It’s Only Been One Year

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.

~Sara

Image Isn’t Everything, But It Counts

So, I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff recently about Colbie Caillat’s music video for her new song “Try”. There is so much heated debate in the comments that it’s not even funny, but most of the arguments I see on different websites generally have the same premise. On one side, the song is being praised by those supporting the message they interpret as “accept yourself for who you are” and “don’t feel the need to conform to society’s standards”. On the other hand, it’s being argued that it’s promoting the idea that you can neglect your appearance and expect to be treated like a hero, while gaining the right to bash others who do work at and take pride in how they look.

I’m not really certain where I stand in this argument, but I would probably say somewhere in the middle. I can see the points from both sides. It does seem to me that the message deals with accepting yourself and taking pride in who you are regardless of what other people say, but the way the song conveys it is a little confusing.

In the beginning of the video, all the women are wearing makeup, but they gradually start taking it off and everyone seems to feel a lot better afterwards. Everyone is happier without their makeup, but Caillat’s still wearing lipgloss at the end. I could see how maybe that could be interpreted as “feel free to make yourself feel beautiful, just don’t feel like you have to put in ungodly amounts of effort to conform to beauty standards”, but no one else is wearing makeup except Caillat. That’s a little confusing for me. The lyrics add onto that a bit, too. Some of them are “Why should you care what they think of you?” and “Do you like you?”, which totally fit the positive message argument, but the fact that “You don’t have to try” is the thing repeated the most throughout the song does add fuel to the other side.

Now like I said before, I’m not really taking one of the two sides because I can understand both arguments and agree with points from both sides. I’m going to stand in the middle, which is more or less where my opinion is anyway. I’m all for accepting yourself and being proud of who you are. I’m all for not giving in to society’s outrageous beauty standards just because you feel you need to in order to fit in. However, I am not in any way for putting someone else’s idea of what’s beautiful down just because they don’t agree with yours.

If you don’t need to wear eye shadow or lipstick in order to feel pretty, by all means don’t. If you don’t want to fry your hair with curling irons or straighteners and douse it in layers of hairspray, that’s fine, too. If you are comfortable with your body, whether it be heavier or lighter than someone else’s, that’s great. Just don’t look at the Body Image Movement as an excuse to forego effort and get treated like a hero. Don’t use it as an excuse to let yourself go. Don’t just expect that you can hit the far side of the spectrum and be able to have a comfortable life, because like it or not the world doesn’t work that way. You can’t just walk into a job interview in sweats and get mad when you don’t get the job. Regardless of how happy you are with yours, image does count in the world and there’s a sense of decorum that everyone has to honor.

On the other hand, don’t feel like you have to try abnormally hard and then beat yourself up because you don’t look like a model. Heck, with all the photoshopping and airbrushing they go through before they hit the front page, models don’t even look like models. Coating your face in layers of makeup and starving yourself is just going to make you miserable. After you realize you’re not going to be able to look like that girl in the magazine, you’ll just regret going to those extreme measures even more.

There’s a happy medium here. If you don’t like wearing makeup, don’t wear makeup, but if wearing some makes you feel better and more confident, go for it. Use your clothes to express yourself, just don’t wear sweats or stripper clothes everywhere. Be happy with your weight, just be mindful of your health. If you want to change something about yourself, do it because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

Personally, I have little to no skill with “girly” things. My hair has a mind of its own, so I just let it do its own thing, and the most makeup I can handle is some eyeshadow and mascara. I prefer t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. I have struggled for so long with my weight and I still have a lot of issues, and I’m working on that, but right now I am who I am and I’m going to own it.

So find your happy medium. Figure out what beautiful means to you and embrace it, but don’t judge others for what it means to them. Your image is one of your greatest tools of expression, so respect yourself and show the world who you are. Be mindful of the extremes, though.

I’m going to end this by sharing some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I was feeling down about myself and the fact that I didn’t have that many friends, wondering what I was doing that was making people not like me. My dad understood. He told me that he worried about me a lot because I was so much like him and he knew what I was going to go through due to our shared personalities. He also told me that eventually I was going to realize that it doesn’t matter how much other people like me as long as I like myself. He said he hated this phrase so much, but it served the purpose perfectly nonetheless. “You do you.” And I laughed at the pure absurdity of that coming out of my dad’s mouth, but I’ll never forget it. As long as I know I’m doing what I think is right and that I’m being myself, then I know I’m going to be okay.

And so ends this extremely long post. Thanks for spending some time on me, now go spend some time on you. Go on, go have some fun. You do you, Internet.

~Sara