I can not remember the last time I was truly happy with my body…my entire body. I’ve had periods in my life where I liked certain features more than others, but I’ve never loved my body in its entirety. Even during early childhood I remember not liking my big nose or my not so smooth hair. I would say that I learned that I didn’t have, “good” hair through listening to family members. I can recall grandparents and older cousins saying that I had “nappy” hair, I needed my hair combed, or I needed a perm (relaxer in the black community). Although these grandparents or cousins probably won’t be able to recall these events now, I still remember. Even if they only said it once, to a young girl still developing her own sense of self, it stuck. I remember my first time in my towns Hair Cuttery. There was a little white girl around my age there getting her hair blow dried by a hand dryer. I sat there with rollers in my head under a dome hair dryer. Being so young, I naively thought to myself, “If they used that blow dryer on my hair, I bet it would be silky just like hers”. A feeling that is all too familiar to young girls. According to Grogan, girls as young as eight years old experience body dissatisfaction.
As I grew, so did my bodily dissatisfaction. In middle school through 10th grade, I was a thin girl with no curves. At this age, my friends were developing much faster than I was and boys were starting to take notice. I would always get my flat ass compared to my best friend’s plump ass. Although I knew I was far too young to worry about a guy looking at my behind, it was the comparing and jokes that made me feel worse about my body once I too started drawing those comparisons. Nichter (2003) talked about drawing comparisons and taking energy away form more meaningful pursuits. I stopped laying basketball and didn’t really get into any other sports and tried to simply maintain a certain status of popularity because I thought that that was what the boys my age were in to. As the year went on, I still learned a lot about my own body through listening to others. I’ve had plenty of good compliments, but it’s always the bad ones that stood out to me and stayed on my mind for long after it was said. I learned that I had a big forehead, I learned that I have large pores, and I learned that I have really little lips for a black girl. Things that I didn’t know until I was told by someone else. Although we did not talk about lips specifically, the article does talk a bit about how white women are typically thinner than black women. Not that lips are correlated with body weight, but they white women often time have thinner features than black women.
Even as an adult woman, I still find myself comparing myself to Instgram models, Victoria Secret models, and the girls from the videos. They all seem so perfect, flat stomachs and big butts. I compare myself and then nit pick at which parts of my body I could change to look like them. It gets even worse when I am with friends. Often times I find myself participating in “fat talk” (Nitcher 2000) with my friends. One person usually sparks up the conversation with something that they don’t like about themselves and then we all join in with something that we don’t like about ourselves in order to make that person feel better. Ironically, we are helping them but making ourselves feel worse. I’ve learned to stop myself from doing that recently and try to stay quiet when the self-disapprovement festival begins.
One thing that I’ve learned through all this time is that words can really stick to a person for years. It can change how they feel about themselves and how they see themselves. Although it may be said as a joke or a laugh to some, it can really impact a person’s life. I am also learning to love myself and my body a lot more because I am beautiful and perfect. People don’t see all of the imperfections that I see when I look at myself. Even with all of the imperfections, I am learning to love myself through it.
Keyondra Wilson is studying Applied Sociology at Old Dominion University. She is particularly interested in inequalities in race and social class. She works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Social Science Research Center at Old Dominion University. Her life goal is to someday own her own charity specializing in helping disadvantaged individuals and families. Her life motto is, “Don’t Survive. Thrive.”