My project Pretty Honest, is a book created about young women, students in particular, and their relationship with their bodies. Tilly shares her challenges with body positivity, dysmorphia, and ever present social media culture. The book includes a variety of different perspectives; some people had become comfortable in their own skin and others are very much still on their journey.
Acting like a confident person is easier than showing the reality of how I really feel. When it comes to my body I’d say I’m not very confident at all. I think there are such high expectations of girls that are not only set by society but also myself. So I feel like if I don’t meet those expectations then I won’t be happy with my looks.
I haven’t got a positive relationship with my body, I don’t know why. I’ve tried and I’m still trying to accept it how it is. There are some things that you just can’t change about yourself and I’m slowly learning that. There are a lot of set backs though, sometimes I think I’ll look good today and then I’ll catch a bad angle of myself in the mirror and change my mind instantly.
When I was young I was always very small and slightly underweight, so when I got older and I started putting on weight, as a lot of people do in their teens, I think that was the point for me where I began to start worrying about how much I weigh and what I looked like. Friends also made comments like ‘oh you’ve put on weight…but in a good way!’ and it affects you more than people realise.
I think that was the point where my body dysmorphia began. I would look in the mirror and see something else.
I also think the way I see myself has a lot to do with social media. I deleted the Instagram app for a while because I couldn’t deal with what I was seeing every single day. I could take a picture in the mirror with perfect lighting and at the perfect angle and look really good but that’s not what I really look like, it’s staged. So when you constantly see girls on Instagram and you see these ‘perfect’ pictures of them, you forget what’s real and what’s not. Photos can be very deceiving.
I used to be a gymnast from the age of about two right up until I was sixteen. The thing is with gymnastics, is that you have to be a certain size: tiny. I remember when I was really little, maybe six or seven, and I heard the coaches talking about young girls that were ‘too big to be a gymnast’ and commenting on their weight gain. I think there’s a part of me that was probably influenced by the old gymnast expectations when it came to my body and what I thought I should look like. It was implemented at such a young age that we weren’t allowed to eat certain foods; I don’t think I realised it had such an impact until I look back at it in hindsight.
If I could give advice to anyone who is in my position, get help and speak up. There are so many support groups and things you can do to realise the bigger picture and that life doesn’t revolve around how you look.
Also published on Medium.