I dread having to go back home for the holiday breaks.
I should be happy to be away from school and finally with all my family and friends after a couple of months, right?
But there’s just one problem: holiday breaks are a time for people who I haven’t seen in a while to comment on my body.
Hearing things like “your stomach is getting bigger,” “what do you eat up there [in college],” “you’re breaking out really bad,” and “watch your weight” have become common refrains from the past three years’ worth of holidays.
Every semester, I would spend weeks mentally preparing myself to be able to receive comments about my face and body.
This semester was different.
From the start, I had been going through a cycle of toxic thoughts and habits. I would go a day without eating, but binge the next. Then, I would instantly regret it and starve myself the next day. Just to go through it all over again.
I would spend so much time in the mirror examining all parts of myself. I’d replay comments I’d received and tell myself that they were true.
My days started to feel like a blur. With negativity consuming my thoughts, I started missing being present in every moment.
But Nov. 1 crept up on me, leaving me anxious about having only a couple of days to “fix” myself before I have to go home. I upped the toxic habits, and they took their toll on both my physical and mental health.
It all came to a head. I had to sit down and ask myself: How did I allow it to get to this point? Why? How could I allow others to make me this insecure and cause harm to my own body?
I went through each comment, and I asked myself, “Who has said this to me?” and “Did they say this to hurt my feelings?”
I slowly recognized a pattern: The people who made comments about me were also insecure about the same things.
The more I thought about that, the angrier I got.
I cannot empathize with the phrase “hurt people hurt people.” Trust me, it is not hard to not inflict your insecurities on others.
Comments about my body are degrading and leave me feeling like my appearance is not acceptable. Even if they’re not intended to hurt my feelings, why do people feel the need to share their opinion about my looks in a negative way? Why should I have to accept that people will be making comments about me? Why should I allow anyone to even feel comfortable enough to express their opinions about my appearance in a condescending way?
So this year, I’m setting some boundaries.
Instead of “mentally preparing” for the comments by harming myself, I should be more vocal about how comments about my weight hurt me.
I want to be able to share that those comments make me feel uncomfortable. I want to be able to remove myself from those who aren’t willing to understand. I want to get back to the version of myself that knew that weight gain, weight loss, acne and other physical imperfections are all a part of being human.
I want to go back to feeling comfortable in my own skin.
I want to do better for myself and learn how to love myself properly again.
To everyone who struggles with setting those boundaries, it’s OK.
You are not the problem. Body shaming is wrong. Especially during the holiday season — a time where many gather together to celebrate and be around those they love.
I hope body shamers realize that their words can hurt people. Regardless of their intentions, they should keep their comments to themselves.
Kiana Hodge is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org