The whole culture of trying to get women to love themselves still tends to isolate and alienate women in some way (fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, colorism, etc.). The body image project is a series that highlights what real, everyday women (and some men) have done to develop a positive perception of their physical appearance thus far — how they’ve gotten to a healthy place, what they’ve done to get there, struggles and setbacks they still experience, and what they’re doing to get to a place where they feel the best about themselves and stay there.
With editing by Adwaa
A recent addition to the MissMuslim team and a new graduate with a degree in Economics, Dalia Salloum is ready to take on issues of social and political injustice through writing. She describes herself as a writer by nature, and a foodie by habit. She embraces her inner Beyoncé for an extra boost of confidence and enjoys hanging out with family and close friends who are an incredible source of support and love. She enjoys watching Friends and Game of Thrones, because well, who doesn’t?
What issues have you had with your own body image that you’ve learned to love and appreciate about yourself?
I never really had major body image issues until around high school. It just never really occurred to me to pay attention to that, but I started to notice people around me and how they looked. How come I wasn’t as skinny or as fit? Why didn’t I play sports or do something to make me look better? I was athletic and I was an avid runner on my own time, but that wasn’t the problem. Being in an environment with a bunch of teenage girls, I feel like image issues are bound to come up unless you’re ultra-confident, which now that I look back on it, I wasn’t. I am thankful that I am now and I have overcome a lot of those issues by just being myself and not comparing those around me to the image I saw in the mirror.
What has been your experience with learning to be comfortable in your own skin and love yourself?
One day, I went shopping and I was just ready to splurge. I had a rough week at school and work, and I was desperately in need for some serious retail therapy. I headed to my favorite stores, and when I began shopping for a new pair of jeans I tried on my usual sizes, but clearly, the manufacturer MUST have made a mistake when the jeans were made. They didn’t fit! I never thought I would blame myself, as I was always triumphing in the air of body confidence, but at that moment, I became so horribly disappointed and upset that I may have let myself go a little too much on the late night Nutella snacks, for way too long.
The irony of it all is that I have found a beautiful solace in the fact that I can use fashion to my advantage—I have been able to find myself within clothing, and the love for it helped me to love myself and my body. It doesn’t always have to be about looking like a VS Angel (but let’s face it, they work hard, too), but being comfortable with the way you look, and loving the way you look, dressed up and all.
What comments have you heard over time about your weight, height, or other physical aspects of your appearance that have made it difficult to develop that self-love and acceptance?
There was never a time where I struggled with my body image, weight, or anything else because of what someone told me. My family was and is always supportive and caring when it comes down to that. We are always doing things together like biking, swimming, etc., which promotes a healthy lifestyle instead of a negative one. I think the body image struggle was more or less a societally inflicted one—it was developed through time.
What would you say to someone who came to you about their own struggles with self-love and acceptance?
I cannot preach to you about loving yourself and being this perfect picture of poised confidence and self-love, but I can tell you that there are things about yourself, physically and otherwise, that you DO love. Focus on those things, even if they are so small, and that self-love will grow when it is watered with bits of happiness that are finally able to shine through. It’s okay to think that you deserve a trophy for having maintained the best eyebrows in the world. Or even your own personal and social accomplishments can enhance that part of you. It does not happen immediately and for some it will take more time than others, but it is possible. It can be done. You will feel the difference. And you will love it.
Since these issues never disappear completely, what are some things you currently grapple with and what do you do to overcome them?
Even if I am able to find comfort in small things to boost my self-love, it will never be perfect. I still do struggle somewhat with body image issues, but I have come to accept that nobody is perfect and we have to love those imperfections about ourselves. I try to live the healthiest lifestyle possible, even if I am enjoying one more slice of pizza than I should. I cannot say I have fully overcome them, but I definitely try to do the small things that I enjoy, to make myself feel better.
In a short sentence or phrase, create and share your own personal mantra for positive and healthy body image.
Loving yourself comes with loving life—this can all be done by enjoying the simple pleasures of life like chocolate, laughter, and a whole lot of confidence.