Once upon a typical teenage insecurity, I spent the pivotal years of my young life in a tiny, German theme town where the majority of my social influences bombarded me with conflicting ideals. Somehow my body was both a beautiful work of art created by the big man and also something shameful and lustful and gross. As I got older, media influences jumped in to add that my nose was misshapen, my thunder thighs needed spanx, my breasts were too small, my feet were too big, and I would never, ever look good in a swimsuit unless I stopped eating cake.
Like, I would give up cake.
Still, insecurity reigned supreme. I’m sure there are a smattering of young women out there experiencing the same sad story: Horrified by the notion of someone seeing me naked, I avoided romantic interactions, but my lack of romantic interactions made me sure that know one would ever want me. My inner voice mocked me as I my jeans cut across my belly when I sat. My body was not a temple, it was my tomb.
Thinking about this time now delivers a cold, dry kind of sadness.
Of course it would be cool if I could say that now I’m never insecure, that the whole world is always love and rainbows and ice cream for breakfast. While that may not be the case, the truth is, I’m a hell of a lot better off these days. I take care of my body so it will continue to serve me well in the things I want to do. Most of the time I feel good about myself. Sex doesn’t frighten me anymore because my body doesn’t frighten me anymore. Well, most of the time.
A few months ago, I met a guy, decided I liked him and we had a weekend. I thought it was going to be more than it was but clearly we were not on the same page. He fell off the edge of the earth and I wrote some songs about it. Everyone survived.That is, until a coworker butted in.
This coworker, we’ll call him Les, had heard about my steamy weekend and was dying to know who it was with. It wasn’t really a secret but watching a gossip struggle for information is entertaining for everyone in the know, so we let him keep guessing. A few months later, I’d all but forgotten about it, until Les approached me at a party,
“Hey I know who you hooked up with,” he said, matter-of-factly. I responded, somewhat amused by his determination,
“Oh? And who was it, then?”
He guessed correctly and I assumed someone probably told him, but he would more than likely attribute his new-found knowledge to his super sleuth skills. His response, however, buzzed through me making my ears ring,
“I thought it had to be him, because he’ll sleep with anybody,”
I laughed it off. I felt the initial sting but I’d had a couple of beers and felt good enough to ignore it. Three days later though, it sprang from the darkest parts of my mind again, reminding me of my ugly, horrible body and that no one would ever want me.
I struggled, I tried to shake it off, I struggled some more, and then I pulled myself out of it. And this is only because I had done years of work on my mental health and self image; a comment like that ten years ago would have destroyed me.
So. What’s the moral of the long-winded story? There are a couple:
If you are insecure about your body (female or male, 16 or 60, in any city, country, world), you are not alone.
You can put the hours into your insecurities, self image and mental health through therapy, journaling, and research. Change is possible, but work from the inside.
If you’re thinking about being a dick to someone, consider if it could actually emotionally scar them. If the answer is yes: just be kind to them instead. If the answer is no: just be kind to them instead.