How To Be The Girl Who Never Quite Loves Herself

summer body
Twenty20

It’s 2004 and I am changing in the girls’ locker room after gym, sitting in a light blue sports bra while chatting with the other girls. I had just moved to Cologne, Germany and am trying to make new friends. So far, I don’t really fit in. I am hyper and gangly and talk way too much for someone with nothing particularly interesting to say. I try too hard. But I don’t want to change. I have this belief that I need to be liked for who I am, even if that is too much most times. But so far, that wasn’t really working for me. I needed something to make up for it.

“You’re so skinny, Molly,” remarks one of my classmates after I still hadn’t thrown on my shirt. She was one of the “cool girls” and to have that compliment thrown my way made me feel seen in ways I hadn’t yet felt at my new school.

Because it’s true. I am incredibly skinny. Puberty hasn’t struck yet and my stomach seemed to be almost concave, even while seated. I don’t remember how I respond. Did I say thanks? Did I deny it like young girls are meant to? I can’t be sure. I do remember that feeling in the pit of my tiny stomach, though:

Pride.

Because in all the ways I was too much, at least I was small. At least I had that going for me.

***

It’s 2005 and I just ate a shit ton of spaghetti to put myself into a food coma so I could take a nap. Being awake feels like too much effort. I don’t want to deal with myself. Depression was a word that was thrown around since I was young, but this was a new habit no one knew I was participating in. I didn’t know this was the beginning of a dangerous new coping mechanism.

***

It’s Spring 2006 and my family has been back in the States for a year now. I join the freshman softball team. I’m the fastest. Probably the most enthusiastic too.

The “cool girls” on the team write mean things about me on MySpace.

Too much, too much, too much.

I don’t try out again next Spring.

***

2006. Or 2007? But who’s keeping track? All I remember is that one year in high school, the boys swim team sends me a fake Valentine’s Day card from a guy I had a small crush on. He approaches me after a swim meet I attended with friends and apologizes. Explains it wasn’t from him. Says he’s sorry. I say it’s okay. No big deal. I go home and cry.

Not enough, not enough, not enough.

***

It’s Spring 2008 and I’m a junior in high school. My pants size sees the double digits and I spend most of my time the days I actually make it to school sleeping. Depression is a word used regularly to describe my behavior. I am prescribed Vyvanse for my ADHD. I regularly skip lunch but binge in the evening once the effects wear off because I’m so fucking hungry I can’t see straight.

I have an excellent lacrosse tryout. Whisperings of me making varsity, no questions asked. I get cut and only make JV. I leave tryouts sobbing.

Not enough, not enough, not enough.

I lose some weight. Still probably eat too much rice after practice. I’m captain of the JV team. And at least I’m active, right?

***

It’s 2010 and I finally make varsity lacrosse. I’m a senior. I’ll be attending community college in the fall. My twin sister got into the University Of Michigan. I am bitter.

Not enough, not enough, not enough.

I hurt my knee the day before prom, during my last lacrosse game. I go to the ER and am given a huge brace to wear and crutches. It could be a torn ACL.

Luckily I had a flowy dress since I wasn’t confident enough to wear anything tighter. I go to prom on crutches.

***

2012. I discover alcohol by doing shots of gin with my best friends at my parents’ house while they’re out of town. It burns. I feel giggly. Less aware of everything I lack and everything I have in excess.

I visit my best friend at the University of Michigan. We meet two frat boys. I am not interested. I go along with it anyway. Frat boy #2 and I end up in his dorm room. I say I’m uncomfortable. My friend is nowhere to be found. He continues to push. Eventually, I get the chance to leave. We go back to my friend’s dorm. I joke about it even though I feel very sad and guilty.

***

It’s 2012 and I told myself I would be more confident by now.

Prettier.

Happier.

More in control.

I got into Michigan State University, my dream school. I leave home. I change my major from psychology to professional writing. I have a path. I am excited about it. I lose 25 pounds. I am thin. I wear crop tops. I am not talking to my mother. It hurts.

126 is the number that reads on the scale and a boy I don’t want to kiss tells me I’m beautiful.

Little does he know it’s because I can’t eat because the anxiety has its hands wrapped tightly around my esophagus, making it difficult to breathe. I had gone off my antidepressants. I shouldn’t have.

Almost, but not quite.

***

2013. Spring semester. My best friend and I are not speaking. It hurts. I am back on antidepressants. I start to party. I start to party a lot. I gain weight back from beer and drunk food and hungover pasta. I try and get over a man who doesn’t love me by going home with boys who don’t even like me. It’s familiar. I hope I can convince them I’m worthwhile. I never do.

Never enough.

I meet someone who makes me forget the man who doesn’t love me for a little while. He is funny and charming and bad news. We go back to my house after the bar. I say I don’t want to sleep with him. I’m not ready. He stands up and leaves for another girl’s house immediately.

You can do better, everyone says. Fuck him.

But can I?

***

I graduate college in 2015. I find a job a few months later. I am constantly afraid I am not doing enough and screw up too much. I stop working out. I drink $2 wine at night to chill out. I work long hours. I gain weight; a lot of weight. It happens, people say. First job, they remind me. You’re still beautiful, some say.

I don’t see it.

***

It’s May 3rd, 2018 and I told myself I’d be thinner by now.

Smaller.

Less.

Better.

I stop buying clothes because I don’t want to waste money. Because I am going to lose weight. I WILL. I join Weight Watchers for any sort of accountability. I don’t track it every single day. Sometimes, I’d rather just not know.

I lose weight, but not enough. Not fast enough. Not. Enough.

I drink too much on a Saturday night to forget the extra space I take up. After all, how can you be sober on a night out when everything fits the wrong way and your mirror is a constant reminder about reality? At least tequila distorts.

***

I write an essay about body image and depression and self-love and feel lighter. More free.

Enough.

2019 will be better. TC mark

Molly Burford

Writer. Editor. Hufflepuff. Dog person.

This Book Is For You 👇

The cover and theme for my newest book was inspired by the concept of kintsugi. All that is dark or cracked within us has the capacity to be fixed, to be filled with light. We are never broken. We are always becoming. 

“Live a life that is driven; not by fear, but by love.” — Bianca Sparacino

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