I was ten maybe eleven, the days leading up to this moment are fuzzy in my 30-something year old brain now, but I remember this day and every day following clear as hell. Sometimes I feel like it was the day my happiness died, and I was rebirthed as my own worst enemy. For the sake of this story I’ll be changing some names, because I deeply believe that these people that changed my life forever haven’t thought twice about this moment, it was a flippant remark that meant no harm.
It was Gary’s birthday a fellow neighborhood kid’s birthday and his parents rented out the
whole pizza parlor, that’s a huge deal. I was stoked and there to par-tay. We were having a fun time there were stack of pizzas, I was going for my third round when Mrs. Travis stepped in front of me, took my plate and patted my stomach and said, “I think you’ve had enough”, the rest of the world melted away. The feeling of the hand on my stomach was the weight of the world and it was confirming one thing, I was fat. From that moment the world was seen in a new light, things I saw, heard, read all fed into what at the time I thought was fact: How I was shaped was not acceptable.
I had to change. I started telling small lies to cover up why I wasn’t eating, “I forgot my lunch” or “my stomach hurts” then it graduated into bigger ones “My swim coach told me I have to lose weight”, “I have a stomach ulcer I can’t eat” And low and behold it worked, people bought the bullshit I was saying – now that I think back, how many tweens have stomach ulcers? Why wasn’t I ever questioned? But ultimately these lies let me live my closeted life all throughout high school.
However, it really escalated the couple years after graduating, when I was finally living on my own. Under your parents roof it took a lot of work to make sure your lies added up, that it looked like you were eating when you weren’t the theatrics of it were tiring. But on my own? I could be as reckless as I wanted – it was oddly liberating even though the reality of it was imprisonment. This story can go on, but I think I’ll cut it here for now – the question worth examining is, what drove me to live this way?
Eating Disorders are a mental illness, there’s no questioning that. I truly believe it could be a behavioral disorder that you're predisposed to have (that’s solely my own opinion and not meant as a medical advisement) But is it fully self-inflicted? Personally, I think no, it’s not. I think society plays a big part in enforcing the negative thoughts we have about ourselves. Growing up I never really saw embrace for body acceptance, or women in magazines that looked well… like me? Not that I was particularly unique, but I had a little belly that rolled over the top of my pants, little jiggles in my arms and legs, thick coarse hair, pimples on my back and butt – what I saw that society embraced? Thin women with hip bones that jutted out from their low-rise jeans, straight long shiny hair, tan, blonde, flawless skin.
It got worse when Instagram became a thing. Now it wasn’t just models that looked that way, I was seeing regular girls my age all over the world who also looked pristine, it fed into this feedback loop that I just couldn’t turn away from.
I wasn’t seeing what I needed to see to get better, so I decided to start drawing it. I started
drawing the women I wanted to see, women that I resonated with. And as they say in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. Once I started posting my work, I started finding other accounts dedicated to representation, inclusion and overall positivity when it came to body image. It opened my eyes to a whole new world that was growing, an accepting world, an empowering world. I can’t even express how much it helped me to find people that weren’t fitting a societal mold and OWNING IT. It was so unbelievably healing for me and really helped me overcome my battle of thinking I needed to be different to be loved.
When I saw and felt the power representation and inclusion had for my story, I made it my
personal mission to spread as much as that as I could, which is why I created my series BABES which went deeper than just what I resonated with. I wanted to create a series that celebrated every background, experience, challenge, triumph that women lived through. It’s an ongoing project that illustrates that beauty has no bounds and that we are all worth celebrating exactly the way we are. I’m blown away by the connections I’ve gotten from this and continue to meet people who never felt “seen” and when they do, I think that’s when the power shines through, casting a loving light on whatever journey they’re on.
Body Positivity matters, no doubt. Truth is though, body positivity can’t really exist through one voice of “you’re lovable and gorgeous just the way you are, no edits needed!” People don’t need to just hear it, they need to see it. Especially from their point of view, which is where inclusion and representation hold court – you show the beauty in their story, they feel it, they hear it, they see it in a whole new light and that’s when the trip gets good.
*Go chat with Bridget or check out her inspiring designs on Instagram @handsomegirldesigns! Her work is super inclusive, relatable and all body positive!