Tessa Hughes is a journalism junior. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect Mustang News.
Summer is a mere few weeks away and with that comes warmer weather, longer days and, in SLO, endless beach trips and days spent relaxing in the sun. However, with that also comes the flood of media articles promoting how to achieve the ideal bikini body, the pressure to look hot in barely-there summer clothing, and a general, overwhelming surge in personal insecurity.
My whole life I have always been curvy. I was never the idealized stick-skinny image sold to young girls. I was always the bigger friend, and while my friends never reinforced my insecurities, society’s standards made my role in my friend groups clear. This always made me feel isolated and misunderstood.
As I got older and my sense of self solidified, my insecurities faded, but they never went away. They came in phases, and when they hit, they were worse than before because now I actually had a vocabulary that I could take even more cutting digs into myself. When I was younger I was fat. Now I was disgusting and a disappointment for letting myself look this way.
I have struggled with how I’ve looked my entire life. Recently, I have found brief moments of solace online when I see body-positive influencers talking about issues I relate to, but as soon as I lock my phone and look into the mirror I am brought right back to reality.
I hate when I smile and my chin doubles. I hate that even when I suck in my stomach, it’s not flat. The stretch marks that adorn my hips disappoint me. My arms look ginormous in photographs. My cellulite is overpowering and distracts away from any other features of mine. Most importantly, however, I hate how I look at myself this way.
It is a vicious cycle of hating myself for the way I look and hating myself for the way I allow myself to pick myself apart. The funny thing is, I don’t hold anyone else to this standard I hold myself to. All of my friends are beautiful and if they ever said the things I thought to myself I would be livid. They all look different and with them, I know that there is no singular beauty standard and that everyone is beautiful in their own way. But not me.
Once in a high school class, we were asked what is one compliment you would like to receive. Everyone else’s compliments were adjectives that describe personality traits and seemed more specialized. Mine was to be called beautiful. I came across as superficial when I said this because it seemed like looks were all that mattered to me. It is a word that is so common for so many people to hear. However, since I spent my entire life being insecure about how I look, I found comfort and confidence in my personality because it was more controllable.
When I began dating, I was uncomfortable when boys would compliment me. Saying thank you felt weird, but I did it, often quietly, with a slight hidden smile across blushing cheeks. Most of the time the compliments were never beautiful though. I was called cute or hot, rarely anything ever in-between. While both were sweet, constantly being called cute felt like I was being equated to a child or a puppy, and being called hot felt like the fetishization of the fat girl.
In relationships, I wait until my partner tells me I’m beautiful. For every one I’ve been in, I could tell you at what point they did. This sickens me. Why do I do this to myself? I am not the type of person to place my personal value in the hands of a man, but yet I still crave the words of affirmation. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could be happy enough with myself at all times that I didn’t do this.
The worst part of my body insecurity is the fact that, when I was younger, I wished I had an eating disorder to make myself skinnier. I literally hate myself for that. Eating disorders destroy people – I have seen them destroy my friends and I am so terrible for ever wanting one. I know that, deep down, it was a blessing my mental health and insecurity didn’t deteriorate me to that. But who in their right mind even wishes for that to begin with?
I know the insecurity surrounding my body is so heightened right now because summer is approaching. It is discouraging to try on clothes that fit me last year to find they are now snug because I put on winter weight. However, something about this year feels different. I am fighting so hard to be happy with how I look, but I just can’t get there. Maybe I forgot how I used to feel and this is normal for me, but when I look in the mirror all I think is how disgusting I look. How there is so much fat just hanging off of my body and that I am not prepared for the shorts, skirts, tank tops, and dresses that summer is filled with.
I haven’t found a resolution to my issues yet. Issues don’t even feel like the right word because at their core, they’re insecurities. Sometimes I’m fine and I feel on top of the world, ready to tackle all that hot girl shit. But most days, I will freeze for moments in time, because I moved and felt my arm rub against my side and the fat from both rub against each other, leaving me discouraged and sad.
I am not writing this to say “woe is me,” but to let others know that if they feel similarly that they are not alone. Insecurity oscillates and if you are stressed about the end of school, not because of midterms, but because you will be on display, I am right alongside you. Just remember that we are so much more than our weight; our clothes are meant to fit us, we are not meant to fit them; what you are doing is enough; we all look different and that’s what makes us beautiful.
Insecurity is normal, but so is everything else you are experiencing, so don’t let insecurity win. Let yourself enjoy the summer, the freedom and the break from the monotony the rest of the year is filled with. You deserve it. I do too.