Words, Words, Words
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Words, Words, Words

How the words of your peers affect you growing up.

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Words, Words, Words
Brett Ellis

For my photography final, my professor asked students to take pictures with ourselves in them to show her through pictures who we are. I had some difficulties. It was like a test. When it came to it, I forget everything. So yes, I literally blanked out on a test about myself. But I knew I had to find something to really show her who I am, not just who I think I am. I got to thinking about the essay I wrote about in the seventh grade about self-image and the media.

In that essay, I wrote about how the media affects our self-image, which is true. I mean, how many of us have looked at a model or celebrity and wished that were us? Too many to count, and with age, it's only progressed for the worse. I also wrote about words, and how they affect our self-image.

Our peers and the way we're spoken to growing up are major components of who we become in our older years. The way we're treated and talked to shapes us into the individual we are today. So, I decided to do my final on that and made a set of pictures with words. I know, so great, words. Laugh now, but it's something that ended up being more powerful than I thought it would be. I used to get teased for my imperfections, and I was afraid to ever mention them. Today, I'm going to out myself about them with explanation, to show how far I've come since the beginning.

For starters, my question for this set of pictures is this: "What do you see when you look in the mirror?"

This is the first thing I notice—my nose. Why? Because when I was 13, I liked a boy. I will never know if these are the exact words he said, but I was told: "He didn't want to kiss me because my nose was too big and would get in the way." I played it off like it was OK, but it wasn't. I went home and cried myself to sleep, which I did one too many times in my short life. That wasn't the only day I was told something about my nose. My whole freshman year of high school, I had people coming up to me with their thumb against the tip of their noses and their fingers spread out, just trying to mimic "what my nose looked like." I never found out how that started or why it happened to me, but it did. I, too, played that off like it was nothing, but it wasn't nothing. It was everything, it was the reason I hated myself so much. The reason I never wanted to be seen in public and why I cried to my parents begging for a nose job. But it didn't end there. I was told during my junior year of high school, "I was funny enough to like, but my nose was too big to want to be with," by a guy I dated for a month when we broke up. It broke my heart, because it reminded me of that boy from middle school, leading to trust issues with compliments from people.

From when I was 13 to now, I still look at myself in the mirror and I go straight to my nose. And I get scared that I won't be loved or liked because of it. I used to hate pictures taken of my face because I was afraid it would be too big to enjoy a picture of myself. I wanted a nose job; even now, I still do. And this insecurity led to fears of getting my nose pierced, something I had dreamed of getting since the seventh grade when I fell into my "emo phase."

For a long time, I was told I was too skinny. I looked at myself dreading what I would see. Jeans, shorts and dresses were never my friend. Until the sixth grade, I never saw anything wrong with myself. I didn't look at weight or clothes. I didn't pay much attention to facial features either. I thought I was normal and pretty, and that boys were either cute or not cute. I didn't think about ugly, skinny, fat or different lengths of torso and legs existed. None of that mattered to me until I was picked on for my weight. Then I paid more attention, and I hate that that is what it became. Looking at myself and seeing a short torso, thinking it's not flat enough to be like the models I envied, looking at my body thinking my arms are too lanky and how my torso and legs never matched, and that I was way too skinny and not wanting to go out in public dressed how I do now. I also hated my boobs until I got them senior year, when I went from A's to C's in a summer, because I was told I looked like a little boy. But I was a girl, a girl just wanting not to see something she hated everyday.

I used to get told to eat more, but all I ever did was eat. I would get told that I need to stop starving myself, but again, all I did was eat. I was thrown food in my face many a time by family, constantly insulted because I was not their idea of how much I should weigh. I was not enough; that's how I saw myself. I didn't have meat on my bones, and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't gain the weight I wanted. I just wanted to be normal, which I wasn't.

Hearing things like "Men like curves, boys like bones," made me scared to try to find someone. If I wasn't a "real woman" in the eyes of so many, then would I end up alone? This led to major self-esteem issues when I did have boyfriends throughout my high school career. When I had a boyfriend and received any kind of compliment or attention, I thought it wasn't real and they didn't care about me. Why? Because I wasn't ideal. I wasn't the type of girl the media put out as what you should want. I wasn't the "it" girl, and I'm still not, even if "skinny" is what is seen as ideal. My skinny is not the skinny they want because their idea of body proportions is so off from being possible.

My legs were too long, my torso was too short, my thighs weren't thick, my butt was tiny, and my arms were lanky. I hated wearing bikini bottoms and shorts, and I never wanted to show myself to anyone. I didn't like how I looked at all. I was too bony to even look in a mirror to enjoy how I looked. And when pictures were taken, it only got worse.

I went from being a happy girl who enjoyed herself and adventure never, being afraid of anything to someone who couldn't even be in a picture without looking at it and crying.

These words, all of them said and more hurt me more than I ever thought possible. But I'm not alone in this battle, although it may be the exact opposite in weigh issues for some, our struggles are the same. I hated myself so much that I hoped I could just be loved without ever loving myself. I passed up opportunities out of my own low self-esteem. I didn't give guys a chance because I thought they wouldn't like me, and the ones I did give a chance to showed me exactly why I was afraid of being with someone in the first place.

I was 12 the last time I looked into a mirror and liked what I saw. When I turned 18, I'd look in the mirror and hate every part of myself.

Today, I am 19, almost 20. I am an adult. I am no longer a child in middle school or high school. I can look in the mirror and enjoy what I see, because things do get better. You get less awkward than you were when you were younger; you start growing into your body. You see your beauty, and that the imperfections you thought you had start to disappear. Back then they were the end of the world, but today they aren't so bad.

My difficulties with my nose aren't as bad as they used to be, but the memories of everything I've been told about haunt me every day, leaving me very cautious in public at times. But that happens to everyone, a relapse during your recovery. As long as you don't sink into the dark place again and remember that the light is out there, you'll be fine.

That piercing I was afraid to get—I got it. No longer caring if it brought "attention to my face," as I used to get told. My weight is still slim. I'm 5 foot 3 inches, and weigh no more than 97 pounds, and that's okay. Why? Because all bodies are different. Different proportions. Different types. Different metabolisms.

You can't look at someone else wanting to be them, because that won't ever happen. You aren't them, and they aren't you. You're different, unique and beautiful. All those words you were once told growing up—they mean nothing as you get older. They don't define who you are. None of these words make me who I am. But they shape who you are as a person. Strange, I know. It's all true, though. Without all this said and more, I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't hold myself the way I do; I wouldn't be Julia. You either let those words destroy you, or you improve yourself to where you're happy when you look in the mirror. Now, I wear what I please. Why? Because confidence is key. Feel good and look good—that should be how it is.

How someone else sees you means nothing, how you see yourself can make or break your whole life. Love yourself completely—in the end, that's all that really matters.

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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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