For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the “fat one” of my friends. When I was a toddler, I was cute and chubby, like every other three year old. When I was six, I was a little pudgy, mainly because I hadn’t lost any of my baby fat. When I was eleven, I weighed more than my sister, who was four years older than me. When I was fourteen, a group of high school boys called me “thick” and said I had a “full, chubby body.”
Now, as an eighteen-year-old girl who drinks more vanilla lattes in a day than I eat celery in a year, living just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota and trying to figure out how to properly tie my shoes, I still view myself as the overweight and self-conscious young girl I used to be.
I’m not obese by any means, never was and still am not, but that didn’t stop the fat jokes and comments coming from kids at my school.“What are you gonna do to me cow? Sit on me?” “You should really not eat that.” “You’re a size large?” “Nobody’s gonna love you looking like that.” Most were from myself — “Don’t eat that.” “You’re not good enough.” “You really shouldn’t wear that with those arms.”
These thoughts consumed my mind. Every minute of every day, I was worried about how I look or how much I weigh. Stepping on the scale, I was dissatisfied, cringing when I looked at the number. I never went to the beach, because who would want to see me in a bikini?
Eventually, I got to the point where I was so obsessed with my body that I hated myself. When I looked in the mirror, I saw much more than just a little extra fat here and there. Instead, I saw a fat, unloveable and disgusting monster. Part of me thinks this shame comes from purely my own insecurities, but at the same time, I held myself to such high standards based on the people around me and in the media. I wanted to be able to compete with my size zero friends of mine and win, a flaw of mine I’m constantly trying to change
I don’t know when exactly I started to see myself as a monster, but up until about a year ago, that’s all I saw. Every time I ate, I would be disappointed in myself, whether it was a kale salad or a chocolate bar. I would stop after running one mile, because I was convinced I wasn’t strong enough to run two.I was convinced nobody would ever love me because I wasn’t worth it or good enough. I wanted to be ten pounds skinnier or have less chubby cheeks. I thought if I looked differently, then maybe other kids my age would see me as beautiful, instead of a “fat cow.” I wanted to change my appearance so everyone else wouldn’t see what I saw.
Around a year ago when I had just turned seventeen, I realized I was more than what I saw in a mirror. Partially, I think this had to do with the change of beauty standards in the media and seeing the “plus-size” modeling industry take off, even though the ‘plus-size’ industry ridiculously, starts at a size eight. I don’t think I ever stopped being hard on myself, but I slowly learned how to love my imperfections.
One day, specifically, I looked in the mirror and smiled. Maybe it was just a good morning or a great angle, but I didn’t see that fat, ugly girl I usually did. I saw someone who was beautiful and worthy of feeling that way. Later that day, I went and ate the most delicious chocolate cupcake and felt zero shame. The next day in that same mirror, I saw the beautiful girl again. Those few days made me realize it didn’t matter if I ran one mile or nine, as long as I was trying. It didn’t matter that I ate a cheeseburger for dinner, because one cheeseburger wasn’t going to kill me. It didn’t matter that I was single, because an immature senior is not worth my time.
Looking back now, I don’t know why I held myself to such unobtainable standards for so long, but a part of me is glad I did. Being hard on myself, although unhelpful and unhealthy, taught me how to push myself and look at myself in a different and eventually better light.
After that, none of my imperfections mattered because I was more than that. I’m more than just a size label on a shirt. I’m more than just a reflection in a mirror, and that one morning when I looked at myself differently made me realize that. I’m thankful for that day in the mirror, and that chocolate cupcake. I’m thankful for the realization, no matter how slow and painful it was, because now, I can see the beauty in myself. I don’t see a chubby, fat girl, I see a charming, wonderful woman who’s more than just the size of her jeans. And you should too.