I’m visiting the folks and the dying dog in New Hampshire and found some old photo albums and had no choice but to share this picture:
I believe this was taken when I was about six or seven years old. I’m seated in between my little brother, Bryan, and my younger cousin, who was always ten times better behaved than either of the two of us and who I probably resumed torturing the moment after this photo was taken (sorry, cuz).
Look at how happy I am! Despite being mostly toothless, clad in the ugliest overalls of all time, and sporting some truly awful bangs, my younger self is OVERJOYED to be in this photo. You can see the confidence oozing from every one of my pores that isn’t covered with your grandmother’s wallpaper in pants form.
Nowadays, however, I HATE being photographed. I avoid it whenever possible. And even when there are no cameras in sight, I am constantly worried about my appearance. Do I look fat? Are my boobs hanging out? Do I look too slutty, too conservative, too tired, haggard, old? Most of my clothes are purchased with the intent to flatter my body and make it look as small and unassuming as possible – black pants or leggings with a neutral top is my uniform, and I stick to it without fail.
A little over a year ago, I joined a weight loss program and lost about 45 pounds from my highest weight ever. I had to throw out a bunch of my clothes and get smaller ones, and people who saw me over this time period commented all the time on how much weight I’d lost. Now, our culture teaches us that when we lose weight we’re supposed to be happier, lighter, and sexier. You’ll want to wear bathing suits and tight jeans and men will fall at your feet and Jonathan from the Property Brothers will show up at your apartment with a ring AND a construction crew to retile your bathroom. Most of all, though, you’ll be more confident. Thinner = confident…er (not a word, yeah I know I want to be a writer WHAT OF IT?).
One year and forty-five pounds later, my confidence in my body has gone up approximately zero percent. Today I was out shopping, and I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror as I was walking through Macy’s and I literally turned my head away from the mirror in disgust and made a grunting cavewoman sound. My mother was with me and asked me what was wrong. “I just saw myself in the mirror, that’s all,” I replied. Used to this insanity, she sighed and we continued on to the shoe section. But seriously, though, how screwed up is that? How screwed up is it that so many women, of all sizes, engage in this self-hating behavior on a daily and hourly basis?
So what’s the answer? I still want to lose more weight, mostly because my huge boobs hurt my back and shoulders, but I know now that I can’t derive confidence from the number on the scale or the tag in my jeans. So if weight loss, the goal I’ve been chasing for years, can’t do it for me, what will? How can I be this happy with myself again? How do I get this little girl’s confidence back?
When I figure out the answer, I’ll let you know.