The Body 365 Campaign
Loving your body 24/7/365 isn’t easy but in 2017, there was a new trend at Ryerson University - Body 365. That summer, I was approached to participate in the campaign. It seemed like fun and I didn’t think too much about it. Several of my friends had already signed up, so naturally I said yes without thinking about it. In the weeks leading up to my shoot, I received an email with the details.
“For the shoot we ask that you wear black or white garments with no apparent logos.”
And then they asked that I hand in my “body story”.
This is what we will be attaching to the photo we release. We really want people to be as personal as they feel comfortable, but also to encourage you to be vulnerable because that's the best way that your story will have an impact and encourage someone else who might be in a similar spot!
In your body story, we ask that you try to address the following questions:
When is your first encounter/ recollection with insecurity?
How did/ does this insecurity affect you?
What are you doing now to overcome it?
What's the message you'd like to send to others who may be struggling with the same issue?
If you could go back and tell your younger self anything about your insecurity what would it be?
“Oh God.” was my first thought.
It was kind of scary and a bit triggering. I talked to my friends and family a lot to try and come up with the best advice I can think of. But, as the days went by and I remembered the various chapters of my life - the good, bad, ugly, and everything in between - I realized how much I’d grown into the person I wanted to be. Of course, I still have a lot to learn but even on those “less than” days where I might not like everything I see in the mirror, I still love myself. And that was a freaking hard goal to achieve!
Healthy is hot and we all need to do our best to love ourselves, everyday.
Anyways, this was my Body Story - #mybody365:
Let’s be frank, I love myself. A lot. So, I jumped at the chance to participate in this project and had no problem getting a little nakey for the camera. It was fun, empowering, and a little testament to myself that I truly am comfortable in my body. Confidence to some degree has never been a problem for me (clearly) but up until a few years ago, I didn’t know how to like myself - let alone love - unless others liked me too.
My first encounter with insecurity was when someone close to me made a critical comment about how I didn’t look like the other girls in my class. As a six year old who thought playing peek-a-boo with my belly button was the funniest thing in the world, I remember being confused by the fact that this was a problem. But, in the ages following, those same people continued to highlight my flaws - weight and acne being the biggest issues amongst whatever I was experimenting with during the blunder years of puberty. Obviously, the constant nitpicking made me insecure and extremely self-aware. These were people I love very much. What they said mattered, and what they were saying at the time was that I wasn’t good enough as I was.
As I grew older, obviously I wasn’t the only one struggling. At school, some of my friends were experimenting with “diets” with limited meal plans or lack thereof. It wasn’t unusual to walk in on someone purging after we’d just gone out for dinner. And, when you felt bad about yourself for following suit or not, self-harm was pretty much the norm. Thankfully those phases didn’t last long, but I still struggled with anxiety and insomnia. Even in the months when I lost weight (mostly from stress), my acne had cleared, got a new haircut or I was wearing a cute look that day, there was always something else I assumed someone was probably noticing.
I refused to talk about it and continued to overcompensate in other aspects of my life to distract myself and help push down those feelings. My family actually recently brought up an example that sums up my attitude pretty well back in the day. I used to do my homework. It would be perfect. My parents would check it over. Confirm it’s perfect. Then, I would erase everything, have a mental breakdown, and start over again because it would never be good enough. All this would be after spending ample time worrying about whether or not I was capable of doing it correctly in the first place. If I shouldn’t stress myself out over my body, then I could just stress out over everything else. Obviously, it wasn’t just about physical image anymore. I felt like my emotions weren’t valid because, after a certain point, I forgot why I felt them. When you withhold feelings like that, they fester and make it really difficult to see anything, but the uglier side of life and yourself. Everything seemed kind of pointless and I just felt numb apart from the displaced anger and full-blown neuroticism.
It took a really long time, but eventually I did ask for help. Hated that I had to but I did it! I was in therapy for a little while and worked with a life coach regularly. Creating art was a huge catharsis that has now become my career. But even after asking for help and shifting gears from destructive to constructive, it took me years to alter my mindset, continue to be motivated and work hard in both a productive and healthy way, stand up for myself when I needed to, and be the best version of myself without feeling like I had to apologize for my flaws. In all honesty, only in the last few years, can I confidently say that I learned to be more independent without having to be validated by what others thought of me. And while I still sometimes have to walk myself through coping mechanisms that help me stay grounded and could probably hit the gym a couple more times a month, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
I think for anyone struggling with self-esteem and self-confidence, the thing to remember - that’s also probably the hardest to make yourself believe - is that people aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are. Surround yourself with good vibes and great company if that’s what you need to do. But if there are days when those people might disappoint you or make you feel “less than”, do your best to rise above them. If you’re struggling, it’s okay to feel that way and even more important to talk, write, dance, sing, paint, etc. about it. As long as you let it out. Everyone’s fighting their own battles and we’re all just figuring out how to deal. Speaking of, if you do hit that wall and there’s a quick-fix available that might not necessarily be the best life-choice, keep in mind that you’re the one who has to face yourself at the end of it all.
Obviously, I wish I accepted myself more growing up, but it’s hard. And, well, society kinda sucks. So, if I had to tell the me back then who felt like she wasn’t worth anything, it would be to hang on a little longer because it takes time to become your own person who can see beyond all the bullshit. Becoming truly comfortable in the skin you’re in goes beyond appreciating just how you look. It’s when you look in the mirror one day and realize the only person staring back - the only one whose opinion matters - is you.