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I remember the first time I sat on a Sex Ed. course in high school. It was both painful and hilarious as my science teacher, Ms. Springer* explained what the birds and the bees were to 15-year-old girls in a Catholic institution. She flailed her limbs to explain how a penis worked when it became “excited” and proceeded to show us a video on the joys of childbirth. In the end I realized that there wasn’t anything valuable I really learned from the session, that I couldn’t read up on myself if I was curious enough. Let me tell you, I was one heck of a curious kid. One thing I wish I had learned from that day on was how to love my body after puberty had packed up its luggage and left to embark onto the adventures of womanhood. And as we draw into the New Year and I become more reflective, I simply ask, “Why have I not been loving my body enough?”
The pressures of being a woman in a society where you’re constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations can influence us so many ways. More than we can even admit. Why is it, that every time I have a slice of cake and decide to go for another, I have to announce to a crowded room, “Well, I guess I’m going to need to certainly work out tonight.” Why is it that every time I enter a changing room, try on a pair of jeans that are my size and stare at the mirror, I ponder, “Do I really look like that?” Why is it that, as I scroll through my Instagram, for a fragment of a second, I feel intimidated by these female influencers, wondering, “Will I ever be as exciting as them?”
Ladies, I know I’m not alone in this.
And yet, still today, I wonder when am I actually going to truly stop giving a damn? Even with 2019 on the horizon, I know that I'm not going to join a gym because I won't commit—but I will aim to do as many home workouts as I can. I will still eat fried chicken and hate myself the following day, but enjoy it in the moment. And somehow, I still take lentil soup for lunch for the fear of consuming any carbs. I am truly my own worst enemy.
One of my most painful memories was when I stood next to an old friend of mine in front of her mirror. Although I’m sure she believed her intentions seemed good at the time, my mind was bogged down with the following words for a while: “You know, you would look so much better with a thigh gap. You should join me at the gym.” Etched in my mind and significantly burned into my self-confidence, I hadn’t realized how much it had hurt to hear that from a loved one. Although it wasn’t the first time. Here are also a following few favourites from even more former loved ones:
- “You wouldn't look good if you ever got fat.”
- “Your friends were saying you got fat, and didn’t want to hurt you in admitting it.”
- “The way you wear your lingerie like that, you look like you belong in that Dove commercial!”
Ladies and gentlemen, is it ever a wonder why we never learn to love ourselves fully if we are using words like fat as an insult—or any form of weight gain? The unrealistic expectations we have set for society has been handcrafted by society; and I wonder if there is ever a chance we can unlearn this. Or at least find a way to educate the upcoming generation of girls and boys that we are all different shapes and sizes—that there is no such thing as a perfect body. We keep pushing to be better versions of ourselves, why can’t we be better versions for one another?
And as I think back to being the 15-year-old girl that sat in her science class, laughing away at the absurdity about the human body—I wish I felt engaged and inspired. I wish I could have given myself a pat on the back 10 years later for accepting that my body has gone through changes, and will continuously do so.
While these pressures will never disappear, I suppose that the only thing to remember is that we can overcome this bullshit, aim to improve the power of self-love by pretending the criticism is just as sound as Donald Trump’s Tweets, and disperse that love to our dear ones to remind them that they’re perfect, just as they are. (Yes, I totally referenced Bridget Jones’s Diary.) And while I may be terrible at taking my own advice, this upcoming year, I will give myself the chance to.
*My science teacher clearly had a different name. I just decided to give her a fake name for the sake of protecting her identity. Especially after making the excitable penis reference.