I really want to go back to discover how and why, for so many years, I was so obsessed with body image. I was self-conscious, disliked my body, and wanted to change it. I was a girl who would always thoroughly analyse others around me and compare myself to them. My thoughts were anything from, “Look at how her hair is; why is mine so horribly different?” to, “Look at her perfect body shape; it must make her so popular and loved”, to, “Why do I lack so much?”; my mind was working full time feeding me these thoughts.
I was always unsure of myself, how I compared, and where I fitted in. I was so envious, and man, it was tiring. I was never super athletic, I always felt quite awkward, and I’d compare myself to other girls I was around that seemed the opposite to me. I was never bullied, but I never felt like I belonged—and I’d put this down to looks because back then, I knew no different. And I think that’s where my obsession started and grew from.
I can remember clearly that I always felt different. Everything I seemed to do was different from others, and this, back then, felt wrong. I now LOVE different. Small things—that didn’t seem so small then—like waxing my legs instead of shaving (like what was ‘normal’), not wearing makeup, not colouring my hair, not having boyfriends at a young age, even not wearing heels.
I remember one of the only school dances I went to in year 9, a memory that has likely stuck with me because I tried to avoid social things at all costs. All the other girls wore heels, but I didn’t because I never had before. I felt so unworthy, odd, and ‘yuck’. It was probably for most of high school that these feelings were happening for me and they lasted until I was 19/20 years old.
I was a late bloomer (which yet again I felt weird for); I didn’t develop the enviable, attractive curves that all the other girls around me seemed to have and that I wanted at the time so I could feel ‘beautiful’. I hated the majority of high school because I felt like an outsider. I was shy, I felt unworthy, I was self-conscious. I went through so many friend groups just trying to feel like I belonged and could be confident and myself. I found it easier to be quiet around those I didn’t know well; I didn’t know what to say that might actually make people interested in me. I thought they had better people to listen to.
Wow, I was consumed by the draining thoughts. Towards the end of my time at high school (and when I had come to the realisation that school just wasn’t where I belonged or was going to blossom), I got my first boyfriend. I was in class with my best friend, and two popular boys that knew my then boyfriend were talking in front of us. I could hear loud and clear one of the boys mention Bianca was going out with their mate, and the other popular boy turned around (whether he meant it or not) and said, “He goes out with Bianca?!” in shock and disbelief, like “WTF, why her?” Let’s just say my confidence wasn’t going to increase around the typical school teen mentality without a lot of hard work and awareness that I didn’t have at that time. Their influence made me believe what I was thinking about myself was actually true!
And you can imagine how I felt when it came to swimming time at school. Me and my self-conscious, curve-lacking body had to get out there and be compared to the other beautiful girls in my class. I have always loved swimwear. I spent a lot of summer time in it as a kid and a teen, and have never not worn it. But how my mind was when I wore it was completely different. Everywhere I walked, every way I stood, every way I moved and sat, I was self-conscious and wondering how I looked and if people were judging me. I wanted to feel great, but that mind of mine didn’t let me. Swimwear was a real love/hate thing for me.
I feel so ridiculous every time I think of this, but at the age of 15, I started one of the Michelle Bridges 12-week body transformations. I thought if my small, shapeless body could develop abs, maybe I’d be confident and all would be well (LOL). I only lasted two weeks before I quit due to feeling starved and unhappy. Light bulb moment: that wasn’t the ticket to confidence or happiness.
When I left school at 16, I can still remember the relief I felt to be escaping that environment, the space that for me was full of awkwardness, comparison, judgement, and outsider-ness. It’s crazy to look back at what my mind was telling me and how it made me honestly believe it. The mind can be life-ruining if you allow it!
I changed so much when I left school. I started to come out of my shell and broke free of what had stopped me from doing so many things. I experienced more ups and downs in life, on my way to maturing and finding my place in the world. But I continued to hate my body and everything it lacked. Until about 19/20, I dieted on and off, not necessarily needing to. I searched high and low for a way to love my body. After a few incidences of strict calorie counting and being sent home from work because I nearly fainted due to poor health, I came to the realisation that my poor body had had enough of the ups and downs; it needed love, nourishment, and care. I used to see food and exercise as punishment. I wasn’t exercising or eating strictly so that my body could be the best it could be; I did it to try and ‘change’ me!
It was after this moment in time that I realised something had to change (and not how I looked). I was 100% over wondering what people thought of me. I had wasted enough of my life and precious time living this way. I wanted to exercise out of enjoyment and see my body be the best it can be. I wanted to eat food that has me at my best on the inside and out. Life is too short to live a life of comparison, envy, hate, self-consciousness, and validation seeking. I wasn’t going to let these things control the rest of my life and experiences! I’m still consciously working on how I feel today, but it’s only getting better!
I had the control to decide to make a change, and then set to work. I never felt like I could express my thoughts and never spoke my truth about all of this because people would tell me, “Shut up, you’re skinny; what would you know?”. They didn’t care or consider anything about me as a person and the feelings I might have on the inside; it was all surface-level crap.
This is in no way a pity party. That’s the last thing I want. But it’s been so interesting to go back and put pen to paper. It took a lot for me to really dig deep and even share my story out loud. How it all looked for me and my approach to moving past it to a healthier me has led me here and is why I’m so passionate about helping others in any possible way I can!
We all have very real and unique stories and experiences that have shaped how we live our lives, none of which are any better or more worthy than the next person’s. And none of us need to be judged. This space and brand exists to help bring happiness and confidence to ALL women and to celebrate them for who they are.
- Bianca Judd, Hoola Collective