The first time I remember being embarrassed about my body was when I was eight years old. My stomach was hanging out of my shirt in our school picture. There could have been other times before this, but this was the first time I remember being aware of what I looked like and how I didn't like it. I've been self-conscious about my body ever since.

There are only two times I really remember liking the way my body looked. The first was when I was 17 and was dumped by my then-boyfriend. I couldn't eat or sleep, so I ended up losing 10 pounds in one month. It was a rough summer spent anxiously crying from heartbreak, but I looked good. And I loved the way I looked. And so did other people. For once, I looked in the mirror and felt like a "pretty girl."

The second time was when I was 20 and managed to get my heart broken again, but instead of being sad, I was angry. I had a ton of pent-up anger in my body, and I used to go to the gym and just sprint around the track until my lungs felt like they were going to explode. Days and nights, I spent hours working out my anger at the gym, and again, I looked good.

But every time I became more stable in my mindset, my body would start to slip. I didn't look good because I loved myself enough to look good, I looked good because I was emotionally distressed.

I've never been able to strike a balance between feeling good about my life and feeling good about my body.

My body issues have plagued me for years and a lot more than I ever let on. I hate eating in front of people I'm not comfortable with. I ask my friends and family what they're ordering at restaurants so I can match their orders so I don't look gluttonous. Going out to eat for a date is a total nightmare. I feel nervous and self-conscious the entire time, and I usually don't end up eating much because I don't want to look "fat." If my clothes don't fit right or feel right, I'm put into a bad mood. Eating foods that aren't "healthy" give me instant guilt. Sometimes my body image is so poor that I look in the mirror and just feel pure loathing for what I see.

There are a lot of things I could blame on this problem.

I could blame the boys and girls who teased me for being chubby when I was little or society for glorifying such thin-framed bodies above other body types. I could blame my genetics that gave me such tenacious love-handles, a stomach that will never fall flat no matter how little I weigh, and wide, child-bearing hips make jeans and shorts difficult to wear. But my insecurities aren't anyone's fault but my own.

I choose to feel insecure, and I choose to listen to the negative things I think. Society is allowed to have a standard of beauty, and I'm not entitled to fit into that standard. I'm built the way I'm built, but it's not my genetic make-up that caused me to resent that fact. I'm smart, funny, driven, kind, creative, fun and sociable. I even love physical things about myself as well, such as my eyes, my smile, my cheekbones and how long my legs are. Having the perfect body isn't a necessity to being confident in who I am, and it shouldn't be for anyone else either.

I'm tired of feeling bad about myself and feeling sorry for myself. So I'm officially ending the mental war on myself. I'm going to start speaking to myself like I would speak to someone I love. I'm going to eat a little healthier and work out a little more, but I'll do it because I love myself, not because I hate myself.

I will never look like a model. I probably will never even look like half of the girls I'm friends with. My body isn't perfect, but it is strong, it is working and it gets to me to where I need to be, both literally and metaphorically.

I need to love my body for what is it, and I need to forgive myself for not being perfect in every way.