Body acceptance and body confidence is something I’m trying to achieve, but my struggles with body image issues and my eating disorder recovery have really played a huge part in preventing that. I was starving and bingeing and my weight was fluctuating like the mood of a hormonal woman. I’d lose weight in a week, my clothes fit and my mood instantly lifts, but then 2 weeks later the weight goes back on due to the bingeing and the clothes suddenly and distressingly hugs my skin so uncomfortably. Rolls and bulges; I didn’t feel confident.
Now that I’m not starving and bringing as intensely as I did before and my weight has stopped fluctuating (for good I hope), its easier for me to start wearing clothes that I kept hidden my wardrobe, let them see some sunshine and not overly worry about whether they will fit again in 1 week. However, despite gaining a bit of newfound confidence, I still have insecurities about several body parts that make me incredibly vulnerable.
I’ve never liked my arms and my calves. I thought my arms to be soft and flabby, and my calves too muscular for my liking, thanks to years I spent sprinting in primary school that really trained my calf muscles. I didn’t feel feminine. I felt too big for my skin. I wanted the thin arms and the legs I see on 90% of my friends. You know that stereotype about Asian girls being smaller and thinner than their European counterparts? I’d like to know who created that stereotype. Clearly whoever made that assumption haven’t met girls like me. Of course while it is true that Asian women tend to have a smaller bone structure than European women due to genetic differences, assuming that all Asian women are meant to be smaller and thinner is pretty much an unfair and extreme overgeneralization.
The dominant ehtnicity in Singapore is Chinese and although there are some women who aren’t skinny, do quite a decent number Chinese girls my age who are lithe and tiny & they made me incredibly self-conscious about my body. If you lived in my head, you’d experience an endless conflict between self comparison and jealousy at not being a thin Chinese woman and feeling proud for standing out by having a curvier body.
And so in my effort to embrace my personal insecurities and accept my body for what is is, here I am wearing a dress that *gasp* shows both my arms and legs.
And yes, ladies and gentlemen, Serene has officially left the building and you are seeing her out and about in the
wilderness woods…just out and about.
Anyway, it’s taken me only until this year to truly accept that my body is meant to be what its current shape is. I suppose if I were to give my body a description, it would be curvy/muscular. Body labels can be a pain. I am neither skinny nor plus-size; rather I am an “in-between” . I’m not skinny so by default I guess I’m curvy, but then I don’t have the body of a “curvy” woman that I always see on television or in pictures. “Curvy women” are always pictured as having voluptuous curves with these big boobs that make me think that they are a C cup. At least. I’m not skinny, but I don’t have those same great big boobs they have. So I’m curvy, yet not curvy at the same time. Its confusing for me and frustrating. I never saw myself as feminine because I don’t have the body that’s tall and lithe, nor busty and voluptuous. I have wide shoulders and a muscular calves. I didn’t have any “role models” to look up to; most of my girlfriends were skinny, and I knew no girls who had a similar body shape as mine.
People definitely notice my calves and sometimes would say “wow you have really muscular calves” or “I wish I had calves like yours”. My first reaction would be: “You think my calves are hot? I want whatever drug you’re on”. Seriously. I hated my calves so much that I was convinced it was a birth defect; a genetic anomaly – women shouldn’t have to have calves like that right? Its crazy how whenever there pictures girls on social media and its completely obvious that she’s got these nice slim legs, people just always have to go “LEGS”. They only comment on legs when its tall and slim, and not when its short and muscular and this probably aggravated my hatred for my calves and basically my entire body itself for not being feminine.
My love for wearing dresses is challenged by my insecurities about my ams and calves. Dresses are supposed to be these gorgeous feminine creations meant to accentuate womanly curves, and not be put on someone with a body like mine with muscular calves. Right? I mean it just felt and looked wrong. Most of the dresses I wanted to wear were sleeveless and the thought of having to bare my flabby arms to the unsuspecting public was too much of a shame for me. So I always wore cardigans to cover them arms and always would wear open toe sandals or nude shoes because these apparently “lengthen the legs”.
Honestly though I got tired of it. Its so boring to have to wear a cardigan all the damn time and wear nude shoes. I love shoes. I was in Kuala Lumpar a few weeks ago for a 3 day getaway with my family and I bought 4 pairs of shoes. Yes. I went to KL with 2 pairs of shoes and left with 6 pairs of shoes. Go figure. The point is, I felt trapped by these rules that I imposed on myself. I didn’t want to always wear the same things. I wanted to express myself and wear whatever clothes I wanted without fear or doubts. I didn’t want to be trapped by fashion rules established by by body insecurities. Life’s too short!
I think what really helped me was looking at plus-size fashion bloggers boldly wearing sleeveless outfits and short dresses and shorts with so much confidence. I felt ashamed. Here I am, whining and moaning and feeding my insecurities about my calves and arms with cardigans and nude shoes when these women were just killing it. I want to stop looking at sleeveless dresses and tops without the feelings of shame and longing that I always had. I wanted to stop looking at these outfits without having to plan which cardigan I will have to wear with or whether my arms will look flabby in it.
So I just did it. But it wasn’t gradual, mind you. There are mental battles to be fought. Before stepping out the house there’d be World War III in my head and I’d waste like 20 minutes just freaking out about whether my arms will look like flabby dumplings and whether people will judge my calves. I don’t know why, but somehow I think I look good in the mirror, but somehow the same “goodness” doesn’t exactly translate all that nicely into pictures. Like why do i look good in front of the mirror but not in pictures can someone explain this sorcery to me?! I wish my pictures were my mirror reflections. Really.
But yes, its a constant battle between “shut up woman you look fine you want to love your body right and not hide behind baggy stuff so just get the hell out there and GO” and “but i can’t my mind is not ready i need my cardigan or just need to get out this dress because my calves are too disgusting PLEASE GOD”
Usually in the end I just go “oh sod this” and I just walk out the house quickly before I can change my mind about changing my outfit. This past year I’ve started wearing more dresses without covering up with a cardigan and wearing black shoes instead of nude ones, simply because I wanted to change my wardrobe. I’ve started growing comfortable with showing more arm though I can’t say the same about my legs. I’m still self conscious about it and I’d always have moments in each day where I’d just pinch my calves and go “for the love of God, will you get smaller already?!?”
This is probably the first time I’m wearing a dress (1) without donning a cardigan, (2) that shows my arms and legs (3) and being photographed in it. I think it takes confidence for people struggling with body image issues and body acceptance to be photographed because there are inner demons they have to face every minute. To wear a dress out in public is one thing, but to be photographed in it is another. In the latter, there are pictures; a physical reflection of your body; a mirror; a reality check. When I know I’m not photographed, I definitely feel more secure as I know that really isn’t going to be anybody who will see my calves and also because I’d be able to avoid seeing them, along with my arms. When looking through these pictures, the first thing I zoomed in was my calves and my arms (obviously). Its so strange to see my body in a dress like this. I’ve worn dresses sure, but usually I’m in heels than lengthen my legs, in a long dress that hide my calves or in a cardigan to hide my arms, but never when I’m in a dress that shows both my physical insecurities.
The next thing I did was think, “I wish those calves were thinner”. Yet after a while the more I looked at the pictures and looked at myself, the more accepting I became of it, as though my mind had accepted that this is the physical shape of my body; that my body is curvy and muscular, that its normal and healthy, that somehow maybe having muscular calves somewhat balanced my curvier frame. I thought I even liked my body shape in this dress – something that would never have happened before. Of course this doesn’t mean I’ve fully accepted the way my body is. Change is gradual but I’m glad that this episode was a positive one and I hope that the next time I wear other outfits that reveals my arms and/or calves, I experience the same kind of acceptance as well.
This past year I’ve widened my shopping options and freshened up my wardrobe. I figured its time to stop feeding my physical insecurities. My calves are never going to magically shrink unless I go for calf reduction surgery or stop walking for an entire month. I’m going to have these legs for the rest of my life and I better start accepting them and embracing them instead of wasting my life away hating them.
If you ever experience the same emotions as I do and fear wearing certain clothing because of a body part that you hate, be it arms or legs, I think they key issue is to not let your fears and doubts hold you back and find styles that wok for you, flatter these physical insecurities and make you feel like a queen. I mean you’re not going to feel good about yourself if you dress like a wandering scavenger right? Effort, people. Effort.
It is true that we tend to overestimate the extent to which we think people are constantly looking or judging us. People don’t really care as much as we think they do. We think they care because in our minds, we want to look good and look a certain way for them. For instance, I never liked wearing short dresses because I thought people will find me ugly in it because of my muscular calves. I know that this shouldn’t be the way. You dress a certain way and look a certain way because you want to feel beautiful for yourself. Beyonce doesn’t dress for nobody but herself right? I don’t want to constantly be fighting my inner demons and starve myself and/or exercise compulsively just to obtain the perfect body.
At the end of the day, the body that you currently have now is the only body that you will have at this very moment, so you might as well start doing something about it and start accepting it. There are other people out there going through similar struggles as you and if they can find the courage to embrace their body, so can you. Its not going to be easy, but you will have a peace of mind in the long run.