Teen Week: What I’d Tell My Younger Self About Body Image & Life
I’m honored to be participating in Mara’s Teen Week: Words That Heal, an annual blog series where bloggers reveal their experiences with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem during their teen years.
I’ve talked before about my sad body image as a teen. My negative body image was intertwined with my low self-esteem and shaky sense of self. (Clearly, a winning combination.)
Thankfully, many years later, I’ve learned a thing or two. And I’m in a much healthier place.
Here are the secrets I wish I could’ve shared with my teen self.
- Don’t try to look like everyone else. Don’t wish for the popular girl’s face or body. You’ve got your dad’s nose, and you look like your mom when you wear makeup. You couldn’t be luckier. (On a side note, in junior high, feel free to wax the brows.)
- Spending time alone sometimes is OK. In fact, it can be fun. It’s an opportunity to get to know yourself better and curl up on the couch with a good book, TV show or activity.
- Don’t try so hard to fit in. In fact, don’t try at all. Just be yourself. The people who like you for you will stick around. The people who don’t, you don’t want to be “friends” with anyway.
- You don’t need to be super “pretty” or super skinny to deserve and command respect. Everyone deserves to be treated with love and compassion. If you’re not treated that way, it speaks more about the person doing the treating. You’re just fine.
- Boys don’t validate your existence. No one does. Try your best to find inner confidence. It’s a process, and it might take you longer than most. But that’s OK. Just stick it out.
- Don’t compare your inside to everyone else’s outside. Everyone struggles.
- Cherish your family – always. You won’t have as long as you think.
- Embrace your emotions. They’re just trying to give you another piece of information to make good decisions.
- You’re smart, and you work hard. Embrace that, too — and pat yourself on the back more often.
- Pay attention to your body. You deserve to take good care of it — always, not X pounds from now.
- Diets suck. Period.
- Don’t take grades, your looks, your clothes, your life so seriously.
- Keep writing those poems. In fact, keep writing in general. All that practice will come in handy someday.
- Read more books, and watch less TV.
- For the next few years, you’ll loathe your appetite, and watch what you eat like a hawk. You’ll feel incredibly guilty after some meals, and you’ll restrict others. Know that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying food. Know that you can savor your dessert without shame. Know that dieting leads to overeating. And overeating won’t make you happy. Find healthier ways to cope with stress. And have some compassion for yourself.
- Don’t buy women’s magazines. Get writing magazines, instead.
- It’s understandable why you hate exercise. You view it as a weight-loss tool, chore or punishment. Your body was meant to move. And even though you think you don’t have an athletic bone in your body, you were also meant to practice Pilates, ride your bike and even squat over 100 pounds. (The 100 pounds thing will only last a few months thanks to your great trainer in Texas, but the point is you’re really strong. Never forget that.)
- Embrace your paleness. It’s just another part that makes you you. Plus, there’s no doubt about it: Tanned skin is damaged skin.
- Fretting about bikini season is not worth your time. If you have time on your hands, try any of these things.
- Your weight doesn’t dictate your worth. In fact, you don’t have to do anything to be worthy. You just are.
What would you tell your teen self?
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). Teen Week: What I’d Tell My Younger Self About Body Image & Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2012/03/teen-week-what-id-tell-my-younger-self-about-body-image-life/