“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.”
― Diane Von Furstenberg
And believe me Diane; I couldn’t agree with you more, I just find it difficult to apply this concept to my own life.
Hi, I’m Lucy – a 24-year-old postgraduate with a degree in French. I love travelling, meeting new people and challenging myself. I also have body dysmorphia.
I just laughed to myself, even my laptop doesn’t recognise the word “dysmorphia” – so, why should I expect anyone else to?
For more years than I care to remember I have battled with my body and gone through an exhausting and damaging relationship with it. Only a handful of people knew that until now, but there, I’ve said it. After all, someone needs to bite the bullet and talk about what it really means to suffer with body dysmorphia…
I’m fat, I’m ugly, I hate my nose, I hate the bumps on my arms, I’m worthless, I am not good enough. These are just some of the things that come to mind when I think of how I would describe myself.
Essentially, I have allowed my negative, correction, distorted views on myself to affect how I have treated, or should I say abused my body, but more so, I have allowed them to affect how I perceive myself as a person. Since when did a dress size, a number on the scales or a wobbly bottom ever equate to self-worth? Never.
From being a teen, I have always felt inadequate – to my peers, celebrities, even strangers in the street, and I believe this stems from the relationship I have with my body. I don’t like anything about myself– there, I’ve said it out loud. I am constantly seeking perfection, an image that doesn’t actually exist.
I have tried so many diets, detoxes, pills, the lot. I’ve lost weight, gained weight, lost it again and for every short-lasting moment of liking myself there has been a crippling amount of self-loathing and dark moments involving eating disorders (bulimia and disordered eating) and counselling sessions during final year at university.
I have spent hours criticising my appearance in the mirror. I have also spent hours avoiding my reflection as much as physically possible. I have spent an excessive amount of time obsessing over my weight and a number on the scales. I find it difficult to leave the house without putting some makeup on. I always feel anxious about my appearance. I hate most photos of myself. I often seek reassurance from my mum about my appearance, even though I know positive reinforcement will not make me feel any better. I always compare myself to other people. I feel unable to confide in others about my feelings, in case I am deemed vain or self-obsessed.
These are just some of the symptoms associated with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), all of which I experience on a daily basis, some more than others.
It is an anxiety disorder that is consuming and tiring for the person affected; yet the signs can go easily unnoticed by others, due to the secretive nature of the condition.
From my own experiences, most notably in the last 3 years, I didn’t think I would be taken seriously. I’m a size 10, I exercise regularly, I like to socialise and I try to lead a balanced lifestyle as best I can. I am neither severely overweight nor underweight according to a medical or healthcare professional. Again, this leads back to the “comparison” symptom of body dysmorphia. I deemed my condition less serious than someone suffering with anorexia for example. On the surface I appear to be normal, however inside I am battling with my negative thoughts and disgust towards my body.
I don’t like my body because I lack in self-confidence.
I lack in self-confidence because I don’t like my body.
Either way it’s a vicious cycle and it feels almost impossible to crack.
Social media I’m looking at you. Magazines, you too. And you, television. We are constantly exposed to perfectly captured, filtered images that are often misrepresentative and damaging. Celebrities with lean frames and beautiful skin promoting health products that don’t actually work. Magazines advertising how to get the summer body of your dreams. Everything in our society evolves around image, it’s unhealthy and excessive. We are lead to believe that certain body types equate to success. It’s bonkers.
My distorted (again, trying to apply this word when talking about B.D.D) view of my body does not take away from the fact I am a hard-working and conscientious individual who endeavours to make people feel comfortable. It also doesn’t change the fact that I am a friendly, thoughtful and loving person, especially when it comes to my friends and family.
This took several tearful counselling sessions to come to terms with, but I realise it now and I am learning to disassociate my feelings towards my body with my qualities as an individual. I am also learning to respect my body and look after it; I do think having a routine and a balanced diet helps me to keep things in check. I also exercise to feel good and when I have time to enjoy it, rather than to punish myself. A healthy body definitely contributes to a healthy mind, and a healthy mind leads to a better relationship with the self.
You could say I’m getting there, slowly but surely. I’m not perfect, but who am I kidding? Who is perfect? What is perfect? I just want to be me; to feel happy and free.
I’m ready to feel empowered rather than imprisoned, and in sharing my story I feel a sense of relief and empowerment.
So, for today, Lucy 1 – 0 Body Dysmoprhia.
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