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.
"Dang, Look At Those Tree Trunks!"
"Dang, look at those tree trunks!" he yelled as I walked down the hallway of my high school. He was talking about my legs, and though I knew they were larger and stronger than the majority of my peers, I didn't want them pointed out every time I passed by the football players in the hallway. I pretended to ignore him and hastily ran by the remainder of the team that was now staring at my legs pointing and giggling.
Since that time in high school, those same "tree trunk" legs have taken me to college for soccer, they've gotten me through multiple marathons and half marathons, and they've walked hundreds of miles around the world.
For a long time, I took my legs for granted. I wanted smaller legs, thinking that they would make me look skinnier or would make me more attractive to the LA guys who seemed to love stick-thin legs. I wanted smaller quads and a bigger butt, hoping they would make me more proportional. Heck, I wanted the Barbie body, and since I'm a 5'4'' athletic body type, that sort of request is only answered with a ton of plastic surgery.
After years of low self-esteem and zero body confidence, I forgot what my muscular legs do for me, and consequently I tore my ACL not once, but twice — the second resulting in a dual-part surgery with an estimated year and half of recovery time. I've had to relearn to walk three times since 2008, and each time I went through that excruciating process, I was reminded how much my legs do for me every single day.
It wasn't until recently that I started to appreciate the Kardashians and Nicki Minaj's of the world that are reminding us that "thick" is beautiful, too — and so is strong.
Years later, the kid who consistently called my legs tree trunks became a man who is one of my closest friends. Since our friendship has blossomed over the years, I've asked why he would ever yell that at a girl trying to get through high school with a decent sense of body confidence. His reply? "It was meant as a compliment."
So now, whenever someone makes a comment about my legs (solicited or not), I try to take it as a compliment about how strong and muscular they are, and how amazing they are for getting me around this earth every day.
#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.