The Unexpected Cure to Body Dysmorphia

Design by Jared Dobro

In 7th grade, I made the insanely horrible decision to make an account. For those who aren’t familiar, was an absolute cesspool of a website. Anyone (even those without an account) could anonymously send questions to any user. Shockingly, this made cyberbullying extremely easy! Clearly, this was a great website for 13-year-old Stephanie to be using.

I received a fair share of mean messages when I used Most of these messages are distant memories (though I do remember that “ugly” and “annoying” were the most frequent adjectives thrown at me.) One message in particular, however, has stuck in my mind to this day.

“u have a flat stomach, but ur wide, which is worse. also, stop wearing high waisted jeans. they’re not flattering.”

First off, I’d like to point out that practically everyone wears high waisted jeans now, so as it turns out, I was ahead of the curve with my style choices. Second of all, I cannot control how wide my ribcage is.

At the time, comments like that hurt, but they didn’t phase me all that much. The mean comments I used to get felt so ridiculous that I often just laughed them off. Now, that comment rings in the back of my mind anytime I’m feeling down about my body. Maybe my body is too wide. If I’d gotten a message like that within the past few years, it probably would have instantly sent me spiraling.

When I developed an eating disorder in spring 2019, I started dealing with some pretty bad body dysmorphia. What I saw when I looked in the mirror usually wasn’t how I looked in real life. Plus, mirrors tend to distort your image anyway depending on how cheaply they’re made. My Target mirror really does me dirty sometimes.

Mirrors are one thing. Looking at pictures, however, is what really started to get to me. When my eating disorder first started, I’d meticulously examine past photos, comparing my current state to every documented past version of myself. For a while, this toxic comparison felt inescapable. I felt trapped to a past I could never get back before I’d even reached a distant future. It was like I was an old woman in a nursing home looking back on her glory days even though my glory days probably haven’t even happened yet (at least I hope they haven’t). I was constantly nostalgic for a body type I had when I was literally 15.

Luckily, my body dysmorphia has dissipated over time. These days, I don’t look at old photos and analyze my body. While I owe this freedom from the trap of comparison in part to my therapist, I also owe it to semi-permanent hair dye. The different hair colors I’ve had in the past two years tend to stick out way more than the minuscule changes to my body do.

Okay, maybe the blonde ombré last year wasn’t the move.

The blue in October was really dope.

God, my roots are really coming in now, aren’t they?

Maybe I should do light pink next.

Instead of yearning for a body I’m no longer meant to have, I now reminisce on how many times I’ve stained the bathroom sink. I rack up rewards at Sally Beauty like it’s nobody’s business. I piss off my mom anytime I go for something vibrant. I remain exceptionally loyal to the Purple Rain color from Arctic Fox. I no longer agonize over changes on the scale that nobody is noticing except for me.

Don’t get me wrong—I still have bad body image days. Honestly, I think it’d probably be more concerning if I loved myself and my body all the time (I’m pretty sure that’d be a God complex). The difference is that bad days aren’t debilitating anymore. How I look no longer determines how my day is going to go; looking back at all photos just gets me excited to try out different colors again instead of stirring up problematic and unwanted emotions about my size. I have bigger things to worry about than whether or not I look bloated, like the fact that my hair is so dead from bleach that my split ends are probably visible from space.

My hair is brown right now, but that’s just because I’m waiting to dye it pink right before graduation. When I’m a grandma looking back at the photos from that day, I’ll think, “Wow. Pink hair? Those were the days.”

Sorry in advance, Mom.

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