Let's Talk About Our Bodies
by Thao Nguyen
When I look in the mirror, I know that my body wouldn’t be considered “perfect” by societal standards. I’ve got small boobs (they’re barely a 34A when I’m on my period) and thick thighs (every pair of jeans I own has a hole at the inner thigh). But it’s never gotten to the point that it’s really bothered me or made me want to hide parts of myself. In fact, I can say with a lot of confidence that body image has never really been a struggle for me.
Which is why, when a random woman came up to me in the locker room at the gym while I was standing in just my sports bra and yoga pants, put her hand on my stomach and asked me if I was pregnant, I was initially more concerned about the fact that a stranger had touched my bare stomach than the fact that I apparently looked pregnant. However, I guess her words did get to me in some way. That night, I found myself in front of my full-length mirror scrutinizing my body. I normally check myself for moles (I’m a hypochondriac and melanoma is my biggest fear), but on that day, I found myself focusing more on my shape and imperfections. I saw my muffin top, the double chin that shows up when I smile, and for the first time, inklings of doubt about my body began to creep in.
For the rest of the week, I went ham at the gym. I ran faster, lifted heavier weights, did more reps. And every night, I would check in the mirror for signs of change. But the only thing that had really changed was my mind. Thankfully it only took me a few days of eating less than I usually do to become angry with myself. This wasn’t me being hangry, it was disappointment. I couldn’t believe that a 10 second interaction had pushed me towards being obsessed with how I looked. I quickly realized that my body was damn fine the way it was. Just like all of yours are! Because it’s truly all in how you look at yourself.
Five simple words, “you have a little baby?” had managed to completely curtail my view of myself that week. And that goes to show just how powerful words are. If we take to heart the words of others and the images imposed on us in all the forms of media we have access to, then chances are our self-image is going to suffer from time to time. So make it a point to be kinder to yourself, and be more careful with your choice of words.
I used to make the mistake of making offhand comments about bodies all the time, never truly believing what I was saying. “Oh her body is perfect, I wished I looked like her.” Or “Yowza, that guy is gorgeous, he’d never be interested in someone with thighs like mine.” I didn’t think anyone took what I was saying too seriously, because I wasn’t being serious myself. But when I found my six year old sister weighing herself one day, I made it a vow to myself to never speak about bodies like that again. That was four years ago, and she’s more confident than a lot her classmates are now. When they come to our house for playdates, I hear them make little comments about how they don’t want to eat too many snacks, or how they are worried about their clothing not looking right. Those are things I’ve never heard my sister show concern about. I’m not sure if this entirely due to the way I and my family changed the way we talked about bodies, but I’m positive it didn’t hurt how she views herself either. This is why it’s important to make the distinction between showing concern when someone is being unhealthy, and making “harmless” comments about someone’s weight. We have to learn to love and accept ourselves, and verbalize that, so that everyone looking up to us can learn to do the same.