General Question

minniemau5's avatar

How does one learn to love their body regardless of its flaws?

Asked by minniemau5 (432points) February 24th, 2011

I am an 18 year old female and simply put – I hate myself. I guess I should mention that I am a cancer survivor and I experience a lot of late-effects from the chemo and radiation I received. I have ugly scars, my hair has never been the same, and surgeries and radiation have caused one side of my body to be noticeably larger than the other. I am 5’6” and I weigh 99 lbs, with a bmi of 16. I can’t look at myself in the mirror anymore without crying. I try and try to GAIN weight, but I end up losing – which just makes me hate myself more. I feel ugly, worthless, and gross. I’m tired of people calling me anorexic. I hate myself and it’s ALL because of my body. I can’t be intimate with my boyfriend because I am ashamed of how I look naked. How can you learn to love yourself and accept your flaws? I don’t even know if I can accept myself. Lately I’ve been having terrible thoughts about my cancer coming back and killing me this time. The terrible thing is, I kind of want that to happen at this point…

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10 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, Sweetie, at 18 this is a nightmare for you, I’m so sorry. I’m a cancer survivor, too, and parts of me don’t work right anymore because of it, but I’m 56 so I have a totally different take on it. I can only suggest counseling for you (which I’m sure you’ve heard before) but it can be very helpful. Simply surviving indicates that you have great strength, take some hope from that. I know I’m not being hugely helpful here, but I’ll be thinking about you.
I don’t know how long ago your treatment was, but it takes awhile for your body to recover and adjust.

filmfann's avatar

My wife is beautiful. I mean it: She is gorgous! She was in a beauty contest when she was 19. Her 2nd cousin is Marilyn Monroe. Yet all she does is complain about how fat her nose is, how unhappy she is with her legs, or how awful her teeth are.
The thing is I love her, and I don’t see any flaws. She is perfect, and she compains about issues that just aren’t there!
I haven’t met anyone who is happy with themselves. You may concentrate on what you percieve is a failing, but I bet no one else sees it, especially the ones who love you.

Soubresaut's avatar

Congratulations on beating it. That takes incredible strength… I’m the same age I can’t even imagine. Actually, I can’t imagine at any age..

The first thing you have to do, love, is stop calling them flaws. They’re not flaws, they’re effects; they’re battle-scars; they’re the marks of survival. Find another word.

I’ve never been through this—the closest is knowing two people to have had brain tumors at very young ages, and watching them go through their battles—so I don’t want to pretend to know what you’ve had to endure… but you survived. Take pride in that.

One of the two had to go through chemo, and her body did come back to “normal” after a while, so you may have to give it time, as hard as that is.

As for your boyfriend… he may be exactly what you need. He knows what you’ve gone through, no? He loves you, no? Maybe if you can open up a bit to him about your reservations, he can help you to love yourself again.
He can show you what he loves about you, why he thinks you’re beautiful and wonderful and so very amazing, and you can start to see yourself through his eyes.

A song for you

ette_'s avatar

The fact that you have already gone through so much in your life and are still here to tell the story shows so much of your strength.

I really believe that you can love yourself without looking too much at appearances simply by reminding yourself how amazing it is that you have CHOSEN to survive through something as devastating as cancer.

I can’t say that I’ve personally been through something like that, heck, I don’t even know if I would have been able to fight my way through it. So the mere fact that you are a SURVIVOR speaks volumes of your inner strength and beauty.

Please don’t give up—I agree with @JilltheTooth, counseling can help tremendously regardless of what it is that you need help with.

For me, overcoming physical “deficiencies” has come over time and with going through my own traumas, although none physical. My emotional state of mind was so fragile in the past that no matter what, I was never happy with my physical appearance. But the process of going through certain trials and realizing what is truly important in this life has really helped me to be okay for the most part with my body. Are there things that I wish I could change? Of course. I hate my calves, I am really short (5’0”), I think my nose is big, I really wish I could lose about 10–15 lbs because I have a lot of baby fat, I have a muffin top. I wear a Size 8 right now and I’m used to being a Size 2. But lately I don’t care as much because who I am is on the inside and that is what I want people to love me for. And that is what I am trying to love myself for.

I know that was a bit of a ramble but hang in there. The Fluther community can be a great place.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t know, I’m still working on it.

blueiiznh's avatar

I see why you are carrying your fear and anger over all that has happened or what you fear will happen.
On the other side, you did provide your own answer. It is about acceptance.
Acceptance is not easy in all you have gone through at such an age. Each day, let alone moment is a battle and struggle.
The truth is that you have the power and will to see yourself as the beautiful person that you are. Your will to beat it all will carry you through it all. You have a story to tell and can bring strength to others in standing tall and helping others who may have just begun their battle and journey.
Yes cancer sucks!
Talk to others in a support group or in a forum that can help turn yourself and show others how strong you are and need to be to kick cancers arse.

Pandora's avatar

Its a horrible thing to go through at such a young age but I’ve always believed that the hardships we endure help to make us beautiful from the inside out. No doubt that is what your boyfriend appreciates as well. He doesn’t see what you see. He sees someone who is of supreme value inside and out.
I’ve known a few cancer survivors who had drastic changes but after a few years everything went back to normal. Give yourself some time. Your body has healed from the cancer but now it needs time to heal from the treatments.
I have a large appendix scar that I hated most of my young life but I see it now as a battle scar. I almost lost my life but that scar is and always will be a reminder to me that life isn’t always easy and can be scary at times but I can either choose to let it wear me down or I can fight back and win and stand tall.
Walk with your head tall. What you’ve gone through takes a really strong woman to go through and win. You simply have nothing to be ashamed of. Death came knocking and you kicked it in the ass. No doubt it felt like a dirty alley fight and you came out banged up and a bit muddied but with time and a little bit luck you will go from a caterpillar to a butterfly. You just have to believe it is possible.
In the mean time remember that people see what is in front of them. If you believe you are not attractive than they will too. Your hair may be different than what you are use too, but own it.
I had a friend who went though chemo and shaved all her hair off. It was beautiful. But I realized without makeup or hair, she had the most dazzling smile and soft voice. These were things I didn’t realize before with the hair and makeup. She actually looked quick plain before but during the cancer treatments I saw more beauty coming from her than before. Before she was just like everyone else. Her strength was a beautiful thing to see as well. Watching her fight for her life was special. She never complained. Simply appreciated everyday she was here.
Don’t sell yourself short.

Meego's avatar

WOW, you survived that itself is beautiful! My father’s cancer got to him in a year. Your scars are from your battle to survive, you should be proud that you are still alive. I am really sorry you have had to go through what you have, I’m also sad you feel different about life now, you shouldn’t hate yourself, you fought a long battle I KNOW YOU CAN LOVE YOURSELF JUST THE WAY YOU ARE, every alive and vibrant part of yourself. You need a pick me up, a positive in your life, and you know honey your body might have changed on the outside, but your passion and strength and will to live still thrive each waking moment as they did when you were sick. I think your great just for facing a challenging sickness, I also bet it’s really only you that has those thoughts. It will take time to feel better.

gm_pansa1's avatar

Um, I’ll get back to you with an answer as soon as I start thinking about my body’s flaws.

The Fat Girl


Mariah's avatar

Hi – this question is a little old, but I’m just now seeing it, and really wanted to respond. Sorry for the lateness. I have very much been drawn to the questions you’ve been asking lately – I am so sorry about everything you’re going through.

I’m 18 too, and while I’m no cancer surviver, I have had some pretty major health troubles. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 14, and I had surgery to cure me of it a few weeks ago. The effects of the disease are visible on me, too. I have stretch marks all over my butt and thighs from steroids. I am skinny, not quite as skinny as you – 5’4” and 94 pounds. I’ve had rashes on and off that are related to the disease. When I’m on steriods my face gets (temporarily, thankfully) very very round (they call it “moon face”). And now from my surgery, my belly is going to be very, very scarred. But, I’m not ashamed of how I look. @DancingMind said it best – these are our battle scars. They show that we’ve been through shit much worse than most people our age can imagine. The strength of character and the maturity that your “flaws” as you call them indicate is much more attractive than outward beauty!

I’d be a hypocrite if I pretended that those body image issues are easy to get over. I’m struggling a bit more these days than I have in the past because of my surgery. It’s a 3 step surgery, and I’m between the first two steps right now, so in the meantime I have a temporary ostomy. Yeah – there is a little chunk of small intestine sticking out of a hole in my abdomen, and I wear a bag over it. I have a bag of poop hanging from my stomach all the time. Not sexy. I’m lucky in that mine is temporary, but some people have these permanently and it’s quite a thing to get over. But, people do. I think, again, the main thing is having pride over what you have done – the story behind those “flaws.” Don’t be embarrassed about your story – be proud!

You can do it, you’ve done so much harder things! Don’t stop fighting!

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