I ponder over myself in the mirror every morning, in between classes, whenever I’m changing, and definitely before I go to bed.
In fact, I think I waste at least an hour a day just looking at myself, nitpicking at my flaws, considering whether or not to pluck a tiny hair on my chin, obsessing over my brows, and wondering how I’m going to hide the angry red spot that sprouted in the middle of my forehead overnight.
Don’t start me on how many outfits I go through in the morning before realizing I’ve lost track of time and have to hurry out of the house asap before I’m late for whatever errand I’m running.
I criticize if my belly is too obvious in a certain pair of jeans. If my legs are hairless enough for a knee-length dress. If a black shirt can hide the two kilos I’ve gained mostly in my chest area, or even if pulling up my hair will draw attention to my double chin.
While I understand that many of you have related to this on several levels, I’d like to inform you that this is not normal behavior, in fact, these are all symptoms of body dysmorphia.
What is Body Dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia is something many young people are viciously acquainted with.
I personally consider body dysmorphia to be an old friend.
In case you don’t know, body dysmorphia is a common mental health condition with teenagers and young adults, it is when we’re constantly obsessing over our appearance, specifically our “perceived” flaws. I say perceived because what we see as flaws doesn’t necessarily have to be so.
Our misperception of how we are could sometimes be dangerous as it could easily lead to a lack of self-acceptance and self-love.
Causes of Body Dysmorphia
Trauma could be one of the main basic reasons for which many of us succumb to unaccepting thoughts about ourselves inside-out.
Now, many of us may be wondering; what trauma?
Well, if you’ve ever been bullied, abused or harassed about your actions or body – partly or wholly – that is trauma.
Let’s be honest though, most of us can remember at least one time where we were ridiculed for the way we acted or looked. However, the situation goes much deeper than that; in fact, the particular trauma could be traced back centuries, due to what our ancestors may have had to go through in their lives.
Growing up, our minds are mercilessly filled with unrealistic, society dictated, behavioral and beauty standards. From how pretty we should be, how we should wear pink shirts and tulle skirts, how our hair has to be straight, how our bodies need to be thin and straight, to how we should or shouldn’t cry or laugh in a certain situation.
We’re taught not to play in the mud, not to wear pants and checkered shirts, not to cut our hair short or ever take our earrings out, there’s so much that’s been forcefully implanted into us about how we should be, that it has caused us to be obsessive about how we should act and appear to others.
Overcoming Body Dysmorphia
It heartens me to know about how the body positivity and curly hair communities along with the feminist movement as a whole have been rising up to open our eyes in order for us to recognize how corrupted and undermining are the ideals we were taught to practice.
In the end, I’d just like to say that whoever you are reading this, no matter your race, class, gender, social status, size, shape, hair texture, or even age – you are unequivocally beautiful, your body is a miracle, and you deserve to wallow in your very being, in your own life, at your own divinity. You are worthy of the love you don’t think you deserve.
Since it’s World Mental Health day, raise awareness by sharing this article with whomever you think needs to know about it.