“You’d be so pretty if you were thin,” my aunt said. She had sat me down and shown me a picture my uncle had taken a week prior while my sister and I pretended to be models. I’m sure she thought that saying this to me as fragile 11 year old would somehow convince me to lose weight, despite the fact that I only ate what they, my mother, or the school gave me. Also, never mind that I ate the same and healthier things than my sister(she thought water was disgusting back then), but she was thin, so she was pretty. She was better.
I had noticed it my whole life. When I started to gain weight in second grade, people would always comment on how pretty she was and how mom would “have to chase the boys away when she got older.” I was conveniently ignored in those moments. I learned from those statements that I must not matter as much if I’m not as pretty, not as thin, because being me meant being ignored. Of course, this fact was only perpetuated by the children at school who liked to mock me for my weight and hand-me-down clothes and the teachers who weren’t as likely to show me attention. When you’re the only kid without a partner to dance the jitterbug in the 50’s play, you can only assume it’s because you’re lesser than. Well, I had a partner, but then he was given to some prettier girl. Lesson learned.
I’m not going to lie, I was awkward before high school. If there were any pictures still intact, I would show you one. I had no idea how to do my hair or how to dress. I think a good bit of us go through a stage like that. It sucks; it probably makes us more insecure than we need to be, and if we’re bullied, it makes us a lot more insecure than we need to be.
Following all of those negative experiences, I could do nothing more than hate the way I looked. I finally lost some weight when I was a junior in high school, but it was only through starving myself to try to make a boy like me. It was stupid. It was also a form of self-hatred. The worst part of it was that regardless of how much weight I lost, I still felt like I was fat. I was down to a size 4/6 and 120lbs. My sister was a size 2 and so were so many of my friends. Surely, I had to be fat if I didn’t look like them. I finally ended a week long “fast” when my sister told me she was concerned. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that “fast” wasn’t much more than me convincing myself I was fasting when I was really just trying to lose more weight to make someone else happy.
For a few years, I never went over a size 10, but the feelings of hatred toward my body were still there. It wasn’t until my amazing husband convinced me that my opinion of myself was self-destructive and not helpful to my endeavors, did I realize that a large portion of my issues weren’t going to go away no matter how thin I became. Am I overweight now? Yes, but I’m not so worried about how people look at me anymore. It’s freeing. Do I still want to change it? Absolutely!
Truth be told, I suck at running. Ask Katie Herron. She once tried to teach me to run. She gave up. I do not look normal when I run. We laugh about it now. Exercising is not my thing, and I probably won’t ever be a size 0 or even a 4, but I’m accepting that now. I can now see that the most important thing for me is to be healthy, both physically and mentally. My goal doesn’t need to be to be thin. My goal needs to be to learn to love myself and better myself for my own sake. I am now realizing that my worth is not my weight and that I am not lesser because I don’t look as “pretty” as I think I should. I am so much more than my appearance. It’s hard to believe that in a world where we’re often judged solely on that, but it’s true. What matters most is whether or not I can see myself as beautiful at any stage(I mean, I will age one day, even if I’m thin). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and my eyes are the ones that matter.
I think no matter what I do, I will probably still have to fight the feelings of insecurity, of thinking people don’t like me for some inexplicable reason that my mind will decide to create, but being aware of that issue helps me take control of it. I can vent, and I can work toward changing it. I’m going to go on and be the best I can be. I will fight my own negativity. I will rise above, and I will achieve health for my sake alone. I wouldn’t be so pretty if I were thin. I already am.