Ah yes, it’s summer. The time for short sleeves, tiny denim cutoffs, and swimsuits. While many people may think of summer as a time to post cute Instagram pictures on the beach, to stay out late with friends every night and to tan in the sun, I have to say that it’s my least favorite time of the year.
As a heavy girl, the summer season causes me a lot of stress. I’m told that I’m curvy and “thicc” in the winter when I’m wearing jeans and a sweater, but the moment a pair of shorts goes on my legs and a bikini exposes my stomach, my self confidence plummets, and everyone’s eyes go to my most vulnerable body parts.
I constantly compare myself to the other girls that I see on Instagram who are posing in the sunset, their thighs separating to show a perfectly shaped gap. I know in my heart that these girls spent hours in front of the mirror, perfecting the art of the “Instagram pose,” and most of them use many filters to get their pictures to look awesome. But it doesn’t stop my eyes from looking down at my size 14 legs every time I look in the mirror, wishing that I had been born in a different body, and wishing that I was one of the girls who can eat five slices of pizza without gaining a pound.
The drop of confidence that I feel in shorts and summer clothes causes my anxiety to heighten. I’m paranoid that I look overweight in anything I put on, and I feel my brain begin to shape into a carnival mirror, expanding my body even more to fit the internal narrative that I hold about my weight.
This summer—this very one we’re in right now—I had one of the worst panic attacks of my life. A week before, my parents had told me that we were going to the beach together, and I was excited to be able to lie in the sand, reading, completely relaxed. But when they told me that my entire extended family was coming along, my anxiety blew through the roof.
How could I wear a bikini in front of all of my skinny cousins, who would surely be showing off their bodies on Instagram throughout the entire weekend?
The image in my mind made me feel even worse about how I looked, and every experience of someone questioning my weight and making a fat joke about me bubbled over the surface of my mind, releasing in a stream of tears and hyperventilation.
When I actually got to the beach, however, I felt better about myself. I had done a lot of thinking, watched all of the Buzzfeed videos about body positivity and plus-size girls posing in swimsuits, and ultimately felt better.
Why should I care what other people think about me? I should be focused on loving myself.
I still felt paranoid most of the trip about what my family thought about me, and every glance in my direction caused my stomach to tighten, thinking that their eyes were immediately going to my thighs. Although it wasn’t as relaxing as I had originally hoped, I felt that I had gotten over a big hurdle of body acceptance, and I’ve been feeling better most of the summer.
I’m not going to lie: I still dread shopping, especially when my friends pick up the size-2 jeans and I have to sit empty-handed outside of the dressing room when the store tells me that I can “check online for larger sizes,” or something that is labeled as “one size fits all” doesn’t fit me at all.
However, I’m feeling much more positive about my looks, and I even cut my hair shorter than it ever has been. I feel like that simple change has shifted my entire mentality around what I visualize other people’s perceptions of me to be, and I’m feeling pretty good.
If you’re struggling with the way that your body looks, remember that there are other people in the world who understand what you’re going through. The YouTube videos helped me realize that, but really, when I just looked around me, I realized that I was only looking at the girls with the tiny legs and perfectly flat stomachs. But in my compulsive comparisons of myself to others, I was missing noticing so many other beautiful women. Including myself.
And in Bruno Mars fashion, I’ll end with this: Girl, you’re amazing. Just the way you are.