Updated: May 2, 2019
As a kid, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone happier than I was. Before the terrifying journey of real life began for me, I was just your average, happy-go-lucky kid. I worked hard in school, I enjoyed spending time with my friends and family, and I engaged in several extracurriculars like theatre and gymnastics.
For the most part, I didn’t have a care in the world. Then suddenly, almost overnight, there was a shift. The life that I had known to be filled with rainbows and sunshine, suddenly had a dark cloud looming over it. Now there were many reasons for this, but one very prominent things that slowly eroded that childhood spark was the fact that I was becoming aware of my body and my looks.
By the young age of 12, I had already began comparing myself and my appearance to others. Friends, people in movies, and on billboards, and the problem only got worse from there. You see, every generation deals with different issues, and while many might argue that this current generation of youth has had one of the cushiest upbringings thus far, growing up in this day and age is still very bizarre, and far from easy, with trials and tribulations all of its own.
One of the major players in this is something we are all too familiar with- social media. I remember when I first set up my MSN account (I know, I’m aging myself a bit here, for all the younger Generation Z’s reading this). While creating my profile I was immediately asked to put up a picture, so I selected one of the default ones. After adding up all of my friends from school, I got a sinking feeling in my gut, like one I hadn’t felt before: shame. All of my friends had pictures too, but instead of a flower or a scenic photo of a beach, they were pictures of themselves, and they looked great. Seeing how amazing they all looked, I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
And it didn’t stop there. It got worse with every site I joined. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and then of course eventually I discovered what I consider to be the biggest offender: Instagram. I had come a long way from enviously eyeing the profiles of only my peers. Suddenly, it was like each person in the entire world was on display, and every single one of them was better than me. That feeling of shame slowly grew, and developed into an eating disorder, something I still struggle with to this day.
I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror and I took extreme, not to mention dangerous measures in attempt to change that. I became bulimic, engaging in harmful behaviours behind closed doors, in a feeble attempt to love myself. The pressure to look perfect became too much for me, and I’m not the only person who has been affected by this. Many people all around the world deal with body image problems, and the number of those effected is rising at an alarming rate.
Some are skeptical about how much of this can be attributed to the media, but to counter that, I’d like to revisit where I was as a child. As a kid, I was quite a funny looking character. I was a gawky, bucktoothed tomboy with a bowl cut and a complete and utter lack of any fashion sense, and yet nobody could tell me anything! I didn’t mind how I looked, and quite frankly, I didn’t care.
Now, at age 21, I struggle to find even one thing about my body that I wouldn’t like to change or alter in one way or another. I look in the mirror and all I can think to myself is the endless list of problems that have become like a mantra to me: Too much stomach fat, not enough muscle, tummy should be more toned, shoulders less broad, bigger lips, smaller waist, longer hair, shorter legs, and so on and so forth. This isn’t to say that if social media didn’t exist, that I would have absolutely zero problems with my image, but I think I can safely say that the aforementioned list would be significantly shorter, and I think many others would agree.
I wish I could leave this off with some sort of inspirational message, but unfortunately at this point, I don’t know that I’m in any position to give one. I still struggle every day with the issues that this has caused me, and I’m still fighting for my own self-love, and I wont stop fighting for that anytime soon. And perhaps that's the lesson to be taken here, to continue fighting, no matter how much it hurts, because at the very least, you owe it to yourself to keep going.