My Journey to Body Positivity: A True Story
By Lara Nicole Mercurio, Purple Hydrangea Project Outreach Project Director
(TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of self-harm)
Does this top match these shorts?
Not only was fashion a big part of my life, it was a way to express myself. Through my clothes, I discovered what patterns i liked and which colors compliment my skin tone.
As I sat down, I twisted my head at the sound of my name. “Where’d you get that shirt? Target?” A boy from my math class asked. I looked down at my Brazil shirt and I turned red.
From that moment forward, I was uneasy about my outfit decisions because of what he said. Hours and hours of deciding which pieces of clothing I should wear for the following day. I began to care where my clothes came from. One comment let him dictate how I should express myself throughout my years in middle school.
Not only was I concerned about my clothes, I began to be self conscious about my body and the way that clothes fit my figure. A majority of the girls were skinny and slim at my school. The boy in my class picked at every flaw he could think of, from my love handles to my stomach.
He was the dictator of my life. His comments weren’t alarming enough for the teachers to act on anything, yet they would chuckle and assume he’s joking. Although, they never knew the impact it had on my life.
One day, he and his friend snickered and told his group of friends that I resembled a bear. Then, he chuckled and announced that he was joking, yet I knew in his eyes that he meant every word.
That day was when I began to cut. And the clothes I began to wear represented myself and the fear I had over what I would hear again from him.
I felt alone as everyone chuckled at his joke about my appearance. In my pencil pouch, I always kept something sharp. When things got difficult during my classes with him, I would excuse myself to the bathroom, where I would hurt myself as I silently cried everything out.
I became overly conscious about everything that people did around me, worried that it had to do with what they thought of me. Even with something as simple as reading aloud in class, I would start to sweat and stutter over my words. Then, I would worry that people thought:
Wow, she can’t read...?
It’s just a simple word.
My anxiety would grow and a pit would form in my stomach if someone around me snickered. I would suck in my stomach a little tighter when I passed by the popular kids. Little things that have made an imprint on my life are now habits I cannot get rid of.
However, I’ve learned ways to cope with it.
My Path to Recovery
It was difficult to accept my body and its curves. Especially in an environment where body discrimination was normal, I began to use the hate comments thrown at me to my advantage. My best friend didn’t fit the social norms at my school either, so we stuck together through the ends and odds of middle school. She also loved photography, so in our downtime, we would have photo shoots around downtown Fullerton.
Our photoshoots were when I felt both comfortable and uncomfortable. During our first photo shoot, I asked her what I should wear. “Anything that makes you feel you,” she said. I stood in awe at her response. As I dug In my closet, my heart thrived. I had never felt so much freedom.
As we walked around the streets of Fullerton, I tugged on my crop top due the extensive body fat that poked out. We were in a parking lot of a small boutique and my best friend took the camera up to her eyes. I tensed, worried and naive at how I should pose.
I began to pose as if I was posing with my parents for sixth grade graduation. Straight body. Forced smile. As she chuckled, she advised me to feel free and have fun.
I began to jump around and laugh. From silly poses to abnormal ones, I felt uncomfortable, yet, comfortable in my own body. I let my chubs fall in the right places. That was when I began to heal. I began to feel comfortable in my own skin and I couldn’t have done it without my best friend. She helped me feel free and comfortable with being different from what society perceives us to be.
I never thought that modeling could help. Expressing my body positivity was the way that I accepted who I was. My lifestyle changed. I changed. And for the better.