Under the Skin: More Bodies like Mine
Contributor and Dy.Nasty Co-Founder Kiera Whitten on discovering, uncovering and loving her skin.
"How come your belly sticks out and ours don't?" A girl in my 5th grade class who was wearing a Paris Hilton slogan tshirt that read "That's Hot" asked me this question once. It was a question that I didn't have the answer to. I had never analyzed the shape of my stomach or thought about the aesthetic of my body at all up until that moment. In a panic, I pointed to our substitute French teacher who's stomach always seemed to stretch the fabric of her shirt between her jeans and her high waisted belts and proclaimed "Her belly does it too!"
Looking back now, I realize that was the first time I ever doubted my appearance or my ability to "fit in." I remember not being able to focus in class for the rest of the day because I was so desperately trying to think of someone who shared my body type. I searched my mind for someone so I could tell the girls that I wasn't the only one who didn't look like them. Nobody in the class fit the bill. I had boobs, my thighs expanded when they hit the hard plastic of my chair and I had a curvature to my stomach that the other girls didn't share. I tried to look outside our classroom, thinking of celebrities that might have looked like me. Lizzy McGuire? No. Paris Hilton? No. Marisa Cooper? No. Lauren Conrad? No. Hermione Granger? No. As my list of relevant 2005 celebrities began to dwindle, Raven Baxter from That's so Raven crossed my mind. Ahah! I remember being momentarily excited. I had finally found someone who's body slightly resembled my own. All of a sudden the excitement was replaced with confusion. Why did every other girl in my class have an endless list of people whom they could see themselves in, and all I had was That's so Raven and my fifty-something substitute teacher?
Years later, I look at girls who are the same age as I was then and I see so many more role models for them than I ever had. It's been a slow crawl to say the least, but there are finally different body types, skin colours, hair types and stomach shapes to see yourself in and to draw inspiration from. That question I was asked in grade five could have been the start of a lifetime of self loathing, calorie counting and body shaming. I absolutely have moments when I look at myself in the mirror with dissatisfaction and nothing fits right or feels good and I want to make myself a pot of fit tea, be a size 2 and wear a bikini everywhere I go. However, I'm lucky enough for these to be moments, mere fragments of time where I doubt my self worth and my worthiness of love and want to be something else. In those moments I like to remember that my body is amazing. It's a vessel that takes me through life and gives me the ability to do every single thing I want and need to do. Instead of choosing to look at my body with disdain I choose to look at it with wonder and gratitude. I'm able to walk. I'm able to run. I'm able to jump. I'm able to dance. I'm healthy. I'm happy. I'm here.
And for that, I'm grateful.