turning the tables

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.

 

9 thoughts on “turning the tables

  1. You are wise my friend. It’s okay to push your development and growth, but not at the expense of your self actualization.

    Keep pressing, keep learning, keep thinking.

    Be mindful of what people think of you, of course, but don’t change something because you think you need to fit in. Be like Freddie and Gordie!

  2. Be independent of the opinions of others. A lesson I learned and you are expressing. Obviously we need to be aware of the opinions but we can remain independent of them and be ourselves.
    I would enjoy reading your thoughts about this: We are human beings, not human doings.

    1. Thanks for the comment! That is very interesting. The way I interpret that is the purpose of being human is to be, rather than to do. We tend to get caught up in all the ‘doings’ of life that we forget to just be. Be present, be happy, be in the moment. Our society gets too caught up in graduating high school, getting into a good university, graduating university, getting a good job, falling in love and starting a family, etc. We need to remember the importance of everything besides the constant movement in our lives. I’ve never heard that saying before, but it is very interesting and definitely sparked some ideas for me. Thank you for the insightful comment, Brian. Hope all is well!

      1. All is indeed well, thank you.
        Be present, be happy, be in the moment.
        That is a key to a life well lived I think. I agree with you. The other stuff is actually quite important but “being” makes it all even better. Be you. Be true to your own developing principles and ethics, and especially, as you said, Be present, be happy, be in the moment.

  3. Even in your hardships, your wisdom shines through and prevails! Bravo, ma belle Claire! May you never lose sight of the “wonderfully beautiful you” that you truly are both inside and out! Hugs a bunch!

  4. Hi Claire. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I’m sad that you have felt so conflicted about yourself. You’ve now come out the other side and feel happier and more confident, which is fab! I’ve brooded over your blog for the last few days, uncertain how to reply to you and also thinking back to the time when I was your age. For me, it was a time of experimentation and searching for my own style and individuality and not even thinking about anybody else. I had pink hair, purple streaks, wore Victorian vintage clothes and military jackets from junk shops, made my own clothes as I couldn’t find what I wanted or couldn’t afford what was in high street shops. There is absolutely nothing wrong in experimenting to find your own look and/or usng clothes and makeup to create what you are or want to be. It’s very exciting and powerful time to be a woman and I’m very envious that you have so much fun to look forward to! Jane x

    1. Hi Jane,
      Thanks for the comment! I enjoyed reading your insights. It’s true, this is certainly a time to “try on” different characters, and it’s interesting to witness my friends doing the same.
      I hope you are having good holidays! Miss you:)
      Claire

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