What started out as a day of dress up quickly turned into a day of realization. I was six years old and the thought of being anything different than the model in that magazine became something that clouded my thoughts daily. And as a young adult, it has been one of the biggest challenges in my life.
I grew up traveling in the first part of my young life. When I was about three, our family moved to California where I would stay until I was seven. Here is where I would say I really started to figure life out. I could connect thoughts, I could relate to people’s feelings, and I really began to figure out what was being said on the television and in the magazines my older sister and her friends read.
We spent most of our days outside running, roller blading, climbing – life as I knew it was an adventure. And as I grew a little older, my sister and her friends started to paint my nails, do my hair, and dress me up. We spent our last summer in California getting dolled up, learning new songs and creating dances. We even have the home video to prove it.
In the moments when we rested from all of our glamour, we spent time talking and flipping through magazines. It was their favorite past time. It was during the time when JTT was every girls dream – I think she had every picture known of him plastered all over her bedroom walls, not to mention piles of teenage magazines towering on her floor that she would dump after she was done tearing out pages of famous people she looked up to.
I grabbed hold of one of the many magazines in hopes to help her tear out these pages and tape them on her wall. I couldn’t understand the headlines, or even understand the jibberish many of these articles were about. But I could understand the photographs.
One photo stopped me. It moved me; it made my heart sink to my stomach. It was a model on a runway. She was wearing an extravagant green gown. I remember her being beautiful in every way, and I especially remember how thin I thought she was.
I must have stared at that photograph for ten minutes. I studied her curves, her smile, and her posture. Every angle of her was imprinted into my brain.
I simply muttered, “I wish I was skinny like her.”
I was a pretty normal girl. I was average for my height and weight. I was never made fun of, or ridiculed for how I looked. I guess I was lucky in that sense. But this one photograph made me second-guess everything I ever thought of myself, and made me look differently at other girls my age and other women older than me.
My sisters friend was bewildered – I could tell. She quickly answered me by denying that I was anything close to “fat”, and enforced this notion that I was skinny like the woman walking down the runway.
At that moment, nothing she could say would make me feel better about the way I felt about myself.
Days would go by and I would pinch my stomach as if to measure my fat. I did this constantly throughout the day.
Me and my friends would compare our stomachs. I never felt skinniest.
There were days I never thought about it, but most days I did.
Years would go by and I would meet a friend in high school who felt as I did. She was a model part-time. She related to me. We related to each other. We would starve ourselves together, days at a time until the hunger was too much to bear.
It was 3 am in the morning and I was wakened with intense stomach pain. I walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge door and let the light pour onto my bare feet. My sister must have heard me because she woke up too and came into the kitchen.
“What are you doing up, and why are you grabbing bologna at three in the morning?”
I was embarrassed.
“I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten in three days. My stomach in screaming.”
She stared at me. I will never forget that look. She doesn’t know this, but in that moment she saved me.
To this day, I still get those feelings of feeling fat. I sometimes regret eating a piece of chocolate cake, or indulging on a big dinner. It has been a constant struggle to change this vision of myself. But in this struggle, I find the positive, and as I grow older, I realize everyone has imperfections.
We all have our vices. And I take comfort in this.
But now more than ever I have found a comfort in myself. I work out because it feels good. I eat right because it makes me feel good. I even eat cake if I want to – because let’s face it, it feels good.
Find those attributes about yourself that you love and embrace them. Find the attributes about yourself that you hate, and love them.
Finding comfort in yourself is not necessarily easy, but in time, it can be.