The voices of the older girls and their body image issues echoed in my head and make me doubt my own self worth
February 1, 2023
Since age eight, I’ve had issues with the way I saw myself.
First, my thighs were too thick, then they were too skinny. My wrists were too small, then my fingers were too fat. I was never enough. As the year passed, my issues with self esteem continued to worsen.
Determining my self worth based on the numbers on a scale was a prime contributor to my negative self image.
I had been in gymnastics for eight years starting at the age of six.
I began participating as a way to make friends. I could never in a million years imagine myself crying in the team bathroom’s handicapped stall picking bits of chalk from the crevices in the linoleum flooring.
It wasn’t until fourth grade, when I started to hang around the middle school girls in gymnastics and listen to their conversations. I knew they found my presence irritating, but they never said anything. They held my gaze only between side glances and remarks on all the things they hated about themselves.
They commented on the pastiness of their complexions, the sausage-like resemblance of their fingers, the knobbiness of their knees or bragged about the non existent meals they ate with the exception of iced coffee.
Soon after, I began to hear their voices in my head. And, like them, I made sure I checked myself in each reflective surface I came by.
I never truly confronted the toxicity of those voices until I reached middle school. There, instead of rushing to each practice in fear of being late, I began to dread my arrival all together. I tried to stall by forgetting my shoes, my phone, my jacket or a hair band.
It wasn’t until 7th grade ended that I really considered quitting. I decided to stick it out for one more season.
After our state competition, I walked out, overcome by emotion. I knew that would be the last time I would feel my teammates pat my back after a bar routine or get a pep talk from my coach before vaulting.
I like to think that after quitting gymnastics my negative self image was gone. But the truth is — it’s not.
All I can say is that I’m determined to not only accept but love myself. That’s a process I don’t expect to ever end.