To The Girl Who Hates What She Sees In The Mirror, Happiness Isn't Your Dress Size
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To The Girl Who Hates What She Sees In The Mirror, Happiness Isn't Your Dress Size

Real happiness comes from inside.

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To The Girl Who Hates What She Sees In The Mirror, Happiness Isn't Your Dress Size
Courtesy of Tabitha Stevens Photography

If you feel like you're not enough, just think of this.

When I was 12 years old, I had a friend who thought of herself as "too fat."

Here's a picture of me around the same time, for reference. I was often mistaken for malnourished by people who felt the need to comment on my weight.

"Wow, she's so skinny!" They'd tell my step-mom. "Feed her more!"

The funny thing was I ate more than most people did. I just never gained weight.

I never understood how my friend could look at herself in the mirror, tilt her head sideways and squeeze at her body.

"If only I had a thigh gap" was something I heard her say often.

I stared at my own legs in that mirror after her, propped up against the wall in her room, staring at the seemingly-mile-long gap between each thigh.

The thing is, she never told me she liked my body. She never told me she wanted what I had: a flat, pancake butt and no breasts. People grabbing my wrist and putting their hands around it, marveling at how tiny it was.

So, why would she want to look down at the scale and see what I saw? How could she be getting attention from boys — a feat I could never imagine accomplishing — and still want to be smaller?]

It wasn't until I hit middle school that I began to understand.

Stepping through the doors of my junior high was like stepping through a new universe: the smell of burned, straightened hair and AXE body spray.

Suddenly, boys mattered to girls.

Suddenly, appearances were important. Suddenly, I saw myself grasping my own non-existent butt in the mirror, wishing it could be just a little bit bigger.

Maybe then boys would like me the same way they liked my friends. The same way they liked my friend who told herself she was too big, too fat.

I would sit in my bathroom after my shower, googling things that only hurt my confidence even harder.

"Why are skinny girls so unattractive?"

It was this part of my life when I'd damage my beautiful, wavy hair with a straightener every morning for school or every Friday night before my friends would go out. I'd spray half a bottle of PINK perfume on before I left the door.

I used to throw my already-too-tight skinny jeans in the dryer for a few minutes in the morning and wear a pair of leggings underneath just so I could possibly get the compliment I wanted.

"Your butt looks nice!"

Even breasts would suffice.

Anything that made me feel like that boy I liked would ever like me back. Or that made the girls on my cheer team jealous of me. Or made the girls or the football players on the other team look at me and think, "Wow, that girl is pretty."

All of this time, I hovered around 5 feet 7 inches and 100 pounds. A height and weight many seem to want to achieve. "Maybe then I'll be happy," they're probably thinking subconsciously.

What they don't know is that I have lived that weight and I absolutely hated it. I would stand around in my little bikini in the summer and look at the other girls with fuller bodies and the boys who were staring at them.

"If only I could look like them," I'd think.

Meanwhile, my friend who found herself too fat was slipping down a slope... fast. It was middle school, the summer before my freshman year of high school, when I'd revisited her for a concert together.

Life sometimes gets in peoples' way, distancing them or making them harder to reach. I'd moved 30 minutes away. She'd found newer friends. Yet, the minute I saw her, now thinner and dressed like a mini-adult, it was like no time had passed.

We talked like just yesterday we were wearing rubber bracelets and clothes from Justice.

That day, it poured. I shielded my carefully applied eye-makeup, but it was no use for my straightened hair. It curled up with the humidity.

"I'll be back," I heard my friend tell me. I just focused on the music I'd come to see.

She introduced me to boys she knew, one of them taking an interest in me. The ironic thing about it all was that I thought I was so ugly and so unlovable that the male attention I so deeply desired and fretted over was being thrown into my face and I didn't even realize.

It was later in the pouring rain — a boy was holding my hand (yes, I still thought it was a cruel prank) and I sat worrying about my frizzy hair and little tummy peaking through my crop top when she'd run to the bathroom again.

"Makes sense," I'd thought. She had a lot of water.

I'd somehow ended up near two girls this boy knew and that familiar pang of depleting self-worth hit my stomach.

They were drunk, something I could never bring myself to be, but it seemed to attract boys. They were pretty, something I thought I could never be. They were lovable and normal and probably have kissed boys before. My friend was still missing.

"My girl curled her hair all special for the occasion," the boy told me. My hand flew up to my curled locks.

"Oh no," I'd told him. "It's natural."

"Ooh!" He'd said, touching my hair.

My friend returned from the bathroom.

"This is my wifey," he told her.

Obliviously, I laughed. Obviously, this was a joke. Obviously, a boy would never like me.

"Yeah," I said back, still more focused on the music and the self-conscious thoughts floating around my head than anything else.

I supposed he must've given up because suddenly it was just my friend and me again, an unhappy look on her face.

It wasn't until she left to go to the bathroom that third time during my favorite band that I realized something was up.

I stood alone, at the back of the crowd, looking up towards the stage. The boy was gone. It was me and myself, dancing lonely to the music.

"Hey," I heard from behind me. I turned to look. A drunk man far too old appeared beside me.

"Hi," I said, still bopping my head.

"I like your pants," he told me. I looked down at them. Black and white paisley print.

"Thank you," I told him. I would be rude and foolish to assume a male would like me. "I like your shirt," I added to not come off cold.

The moment after this, during my favorite song, the man leaned in. He kissed me. My first kiss, stolen.

I pushed him off me, wordlessly. He shuffled away. I stared at the stage in silence until my friend got back, and I told her everything. She wasn't amused or concerned, though. I could tell her thoughts were elsewhere.

"Oh, f*** this," I thought. I'd been rained on. I'd cared all day far too much about everyone else's thoughts. I'd just been kissed for the first time, and it tasted like beer and non-consent.

"C'mon," I grabbed my friend's hand.

There, in the very back of the crowd, we danced to the band that was playing like no one was watching. And no one probably was.

Yet, I still sensed she was upset. I looked up at the stage, thousands of feet away at my favorite band.

"Let's go," I told her.

"Are you sure? Their hit is about to play."

"Yeah, you don't want to be here," I insisted. "Let's go."

Out in the parking lot of a concert venue on a cool summer's night, my friend and I danced to their hit song far away from the crowd. Away from the people we thought were judging us all night. Away from the man who kissed me. Away from it all.

Ears ringing in silence awaiting our ride, she'd told me.

"I think I have an eating disorder."

I knew how dangerous they are. I've seen girls disappear until they were nothing.

I've seen the scale with the weight I knew she wanted, the BMIs and the worried looks on doctors' faces when they'd see me.

On the other side of the spectrum — feeling too skinny — I'd felt the exact same feelings she had when she forced her finger down her throat. I felt it when I'd force bread down mine.

I'd felt it when I'd pull on a pair of jean shorts and twirl around in the mirror, looking at my backside in disappointment. I'd felt it when my friend had offhandedly called me flat. When my own mom did the same.

We all wanted the same thing — to feel enough. Loved. Why didn't any of us know that love from a boy should be the second love we ever have?

Our first love should be ourselves.

A year would pass and I'd be walking up a familiar Main Street in the town I grew up in with her. She was much skinnier now.

In that timeframe, I had the opportunity to look in the mirror and chant that I am beautiful. I had been exposed to all sorts of people in my new city. I had made friends of all sorts — accepting friends who told me I was beautiful the way I was.

They told me until I believed it myself.

My friend beside me hadn't. However, she was finally down to the weight she had always dreamed of being. Her tiny 5-foot frame was 100 pounds.

"I always thought I'd be happier, but I'm not," she'd told me, taking a sip of her water bottle. I scraped the bottom of my ice cream bowl with my plastic spoon.

"Happiness isn't about what you weigh," I told her.

"My whole life I was skinny. I grew up underweight and people let me know. I hated not having curves even when you wanted nothing more than a gap between your thighs."

Silence.

"And no matter what side of the spectrum you land on, you won't be happy about what you look on the outside. Society won't let you be. You have to be happy with the inside first," I told her. I felt it click in her head. Or at least I hope I did.

These days, I hardly think about it the way I used to.

I do find myself in dressing rooms sometimes still staring down my butt in quiet disappointment.

I still sometimes scroll down my Insta feed and get jealous of the girls with the D-cups and flat tummy. But it doesn't take me long to realize that doesn't matter.

What matters is I try to be a good person. I smile at people on the street and help out when I can. I try my hardest to make me happy.

Not others.

My heart's been warmed by the movements in the recent years to be inclusive of all body types. I just hope we can continue.

And I haven't really talked to my old friend in almost six months. But my heart still holds so much love for her.

Love, and hope that one day she can see herself the way I do:

Beautiful the way she is.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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