Now, I'm in two minds about this. It's either going to be fairly easy or incredibly difficult! Dear body...I certainly like you a lot more than I used to, but I'm not sure that I can say I love every part of you just yet; I'm getting there, one step at a time. We've been through a lot together and there have been some difficult times, mostly when I haven't loved you or taken care of you because the opinions of others have made me feel that I should't do so. This is mostly due to bullying, which will probably take up a fair bit of this letter...
I guess I should start from the beginning. I've always been fat, or at least 'chubby', and I've always been tall (well, more like average now) and had big feet (again, it's now more common for people to have feet my size). My earliest memories of body dissatisfaction are from Primary School (age 10-11, at a guess), when I was ridiculed for not wearing a bra. In hindsight I didn't really need one (though felt that I did because of peer pressure and wanting to be 'normal'), which was confirmed with even more humiliation when I went to Contessa and heard the Sales Assistant saying to my Mother that I didn't really need a bra. Also in Primary School, some of the girls started talking about periods; there was one girl in particular that asked everyone somewhat private questions that she actually had no right to ask, but at that age you are not really empowered to challenge such a thing (in my opinion). Again, others had started their periods and I hadn't (which I should've been thankful for, really). Last but not least, the early experiences of getting changed for PE without being separated from the boys were incredibly humiliating. Last but not least, I had already started to be bullied in Primary School, though I can't recall why; although I do remember being told by someone that somebody had called me a 'fat cow' and I responded by calling her a 'skinny runt'...fighting body shaming with body shaming, as you do until you grow up and learn better.
Secondary School was quite possibly the most miserable time of my life and when I hated my body the most (looks like I've stopped writing to my body...bear with me, it's strange to write!). I was bullied for my turned-up nose (Miss Piggy, I was called), thick hair (Macy Gray) and weight (Kelly Osbourne, which I think was a weight/hair combo), as well as my intelligence. I was probably around a size 20, dropping down to a 16-18 by the end of school. Around the age of 14 I had a long-term and long-distance relationship with a lad who was 5 years older than me and (at the time) incredibly attractive, which then became another point of bullying through jealousy; I don't think people could bear the thought of anyone being attracted to a fat girl. I left compulsory education and attempted college, but the bullies followed. Living in a town where you're more likely than not to see someone you know on every road, it was somewhat inevitable. Not long after that, due to circumstances outside of my control, I moved away. Asides from an infrequent jibe in the streets, the bullying stopped. For some time there wasn't a great deal to report, asides from the general feeling of being unattractive.
Fast forward to 2008, when I started modelling. I began to learn to love my body through the lens and, oddly, other people's perceptions of my beauty. I was, and still am, very proud to be an artistic nude model; it's not what I started off doing, but is predominately what I have done for the past few years given the increased interest in the artistic realm of body diversity. (NB: Some of you may have seen my work via my blog, which has now been removed as I made the personal decision not to amalgamate the two, knowing that some people would not wish to see it and also I did not want introducing my blog to automatically be introducing myself as an artistic nude model; if you are particularly interested in seeing my work, leave your e-mail address or another contact method and I will pass the details on to you).
Fast forward again to September 2011, when I moved to London and started university. I'd already started to become more interested in fashion and my appearance and had also started to believe that what I look like doesn't matter so much, friendship isn't based on looks and maybe love isn't either. In May 2012 I started attending Big Girls Paradise with my best friend, Lauren; despite its criticisms (which are irrelevant to this post), these events are at least partly responsible for taking my body acceptance journey to the next level and sparked my feelings/belief of being attractive and fat. It wasn't long after that, in June 2012, that I started blogging and opened myself up to the body positive awesomeness that is the fatosphere; I must've been living in ignorance to not realise that there are people out there who look like me and are struggling or have struggled with the same things.
So, body, you can put the majority of my current goodwill towards you down to blogging and networking. There may be parts of you that I still detest, such as the ever-so-irritating facial hair, but in general I at least like the vast majority of you. I like being cute and squishy, I no longer hate my small breasts and maybe I even like them a little bit, that turned-up nose isn't really pig-like anymore (and even if it was, you got it from Mother and should be thankful for it) and that thick hair is a blessing, even if I have to drag a comb through it like a rake. You have made me very happy by sending the acne packing, although I wish you'd do the same to the current breakout! Both my body and I have a lot to be thankful for and I hope there will be more to come. Perhaps Love EVERY Body will help me to love my body in its entirety.
You can find links to the other bloggers taking part at the bottom of Leah's post, here.