant distaste for how I looked or felt or “jiggled” seemed to slowly melt away. When I started college, that process continued. It wasn’t until spring semester that I began to actually fall in love with myself.

I made new friends. They loved each other and supported each other more than any friends I had ever had. And that’s what ignited the change. I saw myself in their eyes. (Only attempt this if they are good, wholesome, positive people!) They didn’t ever tell me to change or comment on how I looked. We admired each other. We worshiped each other for having bodies that were made for talent, made for love, made as a second thought when the stars saw we needed a way to carry our souls.

For the first time in my life, I voluntarily wore shorts. I began taking care of my skin and it completely blew my confidence out of proportion. I loved the way I looked and felt. My thighs were no longer “too big,” my body was no longer a mistake. I was constantly dressing up in clothes that made me feel confident and comfortable, not clothes that hid every part of me. I took pictures for myself and could honestly stare at myself for hours, now. I was happy in every way I could be. And I owe that to the people I met at the beginning of this year.

My body, and all of your bodies, too – they can take a beating. Words really can change the way we see ourselves. Society will always have built in conceptions of how we should look. But there is no correct way. And we are stronger than any conception that will be throw at us as time moves quickly forward. You just have to learn to love your body for the right reasons.

Love your body because it works whether you’re 90 pounds or 210. Love your body because it holds you up when you mentally don’t understand how you’re even still managing to breathe. Love your body because it is the only thing keeping you here, and someone out there needs you to stay. Our bodies will bend to compensate a lot of hatred and abuse. But they never break until we personally allow it to happen.

I hope I’ve convinced you not to.

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