We’ve reached the time of year when, even more so than usual, we’re bombarded with messages saying our bodies aren’t good enough as is; and that to feel confident and have a wonderful summer we need to look a certain way or weigh X pounds. For so long I thought that was true, and every year I became frustrated when my body never looked like the ideal bikini body that we see plastered all across the media.
This year I am determined to have a wonderful summer, but in a very different way than years past. Instead of focusing on changing my body, I am focusing on accepting, loving, and caring for it. Throughout my years of eating disorder treatment and working towards body acceptance, I have learned a lot that has helped me get where I am today.
One of my most significant realizations is that changing my body does not mean I will automatically love myself. I have learned that self-love and body image have far more to do with my mental state than my physical appearance. This concept always makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from my former therapist, Cassie Thacker: “Body image has little to do with your outward appearance. Body image is really a state of mind.” This quote helps remind me that there is nothing wrong with my body, and that, instead of changing my body, I need to continue focusing on my mentality.
I have also learned that regardless of what body type a person has, how much or how little fat they have, how many stretch marks they have, etc., everyone deserves to feel comfortable in and love their body exactly the way it is at this very moment. In years past, I would hide my body beneath yoga pants and t-shirts during the summer. Even though I was physically very uncomfortable from the heat, I was too scared to allow other people to see more of me. Thankfully, this is no longer an issue
Now when it’s warm outside I feel comfortable wearing shorts and a tank top. This is not to say that, just because it is summer, everyone should wear clothing that exposes more of their body. My main point is that everyone deserves to dress however is most comfortable for them. That will look different for everyone. For some it may mean covering up more of their body, and for others it may mean the opposite. The important part is to focus on your own needs, and to try your best to spend less time worrying about what others will think about your body. Do what feels right for you.
Eventually I realized how much more satisfying it is to work towards loving and accepting my body rather than wasting time and energy trying to change myself to match societal ideals. This is much easier said than done, and it took me years to finally reach a place of wanting to make peace with my body, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The body I have right now is the only one that I will ever have, and it deserves to be treated with unconditional appreciation, acceptance, kindness, and love.
Emily Locke is a junior at North Carolina State University majoring in English with a creative writing concentration and minoring in Psychology. She has battled mental illnesses from a young age, and as a result is very passionate about raising awareness for eating disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as promoting a positive body image. She is a writer/blogger and hopes to someday be a published author, and eating disorder activist. To read more of her writing and follow her journey, check out her blog or follow her on Instagram @emilywlocke.