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What Victory Over My Body Dysmorphia Looks Like

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“Oh, I have body insecurities too. I think everyone does.”

That’s the reaction I usually get when people find out I have body dysmorphia.

And they’re not wrong. Most people have at least one thing they’d change about their bodies, if given the opportunity. But body dysmorphia is different. Body dysmorphia can warp your every perception of yourself. It is to insecurities as a hurricane is to a rainstorm.

Dysmorphia looks different for different people. For some people, it might accompany an eating disorder or self-harm. For others, it’s a more silent struggle behind a smile.

That is what mine looks like.

It’s looking in the mirror and seeing nothing but flaws. It’s staring at every imperfection on my face and being embarrassed that people have to look at me. It’s avoiding mirrors because I’m having a great day and I don’t want to ruin it by seeing my reflection.

It’s steering clear of the fitting rooms at clothing stores because I know I’ll start crying if I have to look at myself again today.

It’s being afraid to wear shorts to the gym because I hate my legs and I’m terrified to show them off.

It’s seeing myself as “unhealthy,” even though my doctor tells me my weight is healthy. It’s being confused when people tell me I look amazing because I know they can’t be talking to me.

It’s being consumed with fear that my body is somehow subpar. It’s hearing the message that the images on magazine covers are airbrushed, but still trying to measure up to that impossible standard.

It’s remembering every little comment, even when I try to forget. It’s remembering the time my boss told me that cookies make you fat, or the time a family friend said she’d have to run five miles just to work off the brownie she ate after dinner.

It’s hearing my friends complain about their weight and how much they need to lose. It’s keeping quiet because my mind is saying, “Imagine what they’d think if they knew how much you weigh.”

And at times, it’s even a struggle to eat. It’s reminding myself that I won’t have the energy to exercise if I don’t eat during the day.

It’s falling in love with someone and then watching him date women who are slimmer than I am. It’s crying myself to sleep because I believe being thicker means that he could never love me.

It’s being a virgin at 23, because I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable enough to take off my clothes for someone else.

But I am not my body dysmorphia. Not as long as I keep fighting.

Victory is finally looking at the stretch marks on my hips and noticing the way they appear silver on my skin. It’s smiling at the way they shine as they catch the light.

It’s hearing my little sister say, “It makes me happy that mama says I have your body type because you’re so pretty.” It’s holding onto those words on the rough days.

It’s getting a hug from my best friend and hearing her say, “I know you don’t think you’re beautiful, but for now, trust that I see what you can’t see.”

It’s treating myself to a frozen coffee on a Friday afternoon and happily realizing I feel no guilt at all. It’s having gloriously good days when I can appreciate my body and how strong it is.

It’s believing the good even when all I see is the bad. Sometimes, it’s fighting with all my strength against the dark thoughts. It’s telling other people that there’s hope. It’s seeing the spark in their eyes when they realize they aren’t alone. That’s victory, and that’s me — because body dysmorphia doesn’t win.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Getty image via bugphai

Originally published: November 24, 2017
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