Today I looked in the mirror and for the first time in a very long time I wasn’t ashamed of what I saw. And I cried.
I can remember being unhappy with how I looked as far back as fifth grade when my jeans started getting tight. I would beat myself up because I wasn’t a straight line like the rest of my friends. I was more the kind of line that you get when you draw with a sharpie and hesitate and let the ink bleed. Nothing I wore was sleeveless because I didn’t like my arms and I didn’t wear skirts or shorts because my legs were too big.
It got worse when I started high school. I was shy and quiet, only a handful of friends, and I blamed my appearance for that. All the popular girls were skinny and had loads of friends and confidence to boot, at least on the outside. I was just as good as them, so naturally the only thing holding me back was the fact that I didn’t look like them. So I decided to change that. Towards the middle of my freshman year I joined the tennis team and I worked my ass off, literally. I lost twenty-five pounds in four months and I was so happy because for once I started to see myself as pretty. And then everything stopped when an older girl shoved me in the hallway and called me ugly Betty. I cried for an hour after that.
I feel so bad when I think of that. It was just one comment from one girl whose name I didn’t even know and I let it completely shatter every bit of self-confidence and appreciation that I had built through months of hard work. I feel like I should’ve been stronger, like I should’ve been able to handle that better, but I can’t really blame myself for simply being in the headspace I was back then.
I became obsessed with my weight after that. I would get on my scale at least four times a day, usually more, and I would just stare at the screen and hope the number would be different from what it was an hour ago, but it never was. I hated that thing. I remember one night after dinner I went into the bathroom and stared at the toilet, contemplating whether or not I should throw up. To this day I’m certain that I would have if it hadn’t have been for the fact that we only had one bathroom in the house and eventually someone would’ve found out. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on with me. I didn’t want anyone to look at me like they felt sorry for me.
After that first night in the bathroom I went back countless other times. I would stare at the toilet and I would be tempted. Sometimes I would cry, other times I wouldn’t, and eventually I would go back into my room. And then I had enough. I put the scale up on a shelf and closed the toilet lid and decided to pretend that they didn’t exist. I wasn’t in the least bit close to being comfortable with how I looked, but I figured I would probably start feeling better about myself if I pretended that scale didn’t exist.
So I tried my best for the next two years to push my weight out of my mind and focus on better things instead. I applied to schools, said goodbye to my friends, and headed off to college after a much anticipated graduation. My life completely changed after I stepped onto campus. I became friends with amazing people I never imagined I’d meet, I found my independence. I fell in love. I don’t know exactly how I did it, but over the course of the year I took advantage of the blank slate that college offered me and I changed myself.
The thing I’m most proud of is my wardrobe. I went to college with one pair of jeans and a slew of baggy boy t-shirts and now, a year later, I own nothing but dresses. They’re all sleeveless, too. Fifth grade me would cringe. But every morning when I put one on I look at myself in the mirror and I think of her and marvel at how far I’ve come. I wish I could talk to fifth grade Sara and tell her that she doesn’t need to be ashamed of who she is. I wish I could show her the pretty dresses that I wear and tell her how happy I am and show her that she’s going to be okay.
Yesterday I voluntarily stepped on a scale for the first time in three years. I was utterly astounded when I saw that I lost 30 pounds since my doctor’s appointment in January. I didn’t even realize it was happening. I fell asleep confused, went to the mirror this morning, and I cried. As happy as I thought I was, I didn’t realize just how unfair I was still being to myself. I looked in the mirror this morning and what I saw was so drastically different from what I saw yesterday that I can hardly believe it’s only been one night. It’s incredible.
I don’t really know what else to say now. I’ve caught up to the present, so there’s not much else I can share. A big part of the reason I wrote this was to let someone know because I’m that kind of excited where you need to share with somebody, but I hope somebody out there will find it helpful. I say that a lot when I write these kinds of posts, but I really do. If I can let someone know now what I wish I could’ve told myself years ago and help them out, then I would be so happy. I hope you see how beautiful you are.