TW: TRIGGER WARNING FOR SOME AUDIENCES
Burn, cut, or tear? Every night these were the three words that circled my brain. Should I burn the excess fat that surrounded my hips, should I cut the jiggle in my thighs, or should I tear off my pooch until my arms ached and I was left with nothing but the outline of my hollow bones. When these thoughts cloud your nightmares, sleeping is hell. But, staying awake means you get to check yourself out in the mirror every waking second. So what do you do? How do you stop these thoughts? How do you heal? The answer’s two small words with a much larger meaning: Self-Love.
The past few years, my life has revolved around image. Ever since I hit puberty in sixth grade, I started becoming more aware of the woman I was turning into. I was starting to develop these incredible mounds on my chest and all of a sudden I had curvy hips and hair in all sorts of places. And I was amazed by the beauty of growing up. That was until I gained 5! No 10! No 15? Pounds? The worst thing was that I wasn’t the only one who noticed these new changes. Little Timmy with chubby cheeks would gag in 5th period math class, “Aahana has hair in her armpits! Gross!” But at the time, Little Timmy was no match for my high self esteem. That summer, my family flew out to see all of our relatives in India and my mom started asking things of me she had never asked before. “Cover up Aahana, there are going to be men there.” I never understood why, all I knew was that my body was shameful. It was something to be hidden because as my Grandmother would say, “No one likes a woman who dresses like a wh**e.” I was 12 and I should have been playing soccer like the boys in my neighborhood instead of worrying about the way I dressed or if I was “asking for it”. It got a little better when we came home from the trip because I had convinced myself that my Grandmother was archaic and was 80 years old and that’s why she was talking such nonsense. And even though that trip was over, my problems with my body image and who I was had just started.
Ever since that trip to India in sixth grade, the list of my insecurities only got longer. I went from not understanding why I needed to cover up to feeling ashamed of my new curves in the blink of an eye. I started believing the words of my Grandmother when she told me that men don’t like women who show skin, or weigh more than 110 pounds, or have acne, or any hair at all. I started jotting down things I hated about myself and the more I thought about it the worse I felt. At the top of that list was my weight. It never mattered how “skinny” my friends would say I was. It never mattered that boys liked me irregardless of the fat on my arms. I hated who I was. I hated that a size 0 didn’t fit me. That XS didn’t fit me. I hated that the girl next to me could wear low rise jeans but my love handles said that I could not. I let my weight dictate my mood for months if not years straight. I became scared of the doctor’s office because that meant I would have to step on that scale and see three numbers I hated. And so the thought started every night. I would think of crazy unhealthy ways to lose weight. And I kept telling myself I will stop when I am X pounds. But, that’s the thing. You don’t stop until it’s too late.
The summer before my freshman year I broke my ankle and I had to quit the sport I loved most. And so I would tell the rest of the world it was a freak accident or I simply fell down the stairs. But, here is what went down: It was 1 am and I had recently eaten a big meal for the first time in a very long time. I had run out of bed and forced myself in front of the mirror and eyed every piece of skin on my body til I got the motivation to do 100’s of jumping jacks. Somewhere around the 50th jumping jack I fell and broke my ankle. I couldn’t play soccer because my ankle was broken, so I sat on the bench and watched my teammates get better and have fun until one day I couldn’t take it anymore. I quit the sport I loved. I cried that night and many others until I simply could not cry anymore. That’s when it happened. The big AHA moment.
Self-love and self-worth is complicated. Having to quit something that I really cherished because I didn’t have the courage to love myself enough was difficult. But, it was even harder to accept that I needed to get better. And it was a messy road. There were many nights where I felt like I was never going to be more than that number on the scale. But, I am on the road to recovery. To feeling healthy because food is fuel, rest days are OKAY, and hey the pooch on my belly? It’s actually saving my internal organs. Realizing that you are more than the vessel your soul lives in is so incredibly vital to self-love. I believe wholeheartedly that loving yourself is the most important thing you can ever do.