“I am not my stomach”

When I was 14, I joined Facebook. Back then, apps used to be really common: Farmville, Words with Friends, and the infamous Compare People. To jog your memory, Compare People took your Facebook friends and allowed you to choose which was funnier, prettier, smellier, etc. And you could look at your own standings among your friends. Being the impressionable teenager I was I wanted to know my ranking, an awful idea. #13 funniest, #8 smartest, and #7 hottest. I was pumped. Seventh hottest?! That’s awesome! I naively decided to look at the comments, where I found anonymous reactions bashing my ranking (aka a lot of “hahahaha” comments). There was another comment too: “hahahaha rolls.” To which I not anonymously commented, “rolls?” Another response: “stomach.” In two simple words, my body image shattered.

When I look back at that moment seven years ago, I realize both how far I’ve come but also how much it served as a trigger in my life of insecurity. From this one little comment in the new world of social media, I struggled to reconcile the “rolls” that were my stomach. It was all I could see. And then all I could see were all my physical flaws: my stomach, my double chin, the “wings” of fat from my arms, the lack of gap between my thighs. I lost all self-confidence. I would continually compare myself to the others around me: how their weight compared to mine, a view of how other people might see myself. I constantly questioned if people liked me or just felt bad for the way I looked. I was (really still am) a sensitive soul and therefore easy target to make fun of. Even if it wasn’t my physical traits, I constantly felt down about how others treated me, no longer able to build myself back up and brush a joke off my shoulders.

Fast-forward to college and my insecurities worsened. New environment, new friends, I was able to be whoever I wanted to be but at the same time I grew anxious. I was always anxious: about school, about friends, about relationships. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I realized the normal, happy-go-lucky person I used to be had faded away, and anxiety had taken over.

But here I am, stronger and better. The tornado of insecurities I’ve faced over the majority of my teenage years are not gone, but they are under control, because I am happy. I am content with who I am. I have amazing friends who love me for me and assure me that the social anxiety I constantly fight is nothing but my imagination. I am loved and I love and I. Am. Beautiful. I’m not fat, I’m healthy. I may not be the skinniest girl you’ve ever seen, but that’s okay. And even though it’s taken me all this time to realize that, I am a better person for it. And I am not alone.