Stripped from the Outer Shell … (A Thin Line Between Vanity and Self-Acceptance)

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        This is one of those topics that is a little uncomfortable to talk about. The kind of topic where some people might roll their eyes to, and others might be too embarrassed to talk about. In this life there are 3 different kinds of people when it comes to our appearance: People who don’t care how they look. People who shamelessly care and you can see that it’s almost all they care about, and then you have the people that care, but don’t want people to know how much they care. I guess I would fall under the third one. t’s almost like a guilty feeling for caring when there’s so much more important things going on in the world. This is an area that I don’t like to talk about because it’s embarrassing to admit. I never want to come across as someone who puts too much thought into my appearance, but like most issues everything stems back to my adolescent years.

       Growing up I was okay with how I looked. I was too busy being a kid, but after a lot of family losses and depression I started to rapidly gain weight. I feel like most issues start around middle school. Grade 6 through 8 is what I consider the most crucial and cutthroat developing years. Most people go through their awkward stage, but I was awkward and chubby. I was always compared to my thin, but curvaceous older sister with the pretty face and often criticized. Right before high school I lost weight. I dropped 4 pant sizes. Things were different, but I still felt like that same girl in middle school. I carried a lot of insecurities from those 3 years of middle school. I stayed around the same size in high school. I would drop a size and then gain it back, but it never went further like before. I was always somewhat of a tomboy, but the years after high school I was becoming a little more girly.

        Years later I was still obsessed with being smaller and during my early 20’s I was at my skinniest. I got down to a number that I haven’t been since I bypassed it in 6th grade. I was still on the higher end of the healthy weight range for my height, but I carry my weight differently and looked 20 to 25 pounds less than I actually was. It was such an odd time in my life. I received much more attention from guys, but I also received a lot of concerns and people telling me that I was too thin. I thought it was crazy because I was still in a healthy range and closer to overweight than underweight. When I started my new college (college #3) I gained 7 to 10 pounds during that time. As I looked back at old photos, I did look too skinny. I looked like a lollipop, but I still thought I was chubby. Fast-forward to my mid-twenties, this is where I would call my peak. During the ages of 25 and 26 I started to actually feel beautiful. My weight was in the right places and I was finally into makeup. I had a curvaceous hourglass figure who received compliments on a regular basis. I heard them so much that I finally started to believe it, but not in an obnoxious way. Going shopping was finally fun, because instead of liking one thing or nothing. I liked everything I tried on. I was finally obsessed with dresses and skirts. I was a full-on girly girl (most of the time). Make up and dresses weren’t my thing in high school or undergrad college days, but I started to love it. I felt like Jessica Rabbit meets Catwoman, and then I got engaged. I packed on a little relationship weight. The stress of work and grad school started to get to me. When I got married, I was 20 pounds heavier. I gained a little more and the stress of work and grad school took a toll on my hair. I would lose weight and then gain it back each year. It was a continuous cycle until last year.

        Last year was the first time I didn’t lose weight, I just gained more. I’m now at a point where I can’t even recognize myself. If you follow my blog, then you know the stresses and roadblocks I’ve had in my life since I started posting. I reached my highest weight this year. I am 70 pounds higher than my peak year, and almost 100 pounds higher than when I was at my smallest. Each year I would always come back close to my peak year weight, but last year I just let it get out of control. The outcome changed me. I’ve been a hermit all last year, and I missed a lot of moments. I try to hide away from people because when they see me, they are surprised and I can see what they’re thinking. The way people respond to me is different, the way I react is different. I make less eye contact, and I try to walk with my head down. I’ve always had a lot of anxiety, but it’s actually higher now when I’m out in public, like I need to breathe in a paper bag bad. I’m embarrassed and ashamed. Not just because I let myself go, but I feel guilty that I care this much and it’s affecting me in many areas. Fortunately, there’s always a lesson and a silver lining.

        When my weight shot up and my hair was falling out to where I just had to cut it to start over, I was forced to look at myself and be vulnerable. I wear sweats and lounge clothes most of the time because nothing fits. My dresses are all packed away. I can’t even hide behind my hair. I haven’t had hair this short since I was 3 (or 2). I don’t recognize myself. Looking into the mirror every day is hard, but I did get to know me. I got a chance to fall in love with another part of me. I got to see who I am after being stripped away from everything that I thought I was. I wasn’t working, and when I finally started working (after being constantly rejected for so long), I had to leave because I made an old injury worst by pushing myself to do something that my body couldn’t. After years and years of being a student it has been weird not be considered one anymore. I’m not a student. I don’t have a career or job, and I don’t recognize who I am in the mirror. I no longer felt beautiful and I wasn’t “the girl with the long hair” anymore. So, what was my identity now? Who I was (and who I AM) deep down, was always there. I just never paid too much attention to it until it was all that I had left.

        I fell in love with my character, my heart and my soul. I’m not the perfect person, by any means, but I am kind. I have a big heart. I care when people are hurting. I listen to their cries. I hype them up and let them see what I see. I treat others with respect. I’m understanding and I try to be mindful of people’s feelings. I don’t tear down people for fun. I always thought those characteristics were basic human traits, until I got a look of the world. Just being at that job last year and seeing how much people bad mouthed people they don’t even know. The way some people treated people was unbelievable. Men & Women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s was acting like teenage mean girls. Seeing what other people go through, and how there are adult bullies and people trying to get people fired just because they want to, was shocking. I knew there were a lot of mean-spirited people in the world, I just didn’t know it was that many. Everyday on social media people are attacking someone’s looks for likes or trashing them based off assumptions. It’s not just kids who are doing it. I don’t get that. What is there to gain from doing that? Coming across this realization shocked me, but It made me appreciate the person that I AM. I was so down on myself because I felt like I was just a housewife that let herself go, that I just forgot about what was truly important. I might have fell off track temporarily, but at least I know I’m a caring human being with morals and convictions. My heart is in the right place before each action I take, and I should be proud of that.

        I always looked at my kindness as a flaw. When you’re a nice person you seem to get stepped on a lot, and people will take advantage of it. I thought I cared too much about people’s feelings and when I tried to harden myself and be careless I couldn’t. As I got older, I started to appreciate when people would tell me how sweet and nice I am. Most would say that they thought I would be stuck up, but surprisingly I was really sweet and kind. Some would go on and tell me how sweet, kind and caring I am, and those compliments were way more meaningful than the ones complimenting my outer shell. Getting those compliments about my appearance were nice and flattering, but someone complimenting your character touches you in a different way. It touches the soul. It brings tears to your eyes. Who I am, can’t be taken away from me. What I thought was a flaw and my biggest weakness turned out to be my biggest strength and what I love most about myself. I guess once in awhile we should remember to ask ourselves if we were stripped from our outer shell and from all our achievements would we still like ourselves? My answer is: YES! I like and LOVE who I AM!


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