Elisabeth | Female, White, She/Her

What does “body positivity” mean to you? How has your body image changed over time? How does your body image play a role in your identity or even in your daily life?

“Body positivity” for me means accepting the flesh and bone and fat and muscle that carry our souls for what they are without resentment.

Growing up, I was always considered underweight, and jokes would be made about how I must eat only “bird food” to look so small. I remember the feeling of the pull-elastic on my adjustable jeans digging into my waist because I was also tall, and pre-teen clothing didn’t fit my height if they fit my hips. Near the end of puberty, I started to gain weight and loved the new curves and stretch marks that I was growing because in my head, they were signs that I was starting to look more like “how a girl should.” Now, years into living with my adult body, I still find myself judging the slope of my ass or the length of my arms, but rather than allowing those thoughts to be taken as fact, I try to observe them and question them and then let them pass; recognizing that perfection is unattainable.

How has body image affected your mental and emotional health? What’s something that helps you feel comfortable in your own skin?

I think that every girl understands what it feels like to grow up in a world which hypercriticizes our bodies regardless of age and punishes us for not naturally fitting into the latest “body trend” — which is absolutely ridiculous on its own. What’s also funny is the amount of time reserved for trying to figure out what makeup to wear and how to do my hair and when to eat and what parts of my body I can afford to show without feeling the eyes of strangers pierce through fabric like needles; we can always tell when you look.

The punchline is that people never stop looking, and so learning to not only live but find freedom to be comfortable in a world that watches you and boxes you in is a strength I’m still trying to navigate. For now, the comfort comes in waves and comes when I give more credit to my personality as defining who I am and not my body, or what body I don’t have.

Is there a specific message that you’d like to convey by participating in this project?

I guess that bodies can be both sexy and beautiful and that sexualizing a body should only be on the terms of the person it belongs to. Here, I want my body to be viewed as anatomy within art, not as the subject of sexual lust.