Writing by Sophie Nicolas // Photograph by Wei
I have always been a naturally thin girl. When I was younger, my slightness never bothered me. It seemed to be accepted by everyone: I was described as cute, or slightly lanky and awkward. My bony figure wasn’t seen as a problem until I started high school as my female classmates blossomed into young ladies, their legs becoming shapely and curvier. I started to notice that my legs were stick thin, my calves were not rounded, my thighs not meaty enough. I started to notice my chest stayed resolutely flat, my figure resembling that of a 10-year-old. As the years progressed and I reached 14 years of age my classmates started to notice my stunt in growth as well.
My school had a “Dress as an Athlete Day” to celebrate the start of the Olympics. I went as a gymnast and wore a leotard and pants – my mum and I shopped for ages to find the right one. It was a beautiful purple material with streaks of silver that made it shimmer. I loved wearing it. As my friend and I sat on the floor to start our music class, a loud whisper carried across the room.
“What is she wearing?”
“Look at her chest, she’s so flat!”
I was frozen in humiliation. Suddenly, the leotard became my most hated possession, my body along with it. Pretending I hadn’t heard, I asked my friend for her jumper.
“This room is cold,” I said.
It was the middle of summer, the temperature soaring to 30 degrees after midday. Noticing the plead in my voice and the embarrassed flush of my cheeks she took the jumper out of her bag and handed it to me without another word. I wore the jumper for the rest of the day.
I hated my body for a long time. When I stared in the mirror all I saw was someone severely underweight. I could count every rib and my sharp shoulders and knobbly knees became my primary focus. No matter how hard I tried, I could not gain weight. My parents invested in packs of Up and Go milk boxes – a disgusting drink that triggers my gag reflex to this day just thinking about it. Lacking in nutrients and energy, however, I was made to drink one every morning before school and encouraged to drink them after as well. Thinking this would make me fill out in the right places, I plugged my nose and downed it. But they never worked.
I tried confiding in my friends about my body issues, they all seemed voluptuous to me and had already gotten their first period. I hadn’t even bought my first bra yet.
“Oh, it must be so hard for you,” one of my friends exclaimed in mock horror. “Do you know what I would give to be too skinny?”
“Stop complaining, you’re like a stick!” another said.
“You should be grateful,” a third agreed
I know these comments were not meant to offend, just the opposite, in fact. But being called “a stick” is not a compliment, as any thin girl would agree, and their comments made me feel even more isolated. Did I not have a right to voice any concerns about my body? Am I not allowed to have flaws because I’m “stick thin?”
These scathing comments are what lead me to hate my body for many years. We are all human and all have insecurities, it is not justifiable to shut someone down because someone else might have it worse. Everyone goes through their own journey in this life and our concerns should not be made to feel insignificant.
It may seem strange to some, but there are many women out there who try desperately to gain pounds, and are constantly on the verge of being dangerously underweight.
“Real women have curves”
Nothing could’ve hurt my 16-year-old self more than to read this on online. I had never felt like “a real woman.” I still shopped in the pre-teen department at Kmart and only wore a bra because I wanted one, not because I needed one. I hated school swimming carnivals and often said I had an ear infection so I could sit out and no one would see me in my bikini. It took a long time for me to accept my body for what it is and it took even longer to thicken my skin to the nasty comments and the little voice that taunted me whenever I looked in the mirror.
So, for the women who are told they need “more meat on them”, the ladies who grew up feeling not “womanly” enough, and the women who still struggle with their body image today: it’s about time we embraced what we have. Having less fat on your body doesn’t make you less of a person, just as having more fat on your body doesn’t diminish your humanity. YOUR BODY TYPE DOESN’T DEFINE YOU AS A HUMAN BEING. Your core values are what truly matters; your kindness, strength, loyalty, generosity. Skinny shaming is wrong. Fat shaming is wrong. Let’s put body shaming to rest and spread more kindness than criticism.
Our bodies do not define us.[share]