Crumbling under weight


Vivian Chiang

I’ve concluded that my body enjoys playing tricks on me, convincing me it’s deteriorating. Logically, I understand it’s my mind that enjoys making me feel unworthy, not my body. My poor body simply responds to my mind.

My body is solely an exterior, quite literally a cover that protects what I carry inside: a large and small intestine, a liver, a heart, a brain. So then why does it matter so much?

Why does my little, not so little body matter so much to me?

Granted, my body has helped me walk long distances, swim in warm water, hug my friends and pet dogs. But I don’t feel grateful for it. I still struggle finding comfort in my being. My body draws unwanted attention, questions and comments from family members. My body causes uncomfortable moments when I have to squeeze through small spaces. My body rips my jeans right in the middle of my inner thighs, causing my skin to rub together painfully. My body droops and jiggles. My body makes me feel heavy. My body makes me lose sight of myself.

I remember exactly when these fat thighs and wide hips began to exhaust me. I was in third grade, about eight years old, and it was then that I began to obsessively take note of my weight. Eight years old.

In the midst of learning how to write in cursive and long divide, my mind shifted from one place to another, chucking my childish persona out the door and replacing it with a more mature, yet troubled one.

I remember feeling like I was far beyond my years, as if from one day to the other I had grown twice my height and experienced the turbulence of adolescence all in one sleepless night. My motivations, character and emotions no longer matched my age.

I sat in class learning basic math while my mind bombarded me with suffocating thoughts. I started wearing training bras and crying in the shower.

I guess that’s what makes me the most sad: I was only eight years old, new to the world, and already hyper aware of the expectations placed upon me and all the ways I didn’t fit into a mold. However, that point in time has to come eventually. It does for everyone. It’s natural.

But there have been far too many moments in which I recognized myself in children far younger than I and there’s something concerning in the way a 16 year old and an eight year old can share the same feeling of unworthiness. I feel immediate connection and sympathy. I wonder if their parents are offering the proper support, or the best lessons on self love, if any at all.

I felt this way recently when I met a girl named Destiny while rock climbing for the first time. We bonded over the dreaded harnesses you have to wear when rock climbing. I hated the way they squeezed my thighs and climbed around my waist.

I felt disgustingly aware of my body and the fat that lingered everywhere. When I looked at Destiny, I knew from the nervous expression in her eyes, she felt the same. Destiny voiced my own self destructive thoughts out loud. In a concerned and insecure tone, she asked, “Does weight matter when you do this?”

I saw myself in Destiny. She is a child, but not really. Her concerns aren’t simple. Her concerns don’t let her breathe properly. She has fallen into a trap which restricts her from reaching her potential. Her growth is hindered.

Destiny, who turned eight about a month ago, doesn’t have a clue how to love herself, and while I watched her struggle to find comfort in a new activity, I understood that the real problem lies in the absence of teaching self-love.

Children verging on the tender, seemingly carefree age of eight question their worth in response to the acknowledgement of their growing bodies, shifting identities and of course, their weight. And when you’re eight years old, helplessly stuck in a cycle of self hate, you may not understand the very emotions that plague you, because no one ever talks about it. No one says anything.

During that crucial time when the mind of a child slowly morphs into something more complex, they should be taught that their bodies and minds are valid. Knowing how to love oneself, care for one’s self and understand your own breaking point is an important life skill. If no one ever sits you down, asks you to pay attention and explains in a comforting tone that a body is simply a body, then when do you learn this truth? No one ever tells you that the standards of a “normal” body or “the perfect” weight have been made into something unrealistic; the problem is not you, but the society which surrounds you.

You may hate yourself, your weight and every inch of your body, but you only do so because you’ve been told to.

The expectations placed upon you and your weight and anything that comes with it, be it body dysmorphia, eating disorders or depression, create restrictions. The simplest everyday actions such as showering or speaking to others become difficult to follow through when you find yourself obsessing over the number on the scale or the way your stomach rolls seem to protrude when you sit down.

I now have a month until I turn 17 and I still don’t know how to love myself. Isn’t that alarming?