Growing up in Orange County was rough. There was constant judgment of what you wore, how you looked and who you were friends with. There was a base of comparison, from children and parents. I’ve always been the athletic one, spending my childhood as a gymnast, middle school as a soccer player and high school as a lacrosse athlete and cross-country runner. I was never skinny, nor was I ever fat, but the children always liked to call me that.
That three letter word at first was just that: a mere word with no sting, but soon it became my entire mindset. Sixth grade was when it all started; my bubble had burst and reality began to sink in.
Depression began to engulf me, consuming my mind and riddling my brain with anxiety. I would ruminate all day and night about the words the vicious bullies would say to me, whether it be in person or behind the screen of their laptops. I began to lose my sense of self, falling victim to the bullying and allowing it to control me.
High school was when the eating disorders took ahold of my life. During my sophomore year, I depleted my body of basic nutrients for months. My body became too weak for an athlete and yet, I pushed on, ending all of my practices in tears, crying over the excruciating pain coming from my legs, lungs and chest. My shin splints worsened, my lungs began to slowly collapse and my skin was a myriad of bruises.
I would go through these episodes, collapsed on my floor, crying as I stared into my mirror, disgusted by the reflection I saw. I was that fat girl that no one would love, even when I had a boyfriend who cherished everything I did. He would have to physically pick me up off the floor and hold me until the shaking stopped. I constantly wondered if I would ever get better. My freshman year of college proved to me that maybe it wouldn’t. The bulimia settled in and I would constantly find ways to avoid food. Would I really ever get better?
I read an amazing quote that truly put things in perspective for me: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” We all have scars, some more than others, but they all tell a tale of how we became the way we are today. Through my years, I’ve learned that it’s OK to not be perfect, it’s OK to sometimes fall back to our old ways, as long as we are trying to get better. If we are working on improving ourselves, that’s all that matters. We must move our self-worth from the hands of others. Too often, we allow others to influence our self-perceptions, when in reality, that person is so insignificant to the beautiful life you have the ability to create. Being confident is not a finish line – it’s a lifelong marathon.
Beautiful is a lousy word to describe someone. I prefer brilliant, resilient, courageous, strong and bold. It’s 2017. Let us end the bullying, the judgment, the constant comparisons and the labeling of others based on their appearances. I am not perfect, I am not healed, I am not confident, but I will be soon. With time, love and happiness, I know I can rise above, and so can you.