16 Going on 20

My shorts didn’t fit me anymore. That’s when I knew that my body had changed in the matter of a year, and I was mad about it. I thought to myself “How is it possible?”, “Surely I didn’t gain that much weight” and “I don’t want to buy a bigger size!”.

I guess being inundated by all those celebrity and model posts on my Instagram feed made me think that a bigger size automatically means that you’re one more shot away from actually looking like them. At the time, I thought looking like all these influencers would help me be happier and perhaps more admired by others, like I actually ‘made it’ and achieved the ultimate goal of beauty. It is sad and worrying how just photos and videos can have that big of an influence on the minds of vulnerable teenagers. However, throughout the years I learnt how to become more confident and not care about what other people think. Hopefully, I can help you to realise that “you’re the beautiful one, it’s society that’s ugly”, as Marylin Monroe famously said. 

I started realising that chasing society’s beauty standards was making me miserable as I went to the gym every day, was restricting myself from any fatty foods and was obsessively counting calories. I was healthier than I’ve ever been and still looked at the mirror and picked out all the imperfections I needed to work on. I saw these beautiful Victoria’s Secret models and was quite disappointed I couldn’t achieve those results. Then I came across this fitness instructor on YouTube called Cassey Ho. I started following her and watching her videos where she shows how to do a workout, so you can join her and do the exercises together. I found her really helpful, not only because the exercises really do work, but she had a different way of being an influencer. She actually embraces her body for what it can do and communicates encouraging messages to the audience while doing exercises with her. She spreads body positivity, of which I wasn’t that aware of at the time, and helped me understand that although is good to push your limits physically, it’s also important to accept and love your body.

Another move that helped me cope with body changes during teenage years, was changing my Instagram feed. In fact, I was causing harm to my own self-esteem and mental health because I chose to follow certain individuals on Instagram. So why not stop following them? I unfollowed most models, influencers and celebrities that didn’t have any positive influence for me. As simple as this move might seem, it really helped me with being more at peace with myself and embracing the changes I’d gone through, like every typical teenager has. I started following more individuals that I felt would help me be more confident and careless of others’ judgemental opinions, like Iskra Lawrence (British model), Jameela Jamil (activist, actress) and Lizzo (singer). Sometimes we actually forget that most people don’t actually look like what we see in advertisements, magazines or photos. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about how you treat your body, you just need to find the way of conducting a healthy lifestyle that fits you the best. 

Finally, a great influence on my self-esteem was actually talking to friends and family. It may sound obvious but remember that all of us went through the same changes that you’re facing right now and it’s normal to feel insecure about your body. Talking to others will actually help you realise that you’re not in this alone and that maybe your worries about your physical appearance aren’t that big of a deal. Loving yourself unconditionally really affects your happiness and relationships with others, however, it takes time to embrace this concept and many, myself included, are still learning how to cope with it. Keep in mind this powerful message of model Ashley Graham: “I felt free, once I realised I was never going to fit the narrow mold that society wanted me to fit in”. 

Yasmine Moro Virion

Image courtesy of Pulse.ng