Me, myself and the bully
I was 11 when my hair started to rebel. All of a sudden I had this voluminous hair with (almost) curls that neither me, my mother or my older sister knew how to handle. No one in my family had curly hair so I did what every teenager does and tried to blend in with the rest of my fellow straight hair girlfriends, combing it until the last curl was just a string of frizzy hair. This is what we do when we know nothing about confidence: we emulate the normative, whatever that might be.
I got over my unruly curly hair just in time to only have a couple of bad pictures as memories of my combed curls (the horror!). Around 14 I had already come to terms with the fact that I would never have the silky straight hair that I saw in magazines. But the list of things I hated about myself wasn’t over when I learned how to live with my hair. If nothing, it was almost as a new world of flaws opened and I quickly moved on to the next best thing: body image.
Before writing this I tried to recall the first time I ever thought I was fat. And the more I dug into the past the more I realised that it has always been a part of me. There wasn’t a definite moment that made me think I was overweight. However, I do clearly remember being around 12 and taping a diet from a teen magazine to my bedroom wall, thus declaring war to my yet to be developed curvy body. No one called me fat or bullied me in school, but, in my mind, I had made my own label for what my size meant. What I didn’t realize back then was that I was the one bullying myself for not looking a certain way.
According to a study on self-esteem by the New York School of Medicine “girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are 9 years old, then takes a nose dive”. This piece of information makes sense to me in a way, but also upsets me. Self-esteem always felt like something we have to build, with our girl strength and wisdom as a woman. On the opposite, my own experience shows me that I was happiest with myself when I wasn’t aware of even what the concept meant. Probably back when I was 8 or 9. I typed into google again: self-esteem. “A person's overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth”. My conclusion? There are no peaks and declines, there are builds and rebuilds as anything in life.
Today I am 23 and I have different struggles, the list is shorter but still a work in progress. I have lost 20 kilos but it wasn’t the kilos that I put down that brought me up. Losing weight is not about getting rid of kilos. You can do it, but the biggest loss will be in terms of shedding that layer of doubt. You won’t ever reach your goal, because you won’t ever see yourself clearly. And it wasn’t because I was heavier, it was because I led an unhealthy thought processed diet for as long as I knew what body image was. In the end of the day, I wish I could have spared myself all the comparisons and self-doubt that an unhealthy dose of self-esteem brought me. But that is the way it goes: If you don't manage to see yourself clearly, you will never reach your goal.