Wednesday, February 12, 2014

College Confidence: Skinny Girl Insecurities

As kind of a continuation of the last (and first) College Confidence post, today I want to talk about skinny girls.  Something I've noticed over the years is that most of the time, when we talk about body image and confidence, these discussions are always directed at larger women.  Our message for these larger women is that they should learn to embrace their curves and feel confident in their bodies, and yet there is something that we always seem to forget:

Skinny girls can be insecure, too.

I can speak from experience when I say that often, when thinner women express insecurities about their bodies, social discourse ignores them or dismisses their concerns.  Why are you complaining?  You're already skinny!

However, skinny or not, we're still women being confronted with the same body expectations and pressures.  I know that when I was in high school, I had one friend in particular who was quite a bit larger than me and obsessed with trying to be smaller.  She was always trying to diet and exercise and although she rarely complained about her body, she made it clear that she thought I wouldn't understand what she was going through because, well, I was as thin as a toothpick and a whopping 88 pounds.  She was wrong.  I was just as uncomfortable in my skinny body, precisely because it was skinny!  I thought my legs looked like toothpicks and my arms childish because I lacked any muscle definition.  I didn't enjoy wearing shorts or skirts because I felt like I was revealing my stickish body to the whole world.

Looking back on it now, I also realize that I probably suffered from food anxiety from sophomore year of high school until the end of my first year of college.  I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about being able to eat whatever I wanted while my friends were off dieting and exercising.  Every time we got together for a meal, I would eat just a little and end the day feeling hungry or eat and then immediately feel sick afterwards.  I distinctly remember asking myself after each meal I actually finished, Was that too much food?

Although this food-centered anxiety was still an issue for me when I first started college, today I am glad to say it no longer seems to be a problem.  I think the biggest thing for me was that my friend group changed and with it, the emphasis.  The friends that I've made in here in college are all fairly athletic, whether they did sports or intense dance training during high school.  Because of this, I've actually gotten into exercising myself, taking up running and yoga over the past few years.  This has also changed my outlook on the ideal body: rather than being skinny, my ideal is to be strong, and this is something that I am still working toward today.  But exercise has provided me with a healthy outlet through which I can transform my stickish-appearance into something strong.

So what I'm trying to say (in my very typical, talkative Marisa manner), is that when you go to college, you will meet girls (and boys) of all body types.  And every single one of these girls is entitled to her body-insecurities, no matter if she is fat, thin, tall, or short.  Their body-concerns are just as valid as yours, and you should try not to cheapen someone's personal feelings by ignoring or neglecting their concerns.

Think about it and pass it on.

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