This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.
"Your Hips Are Out Of Control"
These words were said to me five years ago by the guy I was dating at the time, and they stopped me in my tracks.
"It's like your body is two separate pieces," he said, as he put his hands on my hips and moved them back and forth. "I feel like I'm operating a marionette doll. It's so funny."
For a long time, his failed attempt at comedic commentary really messed with my perception of my body. Any time a stranger and I bumped into each other, I would immediately apologize, thinking it had to have been caused by my "out of control" hips. I pictured sassy teenagers mocking my hips swinging emphatically from side to side after I walked passed them. I would buy the biggest size dresses, thinking that it was my only chance of something fitting around my wide sides.
I've battled an eating disorder and body dysmorphia since middle school. It's been years since my ex made those comments, and I can still recall the conversation clear as day. It stuck with me, because his words made me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. People have no idea how others perceive their own appearance, and how people's comments can intensify others' struggle to find body confidence.
In order to move forward in my quest for a positive body image, I knew I had to let his words go. Ultimately, I have control over how I talk to myself and how I treat my body. I couldn't control what my boyfriend said about my body or how he viewed it. So I embraced the quote, "What other people think of you is none of your business." I needed to ditch my relationship with him and start to build a healthy one with myself and my body.
Now, I have learned to embrace my "out of control" hips. I can carry a huge load of groceries into the house in just one trip. A 24-pack of water: not a problem, since it balances perfectly on my hip. When I am mad at someone, all I have to do is place my hand on my hip and they really get the message. And I can do the Macarena like a real champ.
Every day, I work to see my beauty, and I try not to let the negative words of others take up space in my brain — I'm saving that space for radio jingles and happy memories.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.