Invisible Pain

I’ve never felt that I’m allowed to be self conscious about my body. Most people simply tell me, “Oh, you’re so lucky to be thin” or “I’d be happy to give you some of my body fat.” I kept my thoughts to myself throughout adolescence, always wishing to look more like the other girls around me. It felt like telling others about my insecurities would simply lead to a competition of whose self-identified “flaws” were a more difficult burden to bear, and somehow I knew that I would always lose. I could complain about how difficult it was to find jeans that were long enough – after all, height is a less touchy subject than weight – but I was always careful to steer away from commenting on the fact that this was also because my waist was small. As I got older, however, my insecurity had less to do with finding clothes that fit properly and more to do with the perceptions others had about my size. When one of my high school friends told me her mom had asked if I was anorexic, I laughed it off, because my friends did the same. They ate lunch with me every day and knew that I was healthy and active. However, when my college women’s choir director confronted me with similar concerns, I was mortified. Although I was able to convince her that I had a healthy relationship with food and simply have a fast metabolism, I had started to feel like I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t curvy enough, I simply wasn’t enough. Since that time, I have gained a lot of confidence and learned to love my body a lot more than I used to, but I still worry about what other people will think if I just order a salad at dinner, or if I only finish half of my burger. I find myself making the excuse that I have a small appetite, that I just need to eat more frequently, that if I eat too much at one sitting I’ll get sick – anything that will eliminate the question I still fear is in the minds of others – what’s wrong with her? I still worry about whether my ribs are visible, or whether people notice the curve in my spine from scoliosis. I think about how many calories I am taking in, not because I am worried about overdoing it, but because I want to gain weight and feel like I look healthy, even though I know that I am healthy. Looking back, I know that I am lucky. I have not had to endure the body shaming that many women face on a daily basis, and I fit into what some people would consider to be an “ideal” mold. But my own experiences remind me that no size, shape, or physical feature can make you happy. My happiness stems not from being tall and thin, but from learning to love myself and to share love with the people around me. It’s easy to find flaws, no matter what size you are, but I have started to live by a different motto: “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart."

 

- Becca