I Feel So Guilty for Still Hating My Body This Much

Published on 4/22/2024

I am twenty-seven years old. I may no longer be a burden to my parents (except emotionally), but I do have a few prospects and a little pot of savings that I seem to take more out of than contribute. Oh, and I still hate my body.

In case you’re somehow not acquainted with the classic book and film adaptation, be sure to check out Pride & Prejudice so that quote makes a lot more sense. But the fact of the matter is that I’m close to having experienced three decades on this chaotic earth, and I still can’t find it within myself to like how I look, at least not for very long.

It feels embarrassing to hate my body this much at my age, yet it also feels expected of me. I am ashamed of how much energy I expend on thinking about my size, yet it’s also constantly surrounding me, a barrage of thinspiration and the latest Ozempic propaganda. Am I the bad guy for still hating my body, or do I not have a shot in hell of feeling differently?

I’m all grown up, Mom

Hating my body feels like a teenage fascination, as much as skinny jeans, self-harm, and Tumblr do. This isn’t to say that our teenage habits don’t plague us in later years, or that issues like self-harm and eating disorders don’t impact us as adults (trust me, they do), but rather that we almost forget they do. It’s like acne. I was told pimples were a teenage thing, but at least once a week, I’m crouched in front of a mirror, squeezing the life out of my face and spending a day with my hand resting so naturally over my cheek.

Pimples and hating my body were supposed to be for the duration of adolescence. I was supposed to grow to love my fuller figure and recover from my eating disorder. I am in the healthiest place I have ever been with food, despite a tendency to eat my emotions. I am also the largest size I’ve ever been, thanks to said emotional eating, a love of cooking, and good ol' Lexapro. I want to feel confident in my skin. I want to wear the bikini and run into the ocean, but I am still so aware of every fold and crease. I catch sight of myself in the mirror and feel embarrassed.

I’m still in the before picture

I feel like I’m still waiting to live my life properly. I don’t want to date as I’ve convinced myself I’m unlovable, even though I don’t see size in attraction on anyone else. I don’t want to wear certain clothing or go to certain events until I feel small enough to be accepted. I am waiting to live my life, consciously or unconsciously.

At the same time, I’m more aware of the fragility of life than ever before. I lost my father five years ago, and I naively thought that was me set for bad news for a while. Ha. Last year, I had emerged from a depressive episode thanks to a strong dose of Lexapro, only for my stepfather to be diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. Inoperable, of course. Life is so fucking short, it’s a cliche, but I want to scream it from the rooftops. Every single day I am acutely aware of this ticking clock. I don’t understand how we all go around pretending this isn’t the case. I know that I could have ten years, five years, a year, a month, or I could be hit by a truck tomorrow — I have terrible spatial awareness. On my last day, I am spending time examining my body in the mirror and actively hating it. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Alex Light put it perfectly in an aptly named book, You Are Not a Before Picture. She said, “Having a thinner waist is not going to be your legacy, I promise.” If that truck came out of nowhere tomorrow, if I succumbed to my mental illness, if I forgot suncream a few too many times and the worst happened, I will not be remembered for my above-average size tag on my t-shirt. I will not even be remembered for my great ass or stylish tattoos on my arm. I don’t know what I will be remembered for just yet, but I know it won’t be those things. And that’s a relief. I wouldn’t want my legacy to be my appearance, would you?

I’m ashamed of my fixation on my appearance

I feel vain. I feel selfish. People are dying, and someone close to me is gravely ill, and yet I spare many thoughts for my waistline and chunky calves. I still have this inherent belief that life will be better when I am thinner, and I hate myself for it. I have achieved quite a bit in my twenty-seven years, if only coming so far in my battle for my mental health, and yet this is the boulder I continue to push up the hill like Sisyphus.

Why can’t I move on from this inane quest to be thin?

I don’t quite have the answer to that, except that we live in a world designed to make us hate ourselves. How else would they sell us all of these products and services? Don’t worry, I won’t go too far down the anti-capitalism rabbit hole, as I’m still a girl who loves Lululemon leggings and sipping from a Stanley cup. But it isn’t our fault, I promise you that. We’re responding to what we were taught, and unlearning is a long and arduous process.

Another thing I know with certainty is that we won’t get there by hating ourselves for it. The guilt for hating yourself won’t turn into love on its own. I doubt it’ll actually change your appearance, but your appearance isn’t the issue here, your self-love is. Your size isn’t the thing that needs to change, it’s your perception surrounding it.

Wanting to be thin doesn’t end by turning eighteen, when we all had our first drink (and never a day before that!). It’s also not a switch that stays on or off. Life will likely be spent bouncing between so many feelings about ourselves, as our bodies change along with our priorities, needs, beliefs and situations. But there is no shame in struggling to like yourself in a world that literally tells you not to. There is no guilt in relative struggle, as long as know it's that and not more. Treat your shame with kindness, treat your body with kindness, and keep pushing the boulder, even when it feels hopeless.

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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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