Over this past weekend, I decided to take some time for myself (with one of my roommates) to take a trip to the Holyoke Mall. Now before you roll your eyes at a story about a girl going to the mall, bear with me, please.
My roommate needed some toiletries from Target, so we headed in the direction of the big red bull’s-eye. We had been to a few stores before that but just to browse and not looking for anything specific. But when in Target, you have to explore the entire establishment.
I made my way to the Women’s clothing area and I quickly spotted a flannel shirt that I surely needed to try on. The sizes were limited, but I still couldn’t resist trying, so I reluctantly grabbed the next size up from my typical size and headed to the back corner of the section that housed the dressing room.
I slowly unbuttoned the front of the shirt and slipped it over my shoulders. I began to replace all the buttons while scrutinizing my reflection in the mirror. I turned from right to left to right only to turn left again. I scanned how the shirt fell behind me, how it fit on my shoulders when I performed a variety of movements and stretches, and how “flattering” the shirt looked on me from every angle.
I sighed, saying to myself, “This doesn’t make me look ‘skinny.’” Suddenly, something struck me. I looked at myself again, and not knowing whether or not I was alone in the dressing room, I spoke out loud to my reflection.
“You are not ‘skinny,’ and that is totally okay,” I started. “You are fine. You wear what you want because you like to wear it. Don’t pick your outfits based on what you think people will think about how you look in it. You are fine. You look great.”
The speech to myself came swiftly and I was pleasantly surprised by the message I had given to myself alone in a Target dressing room. I bought the shirt and wore it for the next two days.
My weight has always been something I have struggled to accept. I’ve tried to change it, and though certain attempts have been more successful in the past than others, nothing has been consistent. I feel myself constantly being pulled between “Love yourself how you are” and “Make yourself look the way you want to look.” It’s a struggle, to say the least, but I feel a strange sense of comfort in the belief that I am not alone in this struggle.
Self-acceptance is one of the toughest things I have ever managed to accomplish in my life, and I still have my bad days with it every once in a while. To keep myself going, I just talk to myself in positive tones and affirmations, I talk to myself like I would talk to my best friends. In the morning, I set the labels on my alarms with messages like “You’re beautiful” and “Today is going to be a great day” because seeing something positive first thing in the morning just makes for a better start. At least, it does for me.
And to be fair, it’s also okay to not be happy with the way you look. It’s okay to want to change certain parts of yourself (within reason) and to put in the effort to change those parts, as long as you’re doing it in a healthy and safe way.
My journey is different than yours is, though, and I only ask that you continue on it. Please don’t give up on it because it’s hard. It will happen, but the strongest acceptance of yourself will not happen any faster than you’re ready for it to happen, and I actually think that’s what’s beautiful about it. You know yourself better than anyone, and only you can allow yourself to be the happiest with yourself as you have ever been.
I am not a string of letters placed side by side on the top of a clothes hanger and neither are you. You are not a size, a number in pounds, or a waistline in inches. You are you and I am me, and we’re both damn good at it.