The Parasite That Lives in My Brain

Knowing better can’t silence my inner body-shaming critic.

Laura Todd Carns
4 min readMar 11, 2021


Image by i yunmai via Unsplash

I am ashamed to admit the deep and abiding prejudice that dwells in my soul. I feel tainted by it, this voice of doom inside my head, constantly delivering unasked-for judgement. It is a burden I lug with me everywhere I go, the effort of dragging it along unwelcome and unnecessary. But it’s not some demon I can see and battle. The call is coming from inside the house. The monster is me. A steady stream of criticism floods my brain: you will never be thin enough, you will never be pretty enough, you will always be lacking.

I pretend not to hear it. I pretend not to care. Here is the paradox I learned as I grew from girl to woman: you must be constantly attentive to your appearance without ever appearing to be. Don’t be vain, don’t be materialistic. Do be effortlessly beautiful, effortlessly thin.

I know better. I am a strong, intelligent woman after all. I can let go of these outdated societal expectations of female beauty as easily as shedding last year’s fashion trends. Can’t I? Diet culture is so passé.

I refuse to be a casual victim of the patriarchy. I refuse to be a pawn, manipulated by whole industries relying on my self-hatred. I can say these things, and believe them, and it’s still not enough.

No affirmation is a strong enough antidote to the poison that has infected my mind.

I am conscious of the caloric price of every bite of food I eat. Every morning I weigh myself like a woman playing a slot machine, willing the numbers to go smaller. When they do, I feel triumphant, virtuous, like I am walking around with winnings in my pocket. When the numbers go up, I scrutinize everything I’ve eaten in the past day, judging myself all over again.

Family photographs slip by on a display in our kitchen, reminders of vacations and birthday dinners and school concerts. We marvel at how small and cute the kids look, remember the wind on the beach that day. And in each photo in which I appear, I am judging my worthiness. Oh, my face looked so much thinner then. Why was I wearing a sleeveless top, my upper arms are horrifying. Ugh, look how you can see the curve of my belly in that bathing suit. I do not say these thing…



Laura Todd Carns

Freelancer & fictioneer. Contributor to Medium pubs Human Parts, GEN, Curious; bylines elsewhere in WaPo, Quartz, EL, The Lily & more.