A Story About Skinny Shaming
This post is part of a series, in which we asked writers to share their experiences with body shaming.
Women are born and bred to be tough (hello, childbirth), but like anyone, we’re not immune to the hits where it hurts. A particularly sensitive spot? Body shaming.
My unforgettable experience with body shaming began in an arena I thought highly unlikely — a bikini competition. And before we commence eye rolls at that statement, hear me out.
I was in my early 20s, and with Instagram as my bible at the time — now you can eye roll — I was motivated to get into the best shape of my life. I committed to the feat. Soon, I found a coach and was eating, breathing, and sleeping strenuous training. The demands of training required that I basically kill my social life (no restaurants or alcohol), and it took a serious toll on my personal relationships. With living this new lifestyle, many friends didn’t know how to relate to me anymore, and invites to social gatherings stopped.
Despite the emotional, physical, and mental toll, as my body began to dramatically transform over the span of 12 weeks, I felt pride. I had done the work, made great sacrifices, and it was paying off. I had truly committed to myself. Come showtime, I was a lean, mean, I’m-ready-for-a-doughnut machine, and while being in the best physical shape of my life, I received an unexpected blow.
“You look far from fit, Jess,” a dear friend of mine at the time bluntly stated. “You look terribly anorexic and just plain unhealthy. You’ve ruined your body.”
A Real Body Blow
I was in complete and utter shock. This “supportive friend” was my biggest encourager at the beginning of this long journey, and now she reeked of jealousy and resentment. But later, when a close family member also commented that I looked “anorexic,” I began to take those comments to heart. Despite my months of healthy training, hard work, and commitment, I allowed those comments to dictate my body image, and I sank into emotional turmoil, fearing I would never be enough for myself or others, no matter what I did.
But in that dark place came a great light.
Those body-shaming comments forced me to reflect on my true motivations for competing in the first place and what I wanted the rest of my life to look like going forward when it came to body image. It came down to one thing:
I wanted to live happily in my body, not live for it.
That included valuing my perception of myself above social media and other people's opinions, no matter what. Weight will come and go my whole life, but I decided that day that, despite any physical changes, my self-love would never fluctuate.