Hello sweet friend!
I can’t believe the week of the #mybodyisenough launch is finally here! This has been something that has been on my heart since I was a teenager, almost 10 years ago. While it took me a while to find the tangible way to make this project happen, it feels as though a lot of my life has led me to get here. Maybe that sounds cliché to you, but let me share a little bit of the WHY behind this project, so you can understand my vision and why it is so near and dear to my own heart. I know this post is kind of lengthy, but bear with me as I want you to be able to soak in these words!
My greatest hope is that young girls and women of all ages, races, and social status, will hear the important message that they (yes, YOU reading this right now!) are enough, just as they are. Regardless of their size, regardless of the number they see on a scale. They are enough.
I want to start off by asking a question: What is the first thing you remember saying to you about your body? Is is positive or negative?
My own battle to finding “enough-ness” began at a sleepover when I was in 1st or 2nd grade, around age 7/8. The girl hosting the sleepover went through everyone there and labeled them “Hot or Fat”. When it got to my name, she said “Fat” and I remember feeling like I wanted to crawl inside a hole. I even called my mom begging her to come pick me up, but there was no such luck. I felt a burning in my chest and felt like I could throw up and really just tried to make it through the night. I hated sleepovers after that and pretty much avoided them for the rest of elementary and middle school. While I am Facebook friends with this girl now and she likely will never remember saying that to me, that is kind of where a switch flipped inside me.
And as I look back on photos from that age, I was not even fat. I wasn’t even really chubby, but I chose to hear those words over and over again. While I don’t think my eating habits of exercising drastically changed that day, a seed was planted. A seed of doubt and insecurity. I remember being in a store with my mom and trying on a bikini for the first time. I kept pulling on it and tugging at it, trying to get it to cover my stomach….I was 9. I bought the bikini that day, but I don’t think I ever wore it, because I could hear that girl over and over in my head.
Fast forward to high school and going through puberty somewhat early and have large breasts at a young age. While many people complimented me, I had some who said horrible things about my “new body.” I diligently worked out for at least an hour daily, was careful to only eat “healthy” food and often skipped out on activities involving food that I didn’t want to eat. The fear of gaining weight, skipping meals, dropping weight, and avoiding social situations became normal over the next 4-5 years. While I never was “sick enough” to be diagnosed as anorexic, I now recognize a lot of eating disorder behavior and symptoms in how I acted.
I have heard the following things about my own body:
-“You’re too skinny”
-“Your boobs are too big”
-“You actually looked better before you gained weight”
-“Didn’t you used to be really skinny?”
-“Your ears stick out like an elephant”
-“Your body is perfect”
-“You’re so lucky to look like that”
-“I bet people are nicer to you because of how you look”
-“I wish I had big boobs like you”
…and the list goes on and on and on!
Whose right or place was it to say those things about me? Or about anyone else for that matter? Each of those moments and people, etched a little bit of a hole into my self-esteem. Until the day, which I can’t remember exactly, where I decide enough was going to be enough. I wouldn’t stand for someone telling me I was only beautiful if my bones stuck out or the tag on my pants said 0. It was enough and I had had enough of this negativity! My worth is not and never has been based on my size, my weight, or how perfectly I fit an ideal image of what women should look like.
I went to college and majored in psychology and art therapy. In that time, I joined a sorority and met women of all different shapes and sizes. I met women who loved themselves, hated themselves, and some who fell somewhere in between, like I did. I observed a lot during my years in college. If you ask anyone who knows me well, they will tell you that my favorite hobby is “people watching.” I observed women who were on diets all day, but then went out and binge drank/ate at night, women who constantly fussed over their body, women who didn’t respect their bodies and slept with whoever paid attention…and after awhile, I remember thinking to myself, “wouldn’t it be amazing if we spent all that energy doing something else besides focusing on our bodies?” I did my senior research on how exposure to media influences the way we view our bodies and found that thin women were more impacted my media images than those who were “over weight.”
I knew then this was my passion and that I wanted to use my own experiences with body image and disordered eating to help the people. While I was super passionate about this, I also was really burnt out of being in school and didn’t feel quite ready to get my master’s degree, so I set off to work my first big girl job. After several years of working in Recruiting and Human Resources, I left to go back to get my Master’s degree in Mental Health counseling. At the same time, I started both my business and a new job. I remember being in the car driving to an appointment with my husband when I got a call that I say changed the course of my life in a way. It was a job offer to work as a Therapeutic Counselor (fancy word for doing all the stuff nobody else wants to do). I remember crying when I hung up and telling my husband that this was it, this is what I was meant to do…I hadn’t even started the job yet!
I began working at the center and did everything from helping to prepare food, checking toilets after patient’s used them, and a bunch of other stuff that you probably don’t want to hear about. But in between all of that, I got to work with some incredible patients. I got to lead groups and sit with then one on one when they were in crisis. I also got to work with phenomenal people. As one of the youngest people on staff, those people became mentors and colleagues and their support pushed me get through really crappy (literally crappy) days. That first job pushed me to continue with my degree so that I could be a therapist and work with the same population.
While I know that not everyone needs to receive treatment for their insecurities or body image issues, I wish I could sit down with each of you. I wish I could hear the wonderful things you like about yourself and also have you share the hard stuff, the stuff you don’t like to admit or share with people. Often I’m surprised by how many of my friends don’t share their own insecurities for fear of what people with think. That’s what #mybodyisenough is all about…breaking the stigma and normalizing the idea of talking about our bodies.
In preparation for this project, I asked the same question to hundreds of people that I asked myself at the beginning of this post…”What is the first thing you remember someone telling you about your body?” Here are some of the answers I got:
- “You are too fat to go down that slide…you’ll get stuck”
- “Nobody will ever love you if you don’t lose weight”
- “You have pretty eyes like your dad”
- “You will never get married if you can’t figure out how to stop eating.”
- Being pinched in the stomach and called “tubby”
- “You are too tall…you will have to shrink to find a guy”
- “Your lips are too big!”
- “Eat something! Do you have an eating disorder?”
- “You need to watch what you’re eating or your dress won’t fit.”
- “You should get your ears pinned back”
- “Your teeth are weird/crooked”
- “You’ve got to lose this baby fat!”
- “You would look so much better if you ______________”
All of those things, regardless of their intention, left the person they were said to feel like they weren’t enough. Good enough, smart enough, thin enough, pretty enough, whatever enough. My goal in sharing this is to make you think a little harder and wait the next time before your own insecurities cause you to point out someone else’s. I have been there far more than I would like to admit. When our own insecurities hurt other people it is not excusable or something to be laughed off It’s not okay to pick on someone else….or yourself. It’s not okay to put yourself down.
So back to my hope for this project. If there’s anything I’ve said that I want to resonate with people, it’s that they are good enough, just how they are. They don’t have to believe the lies the world tells them about their bodies. I have asked some of my dear friends to share their own struggles and journey to love their body via social media, specifically on Instagram. The stories range from heart breaking to somewhat comical and I hope they can encourage you. As you feel comfortable, I challenge you to share part of your own story.
In addition to the social media campaign, I’ve created products that go along with the message I’m fighting to spread! The products in this line were created specifically with you in mind. Someone who loves themselves, but still has hard days. A new mom whose body has changed. A college student who has gained the freshman 15. A person in recovery from an eating disorder.A girl who has been told her whole life that she is not worthy of love because of how she looks.The line including pillows, mugs, and the #mybodyisenough cards. The cards are my favorite…I know you’re not supposed to have one favorite (whoops!). Not only are they bright and colorful, they have encouraging sayings on them. They come in packs of 10, which makes them great to hang up around your house, frame on your desk at work, or send to a friend with a little note on the back.
It is my heartfelt intent that this movement can touch lives and that these products can be a simple reminder to you. Please share them with your friends, sisters, daughters, and anyone you know who may struggle with body image. Know that you are not alone in this. And most important know that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are so much more than enough.
I would love to connect with you! If this post has touched you, please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Instagram, where I spend most of my time at www.instagram.com/rachel_tenny. If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, I ask that you seek medical attention immediately. The following resources give helpful information: NEDA, Recovery Warriors, and Eating Recovery Center.
May we be women who learn to love ourselves and then go out into the world and inspire others to do the same!
All the love in the world,
xoxo Rachel Tenny