How I learnt to hate, and then love, my body

I have always had a tumultuous relationship with my body. I don’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t ashamed of how I look. It is important to remember that this is a learnt behaviour – I don’t hate my body because it deserves to be hated, I hate it because that’s the only way I know how to treat it.

I, and almost everyone else I know, have internalised an arbitrary standard of how my body should look and function. I am trying to teach myself to love my body in all its glory, for its inherent, unending value and beauty.

At 8, my uncle remarked on my protruding stomach with a harsh “What’s all this? No cake for you”.

At 9 I had my appendix urgently removed. It was incredibly frightening, but the doctor reassured me that I could still be a swimsuit model when I was older.

At 16 a boy wanted to fool around with me but didn’t want to be seen together in public.

At 17 I shaved my hair for charity. Someone on the street yelled “big legs no hair” a few days later.

Later that year I started going to the gym every single day before school and starved myself most days. With a ‘healthy’ lifestyle I punished my body for not being right. I equated being physically desirable with being valuable.

At 18 I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The medication I had take made me gain a tonne of weight. I ate to cope with my emotions and homesickness.

My hatred of my body came from some of the people closest to me, people I thought cared about my wellbeing. It is completely unacceptable to teach young people to hold themselves to some irrational standard.

Now, I try my best to remind myself everyday that I have an amazing body that can do some pretty amazing things. I try to choose a new thing to celebrate about my body everyday.

It’s really hard to un-teach yourself all the irrelevant standards you have always been compared to. Still, my body doesn’t work how I sometimes think it should. I don’t always feel comfortable in my own skin. It’s okay not to love yourself everyday, but it is so important to try.