Unless we’re fairly close, you’re probably unaware of my relationship with body image – so before you read this little poem, I’m going to give a quick summary, for context.
I’m not sure I was ever concerned with how my body looked in the way that I saw so many of the women in my life experience it. I was definitely aware, growing up, of the beauty standard, and nutrition habits, and all the societal expectations placed on young women based around it. But the shape or size of my body was never the most important stress on my mind.
I can look back at photos of myself growing up now, and I realise that I was, at points, very thin. I never thought I was, at the time. Adults would tell me “you’re just skin and bones”, and I was confused because I really didn’t think I was, compared to some other girls I knew. Throughout high school, and even primary school, I remember perceiving the gap between my body and how skinny some of my friends were to be a lot more significant than it was.
I did a solid amount of physical activity, and I tried to eat well, but I rarely made an effort to control the way my body looked, and I didn’t have many active feelings on the matter. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I ever restricted food or thought about calorie intake – I don’t understand the maths and I don’t care to learn. But my anxiety definitely had an impact on my digestion and appetite. I went through phases where I could have been fueling my body in a more healthy or responsible way as a result of my mental health.
I pretty much operated on the stance of body neutrality, and it wasn’t until the last year or two that I’ve actually noticed my body in an aesthetic sense. For basically the first time, I’ve had actual tangible feelings about it. I think that’s first and foremost because my body has started to become more grown-up. I appreciate now that for a lot of my friends, their bodies simply matured sooner, and they were paying attention to the change, whereas in high school, that simply wasn’t going on for me.
But the other day, I caught glimpse of myself, I thought ‘looks good’ and I felt good, realising that ‘good’ no longer meant small. I don’t betray myself through people-pleasing. I don’t make myself small, physically or emotionally, for the comfort of others. I’ve fallen into my own definition of ‘good’, instead of that indifference leaning on awareness of the social expectation. And I wrote down my thoughts on it, so that’s what this is.
I am no longer concerned with being small. "Smallness is not synonymous with safety", I inform my inner child It is synonymous with comfort. We are all too familiar with fear, little one. But fear will not always be frightening. When you're safe, comfort can be a cage, and fear can be a bolt cutter. I will not be shocked back into my shell. Not again. I have grown so much that my childhood body is no longer a fit home for my soul. I need space to run. And I have spent too much time refilling my cup, to worry for a second about the shape of my glass. When your glass breaks, worry for the water. Being strong is more suiting than being small And even if my strength grew from struggle, It is earned. I've always felt my spirit scratching at my bones, begging for space. for air, for freedom. I've given her what she's asked for and I hope she can make a happy home of me now.
“Thank you for coming to my TED talk,”