Is Perfection Worth It? My Body Image Challenge

Three girls eating ice cream cones, perfection hero

If someone had asked 8-year-old me, “Are you comfortable with how you look? Would you like to look like a supermodel from the cover of a magazine?” I would, without a doubt, answer with something along the lines of “Since I am comfortable with how I look, no, I would not like to look like a supermodel.”

If someone had offered me a magical makeover that would make me look like one of those girls…

Later on, at age 13, the idea of looking like a model would seem a bit more appealing. At age 15, looking like a Victoria’s Secret Angel was every girl’s dream. At this age, I could still say I was comfortable with the way I looked, or at least a part of me was. Still, if someone had offered me a magical makeover that would make me look like one of those girls from a magazine I would not have refused. I was never the girl obsessed with how she looked or always going on about her diets. I’m not saying I didn’t care about how I looked, I did, but it wasn’t my top priority…

Skip forward to about 8 months ago, I caught a disease that made me lose my appetite and I started to lose a lot of weight really quickly. My parents and I were very worried about my health. Feeling tired every day, a rather pale demeanor, and lackluster hair, were a few of the many repercussions the illness had in my body. After an appointment with the doctor, and a few pills, I regained my appetite, and little by little I began to gain weight.

While I was sick, many things happened that made me change my perspective on losing weight.

“You’re so skinny!” “You look amazing!” “I want a stomach as flat as yours!” were some of the compliments I received from my friends and even from strangers. And just like that, my mindset shifted – I started to like what I saw when I looked at myself in the mirror. Despite every doctor insisting on me making an effort to eat since I was below the average weight line, and would soon start affecting other aspects of my health, I wanted to stay like that.

We blame society, but we forget that we are society.

One night, as I stood in front of the mirror in my underwear, my hipbones popping out and my ribs protruding just a little too much, I realized that I was still not happy with the way my body looked – I wanted to be skinnier, I wanted the small bump in my stomach to be flat, I wanted a thigh-gap and the stretch-marks to go away.

At some point I even wished I could be sick just for a little longer and I “thanked” the illness for making me lose that much weight in so little time… Thinking like that scared and worried me a lot. How could I ever think that? Still, those thoughts buried themselves in my brain and they were starting to grow, distorting the image I had of myself.

Nowadays, we are bombarded by ideals of how we should look, dress, talk, act, etc., this shapes us and turns us exactly into what society wants us to be. The thing is, society is us, all of us. We fight against these ideals and complain about people being shamed if they don’t reach the standards of beauty and/or perfection, but whenever we see a plus sized girl in the street we call her “fat” or we call the skinny boy “anorexic.” We blame society, but we forget that we are society.

I am 16 years old at the moment and I have body image issues. What’s even worse, girls and boys younger than me are already trying to reach all these unrealistic standards without knowing or caring about the risks this puts on both their physical and mental health. We need to change this.

Loving yourself is the only way to keep the destructive thoughts out.

Loving yourself is probably one of the hardest things to learn to do, because it means accepting every single one of your flaws and embracing them. But loving yourself is the only way to keep the destructive thoughts out. If you’re happy with how you look and the way you are, you will have no desire to be taller, shorter, skinnier, funnier, prettier, etc. Remember that the only person that has to like you is yourself.

Here’s something a psychologist once advised me to do that can help build a higher self-esteem: Every morning look at yourself in the mirror and write down one thing you like about yourself (physically or character trait). Stick that note in the mirror or put it somewhere you can easily see it, the next day write something different.

After I finished writing this, a question popped into my head: Is perfection worth it? I go back to those months when I felt tired all the time and all I wanted was to curl up in my bed and sleep – when I was actually worried about being sick, and later on wishing I could still be sick so I could lose more weight, not caring about my body’s cries for help for the damage I was causing it.

What I had become made me very sad. Was wearing out my mind and body worth it?

Was letting others twist my ideals worth it? I’m still fighting every single day against my own mind’s destructive thoughts about wanting to be “perfect” in the eyes of everyone, I am learning to love and accept myself.

That’s what I would like you to ask yourself and think about every time you feel the pressure of having to reach some beauty standard: Is perfection worth it?