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The Daily Tar Heel

A tiny bit of advice: New immigration policy gives hope to students without documents

This column is part of a summer series that will focus on college-aged men and women’s perceptions of beauty and body image issues.

When I was 7, my pediatrician told my younger brother that he would grow up to be 6 feet tall, very big and strong. Turning to me, the doctor said, “And you will always be tiny! Maybe 5 feet 2.”

This is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be big and strong like my brother, who was already a head taller than me. To me, tiny people were only good for squeezing into small places during hide and seek.

In elementary school, I was always the smallest kid in my class and the last to grow out of Gymboree clothes. Adults talked to me as if I were in kindergarten, even though I was a third grade graduate. I was the runt, the shorty, the pipsqueak and I hated it.

I spent my preteen years stuffing my face and trying outrageous lengthening stretches so that I could start wearing cool clothes from teenager stores. (Oh, how I want to tell 12-year-old me, no! Stay away from Aeropostale!) I was all about getting bigger and taller. Nothing worked, and I grew into a tiny adult.

I needed to be 5 inches taller, I needed sexier curves, I needed anything but what I had.

Then I moved to Chapel Hill, where all of the girls seemed to be obsessed with making their bodies as miniscule as possible. I had never seen so many body-conscious girls in one place as I did in my dorm freshman year. I’d be eating late-night Qdoba or Gumby’s with my friends and suddenly I was under attack:

“I can’t believe you just ate all of that.” “I hate you for never going to the gym.” “I’m a house compared to you.”

Once, I was paid a most vicious compliment: “We can’t all have perfect bodies like you.”

I was stunned. First of all, the person who complimented me had a perfect body. She was healthy and curvy, she could run a mile without keeling over — unlike me — and she had flawless skin. Secondly, I was me. I was a twig with frizzy hair and big teeth.

She thought I had a perfect body, and I thought she had a perfect body, but we were both unhappy. So does anybody like his or her own body? I’ve had conversations like the one above a thousand times, and it’s time for the crisis of self-consciousness to end.

I’m not sure how we get out of the rut of hating our bodies. It seems that no matter what, we always think we’re too fat, too thin or too short. We’re too light, too dark or — to quote “Mean Girls” — our hairlines are weird.

I’ve resorted to an old trick. Before I hit the town or go to class, I remind myself of everything I like about my body. That hair isn’t frizzy, it’s curly and voluminous. You aren’t a twig, you’re petite. And when I see any of my beautiful, healthy and talented friends, I remind them of all of their fabulous features, both inside and out.

If you’re rolling your eyes at this suggestion, give it a try. Even a small way to celebrate your body might make you feel big and strong, in all the good ways.

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