I’ve always known that girls my age have horrible images of their own bodies. I’ve known that tons of girls dislike themselves for not looking “perfect” in their own eyes. Unfortunately, I myself am too familiar with being uncomfortable in my own skin.
What I had never thought about before was how much easier it is to insult ourselves than it is to verbally state what we like about our bodies or even our personalities.
A couple weeks ago, a body image representative visited my sorority house and asked to meet with my pledge class. Of course, our initial thoughts were that we didn’t need this workshop; we were fine the way we were. We didn’t need help. We didn’t realize we would be getting the wake-up call we all desperately needed.
We all hoped that this wouldn’t take long. We all had schoolwork and our own lives to attend to and didn’t need another mandatory meeting added into our busy schedules. Personally, I know that I thought that this workshop would be a waste of time.
It wasn’t until we played one of the most eye-opening games I had ever experienced that a lot of us began to take it seriously. I felt tears gather in the corners of my eyes as I listened to my sisters tear themselves apart.
We were asked to throw a ball of yarn to each other, and each time it came to one of us, we would state something that our inner critic would say to us on an everyday basis. I heard things like “You’ll never be good enough,” “You’re not skinny enough to wear that” and “You’re ugly.” My heart shattered listening to the people I love genuinely hate themselves.
Once everyone had gone, we pulled on the yarn to represent how much the images we have of ourselves affect the people around us, which is beyond true. Negativity towards ourselves makes it that much harder for the people around us to stay positive. Soon enough we all start looking at our bodies and personalities the way everyone else sees theirs, and it becomes a chain reaction.
After that activity, we were asked to write down five things that we actually like about ourselves, and to state them confidently. After extensive thought, I wrote down one word and found it extremely difficult to come up with anything else. I found that everyone else was having the same problem. It was easier to come up with a list of things I wish I could change about me, which broke my heart even more. Why do we do this to ourselves?
As we all stated our good qualities out loud, “confidently,” none of us felt very confident. I noticed that everyone looked down nervously, and some ended their statements as questions. We could not compliment ourselves if our lives depended on it. Nobody would ever believe that we actually liked anything about ourselves. Again, my heart ached for my hurting sisters.
In that moment, I think we all feared judgment more than anything. We feared the rejection of our good qualities; we didn’t know if people agreed with the good things we had to say about ourselves. But when it came to our insecurities, we assumed everyone already knew this about us. We always assume everyone sees us just as we see ourselves. What I’m realizing is that this could not be further from the truth. I had no idea most of my sisters’ insecurities even existed. I didn’t know how they could possibly exist, because I don’t see them as they see themselves. I have never seen them that way.
The sad part is, nothing I say can reassure them of this. We, along with society, have implanted our body images in our heads permanently from a young age, and the likelihood of them changing after one workshop, or even the reassurance from close friends, is slim.
But, what we can do is to stay positive. We can compliment our loved ones. We can be more accepting. We can be there for someone we aren’t even close with. We can express what we hate about ourselves less because that causes others to see the same hatred in themselves. We can stop telling everyone that we’re “fat” or “stupid” because not only is it untrue, it’s toxic to those around us.
These negative thoughts may be in our heads, but just know that nobody sees you the way you see yourself. You are all loved more than you know, and it’s heartbreaking to hear you all express your disliked qualities so confidently. It was even heartbreaking to be so confident in my own self-hatred.
Although our insecurities may never truly vanish, be confident that there are also good things about yourself. Be confident that you are loved. Be confident that you are never alone. Stay positive for the sake of those around you, and for yourself.