TW: body dysmorphia, eating disorders
I hate my thighs. Every day when I wake up and get dressed for the day, I always search for clothes I could wear to try and conceal my thighs. I often will put on a sweatshirt or oversized t-shirt when I wear leggings or skinny jeans, but most days I wear lounge sweatpants. You know what they say...out of sight, out of mind.
I am also a culprit of picking at skin, multiple times a day. My face, legs, arms, you name it. This unwelcome habit is fueled by my perceived imperfections, as I physically extract every flaw from my body.
If you can personally relate to this experience, you may have something called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Everyone has imperfections they do not care for...but BDD is more than common insecurities. BDD is a mental health disorder in which you are intensely focused on your physical appearance and body image, where you cannot resist thinking about one or more perceived and imagined minor flaws or defects in your appearance. BDD is not just disliking your body size or type, but an over-emphasis on a particular body part, to the point where it interferes with your overall state of mind.
The signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include (but are not limited to):
- Frequent occupation with a perceived flaw in appearance that is considered minor or invisible to others
- Perception of your “defect” makes you unattractive
- Worry that others will closely observe your appearance in a negative way
- Consistently engaging in behaviors that aim to fix or hide your perceived flaw such as checking the mirror, grooming, skin picking, and in some cases cosmetic procedures
- Attempt to cover up flaw with makeup or clothes
- Comparing yourself to others more often than one should
- Asking people around you for reassurance about your perceived flaw
- Possessing perfectionist attitudes or tendencies
- Avoiding social situations and taking pictures
BDD can lead to immense anxiety and intrusive thoughts and behaviors that can disrupt your day-to-day activities. Even if you have success hiding the flaw, the satisfaction is temporary and your anxiety may arise again due to the same or new perceived flaws.
As a recovering anorexic, I have been on a weight loss, weight gain cycle throughout the past few years of my life, so my body has been constantly changing. I do not really know what I am “supposed” to look like. When I lose weight, I love my legs and thighs, and I feel like a model. When I gain weight, though I may look “normal” and healthy to friends and family, my legs are my worst enemy; they make me cry, diet, excessively exercise, curl into my anxiety, and doubt my self-esteem.
I cannot really love and appreciate my body because all I want to do is change it and look like the girls I see on Instagram. I find myself constantly seeking relief from trying slim thigh workouts or wearing the right clothes so I look the way I want them to. When I order clothes, I always select sizes that are too big because I cannot deduce the size I actually am without help. Oftentimes, I text my close friends and ask them if I have gained weight or look fat. I know no one is going to tell someone those things, but even when they say no it brings me short-lasting joy and comfort knowing that the outside world does not see me as I see myself as.
I do not think I will ever be content with my body. Whether it be the same flaw I have been anxious about for years or a recent discovered insecurity, it will nearly be impossible for me to accept my appearance. Just remember that when you look in a mirror, it is a reflection of what you see, not what the world does.
As an individual who has struggled with eating disorders over the past few years, I put a lot of emphasis on my body and equate my happiness with it. When I am stick-thin, I love my body, but others see it as a cry for help. When I am average weight, I hate the way that I look, but my family and friends tell me I look great. I feel like my body and mind are in a constant state of battle, and neither of them ever truly wins.
I have learned that there is so much more to life than how you view your body. No one in your life loves you because of the way you look, but because of who you are. If you are stuck in a BDD spiral, focus on non-material things, like watching your favorite television show or crafting a trendy art project. Workout to feel good about yourself and wear makeup to enhance your natural beauty, not change the way you look.
Remember that you are your own worst critic. Whenever the “mirror mirror on the wall” magnifies an imperfection, you can tell it to shut up.
Written by: Jessica Norris