As a perfectionist, I know exactly what it’s like to not feel good enough. In my teenage years, I was obsessive over my body and my weight. What I’ve learned recently, however, is that your dress size, waist size, and weight shouldn’t matter. Instead of focusing on numbers, we should worry about being healthy and in shape instead. We are all born with different body types, so why should we all try to fit into an unrealistic mold of what the “perfect body” should look like? Whether you wear a size 1 or a size 18, you shouldn’t worry about how your body compares to others’. Your body is uniquely yours, so you should appreciate it and take care of it instead of shaming it.

When I was in the ninth grade, I wore a size 0. But, even at 107 lbs, I still wasn’t happy with my body. Why? Photoshopped images of celebrities in the media and strategically angled photos of Tumblr girls clouded my vision; I couldn’t see my body clearly. I obsessed over facial imperfections, my jawline, the little fat I had on my stomach, and having the infamous Tumblr “thigh gap.” At 107 lbs, people were still making fun of my body. In retrospect, all of it seems so ridiculous, but when you’re at the vulnerable age of 15 and surrounded by media that brainwashes you into hating your body, you start to believe what others tell you.

I’m not going to lie; I have gained a few pounds since the ninth grade. Not because I’ve been eating more or exercising less, but because my body has been changing. My hips are bigger than they used to be. I don’t have my “thigh gap” anymore. And in the beginning, I was way more stressed over it than I should have been. I didn’t feel as beautiful anymore. I felt like men wouldn’t find me as attractive. (And for the record, you should love your body for yourself, not for anyone else. Not for men. Not for women. Not for your family or friends. Only for you.)

Currently, I am in college, and I honestly don’t have the time to obsess over every single pound anymore. I don’t want to. I’ve realized that poor body image throws you into a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of. While I could spend my time counting calories and exercising for several hours per day, there are many other things I’d rather be doing. I’d rather spend time studying, hanging out with friends, writing, or making art. I still take time to go to the gym, but my body image doesn’t consume my life anymore like it used to. I’m healthy, and that’s what matters to me. That’s what should matter.

No, I don’t wear a size 0 anymore. Notice how I said “I don’t wear” instead of “I am not.” You are not your dress size, and your size doesn’t in any way define you unless you allow it to. Your passions define you. Your interests. What you love and what you hate. Your personality. These are the things you should focus on instead of obsessing over the digits on a scale or the size of your favorite dress.

I’m not telling you to skip the gym, and I’m not telling you to only eat fast food. You should absolutely take care of your body, but you should love it as much as you take care of it. Starving yourself to be unrealistically skinny isn’t healthy. Eating McDonalds every day isn’t healthy either. Love and care for your body, and it will love you back. I know it gets hard when people shame your size, but you have to do everything you can to not let it bother you because people will always have bad (and often untrue) things to say about those that they are jealous of.

If someone tells you that you are too skinny or too fat, too curvy or too bony, too big or too small, just try to remind yourself that your own opinion of yourself is what matters, not what other people think of your body. Your body might be what people see, but it’s only the surface of who you are as a person. I personally believe that people should always strive to be their best. That’s why I take care of my body, but I also try my best in other aspects of my life as well. You should, too. Great things come to people who work hard.

You are capable of so much, regardless of your size. And if you’re having the body image issues that I struggled with in high school, it’s time for you to realize your potential. Screw the scale. Screw the little printed numbers on the insides of your clothing. It’s time to focus on what’s really important: your happiness and success.

You are beautiful. Start believing it.

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