By Faith Ponti
It’s my senior year of high school. I’m staring at my naked body in the mirror. Lights on, clothes off. No curve hidden, no wrinkle smoothed. My face is a little burnt from the hot sun, and there are dark circles under my eyes. My hair is down, a little greasy, and unbrushed. It’s been a long week and I’m staring myself up and down.
I’m also weeping.
The self-sabotaging thoughts are endless and come effortlessly. Your stomach is disgusting. Your hair is too short. Your nose is too big. Why are your thighs touching? Why are your legs so pale? You’re about to go to college. You’re supposed to be hot. You’re not supposed to have cellulite and belly fat. You’re not eating well enough. You’re not working out hard enough. You’re not trying hard enough.
You are not enough.
I can’t even begin to tell you how frequently these sadistic thoughts ruled my days. They formed a demon that clung on my back,weighed me down and kept me from experiencing life. I refused to go out with my friends for fear of being critically judged and rejected. I ran away with my tail between my legs any time someone threatened to take a picture of me. Being in a bathing suit? Forget about it—no one wanted to see that.
Even when I moved to Florida for college, I rarely went to the beach and if I did, I was far away from where anyone could see me. Everywhere I turned, there were girls who intimidated me, and I was constantly comparing myself to them. I wished that I could be slimmer or more muscular. I envied small waists and perfectly shaped chests. I wanted bronzer skin and longer, blonder hair. I wanted to look like the girls who were famous on Instagram, with professional pictures and thousands of followers. I wanted boys to give me the kind of attention they were giving all those girls. I wanted, more than anything, to feel beautiful.
So, to feel beautiful, I started working out a lot; every day, to be exact, and for hours at a time. While alone this behavior wasn’t necessarily unhealthy, it grew to become an obsession to the point that missing the gym made me feel like I had gained 20 pounds overnight. To get quicker results, I started strictly dieting. I wouldn’t allow myself to eat anything unhealthy, and when I found myself eating cookies or ice cream from the caf, I would punish myself—first, with insults in the mirror. Then, more dramatically, by forcing myself to throw up whatever unhealthy food I had put in my body.
I hated myself. I really, really despised every fiber of my being. And, just as it becomes tiring after a while to stay angry with a friend or a lover, I grew exhausted of being cruel to myself. It was a lot of work to entertain the demon on my back. I got sick of sneaking into an empty bathroom every day to throw up the cookies I had eaten. I knew that recovery would be harder than sitting in my misery, but that nothing could be worse than waking up every morning feeling like absolute shit about myself. I needed to do something.
So, I started talking to my therapist. I started reading books on self worth. I unfollowed celebrities and models on my Instagram and started following body positive accounts (like bodyposipanda and nourishandeat—check them out!). I forced myself, every morning, to look in the mirror and say five nice things about my body. I began focusing on things I loved about myself—not just about my body, but about me as a person. I started realizing how much time and energy I’d been wasting thinking about what I looked like and trying to perfect my body instead of channeling that energy into loving people better or helping those in need or learning new things.
During my recovery, I realized that I am more than just a body. Sure, I have a body, but that’s not all I have. I have a really big heart. I’m a good friend and a hard worker. I’m intelligent and passionate and funny. I am not just my weight. I am the tears on my pillowcase after a long, hard day. I am the hug I give to my friend when she needs it. I am my laughter at a stupid movie when nobody’s watching me. I am the dance parties I have in my underwear after I ace a statistics exam. I am a human, and I am incredible.
It’s my junior year of college. I’m staring at my naked body in the mirror. Lights on, clothes off. It’s been a long week. Some days have been harder than others, but today, I remember my worth, and I want to encourage myself.
The self-love doesn’t come too effortlessly, but it feels like honey on my lips. You are so strong. You are made of the same stuff that the stars are made of. You are influential, and you matter. Your body is wonderful and sexy in its own way. You are unrelenting. Your worth is unfathomable. You deserve to be confident. You deserve to be successful. You deserve to feel amazing. You are so worth loving.
You are enough.