“When you’re a girl, every body is similar. When you’re a woman, every body is completely unique.”

Quite recently, I realised something very important. This realisation changed not only how I felt about my body, but also how I thought about my personality and my future. It gave me both contentment and drive, and has made for an altogether happier me. That realisation is this: at the age of twenty four, I am a woman and not a girl. Yeah, so maybe that does sound a bit daft, but let me explain.

When I was a girl, I was an acrobat and a diver. I was required to train daily at home, and every day at either the pool or in the gym, or both. I was very flexible and strong, and thin too. But even then I would pull out bits of skin on my stomach thinking it was fat. I would cover my thighs in shorts when the others would be comfortable in leotards, and I would wrap a towel around myself the moment I got out of the pool.

Because of all the training, I saw the girls at school begin to change shape long before I did. Where they had breasts and hips, I had the straight-up-and-down body I had always had, and I was fine with that. When my breasts eventually did develop, I was embarrassed by them and was glad that they were small. The body that I wore until I was around eighteen was slim, almost entirely curveless, and small-chested – a girl’s body.

Of course, once all the training stopped, that quickly changed. It was like my body breathed a great big sigh of relief and just got comfy. My weight began to fluctuate, my boobs grew, I began to develop a more feminine figure, and I lost muscle tone. I wasn’t happy and I damn sure wasn’t going to accept it, so I locked the fact of the matter away into a box and set myself into a weird form of denial. Somewhere in my subconscious I decided my body was just bizarre and nothing would look good on it anyway. I dressed masculine and had a masculine haircut, unwilling to match my outward appearance to this body I had been lumped with.

My first big wake-up call came when being measured for a bra when I was twenty two. My B-cups, it turned out, were actually a very squashed pair of Ds. It felt like the end of the world! No more hiding these bloody things, I thought. But that day of shopping with my mum really opened my eyes to the nonsense in my head; all that had changed was my perceived bra size, and only in my mind. The bra lady had hit me with what I was shutting my eyes to. My boobs were not going to change, I realised, but my mindset sure could.

The first time someone calls you a ‘lady’, as in “Mind you don’t bump into that lady”, is pretty weird. And for me the first time I called myself a woman was pretty weird too. But the word fits me now. I am an adult woman, and it’s high time I got used to it.

I like my body. It works the way I want it to. There are some achy bits and little nicks and scars, and always a bruise or five, but they are all there because of something that I did with it. I can do some cool little party tricks with it, and I absolutely adore its tastebuds. I could live without the spots, but I can also live with them, and I’d hate it if I didn’t have cracky knuckles and toes. I would like to lose a little weight and tone up, but I won’t suffer for it – I’m working on it in a way that I really enjoy. There’s nothing better than drying off naturally and nakedly in bed when you get out of the shower, and when I look in the mirror, I’m happy with what I see.

As for comparing myself to others, we all do it, and again it is something I’ve come to accept as fact. In a way, it is comforting to know that while I might wish I had her long legs, she might wish she had my eyes. We’ve all got best bits, and we’re all our own worst critics.
I love to be naked with my boyfriend. I enjoy the closeness and intimacy of it, it makes me feel sexy and free. But I have no desire to spend any length of time naked in a group. I admit I would probably feel quite uncomfortable in such a situation, but I don’t foresee group nudity in my future, so that discomfort is unlikely to hold me back. As yet, none of my platonic relationships have been sullied by a lack of nudity, and though I bet it is an amazing feeling to overcome that fear, it simply isn’t something I’ve ever really felt an urge to do. Maybe one day I will, or maybe it takes guts that I just haven’t got. Either way, I’m cool with it.

When you’re a girl, every body is similar. When you’re a woman, every body is completely unique. Embracing that has made the world of difference to me. I will never be so confident with what I’m rocking that I go shouting it from the rooftops, but that isn’t what I need. All I need is to feel good in myself, and I do.

by an anonymous woman, aged 24

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