It is with great joy that I share this guest post in the on going series on body image. Tara is a student in the campus ministry program I work with, an intern of mine from a summer past, and a friend. She is twenty one and a Junior at WCU, studying philosophy and working part time with students with intellectual disabilities. In her “free” time, she reads, knits and practices her Tae Kwon Do. Please enjoy her words!
When I was first asked to write this post, I thought that it would be an easy thing to do. However, when I sat down to actually write it, I ran into trouble. My body and I have never been the best of friends, but we’re working on that.
My image issues started in elementary school. I was always the quiet child, preferring to read during recess rather than run around playing tag. Looking for something to help with my self image, I turned to tae kwon do. This did wonders to teach me respect: for my superiors, for those of lower rank than myself, and for me. However, it did not help with my body image.
Because TKD has such focus on footwork and kicking, my thighs and calves became bigger. People never seemed to consider the fact that they were bigger because of muscle growth. It was automatically assumed that I was fat. It also didn’t help that I was the only girl in my seventh grade PE class who was not able to fill out a bra.
By eighth grade, I could be found wearing hoodies and jeans almost every day. PE was my own personal hell because the uniform was shorts and a tee shirt, which highlighted my big thighs and flat chest. I retreated further into my shell, throwing myself into scholastic achievement and my martial arts.
My first venture into the world of body positivity was during my sophomore year of high school. I joined my high school’s colorguard. This was a group of thirty or so girls of all shapes, sizes, and colors. My leg strength was praised because I could march a ten minute show without becoming too fatigued. I was stretching and working out every day which helped my overall appearance. Throughout my three years on colorguard, I competed in three different uniforms. I had to overcome my issues with changing in front of others and wearing clothes that actually highlighted my curves.
My growth continued throughout my college career. I became more confident in myself as a person, which helped with my confidence in my body. The biggest impact, though, was surrounding myself with people who liked me for me. They didn’t look at my size, but my character. They decided to be my friend because of who I am.
My involvement in my school’s production of the Vagina Monologues has made the most difference in how I feel about my body. The Vagina Monologues are a series of monologues highlighting different women’s issues. Within this group, we support each other in all aspects. We are a body positive group that never shames.
Another big support group has been my campus ministry group. We make the intentional decisions to focus Bible studies around self esteem issues, understanding that it is something that we all struggle with. I am surrounded by people who share the same faith as me, walking the same road I walk. It’s something I find comforting.
I have come a long way on my road to being okay with my body’s shape and size. I still have a ways to go, but I’m well on my way.
This is the fourth post in a series on body image. If you have a story or wish to write an essay about your own experience with body image to post on this blog, please contact me. I would love to read it!