Growing up, it was easy for me to hate my body. My mother was incredibly fat phobic, not to mention the whole society of London private schools I grew up in. Everyone around me found fat people repulsive and disgusting. I wish fatist was a word, because it describes them exactly.
As a result, I hated my body for a long, long time. Those thoughts started young, crystalizing around the age of 8. I hated my butt. It was always too big, too round. I had too much thigh muscle. What made it far worse was that my younger brother called me fat. As much as I tried to fight it, that made me cry every single time. I remember one time, when I was 19, I came back from traveling where I had eaten whatever I wanted for three months. We took a family photo by the river with my mother, my aunt, my siblings and I. When we looked at the photo afterwards, they started laughing at me because of the way my stomach poked out of my shirt. I ran out of the restaurant we were sitting in and had a mini breakdown in the parking lot. I was starting university at the time, and with my mother’s encouragement, I stopped eating bread for the next two months to make sure I started college off thin. I wanted to be loved, and as far as I knew, being fat or having any curves at all made me completely unlovable.
How was I going to unbake myself from all this? From years of looking at Vogue Magazine spreads of stick thin “people” with flowing hair, showing off luxury clothes and cars and watches? How was I going to unbake the jealousy I felt towards girls at my school who had been scouted by modeling agencies? Anorexia and bulimia reigned supreme at my secondary school. The skinnier I was, the more lovable I was, I thought. It’s a miracle I never got further than teetering on neurotic dieting and drinking water to fill me up before lunch.
The answer came in 2015, my second year of university. I went on a camping trip with an outdoors group. There I tried acid, or LSD, for the first time. It was a great and magical and nourishing first trip. I took a tab with Mitchell Ravetsky, or Roosky as he was called, and Luke, a kind climber with geeky glasses, and the group leader, Indigo, a girl with a radiant soul. It was fall in that forest in Pennsylvania. The leaves were glowing orange and bright yellow, like stars. They glittered and shimmered across the rocks and hills and dappled waters of the reservoir. As we continued along the trail, the other students were completely befuddled as to why we were giggling so much.
As evening came, and we pitched our tents, I went off on my own to catch the last of the sunlight as it shone over the water. I crouched down beneath a tree and took in the astounding beauty of nature. I remember picking up a twig and looking at the tiny set of rings along one of its tiny branches and seeing a metropolis. A metropolis, a city, built in totally natural materials and trees. It was awe-inspiring.
Looking out over the water, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of compassion towards myself. I achieved such clarity in that moment: society had banned this drug, yet it was the same society that had taught me my whole life to hate my body, caused me to hate the only vessel I would ever inhabit in this earthly realm. Sitting comfortably beneath the tree, I felt along the smooth skin of my legs. I hugged my thighs. I gripped my butt, took in the fullness of its shape (luckily nobody came up the trail.) I gave my imperfect self, my physical form, love and appreciation for the first time. I gave myself what my world and my society had denied me. That acid trip cured much of my body issues for at least two years afterwards. Even though moments of light body criticism have crept back in, I have never felt that liquid hot self-hatred towards myself ever again.
Now, a couple mushroom ceremonies and deep trips inward later, I see the full scope of what started beneath that tree in that forest in Pennsylvania all those years ago, where the vibrant colors of autumn breathed new life into me. I realized that hating ourselves is profitable to society. It is profitable for us to buy beauty products and get procedures, as we strive to feel beautiful. It is profitable for society to make us feel like we need prestigious university degrees and job titles and money to build some semblance of status, so that we may be tolerable to others, and more than that, tolerable to ourselves. It is profitable for us to want more and feel like we need more. The more we feel that we are lacking, the more we try to fight the plague of our own inadequacies and the more money society makes.
I try to hold these thoughts with me often.