Exactly How I Learned To Accept My Body After Years Of Struggling With Body Dysmorphia

I recently admitted to myself that I have body dysmorphia, a disorder where you can’t stop negatively obsessing over a minor or imagined flaw(s) in your appearance.

The negativity I feel towards my body started when I was six years old. At that age, I began spending the majority of my time in a tight black leotard in a room surrounded by mirrors comparing myself to the other girls in dance class. Because of my newfound self-consciousness, I would spend hours looking in the mirror when I wasn’t at dance, turning to the side, and sucking in my stomach to see what I could look like if I was smaller AKA if I looked like the other girls.

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In high school, I ended up leaving dance to pursue cheerleading. There were no mirrors at cheerleading practice and I loved being able to dance without the constant worry of what I physically looked like next to everyone else.

However, even though I felt free on the cheer mat, I still felt self-conscious in my uniform. I gained a significant amount of weight in high school after being introduced to beer and vodka, and because I wasn’t tiny like the majority of the girls on my team, I immediately felt like the heaviest person on earth.

When I went off to college, I vowed to reinvent myself, so I got in shape and lost thirty pounds. But even though the scale said I was smaller, I didn’t feel smaller. In fact, I felt the same as I did when I was heavier.

I spent 99 percent of my time comparing myself to other people and wondering how they thought I looked. Did they think my thighs were too big? Could they see an extra chin when I smiled? Did they think my arms were too flabby?

Soon enough, my happiness became based on how many likes my Facebook profile picture got and how many compliments I received while out. I was in need of constant validation that I looked okay, and it was getting annoying not only to my friends, but to me as well. I wanted to be okay with the way I looked. I wanted to stop obsessing over the scale and practicing unhealthy eating habits to avoid gaining weight, but I couldn’t. All I could see was the girl who was 30 pounds heavier than me and all I wanted was to be smaller.

Years later, I am still having trouble seeing what I really look like in the mirror, but thanks to this one sentence – “All that matters is that you feel comfortable” – I’ve come to terms with the fact that I think I’m bigger than I am.

After hearing friends, family, and my boyfriend say this to me numerous times after asking how I look in dresses, bathing suits, and pictures, I recently realized that I had never really felt comfortable with my body. Never once from the time I was a nervous six year old in dance class, to when I was a 27-year-old adult who bought clothes that were way too big because I still saw the 17-year-old who was thirty pounds heavier in the mirror.

Upon realizing this, I started listening to people when they would tell me my clothes were too big on me. I convinced myself to try on clothes in smaller sizes, and found out I had been buying shirts and dresses two sizes too big for years. But of course the clothes were too big — I had never changed my clothing size, even after I lost weight.

Now, I’m focusing on changing my relationship with the mirror. I want to be able to look at myself without obsessively searching for what’s wrong and berating myself for having big thighs. I want to wear a bikini without breaking out in nervous hives. I want to show off my muscles and be proud for all I have worked for.

I don’t want to change the way I look (although I’m pretty sure I will always be striving to lose 3 to 10 pounds, so that’s a lie). I want to change the way I feel.

I know that the more comfortable I feel with my body, the better I will think I look, and the better I will actually look to other people. Confidence is the most attractive quality one can have after all.

Sometimes I fear that I don’t actually have body dysmorphia and that my flaws actually do exist (in other words, I really hate my thighs). But then I remind myself that of course my flaws exist. Without flaws, I wouldn’t be human. Without imperfections, there would be nothing to love about me. No one is perfect. But if I can be comfortable with my imperfections, which I’m starting to be, that’s all that matters.


 

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Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. My first book, AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME, is coming out in January (you can buy it right now on Amazon or from your fave bookstore!). I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Writing is fun. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @20somethingproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.

2 Comments
  1. You weren’t the only one in dance class doing that! I think I was the chubbiest in the classes we took at TDS and I was always envious of the skinny muthers. Now that I look back on it I wonder why I wasted so much time worried about being like other people haha.

  2. Wow….I hardly ever hear about dysmorphia outside of trans spaces, so I forget that anyone can fall victim to this agonizing mindset.

    As a non-binary individual, I struggle with having breasts. I’m actually thinking about saving up money so I can get a breast reduction, since insurance in my state doesn’t cover operations for trans people or trans-related issues.

    I’m really not sure what else I can do to ease this dysmorphia of mine.

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