In my Grade 8 year, every morning I would wake up, straighten my hair for thirty minutes, put on makeup for twenty, and barely have enough time to eat breakfast. I spent almost an hour every morning making myself look and feel ‘presentable’. Did anyone care at all if my hair was straight? Probably not. Did anyone care if the few pimples on my face were concealed? I doubt it. Many people are very similar to my Grade 8 self. Our society wastes countless hours worrying about what others will see in us, when truthfully nobody really cares.
In Grade 8, nothing was scarier to me than coming to school without my hair straightened. To me, my natural, curly, frizzy hair was nowhere even close to presentable to my peers. I would go to friends’ houses with my hair curly, and the whole time I’d be wanting to straighten it. I couldn’t get it off my mind. It was an obsession. I hated who I was without a flat iron in one hand, and a mascara wand in the other. I was overpowered by the thoughts of being prettier, skinnier, having better skin, better hair, whiter teeth, smaller thighs; I wanted to be everything I wasn’t. If I could, I would’ve erased everything that made me, me. I didn’t care that my friends would reassure me that I was ‘drop dead gorgeous’. I didn’t listen to my mother who would list my beautiful qualities. I had convinced myself that everyone thought I was ugly. And there was nothing that could change that, or so I thought.
I went through a great deal the summer going into Grade 9. It was the lowest time of my life so far, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I couldn’t feel anything but hatred towards myself. I treated myself awfully, I didn’t have a single ounce of respect. It had gotten to the point that I fell into a depression. I was nowhere near my normal, upbeat, smiling self. I would spend my summer days in bed except for the one hour I’d be at the gym, trying to become skinnier. I wouldn’t eat, going days at a time without a real meal. I had become a dark and foreign person.
One morning in late October of my Grade 9 year, I had an incredible epiphany. I was sitting in front of my mirror in my room, staring at the reflection of the lost girl in front of me. I didn’t recognize her at all. I watched as her hands ran through her hair. I couldn’t help but wonder whose hands they were. I was suddenly overcome with realization, almost like a movie. What was I doing? I was wasting an entire summer becoming so obsessed with being a ‘better’ version of myself. I had forgotten all the marvellous things that made me so remarkably unique. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I had finally looked in the mirror at the torture and misery that I was putting myself through, and put my foot down. I was tired of wondering who the sad girl in the mirror really was. There is nobody in the world exactly like me. My big hair, pimples, thighs, stomach and everything else makes me who I am. From then on, I decided that I wouldn’t waste another minute trying to be someone who I wasn’t.
When second term came around, it was as if I was a new person. I showed up to school with a new haircut that showcased my luscious curls. I had stopped wearing makeup for other people, and only pampered my face when I truly felt like it. I was finally confident with whom I was, and had never been so comfortable in my own skin. For the first time, I walked through the middle school doors with my chin up, showcasing my beautiful smile. I immediately felt happier and especially more confident than I ever had before.
To this day, I don’t ever let myself get away with self-comparisons to other girls. I don’t feel the need to “dress to impress”. If I straighten my hair, put on makeup, or wear nice clothes, it’s only because I want to. It took months of doing as much as I could to overpower the negativity that had once overpowered me, but nothing has ever been so worth it. Taking out the pressure of impressing other people is a huge weight to be lifted. Nobody deserves to be so self-deprecating on a daily basis. Making the switch between doing things for other people, to doing things for myself, was the difference between joy and misery.
When I get ready in the morning, I check in with myself. Am I wearing those jeans because I want to? Am I spending thirty minutes on my hair because it makes me happy? Prioritizing myself and my needs proved to make a lasting and positive impact on my lifestyle. I didn’t realize how much I resented myself, until I truly loved the person I was. It was a long journey of completely changing my perspective, but it was a journey I will never regret taking. Finally, I had learned to not change who I am to ‘please’ other people, it’s a hidden act of self-hatred. Loving who I am may be hard at times, but I’m only going to get one life. It’s a waste of time to spend even a second wishing I was someone else.