It all started with something that my then-boyfriend had said.
"You have a really pretty face, but sometimes I wish your waist was a bit smaller."
I was 16 years old at the time, a sophomore in high school dating a graduating senior.
It was only after he said that, though, when my obsession with body image began to control me. It initiated my daily, grueling routines of waking up, weighing myself on a scale before staring at the reflection of myself in the mirror while I brushed my teeth—assessing where exactly I hated the most about my body and internally screaming at myself about why I didn't have a thigh gap like most other girls in my class.
My obsession led me to desperately scour the internet over weight loss tricks, fitspo pictures, diet fads and hundreds of screenshots of my "dream body" which I would stare at every time I felt hungry but lied I wasn't whenever my mom would call me down from the kitchen to eat dinner.
A year later, I moved to an entirely new high school the middle of my junior year, relocating from a small, teeny tiny town in Connecticut to big and bright Los Angeles.
My obsession worsened because I inevitably stuck out like a sore thumb, in my preppy Polo shirts and Sperry's, and I started to compare myself to all the pretty, curvy girls in my class.
I overheard my crush talk to his friend, about how he probably wasn't going to ask me to prom because my ass wasn't attractive enough compared to this other girl he ended up going with.
It made me re-assess everything about my body—in a way, I switched tracks and I "skinny-shamed" myself into believing that the boys I wanted to date wanted a girl to have an ideal body of someone like Kim Kardashian.
All the boys I encountered in college continued my struggle with body acceptance. Some boys thought I was too fat, some thought I was skinny-fat, some thought I was more skinny than fat but that I didn't have any curves. Some thought I should go run a lap, others thought I should do squats instead, while another laughed when I said I was interested in becoming a Barre instructor because he blatantly asked,
"Aren't all girls who do barre supposed to be like, really skinny?"
It confused me because I truly didn't know what it meant for my body to beautiful.
Why I would only be called beautiful whenever some fuckboy wanted to get me laid, but then he would pretend like he never said that to me after we smashed.
Why I thought some boy didn't want to me to be his girlfriend unless I had a skinny waist, collarbones popping out and a thigh gap.
Why I would have to hear, yet again that I had a pretty face, a pretty smile and a great personality but that my body wasn't just that pretty compared to everything else.
It took me a while to come to the realization that I was only going to be beautiful after self acceptance.
After I stopped comparing myself, and stopped self harming my own body. After I stopped defining happiness in relationships when a boy would call be beautiful—because let's be honest here, a real desperate boy is willing to fuck any obliging girl so everything already seems beautiful to him.
So I left all these toxic relationships I had with inordinate boys who had the nerve to tell me who I had to become.
I learned to laugh at the harsh comments thrown at me, because look—my mom didn't raise a little bitch who cries over them.
I slowly (but surely) started to find the real me.
The real me accepts what my body looks like, including the chubby thighs I used to hate and the broad shoulders that don't so attractive in off-the-shoulder tops.
The real me knows better than to fall for a fuckboy's elaborate compliments because I know they don't really mean it in the way that my future husband would mean it as.
And most importantly, the real me never ever lets some boy tell me what it means to be beautiful.
Because now I look in the mirror, and appreciate how real my body is, instead of pointing out all the parts I hate about it or how it looks nothing like the "dream body" screenshots stored somewhere deep in my iCloud storage.
Not all boys are going to love me, or my body for what it is. And that's ok. Because that won't ever stop me from being who I really am.