Monday 13 May 2019

How fashion and sex have changed the way I view my body

Annie shares her body image journey and fashion and sex have positively changed the way she feels about her body. 
- Annie Bocock

As someone who has been consistently overweight for most of their life, the way I have felt about my body has been complex and has fluctuated between multiple extremes. This is okay! In fact it’s incredibly common to feel this way no matter who you are and what your situation is.

To explore my own history with body image I can tell you roughly the different feelings I’ve had about my body over the years and how the last 12 months have completely shaken the way I feel about my body.

“My body is alright”

For many (MANY) years I would describe my body as “fine” and “okay” to myself and others. That’s because I really did think it was just okay. Perhaps a bit too large but it was nothing I couldn’t ignore or try to solve with diets I knew I wouldn’t stick to. My body did its job. I thought it was both pretty and ugly, therefore my perception of it was passive and neutral.

Feeling passive about my body didn’t build the foundations for good mental health, as I almost consistently viewed myself as incapable of being anything more than “okay-looking” rather than beautiful or worthy of any compliments that may have come my way. Over the years, this made me believe that my body was just acceptable, rather than something that could be loved or admired.

Summer of Body Positivity 

Comedian Sofie Hagen completely changed the way I viewed my body. Having discovered her through The Guilty Feminist podcast last year, I started to see the work she was doing to combat the idea that “fatness” is inherently a bad, shameful thing and it really made me rethink the way I thought about my body and the concept of “fatness”. I started to just view it as a descriptor rather than something I should be ashamed of. Seeing her and others across social media unapologetically be themselves really did inspire me to appreciate, be proud of and love the way I look.

Actively loving my body, combined with starting to find happiness at university for the first time, did wonders for my mental health. I felt a new sense of positivity and energy. Something that really helped with this is fashion!

Shorts, culottes, interesting band shirts, tops that make me feel sexy, summer dresses… The way I dressed myself in the summer changed with the newfound confidence I had and so did how I feel about my body. I grew more comfortable with my body and the things about it I particularly used to hate (like my body hair, the way my breasts are shaped and my stomach) all became things I loved about myself.

Sexual Odyssey

Recently I became sexually active for the first time. The way I look and think about my body has been sporadic. Let me explain why.

Having had nobody show an interest in my body before (the magical yet haunting world of) Tinder it was suddenly the best thing in the world to find out others found me attractive. That’s the good thing about dating and sex, even if you think you’re beautiful, it’s just reassuring and (simply put) nice to hear people you’re intimate with say that they find you sexy and desirable.

The issue I’ve found is that I seem to need the approval of partners to have a positive perception of my body and this is a problem I’ve had with growing frequency. How do I deal with this? By remembering that I am gorgeous, desirable, interesting, funny and wonderful and that I don't need to be approved by anyone but myself (even if it does feel good). Yes it doesn’t always work immediately but I believe that my core perception of my body image is now strong enough that nobody could make me feel like I’m unworthy of believing I’m beautiful.

Having a complex (and sometimes difficult) relationship with your body is normal. The best thing to do if you feel like the relationship with your body is getting confusing and negative is to make sure you talk to friends/family/GP/university support networks/anyone else you feel comfortable talking to about how you are feeling about your body and how these feelings are impacting your mental health!

Hi! I’m Annie Bocock and I’m a second year mathematics student at the University of York. As a Press Ambassador for Student Minds I enjoying writing and speaking about my own experiences of mental health and the general complexities of mental health. It’s so rewarding seeing how others can gain something from my experiences.

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