I remember coming home in tears, hating myself over the fact that I’d been made fun of on the bus in middle school for my hairy legs. I remember wearing jeans even in the summer because my “thunder thighs” embarrassed me more than I was willing to expose. I remember purposely buying tight tank tops to wear underneath clothing to suck in my “gut.” I remember counting calories in a little blue notebook to the point of obsession, the point where I finally just had to say STOP, I’d rather keep the ten pounds then lose my sanity along with them. I remember wondering if boys wouldn’t date me, girls wouldn’t befriend me, because I was too heavy, too hairy, too ugly. Like millions of other people of all ages and sizes, I keep these thoughts locked deep within my heart; luckily for me, unlike many others, these thoughts are only memories.
Transitioning to college was a strange and exciting experience, however, the biggest change for me wasn’t sharing a room, spending so much time on out-of-class work, eating in a dining hall, or even being away from home… the biggest change for me was a mirror. At first it was funny: why would someone ever place a full length mirror in the bathroom, directly in line with our toilet? Then it was a bit annoying: why do I have to watch myself pee? Eventually, it became enlightening.
Every time I used the bathroom; to go to the toilet, to shower, to change… every single time I had to look at myself. At first, oddly enough, I was shy around myself. It seems silly but I spent those first few weeks focusing a lot of energy on avoiding the mirror, turning my back so I wouldn’t have to see the pounds of my body unclothed and unrestrained. Like a new relationship, slowly, I began to avoid eye-contact less, began to observe myself more and feel comfortable with the person staring back, become familiar with my unclothed, unhidden body; exactly as it was.
Over the next few months I began to see the pounds that some people in my life may feel are holding me back from being as “beautiful” as I could be, the weight that keeps me out of even size eight jeans. The funny thing was though, I didn’t have the animosity for that weight that they did. The more I looked the less I was even able to imagine myself thinner, let alone wish it. Yes my stomach may jiggle a little, my boobs may be highly uneven (as are my feet, my hands, and my eyes), my thighs may not be toned and tanned, but I’m perfectly the person I am supposed to be.
In my dresses, my jeans, my tee shirts, my pajamas… even without clothes to flatter and conceal; I feel pretty, I feel confident and I feel powerful. My body lets me take Jazz Dance Classes, walk to the dining hall or to meet friends, it lets me taste food when I’m hungry and drink chai, it lets me hug the people I love, it lets me write, it lets me take up space and get noticed, it lets me volunteer…. my body may not be the most coordinated, the strongest or the fastest but it’s mine and with it I can live a beautiful life.
In the end, I believe that accepting yourself has to be less about working towards that “perfect” body (in terms of weight, ability, or any other factor) and more about realizing how fantastic what you have already is. It’s about knowing you’re beautiful at any size and yes, there is nothing wrong with making lifestyle changes in order to be healthy and take care of your body in the way it deserves. However, these changes should not be made in the hopes of shedding pounds; they should be made in the hopes of shedding the things that hold us back from performing at our peak.
Society may hold this tanned and thin concept of beauty for centuries still to come, I don’t know, what I do know is that I no longer care what society wants me to see, what other people see. When I look in the mirror I see me, and I think I’m pretty damn awesome. I found my confidence, it’s time for you to find yours so look into that mirror and tell us: who do you see? If the answer isn’t someone beautiful, someone powerful… it’s time to look again, and again, and again until you can find that confidence, wheverver it may be hiding, and bring it right up front to where it belongs.