In middle school, I wore t-shirts from Justice, t-shirts from Old Navy that were “scratch and sniff,” and big headbands that pushed back my bushy hair. Most importantly, though, in an age of conformity, I was unapologetically myself. To some degree, I still am.
However, jealousy is an all-consuming shroud that blindfolds me. It is a maze in which I cannot find the exit.
I’m jealous of the way people look: the size of their bodies, the beauty of their eyes. I’m jealous of people who have had good experiences in the same areas I’ve had bad ones. I’m jealous of people with happily married parents and siblings. I’m jealous of people who get better grades than I do. I'm jealous of girls who have boyfriends.
Jealousy is not easy to talk about -- it feels shameful and vulnerable and reeks of insecurity. It’s a way of saying “I’m not perfect,” and it’s not a positive characteristic.
But oh, how it’s real. Brene Brown often talks about how sharing our shame and vulnerability brings us the true connection we long for. Olivia Gatwood talks about how we find each other in the details. I believe in both of these concepts.
The problem with jealousy is it negates so much truth. It negates how we have some things other people want. It negates the strength that comes from struggle and the vast differences of our stories in totality. It negates the fact that every detail of us was created in detail and rooted with purpose.
Olivia Gatwood approaches this through writing odes to aspects of her body that society shames. She finds the good and the authenticity in experiences, body parts, and aspects of herself that may not be widely appreciated. She seems to do so with ease, but I can confirm that finding the positive aspects of the parts and experiences I’m jealous of and ashamed of isn’t my first instinct, and it usually doesn’t win.
However, we must still try.
For example, for the majority of my life, I have struggled with my legs; I often find myself wishing they were smaller. But how blessed am I to have legs that work and carry me to the club meetings and friends I love so dearly. Legs that allow me to dance at parties to my favorite songs. The idea that legs that touch make us one step closer to being a mermaid. The fact is that I am not the only one who doesn’t feel super confident about the size of my thighs. Also, the problem is not really about my thighs.
We did not come out of the womb disliking our bodies. We have not always associated our worth with the space between our thighs. The dislike of our thighs -- or whatever body part or experience or aspect -- comes from the underlying feeling that we are not enough, that we can be defined by one piece of our whole being, that bigger is not better, that we should feel ashamed -- and that’s simply not true. We have to fight the ideas that have been ingrained into us our entire lives. We have to listen to our body's cravings, even if the world tells us we shouldn't. I myself am still figuring out how.
If you are still figuring this out as well, remember this: we were born as enough. We were enough when we fell over and over again as babies trying to walk. We were enough when we failed tests and gained weight. We are enough despite the “weaknesses” we deal with as well as the successes we have achieved.
We were created with mindful purpose with talents and beautiful characteristics that we may not see, but are regardless true and seen by others. We were created to connect with other imperfect human beings. We were born to be happy, to praise the one who created us, to love all people, and to create meaningful relationships and change.
Shame was taught, not inherent. It teaches us that we are bad because of one experience or characteristic. It teaches us that we are not full beings completely built with talents, relationships, inspiring qualities, the ability to connect.
We must fight against this with the truth by knowing we make people laugh and that we are not our bodies, but people within a vessel. We are the ways we support others and live to the best of our abilities. We get up in the morning and we try. We are family members, friends, activists, lovers, artists, athletes. We are the ways we have grown from our struggles, the lessons we have learned, the strengths that comes from pain, the uniquely positive experiences we have lived through, the ways we have loved, and the qualities that no one else has exactly the way we do. We are the strengths we have and the ways our individuality shines and makes us stand out. Recognizing someone else's beauty is not the absence of our own.
I grew from my bad experiences. I have had good experiences that others have not. I have a body that works and therefore fulfills its sole purpose. I may not have married parents, but I have both of them. I may have lesser grades, but I have other accomplishments. I may not have a boyfriend, but I have fulfillment elsewhere and more time to pursue it.
This story is yours as well, in one way or another. Hold onto this when you’re struggling. Know it to be truth, even when it doesn’t feel that way. Feelings aren’t facts.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and more loved than you’ll ever know.” --Winnie the Pooh