I have as many hang-ups about my body as the next girl.
In kindergarten, a severe case of chicken pox left me with scars all over my upper body - scars that are still fully visible today. I was teased in elementary school for my flabby thighs. I lost a lot of weight during my senior high school years due to depression, and the weight loss continued into university, conveniently at a time when I felt I should be bigger so I wouldn’t be thought of as a wimp. I still sometimes think I should get braces to fix my crooked bottom teeth but I’m just terrified of any kind of dental procedure. Throughout my teenage years, I always felt a bit inadequate when compared with my twin brother who seemed to have tailored himself the perfect body with very little effort.
After coming out at age 22, I was unable to secure any sort of romantic relationship, and I foolishly blamed it on my own physical imperfections. Regrettably, I took a lot of grief from myself. It also didn’t help that the boy in Toronto with whom I had been chatting with (and subsequently developing a huge crush on) eventually confessed after meeting me in person that I was slightly heavier than he had imagined me to be. I met several other boys whom, after meeting with me, literally told me the same thing. In trying to keep up with the dating game, I went online to seek out potential partners, only to come across profile headlines like “No Asians.”
My self-esteem took a real beating in the process. I also had very few friends at the time and virtually no gay role models to reassure me that my feelings were normal and that there was nothing wrong with me. At the time, I was already having enough trouble coming to terms with my own sexuality. It was disheartening to also feel undesirable and unaccepted by a community to which I thought I supposedly belonged.
I can’t exactly pinpoint when the reprogramming process took place, but eventually I reached a point where I no longer wanted to seek validation from another man (or anyone else for that matter). I relaxed my attitude about finding love, focused on being better to myself, reminded myself of what good I had to offer as a person, and surrounded myself with positive energy.
Like a clichéd fairytale, it worked. Slowly but surely, I found friends who accepted me, imperfections and all. With no predisposed expectations on love, I also found myself with someone who, for the first time in my life, told me I was beautiful.
It took me several more years after that to start feeling more comfortable in my own skin, and it will likely take many more years to be completely happy with myself, but coming to terms with my sexuality had a substantial impact on my self-esteem and body image. Confidence came with realizing who I was not only on the inside but on the outside.