Perfection is unrealistic.
12 years later, I can still vividly remember the day I looked into the mirror and began to count my flaws.
The world around me was telling me I wasn’t beautiful, and I believed them. Although I was bullied at school for the way I looked, in hindsight I find that it really wasn’t my biggest problem, it’s what I was taught by the society around me. These influences stretch between our education and of course, the media.
I found myself essentially punishing myself for the way I looked. You see, the world has conditioned us to strive for perfection, which doesn’t exist, and the more you look for it, the more dangerous this all becomes. We can’t pretend that the scars in our mind are easy to heal, and if not dealt with early in our adolescence, these can snowball into something much worse. These insecurities are more than just “I’m so fat” or “I’m too thin”. They’re negative thoughts that slowly develop in silence and next thing you know, you’re 21 and having some sort of quarter-life crisis.
In Gibraltar, we have a giant black cloud hanging over the term ‘mental health” and often love to pretend that ‘esto cosa no pasa en Gibraltar’, especially in young people. I’d be very rich right now and have a blue Fiat 500 if I had a £1 for every time an adult told me I was too young to be unhappy or too young to understand. You know what? I wasn’t too young, I wasn’t unaware and I was vulnerable. We are all vulnerable, especially when we’re young.
I’d like to tell you about an odd experience I’ve had over the last few years. A while back in 2015, after years of lying in my bed eating cheap garlic bread, I decided it was enough and it was time for me to get my act together. After an entire adolescence of disliking the way I looked, I decided to stop damaging my body and looked for a healthier lifestyle. Sadly, I didn’t do this the proper way. I instead downloaded the MyFitnessPal app onto my iPhone and allowed myself only 400 calories a day (the healthy amount being 1500 for women), essentially once again, punishing myself for the way I looked. I sat alone in my house back at university for 2 months, over exercising and eating very little, leaving my body weak and my mind even weaker. This slowly became an obsession, pushing me to grow a bad relationship with food, and I just couldn’t stop. The idea of having men approach me at clubs or bars and tell me I’m beautiful, instead of insulting me and calling me something sweet like a whale, was surprisingly a big push in this whole weight loss saga.
It’s sad that since we are children, we are allowed to think that the appreciation of another is the amount we are worth when in fact, it is quite the opposite. You see, after months of looking at myself in the panel mirror at the gym chanting in my head ‘you’re disgusting, you’ll never amount to anything and you’re unattractive’, it actually worked. I lost 25kg and I was thin and even though I couldn’t recognise myself, everyone liked me more for it and that’s what mattered.
This is by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to comprehend. Why, when I was plump, did no one ever compliment my outfit, my hair, my incredible bottom or face? Why did all these random people who had never noticed me before, start to approach me and tell me I’m “looking great”? This became my drug. This new attention from men and women was very confusing but I couldn’t get enough. Every time I went out, at least three or four people would stop in the street or in a nightclub and compliment me. Everyone thought I was beautiful, more beautiful than before but why didn’t I feel it? Why did I still look in the mirror and look for more and more faults?
This perception of ‘being thin means being happy’, is the biggest lie and I can’t believe I ever thought it was true. You see, the magazines don’t tell you that even though Kylie Jenner has a brilliant body, she probably sits at home and sees a picture of J-Lo and feels just as self-conscious as the rest of us and that’s okay, because we’re human and it’s fine to feel uncomfortable about yourself sometimes.
I remember once I went out and this lovely girl said “You’re looking incredible but just as incredible as before” and that really struck a chord with me. After months, it was just really really nice for someone to appreciate how I’ve always looked, and not tell me that I have improved. I had grown so tired of this battle with myself. I couldn’t handle this whole saga anymore because I was weak and realistically wasn’t eating enough for my brain to function that well. I was moody, I was stressed, and most of all, I was so desperately unhappy and I just didn’t know what else I could do.
I began counselling mid-2016 where the kindest woman was able to help me see that my battle was not with my appearance but with myself. My anger at my body was just a cover up for the deeper and darker problems in my mind which I never dealt with properly and if anything, starving myself was by far the worst thing I could’ve done, but that is what society had led me to do. My teachers had called me out on my weight, the bullies had called me out my weight, and my number one enemy, myself, had joined them.
I think the push in the media by different women and the body empowerment movement over the last few years has really helped my perception of myself. This constant reminder that although my boobs might not be even, that’s okay, because I’m a woman and nobody is perfect or the same and instead of crying, I should embrace myself for who I am. My respect for my body only really began when I grew respect for myself and although it wasn’t easy, it was worth it. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself and nurture every part of you, whether it be your heart, your mind or your body. You are special, you are beautiful and you are more than anything you could ever dream of. We need to say this to each other more; we cannot carry on bashing each other and reducing one another to nothing. This battle with our image is ongoing but the more you empower each other, the easier this struggle will get.
If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, call SAM on 116123 or Childline on 8008.
BY ALEX MENEZ