Everyone has certain thought processes, specific rituals, habits, and practices heavily embedded into their systems. They can differ from person to person; some may be harmless, while others can even alter the way you order your coffee in the morning.
There was once this little girl. Sparkle in her eyes, ceaseless doses of energy flowing through her at all times. But due to her circumstances growing up, she never understood how someone could just accept their body as it was. She was probably the first of her classmates to start feeling insecure about her weight, her height, how her clothes hugged her. Being raised in a village where being skinny was tightly adherent to beauty did little help.
At first, it wasn’t a handicap – in fact, it made her get into many of the sports teams during middle school. As all tales go, though, this one also had a gradual yet dramatic twist. Before she could even begin to understand the situation, her brain was already consumed by this fantasy of being skinny. Food was broken down into calories before the plate touched the table, mind already set on how to burn them, which exact exercises to perform, and for how long.
Her wardrobe, two shirts, and four pairs of pants were already chosen for the next year, in a futile attempt to avoid looking in the mirror, lest she catch a glimpse of her “disgusting” figure. Shopping trips turned into war zones and feeding grounds for her relatives to further body-shame her. Her mood, dependent on the number she saw on the scale that morning. Childhood, long gone, only to leave behind this broken mind, so occupied with thoughts surrounding her figure, that it forgot how to be a person beyond it all.
Days and nights were spent trying to control what she ate, how much she ate, wondering when and if she could eat more. Her anxiety made her want to stuff her face with more food as comfort, only to later turn its back on her and call her vile for finding comfort in that “poison.”
By the time she turned 14, this issue was worse than ever. Things changed when the universe threw her way her first phone with an internet connection. Granted, it was taken away a year later, but a lot changed in that one year.
Like everything under the Sun, the Internet has its merits and demerits. By a random stroke of luck, she was swimming in a sea of its advantages all throughout that one glorious year.
She came across a lot of concepts revolving around body image issues and body positivity. Like the diligent and responsible young adult she was, she put in a lot of time and effort into re-teaching herself, from altering the way she talked to herself, to actively trying to catch herself when the thoughts of giving up started clouding her judgment.
She did everything possible, and yet there was one thing she still couldn’t do.
She couldn’t “love” her body. It seemed like a foreign concept that she couldn’t ever possibly grasp.
On the flip side, however, she did realize one vital point; she no longer hated it with as much intensity as she used to.
And there it was, a beautiful, blossoming sign of growth.
Nearing the end of her magnificent year of emotional growth, she came across one more concept that she somehow glossed over this entire time.
Body Neutrality involves loving your body for what it can do for you, with the prime focus on its accomplishments rather than its appearance. It is a neutral approach as you do not have to love your body every day or every aspect of it, but you can learn to be appreciative of it.
Reading about this concept made her once again question everything that she knew. While it still felt like a foreign concept to her mind, it made sense to her. It was almost as if some gears in her head finally shifted, settling in their correct places. She started understanding the importance behind appreciating her body for functioning normally and letting her live a healthy life, rather than viewing it as a body made for aesthetic pleasure.
It’s been years since then, and she’s grown and relapsed, but nonetheless gotten back up; a lot since. It took a while to really bring home the concept that your personality and identity are not a factor of your body; they’re a factor of your mindset. The road is quite long and ceaseless, yet like any good protagonist of a story, she’ll continue working on it; because after 18 years of existing, she’s finally started understanding that the sparkle in her eyes and her boundless energy was too precious to be traded off for a “smaller” figure.
Written by Harshita Khanna for MTTN
Edited by Shivangi Acharya for MTTN
Featured Image by Jessica Meyrick
Artwork by Nicholle Kobi