How easy it was to look in the mirror as a six year old. After throwing together a mismatched outfit and clasping my hair in a high pony I would run to the bathroom in the morning to quickly brush my teeth, eager for a breakfast of waffles and syrup. “Ooh!” I would think to myself in delight, “Maybe mom has bought those sugary lucky charms!”
My reflection in the mirror did not bring up judgment or criticism. I did not pinch the spot where my things touched nor did I lift up my shirt to inspect my ab-free stomach. Instead, I marveled at how curly my hair looked on that particular day, and how green my eyes appeared as the sun shone through the window.
My outfit was not chosen to hide my body but rather was selected because I was drawn to the bright coral pink of the shirt and the deep turquoise of the skirt. Not a second thought went into how my body looked on that particular day, or how others would perceive me. I would skip off happily to the kitchen, eager to devour a breakfast that would fuel me into the day.
It’s all about perception. If they can’t see your giant thighs they will never know they are there. Those thoughts would race through my mind as I began my morning routine in middle school. Something had changed, no longer was I that carefree little girl who grabbed whatever clothes appealed to her and ran out the door. I now meticulously chose outfits to hide my emerging curves and the terrible things that came along with puberty.
Grabbing my customary long purple shirt and loose leggings I would stare at my reflection in the mirror. I would carefully adjust the shirt so that it came down to just above my knees, hiding the parts of my body I had deemed unacceptable. With a sigh I would try on another outfit, maybe a long skirt would hide the curves a bit better. Outfit after outfit would be discarded until I was left frustrated and ultimately, wearing the same clothes I had started off with. Never was I content or satisfied with my choice, everyday it would merely have to do.
Next, it was a matter of distraction. Heavy makeup so others wouldn’t look at my body. It was messily applied to my face, complete with bright pink blush that starkly stood out against my pale face. It made me look scary, too done up. I was a little girl trying desperately to be someone I was not. I straightened out each of my ringlet curls, taking time each morning to ensure my hair looked straight and utterly perfect. My hope was that people wouldn’t notice my disappointing body, that I could somehow avert the attention.
High School and College:
Maybe I can change my reality. Maybe I don’t have to hide my things or my stomach because I can alter them to make them acceptable. Maybe I can watch that number on the scale drop and drop until I am satisfied.
High School is when I realized a deadly truth: I can take action to dramatically alter my body. And the reflection in the mirror suddenly wasn’t so scary, because I would change it. Day by day I would shrink into the body I had always so desired. My current body was only temporary, my hips and curves would fade away and I would finally be able to wear jeans, maybe even a swimsuit, with confidence.
So, I stopped hiding my body, and I translated my low self confidence into something else. I worked out daily, a regimented schedule that left my body tired and exhausted. I controlled my food intake to the last bite, each day restricting calories and food groups that my body vitally required.
And despite my misery and depressed mood, my body started changing. So yes, I could now look at myself in the mirror, but everything else in my life was hollow. That reflection had come at an extremely high cost. The exercise and restricted food intake left me apathetic and at times aggravated so that I was changing both physically and mentally. I somehow thought that all my pain and suffering was worth it because I had reached my end goal: I could look at myself in the mirror without disdain.
I am slowly but surely making amends with the dreaded mirror. Granted, I have days where I cannot bear to look at my reflection, even days when I do not recognize the girl staring back at me. However, I am learning to love the body I was given for all that it can do for me.
I am realizing that the high price that comes along with attaining that “skinny physique” is just not worth it in the long run, nor does it align with my life goals and aspirations. As I have said before, skinny does not equal happy.