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
Sereen is a 25 year old female who recently graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelors degree in Anthropology. She plans to pursue a Masters degree in International Studies at the University of San Francisco in California. Sereen’s hobbies include practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, exercise/Crossfit training, and reading.
What issues have you had with your own body image that you’ve learned to love and appreciate about yourself?
The one thing people made comments about were about my breasts. My family has a history of females being short and having big breasts. At 13, I was the only girl in my class that developed breasts that year and they weren’t A or B cup, they were C cup size. The girls would tease me and the boys would make cat calls at me. It’s actually one of the reasons I started walking with my head down in the halls. I felt so insecure about them that I tried to be invisible, but it never worked. It wasn’t until my mother found out I was being teased about it that she sat me down on the couch and we had a long discussion. Somehow, we actually started talking about the birds and the bees too. But that’s beside the point. I started feeling better of myself after having that discussion with my mother and being able to tell her what was going on. She made a joke about short stature and big breasts are a family curse on my side of the family.
What has been your experience with learning to be comfortable in your skin and love yourself?
For me, regardless of whether or not I was comfortable in my clothing choice, I still received criticism and most of from my family. I learned to ignore what they said and found my own fashion sense even if they didn’t like it. Because in the end, they aren’t the ones wearing it.
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?
I always had long hair as a teenager, but when college came, I decided to cut my hair into a pixie style. My mother made comments about how I looked like a boy. My dad hated it, saying what will I do when weddings start happening. My friends liked it. But in the neighborhood, I could hear the snide comments. I look “gay.” Or “What man will marry her with that short hair?” I learned to love it. It fit my face, so to speak. Everyone has their own style that “works” for them. Short hair just happened to work for me. I have very thin hair and the short hairstyle I have makes me look like I have thick hair. I love it.
What would you say to someone who came to you about their own struggles with self-love and acceptance?
I would say patience is the key. You learn through events. But also be open to your parents or friends and talk with someone about how you feel. Don’t hold it in and hide it. Just remember that it’s about how you feel and how comfortable you are with yourself. What other people say about you doesn’t matter.
Since these issues never disappear completely, what are some things you currently grapple with and what do you do to overcome them?
Currently, it’s my stomach and the love handles that are visible. I look in the mirror and I hate how I look sometimes. I keep saying I want abs and these love handles. But my problem is that I stress eat. That usually doesn’t help with my issue of wanting abs. I work it out by exercising regularly. I try to limit my intake on food when I’m under stress and have focused on exercising when I stressed out. I go for a run or do something else active.
In a short sentence, or phrase, create and share your own personal mantra for positive and healthy body image.
Dress for yourself and care about yourself.