Am I Fat or Are My Eyes Playing Tricks?

I look at my stomach in the mirror each morning and all I see is fat. But I am told by everyone I know that I am skinny as a stick. Do your eyes play tricks on you when you look down at your stomach or is everyone trying to be nice to me?
Becca*

You may think that people are just being nice. But with such a big difference between what you see in the mirror and what others see, something else could be going on. It might mean that the "fat" you see is not as much as you think it is, and that others hardly notice it.

During adolescence, female bodies go through lots of normal changes, including storing a little more fat. As with any change, this may take some adjustment. It can feel strange getting used to living in a body that's different from the one we used to have. It can be tempting to compare ourselves with all the other bodies we see, whether they're those of classmates or people on TV. But people come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Learning to love and accept our bodies ("imperfections" and all) helps our self-esteem stay strong. Perhaps you're being too hard on yourself, too self-critical, and noticing only the things about your appearance that you aren't satisfied with. By paying so much attention to this one thing, you're giving it more emphasis than it deserves. That can chip away at your overall body image.

Having a distorted body image hurts more than just ourselves. It can affect our relationships, too. Perhaps your friends are growing tired of hearing you talk about your belly — especially if they think you have nothing to worry about. It can be hard for people (even really good friends) to constantly hear others put themselves down or look for reassurance about their appearance.

What can you do to adjust to your changing body? Instead of focusing so much on appearance, focus on eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise. Appreciate your body for what it can do, notice the things you like, and pay attention to developing your inner beauty, too. Taking these steps will help set the stage for a lifetime of appreciating, rather than feeling insecure about, your body. And that will help you look and feel more self-confident!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: April 2010

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