Body Image: The Plight Of Our Spring Break
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Body Image: The Plight Of Our Spring Break

Forget your insecurities and have an unforgettable spring break.

Body Image: The Plight Of Our Spring Break

If you’re like the majority of high school and college students in the southeast, the question of “where are you going for spring break?” has probably started to aggravate you, because it’s such a no-brainer. Asking is futile because everyone already knows. It’s an unspoken (but very concrete) covenant with the spring break gods if you will. You’re going to a beach in Florida. In Destin, I’d presume. Maybe Tampa or Miami. Panama City Beach if you and your friends are really looking to switch it up. The moral of the story is, unless you’re particularly unique, your spring break plans have become pretty predictable. Almost like an annual tradition. Nonetheless, if the mere two words “spring break”, still stir up irrepressible feelings of anticipation and excitement for you, as they do for me, your “predictable” spring break plans are far from becoming stale. Each year brings its own inundation of eagerness over adventure waiting to be had. However, despite the enthusiasm that swells like the rising and falling of that ocean tide you seem to be envisioning constantly during those long weeks leading up to your beach arrival, I’d be one to guess there are times where that enormous, unexpected wave of anxiety has you drenched. This anxiety finds a way to sweep so many of us away. How can it not when you just went bathing suit shopping and you’re almost positive you’ve gained 20 lbs since last summer? You’ve tried on what seems like every bathing suit in the store and they have to be marked incorrectly. There’s absolutely no way you don’t fit right in any of these! But alas, reality hits. Perhaps your body has changed since you last wore a bathing suit.

Going into spring break of my sophomore year, I was ecstatic. It was the first time my mom had let me go on vacation with a friend and the first beach trip I’d gone on in a while. I, of course, was beyond enthusiastic about going bathing suit shopping, itching to replenish my depleted repertoire of old bikinis with new, more exciting ones. I skipped into Target (we all know they have the best bathing suits — don’t try to deny it) as excited as ever and immediately started tearing through endless rows of suits. I keenly scoped my wide array of options and grabbed anything that caught my eye even in the slightest. And I, of course, having been extremely slender my whole life, naturally chose the smallest sizes. I confidently walked into the dressing room, genuinely expecting to reach a level of self-satisfaction that I would end up not attaining. I tried on the first bathing suit, and something just didn’t seem right. I dismissed it as being the result of poor bathing suit design, something that would “make anyone look ‘fat.’” I tried on the next. Still, something was wrong. Then came the next and the next until I realized that the bathing suits didn’t look peculiar- I did. Under my fiercely scrutinizing eye, I began to examine and criticize every crease and crevice of this body that had crazily enough become my body. I was not accustomed to looking at myself and thinking these types of thoughts. The once wonderfully svelte body I had grown so much pride for, was no longer in my possession. My once lean, athletic looking legs were negated by my newly developed thighs, which I believed, looked massive in comparison to the rest of my body. My stomach was no longer completely flat and toned. It maybe even protruded a bit. Regardless, it was there, and it hadn’t been before. But the worst were my hips. I had developed wide hips, prominent hips. I didn’t think I looked proportional.

I was absolutely stunned. I was incredulous. There was no way I hadn’t taken a closer look at my body until now, and there was no way it had evolved to look like this, in what was (in my perspective), a minuscule amount of time. Overwhelmed with strangely paralyzing feelings of disappointment and worthlessness, I practically collapsed to the grimy dressing room floor in a feeble, disheveled heap and began to cry. Hysterically. It sounds horribly overdramatic, and in retrospect, it was. Besides, most of my life I had been told I was way too thin, and I had grown to covet the bodies of voluptuous, full-figured women. Now that I had developed the most minor curves (keep in mind, I was still extremely skinny and my body really had not changed that much; I was just impaired by a dysmorphic view of my body) I instantaneously wanted my old body back. Even though this particularly severe mental breakdown was an isolated incident, the effects reverberated for quite some time. I couldn’t accept my body, and I was hardly willing to go to the gym or eat healthier to reverse my perceived flaws. Because I had been a “stick thin girl” my entire life, that description, that meager quality, had become an integral part of my identity, in my subconscious mind. Although I secretly (and sometimes overtly) dreamed about and shared my desires to gain a little weight, I’ve come to realize that those ambitions were not a reflection of how I personally felt, but merely a reflection of how I thought I should feel.

Despite having a healthy body for almost all of my life, body image issues have found their way to consume me from time to time, and have occasionally left me with a greatly diminished self-esteem. In regards to this, I have found through personal experience that there is less of a correlation with the severity of a person’s body weight (either being extremely large or extremely skinny) and more of a correlation with the way in which a person’s psyche associates their body with their sense of self. Usually, the people who self-deprecate because of size or stature do so because of the way their minds work, even if they have a societally ideal body. Because I always used my skinniness as a way to define myself and set myself apart, when I became (almost imperceptibly) less skinny, I believed I was losing a fundamental part of myself. In reality, I was losing something insignificant, something that had no concern for my character. I liked being identified as an athlete. Someone who was fast and strong. I liked being identified as being someone who exuded youth, and sometimes even innocence. I liked to be stealthy and fit into small places. I liked being viewed as a kind of enigma (but only for the simple reason that I could eat so much and didn’t have to worry about gaining weight.) This all coincided with my skinniness, and, in the back of my mind, I subsequently lost some key traits because of that. Similarly, others with body image issues believe their weight or stature strips them of some deeper component of their character. However, when I truly think about the traits I automatically associated with my size, they all persist despite the change in my body. As time progresses and my body becomes even more disparate from what it once was, I see that I can still be an athlete. I can still exude a youthful energy. I can still be stealthy, and I can still be mysterious and enigmatic, but maybe in a different way.

Essentially, as we approach spring break, I encourage anyone struggling with body confidence to accept that it’s coming. Although you might look at walking on the beach with a good portion of your body exposed as something to be dreaded, I encourage you to embrace yourself. In that moment, when you are trying to enjoy spring break to its fullest, there is nothing you can do to instantly change your body. In that moment in time, your body is how it is and it is absolutely impossible to discredit that fact. But, you can try to consciously change how you look at it, and how you look at yourself. You can try to detach your identity from how you look and work on embodying those important, intangible traits you may have convinced yourself you lost. Focus on the sun’s brilliant rays swathing you in their alluring warmth, where radiant beams of light can be absorbed in the immaculate white sand where your toes will cocoon. Smell the sweet, fragrant serenity that will overwhelm your nostrils — the briny tang of ocean water infused with the crisp, placid, salty winds that will noiselessly scamper across your freshly tanned self. Look at nothing but the scintillating reflection across the endless body that is the phenomenal blue-green expanse in front of you. Hear nothing more than the powerful reverberation of waves forcefully colliding with the shore, but find tranquility in the repetitive, reliable pattern of sound that will soon evolve to white noise. Feel nothing greater than, not your bodily insecurities, but the vitality of your spirit: your true defining factor, and the real way to enjoy your spring break.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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