How I (Finally) Learned To Love Myself Naked

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
By Samantha M.

It's all about perspective.

I've struggled with my weight since I was about 12. One day, our maintenance man came over to fix a leak; I answered the door in a T-shirt and shorts, and the first thing he says to me was, "Wow Samantha, you're gettin' pretty fat there!"

Another time at a family reunion, a distant relative pulled a tray of cookies away from me when I tried to grab one, patted my stomach (I swear to GOD), and said, "You used to be a little string bean! You look just as cute as you did, except now you've gotten much fatter!"

It began taking a toll on my self-esteem — I starved myself for about 2 days before I almost passed out.

Was I surprised someone could say something hurtful like that? Not really. Kids bullied me all throughout elementary, middle, and high school about my weight. I wasn't obese, maybe just a little overweight or pudgy.

In middle school, especially, random people from my school instant-messaged me telling me I was fat, making fun of my hairy arms (thanks, Italian genes!), and pointing out how stubby my legs were. I remember crying myself to sleep some nights asking a higher deity to PLEASE, CHANGE THE WAY I LOOK.

High school is a popularity contest. If you aren't pretty or intelligent, you're vulnerable to cruel words, particularly if you were meek and quiet like I was. And, it's even harder when you're the "fat friend" amongst your girlfriends who constantly had boyfriends (while I couldn't catch their attention to save my life).
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Because people always pointed out my weight throughout my life, I started believing there was something wrong with me on the inside, too. I was conditioned to think I was ugly on the outside, and the ugliness seeped through my skin, dripping onto my inner self.

There's no way anyone could love me, right? People bringing me down because of my weight started to feel normal. I realize now that this definitely wasn't normal.

It wasn't until I went to college that everything turned around. Not only did people not give a sh*t about what others looked like, but they also didn't care what others thought. Nobody pointed out my weight; they were all too concerned with their own sh*t to even notice.

I adopted this same kind of thinking and gained a voice. First, it was an internal voice in my head reminding me of my worth as a person; my weight was irrelevant to my character. Soon, the voice grew outward, motivating me to defend, stand up for, and express myself to the people who brought me down for most of my life.

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I remember one day standing naked in the mirror in my tiny dorm room, saying, "I have two arms, two legs, two feet, and the rest of my limbs. There is NOTHING wrong with me." The wall I had up since the first time someone called me fat came crumbling down. That's when I began to heal and truly love myself. I went to the gym at school regularly. My confidence grew. I walked a lot. Ate well. Being a hungry college student actually worked in my favor.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
I ended up making lifelong friends who accepted me for who I was inside. I flirted/made out with boys, danced at the bars on the weekends, and started to actually LIKE my body.

It wasn't until this past summer that I wore a bikini for the first time since I was little. I'd been working out hard and maintaining a pretty awesome tan, so naturally, I wanted to show it all off. And, you know what?

I felt amazing. I loved the way I looked! I knew I still had some work to do on my tummy area, but I didn't care what other people thought, and the fact that I was comfortable wearing a skimpy bikini made me feel great. I noticed that people really didn't care either way.

Liking the way my body looked wasn't an overnight process. It took years to feel comfortable in my own skin. I struggled every day to accept myself and it wasn't easy or fun. I realized that loving your naked body begins with accepting who you are on the inside — the rest will follow. You should ask, "What makes ME feel good?" not "What makes OTHER people feel good?" I'm not a model. I'm not a size 0. I'm not perfect. I know this because I'm not anything I don't want to be or what others tell me I should be.

Remember, if you walk and talk with confidence, nothing that anyone says can bring you down. Once you start believing that you are beautiful inside and out, I promise you'll start feeling amazing.

Next: What It's Like Inside The Psychological Purgatory Of Depression 
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