Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Learning not to romanticise our teen bodies

CW: body image and mental health

With old Snapchat memories popping up daily, it can be difficult not to compare ourselves to what we looked like as teenagers. Many of us were not fully developed at this age, but it is hard not to internalise society’s message that the smaller your body, the more attractive you are.

Constantly seeing snaps with ear-to-ear smiles, and a great deal of questionable Snapchat dog filters can let us believe we were totally happy in our teen years and had the perfect body. In reality, I, like many, was incredibly self-conscious and spent so much of my time fretting over my appearance and getting that perfect mirror selfie for my story.

It has also made me question why I gave myself such a hard time over my body – it was obviously ‘better’ than what it is now. In hindsight, this was a ridiculous thought. We were children back then. What’s worse is that I would place a great deal of money on my future self, making the same statement in five years about my current appearance. The hard truth is that many of us will never be entirely content with our appearance, so why waste time worrying?

There is some kind of reminder that I need to transform myself

This thought floats through my mind regularly. It’s a lot easier said than done, but I hope in the future, it is a mentality that I take on board as best as I can. It seems simple. Just stop worrying. Get on with your life. There are much bigger things to be worrying about like future plans, careers – the list goes on.

However, this becomes even more difficult to achieve due to the online bombardment of perfect bodies. Whenever I unlock my phone, there is some kind of reminder that I need to transform myself, “need” to buy these five life-changing products to appear more beautiful, as well as snaps of a slimmer version of myself from five years ago.

Although there has been some inclusion of different body types in the fashion industry, there are still exceptions to what is “attractive”. Women must be curvy, that’s sexy, but you can’t be too curvy when it means you don’t have a flat stomach. If you are slim and have a flat stomach, that’s good, but you should also have curves.

Acceptance and self-love are the most important steps here

We can’t win. Men must be muscly, but not be a typical ‘gym lad’ – that’s self-centred. If they’re not muscly, that’s also attractive, but they’re “cute” and not “masculine” enough. We will never be able to live up to these beauty standards, or our underdeveloped teen bodies. Acceptance and self-love are the most important steps here. Again, I am no expert, but it is unhealthy to compare ourselves to others as well as our previous selves.

In our current circumstances, we are left alone with our thoughts more than ever, so it can be difficult not to focus on social media and photos from a happier time of clubbing and socialising. Instead of thinking about our appearance in these snaps, why not shift your thoughts to the memories themselves?

We must remember that as we become women, rather than teen girls, we get wiser, have more informed opinions about the world around us and have opportunities for incredible life experiences. Therefore, we should celebrate the fact we are maturing. It is unrealistic to hope that we will someday achieve a body similar to the one we had in our teen years.

Focus on your self-worth in accordance with your strength

Bodyweight naturally increases in our twenties. This is normal, and something we shouldn’t base our happiness on. If we do, it can stress the importance of taking care of our mental health as we get older.

Jen Harwood, a personal trainer, said: “this can be due to natural body fat increases as your hormones settle post-puberty, lifestyle changes, such as having a more sedentary job, or even bone density which increases during your 20s! Muscles mature and become denser, fat redistributes, generally to the hips, bum, and stomach and it can be really overwhelming if you’re not expecting it”.

So, focus on your self-worth in accordance with your strength, personality, and all of the amazing things you have conquered and achieved throughout your life. Embrace becoming a fully-fledged woman, and if that means gaining a few extra pounds, please don’t be hard on yourself. We are all beautiful, and our appearance does not, and never will, define us.

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