If you were to meet me for the first time, the first thing you would probably notice is how skinny I am.
At least, this is what my numerous acquaintances, classmates, friends and family members seem to have immediately noticed.
I cannot count how many times I have heard someone exclaim how thin I am. If it were not considered impolite to ask someone their weight, I am sure that question too would have been posed to me just as often.
In fact, it sometimes shocks me how easy it is for someone else to comment on this. Naturally, most mean well, but when that is all anyone notices, it gets to be a little overwhelming. Being skinny is much more than the outward appearance, yet that is all many seem to linger on.
There are countless misconceptions about being skinny. For one, I am not anorexic. According to Mayo Clinic, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which one compulsively tries to maintain a low body weight through extreme measures, such as intensive exercise, dieting and, in some cases, vomiting. It is not a given that all thin people have anorexia. To make such a blanket statement invalidates those who truly do suffer with this disorder.
Being thin also does not mean I am starving myself. It seems inevitable that on visits to relatives’ or family friends’ homes, someone will comment at how skinny I’ve become or chastise my mother for not feeding me properly. To the contrary, I eat just as much as anyone my age – my body weight just does not reflect this. I simply have an extremely high metabolism, meaning I burn calories easily.
However, even if I ignored the voices of the world around me, I still carry the burden of insecurity. I sometimes struggle to look in the mirror and accept that this bone-thin girl I see is me. I am conscious of the way my elbows seem to jut out or how my arms look like sticks. There may be perks to being skinny, but at times, I see none.
When I was younger, going clothing shopping was a hassle. Kids’ clothing was largely designed for average-sized children, so I could never find pants that fit. If they were the right length, they were too large at the waist. If they fit at the waist, they were two sizes too small. I ended up having to pin up all my clothing to adjust for size. Such was the dilemma of a tall and skinny kid.
Now, clothing miraculously fits me, either because juniors’ clothing is designed for skinny people or I am no longer one of the tallest kids in the grade. Nevertheless, it is a blow to the self-esteem to see even clothing does not fit someone so unnaturally skinny.
Even the simple things are tainted by my own thoughts. Sitting in chairs at school should be easy, but I notice I do not fill up that space like others. Hugging friends should be comforting, but I worry I am too bony to give a truly comforting hug. Dancing should be fun, but I am uncomfortable with how awkward I look compared to my graceful, healthy-looking friends. Walking should be the simplest thing in the world, but I fear looking strange as I walk.
I would hardly call it a miraculous change, but some day, I realized how much these thoughts negatively affected me. I couldn’t live normally and go through my day without thinking about how I was weird or different. That was when I decided my happiness was too important to sacrifice for these cluttered thoughts. I needed a change in mindset.
Since, I have taught myself to block out the words of the world and the mind. I ignore the people whose beliefs are littered with misconceived notions. I try to smile at the skinny girl in the mirror and accept her, for I am stuck being her for the rest of my life. I try to remove the clutter of my mind that tells me I’m different from anyone else I know.
Our outward appearances are only a part of who we are. Even if I am naturally lacking fat or muscle on the outside, it is the qualities I lack on in the inside that really matter on the long run. That is what I can change and improve to become a better human – not my body image.
Living unapologetically is the only way for me to accept me for who I am.
Follow Shravya on Twitter @shravyamahesh.
This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on April 2, 2019.