Iliana Oikonomu (Greece):
While you grow up, you have a lot of people telling you what’s right and what’s wrong. What’s okay and what isn’t. And all these “rules”, all this ‘musts’ and ‘mustn’ts’ are based on society stereotypes, and what is consider a trend. But those things, those stereotypes, change over the eras which really makes me wonder; Is there really a right thing after all? Is there a thing that should apply to everyone?
And why should we all look, talk, act and think the same way? Every human, every single person, is different but it often seems we try to put them all in a bag and make them clones of each other. Where are their beliefs and since when ‘feminism’ is a trend and not a way of thinking and living? These things occurred to me a lot and I’m happy to finally be able to share my story.
Growing up, I’ve been no exception of people judging me for the clothes I wore or the way I talked or walked. Even as a kid I had to take hard criticism about my style, my hair, my weight and even things I had no control over, as my height. My clothes were too ugly. I was too short, too skinny.
Even my family insisted my weight wasn’t healthy, that I was underweight and I should eat more when for that part of my life, that was just my body type and there was nothing I could really do to change it. Growing older and getting into high school, my body had changed completely. I started having curves and I was getting thicker, something that pleased a lot my family, but it seemed, not society.
When I was finally starting to feel confident with my (finally) curvy and more woman-like body, I started getting called fat. They started telling me tips about the perfect weight and looking weirdly at me when I was eating a simple sandwich. I started seeing pictures in magazines of girls being extra thin.
Social media at that time were going crazy about the new trend, thigh gap, trying to give you advice on how to achieve that perfect empty space between your legs. At that point I decided to eat less. Cut down some of my calorie intake, eat healthier. The results weren’t fast though and my family started complaining once again about me eating “nothing at all”.
Even though I completely changed my eating habits there was no big difference. I got rejected by people I liked for my weight. I’ve never been overweight. Just thick.
Long story short, after a series of circumstances I only ate one tiny meal a day. I was getting not only thinner but also weaker. I was dizzy. I had no power to do anything. I didn’t want to go out because people might make me eat something and then I’d feel guilty about it. Still it wasn’t enough for me.
I only wanted to fit in. Fit in that size zero dress.
People then started saying I’m too skinny. That I should eat something. That I don’t look healthy and that I was better the way I looked before. And then it clicked. No matter how I look or what I do, people will always want me to look different. And that I just shouldn’t care.
I should just try to feel comfortable in my own skin. And that was my next goal. Not losing one more pound, not grow a gap between my thighs. I reached the weight I wanted and that I still keep, and I worked on feeling comfortable like that.
Trying to love myself for what I am because in the end that’s all that matters. To be healthy. And the times changed and the next trend was thick girls that are working out and are fit. And even though I fit in that new description of the “perfect body” I know there are girls out there that are naturally skinny, just because they’re built this way.
And I want to say to every girl to stay just the way they are. That’s my message. To stay as you are and love it. Because you’ll never be enough for society, unless you’re enough for yourself first.
Don’t fit in in new trends that most times are unhealthy. We’re all different, and that’s our power. Our uniqueness! I was lucky enough to get out of this situation alive but also stronger. If you’ve ever felt targeted because of your weight please share your story and feelings about it. This is about #SharingNotShaming
(Iliana’s story was published as part of Sharing not Shaming campaign by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org)