Don’t look like a model? Give yourself a break and love the real you

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    I remember when I was 15 years old, body image was very important to me. At this age, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affected my lymph nodes — and my self confidence.

    The worst feeling in the world is hating what you look like. I believe that every person has the right to feel good about their body whether they are overweight, underweight, sick, pear shaped, toned, athletic, or any other way. No one should feel ashamed. Every body is unique and beautiful.

    I remember when I was 15 years old, body image was very important to me. All my friends had hair extensions and fake eyelashes, and they were all built with a smaller frame than me. I come from a genetic background of larger people.

    At this age, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affected my lymph nodes — and my self confidence.

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    Beauty vs. beast

    I remember sitting on the couch in tears, because I could never look like my friends. I was bald, sick, and retaining fluids because of the medication I was on for my treatment. I woke up every morning trying to avoid the mirrors in my home. I had tubes surgically implanted in my arm. I had a large fresh scar on my chest from a failed chemotherapy implant. I was looking less like a beauty and more like a bald beast.

    One night, my beautiful friends invited me to the movies. My doctors did not allow me, but I wanted to fit in for one night. I was so afraid of what I looked like. My body was large and puffy from water retention, and the tubes in my arms were hard to disguise. I had lost all of my hair, including my eyelashes. I remember gluing fake eyelashes on, but I ended up gluing my eyes shut, because I lacked real lashes to prevent the glue from going into my eyes.

    Yet, a lot of people commented about how “good” I looked. As a cancer patient, I know they meant well — but how was I to believe I looked good when I hated everything I had became? No one deserves to feel as hideous as I did.

    Dr. Kelly D. Brownell, the director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, told The New York Times in 2003 that women in particular struggle with accepting their body image.

    “It’s very hard to find a woman who really likes her body,” she said. “Even if she likes the shape, she will not like her toes, her knees, her elbows, or her ankles. There’s always something wrong.”

    Brownell suggests that, as a society, we need to appreciate and accept body types of all shapes and sizes. ”We accept variations in hair color, eye color, and facial features, and we should do that with body weights,” Brownell said.

    Love yourself

    The issue affects both men and women. Men want to look like the latest Esquire model with a six-pack and the newest suit. Women want perfect skin while wearing a size 0. In reality, some people are unable to achieve these stereotypical and unrealistic standards, and that is okay.

    Children as young as the age of 5 are concerned with how their body looks. CNN reported last year on research studying how children perceive their bodies at a very early age.

    “The report, a compilation of the existing research on how kids and teens feel about their bodies, noted how more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8 think their ideal weight is thinner than their current size,” writes CNN. “By age 7, one in four kids has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior, the report said.”

    There is no possible way for everyone to have the same body shape or image. Diet and exercise can help keep your health in check, but staying happy and healthy is more important than fitting into a smaller size of jeans. 

    Today, I am three years cancer free, and I feel a little better about my personal appearance. It is difficult to feel truly confident in my body with the media’s constant feed of images and videos. Photoshopped models give me a certain impression of what I should look like. But I am glad some companies are willing to accept plus size models, and showcase them as just as beautiful as the average model.

    A growing acceptance of different body types gives me hope for myself and others who struggle to love their body. There’s nothing better than to look in the mirror, and feel just as beautiful as you look. No matter the size. Learn to love every inch of your body, because it is yours.

    Holly Martin is a journalism student at Temple University and an on-air DJ for Temple’s WHIP Radio.

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