Do you have a habit of putting your body down? Maybe you spend hours picking at blemishes in the mirror or comparing yourself to other girls around you or online. It’s possible that self-criticism has become so normalized you may not even realize that you’re doing it.
Beginning at puberty, we experience dozens of physical changes from head to toe. When we notice these changes in others, we tend to draw comparisons. That being said, each female body was designed to blossom differently. Nonetheless, we become inclined to scrutinize and criticize every detail of our bodies. Accordingly, as our bodies change, so can our self-image.
But our formative years are when we’re just starting to figure out who we are and who we want to be. It’s with great hope that we all strive to be happy and healthy through good self-esteem and self-worth. This is only possible if we recognize, understand, and accept our different features. Much like plants, each body grows in its own unique way but is still beautiful and worth celebrating and admiring. We’re here to let you in on what you need to know about hormonal body changes during this time in your life and how you can love and accept your body through it all.
The first thing we typically observe in the mirror is our face – especially if we have acne. Acne is the most common skin condition in the nation. Almost everyone experiences some breakouts in the course of their lives. Acne comes in many forms: blackheads and whiteheads, papules and pustules, as well as nodules and cysts. These blemishes can pop up in more places than just our face. They can appear on our neck, chest, shoulders, and back too. It’s extremely common for girls to encounter acne breakouts due to hormonal changes, like beginning their menstrual cycle
However, it’s easy to forget just how normal blemishes are when we see pictures all around us of girls with “flawless” and “clear” skin. Although acne isn’t harmful to our physical health, it can most certainly take its toll on our mental and emotional health. Instead of trying to conceal or hide your acne, embrace it! Start by making positive changes to the things you surround yourself with regularly, like social media. Delete photo retouching apps on your phone and avoid using filters on your photos that give a false sense of what normal skin is. Your self-esteem will thank you! If you find that you’re still comparing yourself to others, unfollow any social media accounts that make you feel “less than” and replace them with body-positive accounts that promote self-love.
When exploring the different changes that come along with puberty, body hair is one that can cause some unsettling feelings. As you develop, you will likely notice more hair growing in new places, like your legs, underarms, and pubic area. Despite its taboo connotation, body hair is a good thing – it’s a sign that puberty is right on track! Not to mention that pubic hair, in particular, acts as the first line of defense against UTIs and yeast infections by preventing the transmission of bacteria
Body hair might be concerning still for some girls, especially if it’s excessive or growing in less conventional areas such as your face, chest, and stomach. In this case, it may be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a common condition of females that can cause other health problems, including irregular or missed menstrual periods. So it’s important to express these concerns to a doctor who may suggest you try hormonal birth control pills (also known as combination pills). Our ovaries make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These regulate our menstrual cycle. Our ovaries also make androgens, which can be responsible for unwanted hair growth. Hormonal birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin can balance out your hormones to reduce hair growth and regulate your period.
In any case, body hair can serve as a reminder to take care of your body for you and your health. Not for the approval or acceptance from anyone else! Whether you choose to let it grow or let it go, good hygiene and health precautions should be at the forefront. If you embrace your body hair, keeping your skin clean can prevent the buildup of oil, dead skin cells, and other things that can clog hair follicles and cause ingrown hairs. Likewise, if you decide to shave, talk to a trusted adult about the best shaving practices to avoid any “bumps in the road,” like ingrown hairs that can lead to infections.
Growth and Development
Speaking of estrogen, it’s also the hormone behind the growth and development of your breasts, which is one of the first signs of puberty. Because of our unique genetic makeup, breast size varies between every girl. Keep in mind that everyone’s body develops at a different rate, and all size breasts are perfectly acceptable! It’s also normal to experience growing pains while your breasts are developing. Protecting and supporting your breasts with a good first bra can help with discomfort. Girls whose breasts are less developed may consider a training bra or sports bra. Those who have developed further may choose a bra with a soft cup. It’s important that your bra is comfortable and fits correctly to allow your breasts to grow properly!
Along with breast development, you will also notice growth spurts in both your height and weight, as well as a curvier shape to your body. Not only are these changes normal, but they are also a healthy sign of development! Your body is producing more fat to allow for fuller hips, thighs in order to support your body as it grows. Because of this sudden growth, it’s also quite common to have stretch marks. As the name implies, your skin stretched quickly to accommodate your body’s changes.
You may even notice the development of cellulite. Cellulite is just fat storage underneath our skin that can create the appearance of a lumpy, uneven surface. Everyone has some fat under their skin, and cellulite during puberty is, like all other changes, normal and healthy! Despite what society leads us to believe, cellulite isn’t extra fat; but rather a shift in how and where our bodies store fat now that we’re growing
Let’s be honest; it can be challenging to welcome these changes to our bodies at first. The most beneficial thing you can do for yourself is to find the good in all of it! Focus on all of the things you appreciate and like about your body. You might say things like, “I love that my body is growing because it means I’m getting stronger, which lets me run faster, jump higher, and dance more!” Don’t let comparisons put a damper on your body-image or cause you to neglect your body’s needs. It can help to remind yourself: “I will fuel my body with the love and nutrients it needs. I deserve a healthy body and no one’s going to take care of it except for me!”