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The Skin I'm In: My Journey To Relative Body Positivity

By Megan Laing

Trigger Warning: Body Dysmorphia


Hello, my name is Megan. I’m a happy, healthy, nineteen-year-old girl and I also happen to fluctuate between a size 12 and 14.


Growing up, all I watched was cartoons and American kids shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly, where all the teenage girls were stick-thin, usually blonde and white and, being young and susceptible to almost everything I saw on the thick television screen in my parents’ living room, I pegged these girls as beautiful. And they were, are, beautiful but, as I grew into realising, they are not the exclusive definition of beautiful.


When I was very little (probably about 4 or 5) I wanted blonde hair because my favourite Disney princess was Aurora, so in every picture I drew of myself, I was blonde. When I was 10, my puppy fat magically appeared. When I was 12, my boobs grew overnight and my hips widened. When I was 13, a boy in my PE class called me fat because I didn’t catch the ball he threw at me and, the same year when I rejected a boy who fancied me, my best friend reported back to me that he said he only liked me because I had some of the biggest tits in our year. I was a 13 year old with DD cups when all my other friends were still in flimsy crop tops or getting their first adult bras. As a teenager, a girl who cared what people said about her and only saw thin girls on her TV, I felt mammoth.


Now, at nineteen, I’ve made some (probably not enough) peace with my size. Most of my puppy fat dropped away, I got myself a gym membership the very week I moved to uni, my 34DDs are still annoyingly loyal and there are still stretch marks around my hips which will, in all honesty, never go away. There came a time where I realised that it doesn’t matter how many episodes of Supersize V Superskinny I watch on YouTube to scare myself, how many calorie counter apps I download on my phone or how many times I went to the gym in between lectures, loving my shape and size was always going to be a marathon, not a sprint.


When I first heard of Ashley Graham and came across her Instagram, I was (and still am) in such awe of this beautiful, comfortable ‘awesome size’ woman. It felt like such a relief to have her bless my timeline, her stats firmly rooting her upper half around the size 12 bracket and her lower half around size 18. Then I found more women - like me - who didn’t fit that perfect slim size 6 mould. It gave me this overwhelming feeling of acknowledgement or, at least, it did.


The older I got, the more familiar I became with the likes of online shopping and finding clothes that fit my own tastes and current fashions, the worse I started to feel. One moment that sticks out to me happened when I think I was about 13 or 14 and ventured into H&M on my own, my mum and my sister preoccupied in a different shop, and seeing a lovely pair of blue jeans. Unfamiliar with my new, developed body, I thought I’d be safe with a size 12 but picked up a 14 just in case. My mum was a 14, and I knew I was smaller than her. I was naturally disheartened when the 12 didn’t come up further than my lower thighs, and the 14 I couldn’t get around my hips either. I then struggled to button up the size 16 and the zip was a definite no go. I felt like shit that night, that was the first time I’d really slapped the label on myself. I was fat.


Body positivity was not a familiar enough concept to me when it would have mattered the most to me. Being bombarded with images of stick-thin models, actresses and artists - in addition to being what felt like one of the ‘bigger’ girls in my year - was extremely painful. I would look at myself in the mirror and seeing purpling stretch marks, puppy fat and mounds of flaws that, in reflection, were only really visible to me. This developing self-hatred resulted in a cycle of feeling awful about myself, comfort eating, crying, swearing to myself that I would lose weight or starve myself if I had to before the next snide comment about my size sent me right back to the beginning.


The years passed and the puppy fat seemed to drop off without me really noticing because I was too concentrated on hating the way that I looked to acknowledge any ‘progress’. My confidence and self-esteem were still low, my body image was awful and all of this was reinforced by academic failures and disappointment.


I remember the week of my eighteenth birthday, my best friend had come down to celebrate from Cornwall and we happened to be shopping at the very H&M store that catalysed my years of bodily insecurity. She turned to me, pointed at a baby pink crop top and told me that it would look amazing with my figure. I had never been told or thought that crop tops would be something that would look flattering on me, as a result of my boobs and wide hips. Weeks later, I bought a slightly different but simply shaped crop top and it was like ‘I could have done this the whole time?’. I felt like a totally different girl in a totally different body. I actively sought out crop tops to wear with any outfit, beginning to amass quite the collection.


It was the push I needed to feel like I was really making progress. I (somehow) began losing weight when I started on the pill during Freshers Week, I worked the gym into my weekly routines, danced my ass off into the early hours of the morning at clubs. Things were starting to change. The pink crop top from H&M was the start of a transformation that’s still in full motion.


I am the size that I am, maybe I always will be or maybe I won’t. But size still matters to me. The shape and skin that I’m in - that you’re in - is here to stay and all I can do is continue to do things that make me feel good about myself.



If you have been affected by the issues presented in Megan's blog here are a list of organisations who may be able to support you:

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation

www.bddfoundation.org

Resources and support for those struggling with BDD


Anxiety UK

www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help

Text: 07537 416 905

Resources and support for those struggling with anxiety


Beat

www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Helpline: 0808 801 0677

Studentline: 0808 801 0811

Youthline: 0808 801 0711

The UK's eating disorder charity. They exist to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders. Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays


This article was written by Megan Laing as part of Afterglow's blog writing opportunities. For more information about blogging for Afterglow visit

www.afterglowdating.co.uk/opportunities


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