When I was younger, around the ages of 3 and 5, I was naive about body image: what it was or how it would affect me. It was not until I started 5th grade that my questions began to arise about my appearance. I love my mother to death, but she can be critical. Her ideologies about how I should look stemmed from her upbringing. She lived in a Christian household, with debutante etiquette rules and strict regulations. My mother was born in 1966. She is a thin, fair skinned woman with soft hair. Little me wanted to be just like my mother, so it only made sense that I embodied her beliefs. Listening to her passive aggressive remarks of how chubby I was getting at my young age. I consumed her adult beliefs and values about body shape, and size as stated by Hill in our Grogan’s Body Image. Who knew I would doom myself for years to come.
As I graduate from elementary school I entered the worst stage in my adolescent career, Middle School, my body image and self -esteem only decrease. Little me did not have many friends, so I watched plenty of television. The images of the girls on the television shows I watched growing up were oversexualized white wealthy individuals. For example: Zoey 101, Hannah Montana, Sweet Life of Zack and Cody, and many more. Growing up I idealized these fictional characters, associating their ability to get and keep friendships with beauty and weight. This changed my belief system and struck a match under me. I was desperate for friends, so I tried the fad diets my mom suggested, even doing nutrisystem. None of it worked. Alone and fed-up I would secretly look up easier ways to become an anorexic or a bulimic. Crazy! My reality was farfetched, but I still wanted to appease the masses of people I went to school with, and my mother. Television, along with social media, have a major impact on how children view themselves. As stated in Grogan’s article, one researcher deduced the problem for little boy’s view of their body image “body shape role models for these boys were television and movie celebrities rather than their peers” (Grogan 142). The media and hormone fluctuations can break these young adults into body shaming.
With love comes self-acceptance. That was my goal for high school. I looked up to my peers quite frequently on what was cool in school. How you looked was important, revealing your socioeconomic class. I recall my father telling me how my sisters and I dressed was a reflection of our family. My town of Loudoun County, Virginia was predominantly white and rich. I could see the strain on my parents to desperately fit in. The views of others developed a schema in my brain of how I was supposed to look. The pressure weighed on me until I cracked. With my mental health depleting I started eating more, binge eating until I started to really hate the way I looked, which brought my body to self-harm. The article talked about adolescent individuals hating their body, so they strive to lose weight but their lack of self- love deters them from trying. They eventually end up engulfing themselves with food for comfort to fill the void, “unhealthy weight control” (Grogan 143). The article also states that body concerns are the most important worries in a teenage girl’s life. This is how I felt. The only thing I ever cared about were my looks. It was a weight on my mind every day. It affected how I viewed myself, causing anxiety and angst. My mother’s perception of herself affected how she talked to me about my body image.
The article described how elderly women associate slender shapes with youth and beauty (Grogan 150). Women are judged based on physical attractiveness more than men. Their aging is viewed by others as tired, while the men are viewed as wiser. Due to societal views about aging my mother yearned for youth. I realize now how society affected her to treat me the way she did. Her fear of rejection made her critical to ensure her children would have a successful future. I read once that prettier women get the most jobs, and on occasion higher salaries. Despite societal interpretations of what beauty is I love myself, or at least try to everyday. The pressures to be thin entrap our children, and adolescent youth to go to extreme lengths. Many risk their lives to be thin or just fit in. I’ve been to the lowest points of my mind thinking about my body image. I hope one-day society can realize everyone is beautiful despite race, shape or socioeconomic background.
Ashlyn Brown is currently a student at Old Dominion University majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is a thick girl with style and grace who is learning to love herself each day. She enjoys reading, She could create movies in her head all day, along with reality television. She hopes to grow in her understanding the meaning of Bodylore and its commandments. With her growth she intends to help others blossom, while learning the hacks of the life and body. May our journey be a safe and powerful one.