#MyBodyStory is a series of reader submitted pieces about what it’s like to live in your body. Because every body has a story, and every story deserves to be heard.

Do you have a #MyBodyStory to share? Send it to [email protected]

And now, here is Dashiell’s Body Story:

The opinions expressed in #MyBodyStory articles are the writer’s own.

Trigger Warning: Weight Loss

It was a hot summer day and I instantly grabbed my shorts. I buckled up in the passenger side and got ready for a day of fun. My mother said, “Ya know—you’re one thigh is the size of both of my thighs.” I was 10 years old and I never wore shorts again.

I believe that for most girls, their perception of self grows from their opinions of their mother and also how their mother views them. It’s s quite difficult to view yourself in a positive light when the person who placed you on this earth buys you gym membership as a tween in an attempt to remind you of how big you’re getting.

To combat mother issues and body issues, it would seem like they’re two separate things, but indeed they align.

My mother was cold, modest, and quiet. Her sense of style was in no way feminine. I don’t get warm and fuzzy when I think of her, and I don’t have any memories of fun shopping trips or learning makeup tips from her. I can honestly say everything I learned about fashion and makeup was from magazines. It’s almost taboo to speak of your mother in this light, but to understand my journey to self- love and body acceptance, one must understand my partnership with my mother.

As a teen in the late 90’s, when all my friends were shopping at Deb’s or Limited Too, my mother would go to the women’s department store section and purchase my school clothes. After being underwhelmed by my selection of “mom clothes” at the age of 12 and 13, I decided I would just dress like a boy. I could wear sweatpants, basketball shorts, t-shirts, throw my hair in a ponytail, and everyone would just see me as a “tomboy.” This was my effort to ditch the wardrobe she cursed me with at the beginning of the school year. I know I may sound ungrateful; and I am thankful that I was provided with clean new clothes; however her words on why I had to wear “those clothes” were because I was “too big.”

I envied every girl I saw wearing cute tops and flared jeans (these were the early 2000’s, remember? Aeropostale was in!) My cousins at Christmas would get bags upon bags of new clothes and I’d always just get a couple oversized sweaters. With this more relaxed style choice, my envy and hate towards the fashion I saw other girls wearing turned inward and I began to feel depressed and dislike my appearance and myself. I gained weight—a lot—which wasn’t ideal seeing as this was a time when the Kate Moss body type was “in.” My confidence level didn’t stand a chance. I felt awkward and weird and I took this time to reinvent myself to show my awkwardness through my fashion. I died my bangs magenta, wore super hero shirts, jeans with paint on them and a Lisa Frank Backpack.

My theory was, if I’m going to be here in this big body then you’ll see me and I’ll stand out.

Although, looking back on old pictures I face palm myself now—did I really need so many cargo pants?! Moving on to college my style floated along with my confidence, it kind of drifted back to that relaxed tomboy style I had found so comforting throughout middle school. Then, I started to see body types that looked like mine and they were wearing cute clothes that were trendy and fit well. I took a leap of faith on myself and went shopping. And while I hadn’t found my style yet, I knew that sweatpants and hoodies didn’t need to be my daily attire. I began to notice that my body type wasn’t as scary as I thought it was and as my confidence grew, I was no longer a wallflower.

As an adult I have struggled with weight gain and loss, especially after giving birth to my daughter. I am still working at it, but lately I have dropped weight for myself, for my mental well-being, and my health. Finally, no one else has control over my weight. This is important to me. Weight loss used to always remind me of my mother and her not so subtle hints to get me to drop a few pounds. This is now my time to reclaim my body. My style has evolved into this hybrid of the different stages of my life. I don’t want to forget them, because all together they make up my style.

People ask me all the time, “How would you describe your style?” I would say I am a mixture of a classy-tomboy- rebellious-trendy- elegant-hot mess. One minute I’ll be in your face in a sequined gold dress with a pink faux fur coat and the next I’ll be living my life in a three sizes too big sweat suit because that’s what I feel like doing.

I stopped caring what everyone else thought and started thinking, “Do I like this? Do I think I look good in this?” No one else is a deciding factor of what I put on my body any longer and this is partly because I have a daughter now who’s watching my every move when it comes to body perception. She is a competitive dancer and the costumes will sometimes show her belly. She asked me once, “Mom, why does my belly stick out and other girls have flat bellies?”

It was in that moment that the interactions I had with my own mother would come full circle. The way my daughter would begin to view herself all depended on what I said next.

So I said, “We all have different bodies, some people have round tummies, some have flat tummies, some people have long noses and short noses, some people have straight hair and some have curly. What is important is that you love yourself for who are and not for what anyone else looks like.”

I then asked her, “Do you think you’re beautiful?” She replied, “Yes, like you. I am beautiful, smart, and kind, just like you mom.” I was so proud of both of us for overcoming her first, but definitely not her last, encounter with her body image.

For everyone reading this, I want to tell you:

DO NOT SHRINK SMALL. Shine as bright as your light will allow!

The compliments you get? You deserve them. Accept them and say thank you. They are yours to keep. Be big. Not just in body form but in your boldness, your truth, and your light. Be honest with yourself. Only you know when you’re being real with YOU. Take fashion risks. What I dislike about my body, I force myself to show off at least twice a month. I am in no way 100% confident all the time, but it’s important for me to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. It would be easy for me to just put my sweatpants on every day, but where is the fun in that? Where is the self-expression? Wear the bold print! Wear the bodycon dress even though you have love handles! Show off those arms even if they jiggle! There is someone out there, even if it’s just one person, that you will inspire. And if you can inspire even one person, then won’t this all be worth it?

With love,

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