I hated myself.
Do you remember the first time you thought you were pretty?
Maybe it was how your eyes caught the light, shining ever so slightly in the sun—golds and a myriad of different colors emerging. Or maybe, your hair was fashioned in just a way that you looked elegant and effortless all at the same time. Or maybe an outfit just made you want to twirl around, puff up your chest, sight straight and get to work. The first time I thought I was pretty, was two weeks ago.
I’ve written on this before—appearance is something I’ve greatly struggled with throughout a majority of my entire life—weight being the primary issue for me. I always thought that if I lost weight, or that if I could just squeeze into the smaller dress, or if I did this or that or anything else, I would be beautiful. But the problem wasn’t with my weight, or my skin or my hair, it was with me—my perception of beauty, specifically.
I was raised in a society where beauty meant thin, tall models, never too tall, but not short, flouting around in barely there outfits, laughing, perfect filters covering them, with Instagram feeds that look as if they were crafted by Annie Lebowitz herself. And I wanted that. I wanted the body that was athletic, but not too athletic, the hair that was curled just so, the perfect smile, the nice laugh, the flawless skin. I wanted to be perfect. And when I didn’t live up to my insane standards, I rejected myself in a way that I would never do to another.
That’s the thing with me—I’ll be the kindest ray of sunshine in your life; I’ll compliment you, and mean it, I’ll laugh with you and mean it, but on the inside? I’m thinking of every. tiny. Minuscule. thing I’m doing wrong or how I could fix it. It’s awful, isn't it? Living life in a shadow you’ve created for yourself. And that’s what I was doing to myself for such an incredibly long time.
But thankfully, God willing, I saw sunshine. It was a Friday afternoon, just after classes, and I was sitting under a tree, enjoying the weather. I was sitting with friends, just soaking it all in. The grass. The trees. The sound of the wind. The slightly cold earth beneath my toes. I wasn’t wearing anything fancy—a tank top, a necklace, some jeans cuffed at the ankle, no shoes, not a lick of makeup on my face.
And I got a notification on my phone—a SnapChat from a friend. And I just turned and the thought came to my head. You look radiant today, Kellen. And I did. I looked content and happy and so at peace with the world. I almost couldn’t believe I had thought that. I felt wrong for thinking that. But you’re heavy, a voice rang in my mind. But you are beautiful.
For so long, I’m sure so many of us, have placed this version of our ideal self on this pedestal—unattainable and impossible to reach, no matter how far we stretch our fingers and stand on our tiptoes to reach them, we can’t. We can come close. But there will always be more. And that drive, while so wonderful in so many other instances of life, can really, really hurt us—or at the least how we perceive ourselves. And this world is so vast. So beautiful. There’s so much to see and do and experience. But we can never truly value any of it, if we aren’t comfortable in our own world, living our own lives.
This wasn’t the be all end all—I am sure I will always struggle a little bit with my appearance, but I’ve bottled that love and joy and put it in a little jar on my internal shelf—so on those days where I feel down or low or sad, I can just take the little jar, and remember the day in the sun where I felt radiant.