The warm July sunlight beamed through the white curtains carefully hung over my windows on to the carpet in my room making it almost too warm to bare beneath me as I stared at my reflection in the mirror on top of my dresser that was beautifully accented with dark brown wood and oak borders. I so willingly picked this dresser out from the furniture store I went to with my parents when we first moved into this house. I seemed to be staring at my own reflection in a mirror that was flawed itself. As it slumped slightly and imperfectly over where it was supposed to with marks on it from the times I wore mascara and the brush met the mirror as I attempted to apply it as perfectly as possible on to my eye lashes; hoping that people at school wouldn’t point out how spidery they appeared.
There I was staring at myself into that flawed mirror with all of its marks and accents, slowly and carefully observing all the things I wanted to change about myself. I thought changing these things would bring me joy and satisfaction. I thought these changes would make me beautiful on the outside and they would make me feel beautiful on the inside. I lifted the shirt I was wearing with a large white flower plastered on it and in disgust I stared at my stomach. I moved back to see if that would change the way I saw my stomach, but it didn’t. I gradually started moving closer to the mirror, I took two steps before I stepped into the sunlight beaming through my window, almost burning my feet. I moved closer and closer to the mirror with my shirt lifted and clumped into my hands. There I was as close as I could be to the mirror, staring at myself, in anguish at all the dark hairs on my stomach that the sun seemed to make ten times darker. I wrapped the lower half of my shirt through the low neck of my shirt, so my stomach was bared towards the mirror and my hands were free to feel the bumps forming on my stomach and while I squeezed the roles I despised. I squeezed the fat on my stomach and observed the way it looked as I squeezed, while doing this I pictured all the girls I went to school with that were so skinny, with no rolls like the ones my body formed. In that moment I wish I could just grab the scissors off my desk and just cut all of that fat off. It would be the easiest fix but this thought followed the image in my head of a blood bath on the carpet beneath me and before I could come out of this thought I found myself sobbing while I clutched the skin on my stomach in my hands that I thought was too much fat.
I remember this summer so vividly but so clearly at the same time. I vividly remember enjoying it, but I clearly remember dreading it. Dreading the beaming heat of the beautiful Canadian summers because I would have to wear shorts and tank tops that would reveal more skin then I was comfortable with. I remember so clearly, I would try to wear long sleeves with shorts whenever I could, to cover up my chubby arms and my fat drooping stomach. If I ever wore a tank top, I would always wear a sweater over it. It didn’t matter if it was the warmest day of the summer as long as I was covered. I did this because I thought people were staring at me and talking about how chubby I was. I would cover up so I didn’t make others around me uncomfortable. I didn’t want my ugliness and my unhealthiness to trigger other people into conversing about how unhealthy some people could be or how some people could be so damn ugly.
I felt unbelievably insecure stepping out of my house, I felt so unconfident that I would cross my arms just to cover my stomach when I’d walk past people outside or at the store. I was insecure about the fact that I let myself be so ugly. Insecure about the fact that I wasn’t as beautiful as the girls at my school. I was absolutely terrified to bump into these girls every time I stepped out of my house. I couldn’t bare their judgement. I just wanted to fit in with them. I thought covering up would erase all my flaws, I honestly thought my whole existence was a flaw at this point.
I remember going shopping this particular summer and buying clothes that I thought would make me appear skinnier. I was fifteen years old and I thought that being skinner would finally gain me the popularity and acceptance I craved from the girls at school and grant me attention from the boys I liked so much. I wanted to stop feeling so invisible and worthless all the time and I truly believed in my mind that purchasing clothes that would make me appear thinner would help me achieve this. I thought these material things would help me become the skinny and beautiful girl I’d wanted to be my whole life.
At the end of grade twelve I wasn’t the least bit excited for prom because I knew I wouldn’t look as good as all the other girls. Every time I went shopping for a dress; I would get extremely frustrated and start sobbing because I looked so fat and ugly in every single dress I tried on. This frustration resulted in me lashing out at my mom; dress shopping became so draining I finally just picked a dress and bought it because I couldn’t deal with the way I felt anymore. I went to prom with my friends and the whole time I just felt so out of place, so insecure and so ugly compared to everyone else there but I was able to remain calm and collected and still enjoy the night because I was prepared to feel this way in the days leading up to prom.
In my first year of university I met some of my now best friends. When we first met, we all talked about prom and our experiences in high school. They showed me pictures of themselves at prom and their beautiful dresses and in those moments, I wished I took more pictures at my prom and let myself enjoy that day instead of worrying so much about the way I looked in my body. To this day there’s probably only one or two pictures of me at prom. I don’t think I’ve ever shown any pictures of me from prom or my grade 12 graduation.
At the end of second year, I remember walking back to my student house after my last exam to gather the last of my things to go home. It was a gloomy day with the brisk April wind blowing my hair back, as my eyes started watering from the cold air brushing against my face. I distinctly remember looking over for a second to the other side of the sidewalk and I saw another girl who was stepping out of her student house and her outfit caught my eye. She seemed to have almost the same body shape as me, but she looked amazing in the outfit she was wearing and in my head; I started to think about ways I could recreate it. This was the first time I ever considered showing of the curves that I am blessed with. I remember getting home that night and looking up how to style different outfits and this is when my love for clothes started and just dressing myself in things I thought made me feel good and look good; clothes that outlined my curves started to gradually take me to the place I wanted to be with myself. Which is love for my body the way it was. I was slowly getting there.
In this gradual process I learned loving yourself is not a straight road. It’s not an easy mindset to reach. I still have days where I wish I didn’t let my skin stretch so much that it formed stretch marks but other days I’m so happy I have them because to me they signify my strength. Over the years (even after I started to love clothes and the way they fit my body) I gained weight and lost weight thinking that drastic changes to my weight would make me love myself. I tried every laxative there is, I tried crash diets, cleanses and so many other things that only caused trauma to my body to appease myself and “most importantly” the people around me. I was obsessed with the way I would feel every time I lost noticeable amounts of weight and people would praise me for all my hard work and compliment my slim physique. I craved the feeling of people envying me for my weight loss, the same way I would envy people and how skinny they were when I was “fat”.
I wanted to so badly be content with my inner self and this had absolutely nothing to do with being skinny. No matter how much work I put into losing weight I would never be happy when I lost the weight. I would constantly self-sabotage and go on binges only to quickly gain all the weight back. This would result in me hating myself so much more.
Last year, I decided to listen to my body and just let myself be. Let myself exercise when I felt like it, eat what I wanted. I let myself live freely. Not giving any mind to what people were saying about me behind my back or to my face. I was exhausted constantly trying to change myself so that others’, would be comfortable in my presence while I was uncomfortable being in my body. For the first time in my life I really felt what love for myself felt like. Listening to my body. Putting myself and my mental and physical healing first lead me to love myself in the most natural yet magical way possible. I finally wore my first bikini and didn’t cringe at myself and all my flaws when I stared at my reflection in the mirror.
Now, every time I feel myself about to go down the path of self-loathing; I ask myself if I was to be laying on my death bed today would I have accomplished everything I ever wanted to? I never want the answer to be “No because I was too busy tracking calories and making sure I was skinny my whole life”. This question as weird as it sounds to ask yourself has helped me on more than one occasion when I would spiral into a cycle of self- hate. I want to be so much more than how much I weigh. I want to do so much more with my life than just worrying about being skinny.
I look in the mirror often now, when I stare at the reflection in front of me; I see myself as a person who persevered when societal beauty standards made me feel worthless. I looked in the mirror again and again over the years but this time I looked at myself and saw her, my body that went through so much but still stands today in all its glory.