I cannot remember an extended time period when I liked my body.
In early elementary school, I was too tall. There is a school class picture of me in kindergarten where I stood one step down from the top riser, and I am still a head taller than the tallest student. That was the beginning of being self-conscious about my body.
In later elementary school, I remember being called ‘string bean’ because I was tall and thin. At that time, I danced and competitively swam, so I was in very good physical shape. I was likely the healthiest I have ever been and still received messages that I was not beautiful from my peers as they teased me about my looks.
Then, around middle school, my breasts started growing, and I started gaining weight, likely because I used food as a source of comfort. In high school, I wore men’s shirts I purchased from the thrift store to cover my bust line and growing stomach. In my ballet classes, I was ridiculed for the bounciness of my breasts during class by people who I thought were my friends. By the time I left for college, my bra size was 40 DD, and I hated how I looked. My father researched a Portland area plastic surgeon who gave me a breast reduction at 19 years old, and for the first time, I felt beautiful and of the ‘right size.’ I have one picture of me in which I can see my confidence.
Those feelings were short lived as I experienced sexual trauma as a college freshman by someone I was dating which made me feel shame around my body. I continued to eat as a source of comfort. I began to synthesize the repetitive messages from those close to me and the media that because I was overweight, I was not attractive.
In my adult life, I have been as light as 165 pounds (right after college) and as heavy as 255 pounds. Since college, I find myself constantly thinking about my weight. It happens numerous times an hour. And the messages cut into my psyche whether or not I am dieting. Since college I have done Diet Center, Nutrisystem, phen phen, diabetic diets, My Fitness Pal, and portion control. When I am dieting, all I can obsessively think about is how many calories I am taking in, and if there is a way I could eat less so I can lose weight faster. When I am not dieting, I get caught in the cycle that I know I need to eat less so I can lose weight, but when I lose it, I cannot seem to keep it off, so then I eat.
This summer, I purchased a modest bikini which I really love. I planned to wear it only when my husband and I swim in our backyard pool. When Gwyn and Shay visited recently, we decided to go for a swim. I really love the bathing suit and wanted to show it to them. I told them I wouldn’t wear it while they were here, because I did not want to embarrass them with my fat. Gwyn looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Be body positive, mom. You should wear the bikini. It is really cute.” I shared with her how I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. She replied, “Same.”
A few summers ago, I worked with a professional coach, and one of my assignments was to create an affirmation for use when I am feeling insecure about my place in the world. I came up with “I have a beautiful soul.” I believe it to be true as I try to live being kind and helping others every day. But somehow, a beautiful soul does not seem like enough to me.
I know I would be healthier if I were thinner, and I know I have to take responsibility for my body and my health; I just wish I could somehow disconnect my feelings about my outer shell with my inner self-worth. I have to learn that I am beautiful in my own way, even though I hear internal and external messages which constantly tell me otherwise.
PS: I wore the bikini that day. Thank you, Gwyn.
Kimberly is a suicide loss survivor hoping to make a difference for others through her transparency. www.starrbrightpresentations.com
Kimberly A. Starr © 2020
Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash