"No one even likes you, so stop trying," said my middle school bully. She said it so much that I started to believe her. She was right. I was ugly, chubby, weird and painfully awkward. I hated myself, and still do sometimes. Her words are still in the back of my mind. The aggressive comments she would make about my face, my hair, my body, my personality completely shaped my self image. I never wanted to go to school, I didn't want friends, and then there was the anxiety. The anxiety that I would never, ever feel good about myself again. Sometimes it was so bad that I just wanted to die. The people who brought me down had me totally convinced I was worthless. The one thing that 11-year-old me needed was something that never came, body positivity.
So, what is body positivity? It is a movement created to encourage people to let go of their negative feelings about their bodies and to encourage others to do the same. It is about spreading self-love, compassion, and positivity to improve the health and well-being of everyone. To love oneself is to accept our shortcomings and our human flaws, but celebrate our uniqueness, intelligence and worth. Loving ourselves is crucial, and unfortunately so many people suffer because the cruel and unforgiving world doesn't value its importance.
I decided that because so many people are affected by body image, I wanted to reach out on my social media and hear experiences from my friends and family. Here are their stories:
Brooklynn Bartos, 6
"We're special. No matter what color we are, or what color our eyes or hair are, we're always special and pretty."
Bonnie-Lee Zarate, 29
"I'm proud to say I love myself and teach my children to do the same. We are all different, and that is what makes us all unique. I teach my children that we should love ourselves the way we are and that beauty is more than what is on the outside, and to be kind and loving towards everyone. You never know the impact a few kind words can have on someone. If this is the only thing my kids learn from me then I have succeeded as a parent."
Nerissa Standish, 18
"I've struggled with body image since I was twelve. I was in seventh grade and was more developed than most girls my age. I got made fun of for having thicker thighs and curves. It took me up until the summer of 2016 to be comfortable in my skin and accept the fact that curvy is okay! I still struggle every once and awhile, but who doesn't? It's okay to tell yourself you're beautiful! If you're skinny or curvy, it's okay. Just remember that you're beautiful and don't let society tell you how you should think or how you should feel about your body!!"
Noah Zarate, 8
"If you're nice to another person, and they're nice back to you, then you can be friends. When someone is nice to me, it makes me happy."
Evan Wagner, 21
"Psalm 139:13-14 'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.' This verse reminds us how we are knitted together wonderfully and beautifully by our creator in Heaven. He does not make mistakes."
Lauri Arizola, 45
"As a 45-year-old woman, I can say that throughout my life I have seen and heard a lot about body image. I have been so hard on myself. I thought, as many other girls do, that if I was the perfect size and my hair was perfect and my makeup was perfect then I would fit in and society would accept me. What the world needs is to start believing in ourselves. Whether we are a size 4, blonde, and blue-eyed all-American girl, or we are a size 13, smart, hardworking woman-- we are all beautiful. We all matter and we are all perfect in our own way. I look at young girls today and see such beauty in each of them; some are smart, some are athletic, some are hardworking, some are models, some are self sacrificing, and every single one of them has something to offer that makes them beautiful. So instead of jumping up and down to zip up my pants because they are a size too small or spending two hours applying makeup to cover what I think is not perfect, I will put my best foot forward and give my beauty in helping others any chance I can. I do this by loving my kids unconditionally, being my best to be a role model for all the younger generation of young ladies, so they can believe in themselves. I will do my best to be the beautiful person in my own way that I was created to be. So to all the young girls trying to be perfect, darling you already are!!!"
Becky-Ann Agnew, 69
"We come in all shapes and sizes. Try to keep your body as healthy as you can and be true to who you are as an individual. Brigham Young stated, 'Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than our own?'. If I have any advice to give it would be simple, just show kindness toward others as well as to yourself. Nobody is perfect."
Linda Perukel, Educator
"Something that's important when talking with kids (regardless of age) is to talk to them genuinely and NOT about their appearance (unless it's a particular occasion e.g. new haircut/hairstyle for an event, an outfit for birthday or bat/bar mitzvah, etc.). I like to ask kids what they're reading, or about school- but specifically like what electives they enjoy or what they do during recess or about their teacher."
The hurtful words and unhealthy self image still haunt me to this day. I am still insecure, and I often do things to hide what I find to be imperfections. This will never change. The scars and the mental bruises never go away, but helping others love themselves sure makes them a lot better. I am learning to love myself again, and while it is a timely process-- it is so worth it. I encourage you all to take this journey as well. Love yourself deeply, honestly and carefully before it is too late. There is beauty in each one of us, you just have to find it.