I’ve never been confident. I think the only time I ever really believe in myself is when I’m writing. Maybe that’s why I do it so often.
I’ve always struggled with my appearance. No matter what my family or friends or boyfriend say, I’ll never look in the mirror and like what I see. Sure, there are days where I’m thankful for my…
I just tried to come up with a few parts of myself that I actually like, and I rebutted every single one of them. My eyes? Too small and easily irritated. My legs? Too long with too muscular calves. My hair? Too thin, stringy, and greasy. Lips? Too big. Stomach? Too squishy. Skin? Too sensitive and blotchy.
It’s sad how many faults I can find. But you know what else is sad? That I waste hours of my day obsessing over them. Hours of my life that I am blessed to have.
My friends used to taunt me for putting on makeup before grabbing breakfast at the dining hall in college. “You look fine,” they told me. “We’re just getting food!” But to me, I looked terrible. And surely, everyone else would see me that way, too. And it bothered me to think that. It bothered me that other people might see me in a negative light, no matter how shallow that sounds.
I never wore too much makeup – just enough to cover my blemishes and enhance my natural appearance. But sometimes, mostly to please my friends, I pushed myself to go out without applying foundation or mascara. I remember one time when I was sick and sporting an au naturale look, I bumped into a guy friend and actually apologized to him for having to see me “like this.”
I spend most nights testing new beauty products that hopefully won’t screw with my sensitive skin, or thinking of ways to wear my hair to bed so that it doesn’t get crimped or frizzy. I’ll brush my teeth and hate the way my gums are receding and my fangs stick out too much. I’ll get angry at how fat I look, how much I ate that day, and plan a workout plan for the next day, already dreading it. I’ll pick at my skin for a half hour because of dermatillomania, or whatever they want to label it, apparently just another tick I can blame on my OCD. Then I’ll sit on the closed toilet seat and cry about how I have to go out in public the next morning.
Last summer, I wrote a post on my personal blog about how superficial we humans tend to be. It’s not our fault; we’re human, after all. And sometimes, it takes tragedy to remind us of this. But after finding out my brother was sick with serious illness, I promised myself I would never dwell on insignificant details, like the rash I get when I eat certain foods or the way my eyes get bloodshot when I drink too much. I promised myself I wouldn’t speak poorly about the body that keeps me alive. Yet, here I am, not even a year later, doing just that.
Earlier today, I was complaining to my boyfriend about how gross I think I look in my new bathing suit.
“But you’re so skinny!” he said. “You’re a stick!”
Instantly, I grew frustrated. He clearly wasn’t looking at my stomach in the same lighting, or noticing the way my sides folded over my bottoms. How could he possibly think I looked good?
It’s not easy to break this toxic cycle; but it is a choice. Sure, you can’t turn off the thoughts. But you can stop yourself from staring in the mirror for 15 minutes after showering and picking yourself apart for the cellulite on your thighs or the extra rolls on your tummy. You can stop yourself from repeating negative lines like “you’re so ugly,” “you’ll never look like them,” “you’re disgusting.” You can stop yourself from arguing with every single compliment you receive. You can stop yourself in these moments, and move on.
Walk away from the mirror. Distract your mind with something you’re passionate about. Start a conversation about subjects that matter, not petty issues we so often get caught up with.
While it’s that simple, it’s not that easy. I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy that you have to want to get better. You have to want to be better.
It feels uncomfortable, like you’re ignoring the elephant in the room. But I promise you that giant creature will shrink to the size of an ant if you don’t feed it. And that ant should represent how small of an issue this really is, in the grand scheme of things.
I don’t want to be loved for something only skin deep. I want to be loved for the writer who bared her heart for those who needed it. The loving girlfriend who didn’t value looks over memories. The friend you could rely on. The fun sister and caring daughter.
I want to be loved for who I am, not what I look like. And if that’s the case, then it’s time I redefine my priorities.