Body Image

“You’re too skinny” said my ex-boyfriend
“You’re not skinny enough” said the photographers
“Eat this, it’ll put meat on your bones” said my family
“Eat this, it’ll stick to your ribs” say my friends
“She looks anorexic” said the kids I grew up with
“Stop stuffing your bra” the girls in elementary school would say
Enough!!!!! I’ve heard enough.
My entire life I’ve had my body criticized. My. Entire. Life.
I’ve based my worth on the way that my body looks for the majority of my life and it’s taken a lot of work getting here – falling in love with myself. Let me start from the beginning though.
I’m Serbian and Scottish. Both sides of my family being big eaters. We ate a lot of meat and potatoes growing up. My family would criticize how much I’d eaten whether it be a lot or a little. The compliments I received at home were based on my appearance. I actually don’t recall my family calling me smart, patient or kind. My recollection of compliments from my family were always surface – based on the way that I look.
I grew up in a broken home where my parents had separated and both parents quickly moved on. It was an already tough time for me… Adjusting to this new norm of parents not being together and moving on with new people who have existing families of their own. All while growing into my body. I had attended 3 elementary schools until finally arriving to my fourth and final school in grade 3. I remember being excited and nervous. I was a shy kid to new people. Right off the hop, kids were mean to me and for no good reason. I was nice to everyone and yet felt like a complete outcast.
Fast forward to grade 6 when I started developing breasts. My grandma made my dad get me training bras because god forbid anyone know that a young girl is developing breasts, right? Anyways, that’s a whole other animal of a topic. I remember feeling so uncomfortable in my developing body – my grandma never had a daughter, and my mom was in school or working so I really didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to. It had been a long time since my grandma went through puberty and I couldn’t imagine that she’d relate. My dad’s girlfriend and I never got along, and her daughters were older but I was too embarrassed to ask them questions. So, I kept to myself. I held it all in.
I grew very tall, very fast and as a result was super lanky. My body was tall and lean. The kids at school would call me anorexic. I had one friend at school, her name is Holly. We were best friends and she was popular. I’m not sure if kids being mean to me stemmed from jealousy of me being her best friend or what? Either way they never gave me a chance.
So now I’m in grade 8, already insecure. My grandma told my dad I need a real bra now. Why she would send my dad to buy me a bra? I’m not sure. He came home with a padded bra that was white and silky. I remember it vividly. Anyways, off to school I go, wearing my real bra, just for the kids to say I’ve stuffed my bra… The next day a girl actually put balloons in her shirt to make fun of my chest and then she popped them and told me she’d do the same to mine. I ran home ashamed.
I couldn’t wait for elementary school to be over so I could start fresh in high school.
Come high school I quickly fell into the wrong crowd. Holly and I drifted apart and I started to get a lot of attention from boys. I longed for attention. To me, it didn’t matter whether the attention was the good or bad kind because it was attention. All I wanted was to feel liked by people. I did whatever I needed to do in order to fit in. I pretended to be someone I’m not.
I was a serial dater – always filling a void. An insecure, sad and very lonely girl.
High school was rough, and I’m not going to touch on it because majority of it has been blacked out in my mind. It was a very traumatic time.
Out of high school, I was approached to do some modelling and I jumped at the opportunity. Modelling was something I had always wanted to try despite my insecurities. Again, it was all about the attention for me.
Things were going great! I did all sorts of modelling and loved it. It actually helped me to feel empowered. And then social media really boomed. I started posting pictures of myself and my photo shoots. This was a great opportunity for me to network and get my name out there. I received a lot of validation from that. I was published in Playboy a couple of times which I was very proud of, and then it hit me. I remember thinking to myself “wow, I’m not always going to look like this…. I need to do something else”. I had relied on my appearance to get me by for so many years that I really didn’t know where to start.
Around the same time I had a bad breakup from an unhealthy relationship and put on weight. For the first time in my life I wasn’t considered thin. I wasn’t called anorexic or too skinny anymore. Instead I was called “thick” and was told I should lose some weight. Some would say that I “look[ed] healthy”… as if my natural healthy body didn’t look healthy before. Isn’t it strange how people feel so entitled to their opinion on YOUR body?! Most photographers were supportive of my body, but there were still some critical ones. I started to really hate the way I looked. I would ask photographers to photoshop my stomach, waist and hips. I tried fad diets, birth control pills, exercising. I felt like I tried everything. It felt like I couldn’t win – I was either too big or too small.
I was doing some promotional modelling on the side and that seemed like a sure thing so I rode that wave as long as I could. Clients would criticize the way I look, basing my worth on my hair, makeup and body. I had a retainer at the time and men would make really ignorant remarks about it. I felt stagnant. I felt like I was stuck in the vortex of trying to look a certain way for other people. But, it turned out that I’m pretty good at marketing.
I decided to go to school for Business Marketing and during my studies fell in love with yoga. I began volunteering at my local hot yoga studio in exchange for a free membership. It was then that I realized I could reinvent myself. I was so used to being who everyone else wanted me to be that I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I defined myself as thick or thin. When someone asked me my favourite part of myself, my answer was always surface. To my core I was just an insecure, lonely girl who wanted to feel loved. I didn’t realize that love starts within. Yoga really helped me to have this realization and I started to feel like I really had purpose. My existence wasn’t just about the way I look anymore.
I started practicing yoga regularly and the intentions that my now best friend would set for classes really opened my eyes. I felt loved. I felt seen. I genuinely believed that I found a space where I’m not only welcome, but appreciated for all that I am. And even more than that, celebrated for who I am. There was something about her seemingly poetic words and tone of voice that really resonated with me. She sounded strong and fierce yet soft and sweet. She inspired me.
And so, the journey of self-rediscovery began. I started crafting (something I LOVED as a kid), practicing meditation and yoga, eating a whole-food plant based, moved my living space around and I fell in love with myself. For the first time in my life, I decided to love myself. I chose me.I chose to not let other people dictate my worth. At the end of the day this body is my souls’ capsule – nobody else’s. Only I get to live in it. Yoga helped me to realize that my worth is not dependent on what other people think. My worth is dependent on what I think!!
Ever since I started living for me and my truth – honouring myself, my hobbies, my goals and aspirations, life has fallen into place. My worth is not dictated by the shape of my body anymore – I am so much more than this capsule, and so are you. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many challenges – obstacles – ebbs and flows when it comes to loving and honouring yourself. I genuinely believe that this is a life-long practice.
So here I am, writing this blog for you. I’m now a certified Yoga Instructor, Social Media Marketer, and I own a small online thrift store. I’m passionate about horticulture, art, animals, and space. I’m spiritual and soulful. I love me, all of me. My heart is so full, and I am responsible for that.
Repeat after me:
I am worthy of love
I am smart
My soul is gorgeous
This life is beautiful
My heart is big
I love me
I’m sending you love and healing energy.
Thank you for reading my blog entry. Thank you for opening your mind and heart to my story.
With love,
Kristina J
About Kristina Jovanovic @vatrawellness
Kristina is an outgoing, eccentric woman born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She has lived a number of lives within this current life, where she has learned many valuable lessons. Her intention with this life is ahimsa - doing no harm to others, and as a result Kristina is vegan and a yoga instructor. She aims to spread kindness, love and acceptance to all. Kristina studied business marketing in college and currently uses her knowledge to spread awareness about the things that she is most passionate about - animals, veganism, yoga, wellness, and sustainability.