Body Image: Are You Still Stuck in Highschool?

By Jun 10, 2011May 13th, 201260 Comments

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Joining us today is Miranda from A Duck In Her Pond.  I started reading Miranda’s blog years ago, and consider her to be one of my very first online friends.  One of the many reasons I’ve always enjoyed Miranda’s site is for its fun and whimsical approach to blogging.  In addition, Miranda is a true blue writer, and always has several stories she is in the midst of publishing on her site.

Today, Miranda is tackling an issue close to her heart, that of body image and weight.  It is something that she has personally struggled with for years.  Because of her perspective, we asked her to respond to an e-mail we received recently on SITS…

negative body image

Dear SITS Girls,

I’ve been obsessed with my body and how I look since I was in high school. I can remember comparing myself to the “popular” girls and I was determined to do whatever it takes to become one of them. Now I am 33 years old and still trapped obsessing about my weight and body image. How do I turn off that switch?

Stuck in 1996

The easiest thing in the world for me to say would be, “Love yourself!  You’re beautiful!  Don’t try to be other people–stand out!  Be yourself!”

It’s easy for everyone else to tell you how wonderful you are, how beautiful you are.  The hardest thing is to believe it yourself.  It’s hard to look in the mirror and see the acne scars, the stretch marks from puberty, the physical reminders of what you did or didn’t do for yourself in the past and feel you’re gorgeous.  When you grew up idolizing the cheerleader with the perfect blond hair, the dance team captain with the lush figure and perfect white teeth; your own hips and frizzy curls look like the before of a bad 80s teen movie.  Except you never got the makeover or football captain waiting for you in a limo at your graduation.

Instead, you hung onto those fears, those insecurities.  You hung on to the belief that you weren’t good enough, pretty enough for decades.  It became a habit, a security blanket.  Because why should you go to the gym if you’ll never look as good as them?  Why should you bother buying that dress if you’ll never look like her?

And it comes down to the simple truth: because you can.

As hard as it is to hear, no one cares about your thighs.  No one has even noticed them–they’re too worried about their own!  All the insecurities and jealousies you’ve been fighting for 20 years are a battle in your own mind.  The only way you can defeat those worries and imagined shortcomings is to get the one thing you really wanted from those high school girls–confidence.  And the best part is, there’s a million ways to do it.  Write a novel.  Take a dance class.  Buy a bike and ride 50 miles.  Do something you’ve always dreamed of, something that makes you feel good about yourself.  And tell people about it, about how good you are.  It will feel awkward at first.  It’ll be uncomfortable and cringe-inducing and make you want to crawl under a rock.  But day by day, it’ll be easier.  Confidence is like anything.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It slowly seeps into you, becoming as common and familiar as the back of your hands.

Then the day will come that you look in the mirror, and you don’t think about the weight or the scale or how wide your waist is.  You’ll think about how pretty you are, about how good you look in that dress.

And those high school girls and body image worries will stay in the past, where they belong.  Because you’re moving forward, like you always wanted to.

Now it’s your turn.  Tell us about your experience with body image since highschool.  Are you satisfied with what you see in the mirror?  Do you think you will ever be?

About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.


  • Cynthia says:

    High school years can be exciting and full of thrill memories. During this year also exist the pimples and stretch marks because its a period of puberty. But, it only come and go.. I would say, its a period of immature thats why this period in our life would really marks on our mind as we go through our life. Competition of things, personality and even love.

  • Melissa says:

    I like to say that I’m in a constant dialogue with my body, Some days I tell it I like what I see and other days I ask it to go back to the way it looked before having kids. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self that she is beautiful just as she is.

  • Jennifer says:

    I continuously struggle with body image to this day. We hear all these commercials on the radio about getting “high school skinny” and then you start to think hey, maybe I should be back to the weight I was in high school. I was thin and looked really good back then. It’s sad that the media has so much influence on us and the way we look, and it’s also sad that I let it. I’m hoping sooner rather than later I can love me for me and not wish to be as pretty or as thin as the girls in the media.

  • Linda says:

    Excellent post! I’m still stuck in highschool and I should be WAY over it by now.

  • Lady Jennie says:

    I don’t think it has as much to do with other people now (although living in skinny France is hard), I think it’s more that I know I’m not the best I can be. I’m flabby post-kids and all. I can’t wait til Sept when I will finally have time to get in shape.

  • Blond Duck says:

    I’m so inspired by all of you I posted about it today! And your e-mails and comments bring tears to my eyes!

  • Angie says:

    I am Soooooooo thankful that I’m no longer in high school but can honestly say that I still haven fully shaken the whole body image problem. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. After the birth of my daughter something clicked in my brain and I no longer cared about what others thought (which was relieving) but made it all that more difficult to get motivated to drop the baby weight. I’ve been working at it for almost 17 months now and have lost 50 pounds but need to get rid of at least another 30 to get back to my wedding weight.

    Thanks for featuring this. I can’t tell you enough how much I appreiciate it.

  • Blond Duck says:

    Ladies, you inspired me so much I wrote a post about you!

  • Talya says:

    I finally began to let go (not entirely, I must admit – I’m not sure any woman can entirely rid herself of the nagging feeling that this or that part of her body could look better) of thinking that I was not slim enough when I was 21 years old and working for a German family as an au pair. Even though I was a slim 125 lbs. (for my figure it was too slim actually – I had to strictly limit what I ate and exercise daily to stay in my Gap siz 8 jeans!) I always felt that if I lost just 5 more pounds life would be good and I would feel great.

    Then one day, after a hearty German breakfast at my host dad’s family home in the Alps, his mother and I went on a walk and had what ended up being one of the most moving talks I have ever had. In her fearless German way, she told me that she notices that when I ate I did so with extreme caution, obviously counting calories and fat with every bite, worried that I would eat too much. She then went on to say that she truly believed that if I were to eat what I wanted – within reason, of course! – and stopped worrying and just enjoyed life and food, I would probably be fine.

    Although it was an unexpected message from a person whom I respected but did not really expect to speak into my life, it was a life-changing conversation. Since that time ( eleven years, marriage and three children later), I have held to that philosophy. I focus on enjoying life – love, food, family, work, and all that comes with it – without worrying about numbers on a scale or jeans. And I have to say, I am 15 pounds and a pant size heavier, but I look and feel better than I did at 21 in my jeans I had to basically starve myself to stay in. So yes, life on the other side of those high school insecurities is possible, and very much worth living!


  • clc3 says:

    It’s amazing when you think about the body image issues that still haunt us. I struggled in high school and I wish I could say that all was easy now, but that wouldn’t be the absolute truth. I find that the people who still comment about me and my weight are not the size people would call perfect. You would think they would be understanding instead of contaminating. I actually shared my story regarding this same issue. For those interested, you can read it at http://beyondthewigshop.com/2011/06/shop-talk-thinned-out/.

  • elizabeth says:

    Confidence in one’s appearance and living life to the fullest, no matter what your size, shape or age is one of the most attractive things about anyone, and you’ve written some great advice Miranda!
    I’m a high school art teacher myself, and it breaks my heart to see how obsessed girls are with their perfect young bodies not being “perfect enough”. And it’s even sadder when it turns into self-destructive behavior of any kind, whether its constantly putting oneself down or developing eating disorders. And sadder still that many us of carry emotional scars long, long past graduation day!

    I blog and illustrate about positive body image for women of all sizes and shapes. I’d love for you to stop by!

  • Samantha B says:

    This is such a great post, and truly inspirational. Thank you!

  • Lindsay says:

    Wow. I really needed to read this post today. I have struggled my entire life with my weight. I find that I feel the best about myself, and have the most confidence when I am treating my body well. Feeding it healthy food, moving it regularly, getting enough sleep, and surrounding myself with love. I am currently in a state where I have been treating my body badly and it is not only affecting my physical health, but my mental health and relationships as well. Gaining confidence, and getting rid of those body image issues comes only when you have respect for yourself, and when you treat yourself right. Having a goal of being healthy and feeling good, not having a goal of being ‘skinny’, also goes a really long way! This post and the comments have motivated me to get out of my rut!

  • Tammy says:

    Amen! They aren’t looking at our thighs…only we are! I have been very critical of myself over the years. Now that I am in my 40’s I just want to be healthy. I don’t need to be a size 6 to be happy…I am happy in my size 10! 🙂

  • melissa says:

    I don’t necessarily have a body image problem because for everyone thing I dislke about my body there are tons of things that I find sexy about my body. My main concern is health….being skinny doesn’t mean healthy. My thoughts now compared to my highschool thoughts are very different.

  • Tiffany says:

    Body image whether your skinny or fat was an issue in high school. I was always the skinny girl growing up! It’s amazing how many people would tell you that you are skinny to your face. I think now that I have children, moved away and have gained some weight, it’s not an issue. Just try to eat healthy and the confidence in who you are will follow. Don’t let others tell you what you should “look” like! We all go through our own stuff and deal with it differently. Find what is a positive motivator for you and stick with that.

  • Great post!! I’ve actually been thinking about this topic a lot lately (Facebook seems to have a way of bringing back all the old high school insecurities)! I’m 31 and struggling with weight now, but I WAS a cheerleading captain, and dance team captain in high school. I’m “that girl” you’re talking about, but I had the same insecurities as everyone else. There is always someone skinnier, or prettier, or nicer, or curvier, or smarter, or more confident… always. And I think that’s part of the problem because that’s what we focus on, instead of concentrating on becoming the best possible version of ourselves. Confidence in who YOU are, looks amazing on everyone! 🙂 I’m still working on learning that for myself too. 🙂

  • This is a great message, it is so easy to stay stuck in those insecurities. It can almost be easier after having kids, and then you wish you had your old body that you used to complain about!! I like watching What Not to Wear because they show you how to dress every body type, what is the best style for different shapes, sizes and “flaws”.

  • PatriciaD says:

    I think we’re probably all challenged by this to one degree or another and some of us to a HUGE degree. I used to be too skinny (literally) and now I can’t seem to lose weight no matter how much I work out or diet. Thanks for writing about this. And you’re right confidence is the issue. Ah well, one of these days.

  • Mimi says:

    Well, I’m stuck back about a decade further. I was around 150 pounds and that’s how I still see myself even though I’m 25 pounds lighter. I remember my BFF’s boyfriend telling me a girl is fat if her stomach sticks out further than her “hmm hmms”. Well, since I was a board back then, that was NOT helpful. Clearly I was seen as fat. I still see myself that way. I’m still the girl who makes jokes in an uncomfortable situation and would rather be seen as silly than smart. It got me by in high school, not for good reasons, but it got me by. Sigh…It’s quite depressing. Not sure how to break out of it. Maybe this old dog is too old to learn new tricks.

    • elizabeth says:

      Mimi, it’s never too late to learn to love and appreciate your one-of-a-kind perfectly unique body! Because we live in a media-centered culture, our sense of what we should look like is created by advertisers, TV & movie stars, fashion models. Since the only body that we see most of the time is thin, young,tall, lean & fit, we’ve forgotten the truth about bodies: that we come in all sizes, shapes, ages, colors, and that each one of us is perfect in our own way.

  • Laura says:

    Great post! I think all of us (girls/women) at some point worry about body image. I mean how can we not, when body image is everywhere you look.

  • LBDDiaries says:

    Blond Duck is an amazing writer & supporter. I love her stories. And this post proves her heart – she answered and inspired at the same time (as usual). I did pretty good after high school but it was constant effort. After I quit smoking (which is good), the weight gradually snuck up (which is not good). I did NOT deal with it immediately. It took over my life. It was all I obsessed about until recently. This post helps me change my focus!

  • Dani says:

    Great, positive post with a good message. I am lucky that I had confidence growing up as a result of good self-esteem and friends who didn’t really put much emphasis on physical beauty. Eventually, you realize everything is a race out there and you’re sure to lose if it becomes your singular focus. I actually like myself and the people I’m surrounded with. Turns out many of those people I always looked up to ended up in some places I’d rather not be. I wish I could tell every high school girl that the things that matter then most definitely won’t matter in the same way in 10 years.

    • Blond Duck says:

      I love that you had friends that didn’t put an emphasis on physical beauty. I didn’t either, until I went to college and had girls crying in my room because they went from a size 2 to a 4. Before that, I ate what I wanted and danced because I loved it. I didn’t know what calories were. I miss that ignorance!

  • Christine says:

    Body image is such an important topic, and a difficult one too. In high school I was pretty self-conscious of my super skinny body. My mom encouraged me to appreciate and feel positive about stuff I hated…thanks Mom! Fast forward to now, I had 4 babies less than 2 years apart, and my body is very different! I’m just working hard to fight negative body image by taking time for myself to exercise and do things that make me feel good. I think it’d all be easier if I just had my flat stomach back though!

  • nmaha says:

    This topic is so relevant.

    I find the off switch at times, but most days I forget that I’m not in high-school and no one is waiting for me to slip-up. (I was never-ever one of the gorgeous girls, but I was one of the popular girls and I still have these issues). Sometimes, I think I had more confidence back then, because I knew I was good at sport, academics and art. Today I doubt my skills at every turn?! What’s with us 30 year old women?

    Skip on over to read how my priorities are affected by my image today: http://www.seekingsynergy.wordpress.com

  • I totally understand. I am a constantly dealing with an eating disorder. Thought my weight is stable now- the thoughts and worries never go away. I can’t look in a mirror without mentally beginning to critique.

    I just blogged on it here: http://happytogetherish.blogspot.com/2011/06/body-image-issues.html

  • Leah says:

    Great post. And so excited to see a blogger I already follow!

  • Katherine says:

    Ugh, body issues. I never thought about being stuck in a high school mentality, but when it comes to how I view my body, that’s exactly what how things are. I’ve managed to move forward in my thinking in nearly all areas, except this one. What a great message.

  • Oh, I have the toughest time with body image. I truly do not see in the mirror what everyone else sees when they look at me. I’m stuck on the size of my pants and the number on the scale. It has held me back more times than I can count and ties into so many issues with my self esteem. I really wish I could be happy with what I see when I look in the mirror… that I could see me like everyone else seems to!

  • Rachel Lynn says:

    I’m only 15 years old, and let me tell ya… this is never easy. I cannot look in the mirror and be content with what I see. I just do not think of myself as beautiful. I know I should love my body and my looks because God made me how he wanted me to look, but I’m just not content with what I see. It’s definatley something I have to work on, and hopefully in time, I will accept/love myself as I am.
    -Rachel Lynn

    • Blond Duck says:

      We love you for who you are!

    • clc3 says:

      Rachel Lynn,

      My heart aches for you. I can definitely relate to what you are going through, and I can tell you this: It was the grown “folks” who helped me come to terms with my body image. Decide today that you are beautiful and “fine” by all standards. When someone tries to tell you otherwise, give them the “Whatever, I know I look good.” look. Then walk your diva self off to your destination. Your emotional health starts with your appreciation of your self and please know you are worth it!!! Take care of yourself!

  • Blond Duck says:

    I think we need Sarah Barellis to come in here and play inspiring music so we all feel gorgeous all the time!

  • Are you satisfied with what you see in the mirror? (WHAT A LOADED QUESTION!)

    It’s impossible to always be happy with what I see in the mirror. Mostly because I am usually one of the following: overtired (read: circles under the eyes), stressed (read: breakout along the jawline), or cranky (read: general scowl that is less than beautiful).

    BUT do I think it’s possible to change your body image. Absolutely. And do I think that body image has anything to do with the scale? No, no I do not.

  • Lauren says:

    What a great post! Every woman has issues with her body from time to time, we just have to remember how much we love ourselves…


  • Melissa says:

    So true! We often forget the fact that most people are so caught up in their own body image issues that they don’t even notice our own! I think we are all beautiful in our own unique ways. And you are absolutely right that stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something that builds confidence works!

  • I’m all too familiar with this one. Facebook has a way of equally out those body image issues. 20 years later we’re all a little rounder and NONE of us have a flat belly now that we’ve birthed babies. Even though I’m 15 pounds heavier, sporting a few gray hairs and developing fine lines on my face I have WAY more confidence in my appearance than I did in high school and that’s a good thing.

  • I totally know that feeling! I’m almost 30. In high school I started dieting and since then I’ve been gaining a loosing weight like crazy. In a circle. When I got my first streching marks when I was 16th I didn’t know what that was (nobody in my faliy has it). When my doctor told me that it will never disappear I cried for a week. From that day I have never worn short skirt. NEVER. Today I wish I could even for my husband. After our daughter was born I feel a litle bit more confident with it, because right now I don’t have to hide those marks – moms have straching marks, and it’s perfectly normal. I know it’s silly, but it’s my way of gaining confidence.
    Today I’m almost back to my high school weight but my body doesn’t look like I am. It’s just different, and I know I have to get use to it. When I see myself in the mirror I’m not that stressed about my image. I tell myself: “You got a baby, You’re a mom today, not a hot 18. You’re a beautiful mom.”
    I tell myself that I struggle to long with eating disorder, and right now it’s the perfect time to change it. I a mom, a rol model. I should be healthy for my child. I don’t want my daughter to grow up with the same problems, with the same body image struggles. It’s terrible!!! I belive I’m on my way to win that battle!

  • Leila says:

    Great post! Love yourself at any size because life is too short to worry about silly things!

    Geek Girl Slim

  • Erika says:

    Good post. I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who still has these battles in my mind. But I agree, the times I feel the best about myself are when I’ve done something I can be proud of. I love the part about buying a bike and riding 50 miles. I’m a cyclist and did just that. I struggle with body issues, but I will rock bike shorts and ride 100 miles and feel like the queen of the world! My thighs jiggle when I walk in my cycling gear, but I don’t care!

    @Sue the DHousemommy, thanks for your comment. I’m pregnant and the stretch marks made their debut this week. I’m struggling with it, but trying to remind myself that it’s not the end of the world.

  • Scraps says:

    Great message, Miranda!

    I used to think I was SO very gross and fat in high school and, wow. I look back at pictures from then and wonder what was I thinking?!

    The funny thing is, now that I’m older I have an amazing level of confidence (most days) and that mental picture overshadows what I see in the mirror (which is, by the way, actually overweight and wishing for those size 8 days of high school). It strikes me as completely odd to see myself in a photograph where it doesn’t match the way I see myself in my head.

    I’m definitely part of the love-your-body-at-whatever-shape camp. One of these days I might find the motivation to get in “better shape” but for now, I’m not letting it stop me from living a fabulous life!

  • Even though my body is different than it was in high school, I think I’ve gotten prettier. Without surgery, even. I came into myself in my 40’s, I think, and stopped caring what other people think. It’s very freeing!

  • Even though my body is different than it was in high school, I think I’ve gotten prettier. Without surgery, even. I came into myself in my 40’s, I think, and stopped caring what other people think. It’s very freeing!

    • Blond Duck says:

      I love that you’re so confident! That’s great that you feel you’ve gotten prettier! Kudos to you for such great self confidence!

  • Love this! Awesome workds of wisdom! Love your body, so very important. Love it and take care of it!

  • Great post! I’m trying to focus on more than what I see in the mirror. Like how I feel. And being happy. My body is aging an I just have to go with that:)

  • Mimi says:

    What a great message.

  • You are right. Doing something for yourself gets you to see your body and yourself in a whole new way. Recently I trained for and finished a half marathon. I.Feel.Like.A. Rock.Star!! Seriously!!!! I don’t care that I have stretch marks or that I have wiggly, jiggly bits. I care that this amazing body of mine carried me through 13.1 miles. Stinkin’ awesome!!
    Great topic and post!

  • Nicole says:

    This was nice to read. I have been struggling with the same thing. It’s good to know I’m not alone, although I usually feel like I am. ♥ Thanks for posting this.

  • Lizzie says:

    I’ve definitely come a long way with my body images issues since high school – but that might be down to the fact that I lost 28lbs after leaving, because I was so unhappy then. As I’ve grown up, and been more selective about my friends, I’m happier with my body whatever shape it is. I put a lot of that down to surrounding myself with the right people – and about 90% of those were not in my life during my high school years.

    • Blond Duck says:

      Kudos to you for finding a great support system! It’s amazing how other people and their perceptions of beauty can skew our own…I speak from experience!

  • I can so relate to this. I’ve struggled with the same issues. Having children definitely helped. I’ve EARNED my bodily imperfections that have resulted from bearing three children. And I try to wear them with pride.