Another essay that I wrote for my creative nonfiction class. I feel like this topic is more important than ever. Please, be kind to others and be kind to yourself!
When I was six, I wondered how beautiful I would be when I grew up. I dressed myself up in princess dresses, toting an American Girl doll on my hip, looking in the mirror to admire myself. I played with my mom’s bright red lipstick and tromped around in her shiny white wedding shoes. I couldn’t wait to see what it would be like when I was all grown up and beautiful just like my mother, whose eyes sparkled as she walked around with one baby twin on each hip. Sometimes, my sister would put glittery makeup on my eyelids, and I would look in the mirror, completely mesmerized by myself.
When I was twelve, I began to learn what it meant to hate myself. It was subtle, creeping in without my knowledge. I began to tone myself down. I began to change the parts of me that I had been told were “too much”. When I walked past a group of older boys, I noticed their eyes looking me up and down. My friend and I walked faster to pass them, and we heard one say, “What are you scared of? I’m not gonna rape you or anything.” This was the first time I realized that my body was not just meant for me—that it was something others felt entitled to. I began to resent the body that had carried me through everything, through the sports and the shopping trips and the games with my friends. It wasn’t quite that I hated myself, but I knew suddenly that there was much more to my body than I had previously realized.
When I was fifteen, I often read magazines with headlines that promised to keep me in shape. I learned that my self-worth should be tied to a man telling me I was worthy. I was barely 110lbs, but I was forcing myself to do squats and ab workouts, because I knew it was only a matter of time before I would become unappealing to everyone. I’d seen all of the movies; no one was interested in the girl until she changed something about herself, and so I became desperate to find that change.
When I was eighteen, I found myself comparing everything about me to others. I had always done this, but once I came to school, it reached a new level. I looked around at my peers and all I could see was how skinny they were, how perfect their makeup was. I started to look at myself as less than, simply because my weight was greater than. I listened as my friends commented about their “freshman 15”, and then cringed when they mentioned a weight that was well below mine, even before my freshman 15. I found myself sucking in as I smiled for pictures. I couldn’t let anyone see my shame.
When I turned twenty-one, I fell in love with myself again. As the world descended into the madness that is 2020, I realized that life is hard enough without hating myself on top of everything. I promised myself that regardless of my body, I was going to love her. I began to appreciate everything she does for me. I started eating healthier and working out (semi)consistently, not because I wanted to lose weight, but because it was the best thing for my body, and I only want what is best for her.
Now, I am still twenty-one, and I have kept good on my promise. I have become so much better to myself, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
In this day and age, it is more fashionable for me to hate myself than to love myself. Self-depreciating humor gets the most laughs, ads target every insecurity, and entire industries exist to ensure that there is always something I want to change. It is tempting to agree with them, and for a long time, I did. But no more. Fuck that.
I have decided to embrace the revolutionary idea that is self-love. To my thick thighs, who have carried me from place to place, and allowed me to run miles upon miles; to my rolls on my tummy from countless nights of pizza and laughter with my friends; to my small lips, who have allowed me to kiss so many; to my rosy cheeks, who flush even brighter when I’m happy; to my wild hair, who has been an outlet for expression so many times; to my wide hips, who allow me to dance on tables and fill out that little black dress perfectly; to my scrawny arms, who have embraced so many; I love you all. I could not do this life without you, and I cannot say thank you enough for everything you have done for me.
Stay tuned for more updates,
xoxo, second sister suzie