Body-image is a fragile thing when it's developing. It's impressionable, it's confusing, it's very valuable, and has the power to affect almost all social and emotional decisions you make.
By definition, body image is based on your thoughts and feelings about the way your body looks. Sometimes the way you think other people are judging your appearance can affect your body image. Poor body image comes from negative thoughts and feelings about your appearance, and a healthy body image is made up of thoughts and feelings that are positive. Body image is a major factor in self-esteem; which is the way you think and feel about yourself as a person.
We remain sensitive to those who are not ready to read these posts. Triggers may be present in these journies.
This week, we will be showcasing the stories of brave young women who have struggled with negative body-image and self-esteem and are willing to share their journey in the hopes of reaching someone who has been dealt a similar path.
The truth is: you're not alone.
L A I L A
I grew up with an unstable family. My mother and father divorced when I was just months old and I wasn’t raised by them. They abandoned me on my grandparent’s doorstep and my grandparents took care of me. My parents have been a very negative influence in my life. I am still to this day ashamed that my family is a mess.
It didn’t help that at school I received the same treatment. I was unhappy so I decided to make a change. I started hurting myself in countless ways. I had the goal in mind that if I could be skinny all my problems would go away. I was only in middle school at this point and everyone was starting to notice my change. My friends were supportive of my change, they didn’t know the extent to which I was hurting myself.
I found refuge at the time in a band’s forum, this would change my life forever. The moderator was a guy called Znoby. I had no idea who this was but he put his contact info up so I emailed him and told him I was suicidal. I talked more and more to Znoby and suddenly my life didn’t feel so bad, he was my only friend. To this day, I wouldn’t be alive without him. He saw something good in me and he let me know it.
When I was fifteen something terrible happened. I was raped.… the only person I could rely on was an internet friend and it just wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t successful, this made me feel like the biggest failure ever. My grandparents punished me for this, I was as low as I could get.
I never really dealt with the whole rape situation so I just internalized it and kept hurting myself. I tried killing myself again when I was sixteen, and this ended me up in the psych ward. It was an awful experience.
There, I learned that things had to change again and this time for the positive. My family found out I had been raped and they were not really helpful.
When I was 17 I had a boyfriend that abused me. This led to me starving myself. I was 5’2 78lbs. I decided that when I was 18 I would move out and be happy. With the approval of my family, I moved to NY with my abusive boyfriend. This was my ticket out!
Once I was in NY I dumped my abusive boyfriend and then was alone in NYC with no one’s help. I knew my pal Znoby lived in NJ but I knew I could never bother him. I moved into a chinatown apartment with 3 strange men. I had absolutely nothing. My roommate gave me a job at a Mexican restaurant and that’s how I made it.
Once I got my feet on the ground I thought it would be cool to meet Znoby. I met [him] on St. Patrick’s day of 2012. I also learned his name was Dan!
I eventually moved in with him. He ended up getting a job promotion that let us move across the country together to California. Once we got to California, we got some bad news: my mother had abused my little sister up to the point that she tried to kill herself.
Once we heard this, we made sure to take care of her. I now have custody of my little sister who just turned 15. She is the light of my life. I love her so so so much. We have been working with her now on her self love battle. Being that she grew up being abused, it’s been very hard for her. My little sister and I both struggle with self-love. That’s why we love Bliss Branch! It is an outlet for us. Especially for me. I just love what you are doing, Karsyn. This is my story.
Laila isn't the only one affected by the negative comments made by parents regarding a child's body. Studies have shown that 37% of well-intentioned parents comment on their children's weight and body type, and 42% of teachers and coaches at schools have something to say as well. Typically, these comments are made by parents who have struggled with similar issues and are trying to steer their children in a different direction. However, adverse effects have been proven to take place in this situation.
Comments made by those we idolize as children have been proven to cause disordered eating, negative self-talk, depression, anxiety, and poor body-image. As explained earlier, poor body-image can bleed into our self-esteem, causing us to not only feel like we look undeserving of love, but we are undeserving of love.
Personally, I completely relate to this issue. Sadly, I've had family members who've pointed out my highs, my lows, my thighs, my toes. I came from a very loving and involved family, yet those comments existed. Has this happened to you as well?
The good thing is, if you're a parent, there are plenty ways to address your child's health in a positive and healthy manner for both yourself and your child! By focusing on long-term balanced health, not short-term goals to achieve a number on the scale, you can create a family-oriented lifestyle instead of a guilt-based obsession.
If you're not a parent, practice telling yourself those words anyway: HEALTH, NOT WEIGHT!
Reading Laila's story really inspired me to read up on some statistics of sexual assault, especially on young teens, like herself. Studies show that 44% of those who are raped are under the age of 18, and 80% are under the age of 30. This is shocking and terrible, but it's amazing the stories of those who do make it through.
Bravely, Laila moved forward with her life and eventually found her love, Dan. Not only this, but she takes care of her little sister?! The things we accomplish and the ones we love despite our past inward struggles have the power to propel us forward and continue making positive changes. Laila knew it and she obviously has sifted her way through many powerful and life-altering experiences, emerging on a "track upward ever since!"
Hopefully, like Laila, you can find a trustworthy and relatable place with us here at BlissBranch. In past posts I have spoken of my journey with body-image, health, weight-loss, weight-gain, anorexia, the whole thing. We live and learn everyday, making choices to better ourselves, all the while being mindful of what we've been through.
Progress, not perfection.
If you have a similar story or comment to make regarding Laila's story, or a personal note you wish to share, feel free to leave comments below.
For more information on sexual assault studies, click here.
For more information on how parents' comments affect body-image development, click here.