As a teenager I desperately wanted to know the secret to being confident and beautiful. Before google or yahoo answers were the go-to places, I searched for them within the pages of my favorite magazines. They all said “fake it till you make it” which didn’t help me one bit. How was I supposed to fake something I didn’t know how to do in the first place? Also, how was I supposed to fake it till I made it when everyone around me was always chipping away at what little confidence I had?
Something that really used to eat away at my confidence was my double chin. I hated that it was considered cute when I was a kid, but ugly as a teenager. I hated that it was the first thing I would look for and criticize in pictures. I hated that I was the center of fat jokes because of it. The constant criticism and jokes made me insecure the more I heard them. They were daily reminders that I wasn’t good enough or deserving of good things until I didn’t have a double chin.
The ongoing comments to look a certain way eventually got the better of me. I found any excuse to miss out on family reunions. I began to avoid hanging out with certain friends. I made an extra effort to ignore anyone who bullied me because of my weight. I stopped auditioning for roles in school plays. I started to dress in ways that wouldn’t bring attention to myself. If being invisible meant not hearing negative comments about myself, then so be it.
It felt impossible to fake confidence when I didn’t even know what it was like to have any. One day it suddenly dawned upon me, people who are confident surround themselves with people who support them. When I realized that the people around me were tearing me down instead of uplifting me, I went through a phase where I cut off everyone who had contributed to my poor body image. For a while I didn’t talk to my parents, I ended some lifelong friendships, and I kept to myself.
Once I cooled off, I took a while to think about what kind of people I wanted to surround myself with and who I needed to let go. Although it was scary, I knew I needed to confront my parents before anyone else. Afterall, they were the people who were supposed to support and love me unconditionally. Instead, they contributed to my negative body image by comparing me to my skinny friends and making inappropriate comments about my body before I was in junior high. While the things they said about my body came from a place of concern for my health, their body shaming comments didn’t hurt any less than those from classmates or online bullies.
When I sat down with my parents and let them know that if they wanted me in their lives, they needed to put an end to the body shaming comments. I told them how I remembered every thing they ever said that contributed to my insecurities. I told them that I the way they talked to me as a kid about my health was inappropriate. I told them that if they continued to make body shaming comments around me, I wouldn’t speak to them ever again. It wasn’t like everything was suddenly better overnight. It took them some time for them to change. However, with my persistence, guidance, and love, they were able to put an end to the body shaming comments once and for all. I found myself being able to be more open with my parents, and with that, my confidence began to form.