I’ve always felt self-conscious about my body.
You hear the term “skinny-shaming” and think, “there’s no way someone is being ridiculed for how small they are”. But think about it, in both real life and in movies you hear people being called “small fry” or “shrimp”. For me, it’s about the size of my middle, not my height.
Going to a private school, I wore uniforms every day for 12 out of 13 years there. Give or take a few weeks for out of uniform days across that period. Having a uniform meant I didn’t have to really learn how to dress my body or what shape my body would be. My closet was significantly emptier than friends who went to a public school. I had my uniforms, dresses for going to the theater or out to dinner or church, pants for the same, and a lot of t-shirts and shorts. Of course there’s a little more than just that, but I don’t think I would describe it as a full wardrobe. I didn’t ever learn what the shape of my body was or what fit me best or why; I didn’t quite learn to accept or know my body.
Wearing that uniform was my security. It was boxy on everyone; for the longest time they were a heavy wool/polyester navy jumper. My freshman year of high school we changed to a lighter plaid fabric for the jumpers, and they were definitely more form fitting and feminine-cut. As I grew vertically I didn’t grow much horizontally. My mom was a smaller lady, my sister is small too, so was my mom’s grandmother. I was used to the size of my body. But once we switched to those new jumpers, we were all growing differently and more noticeably. A few friends would comment on the size of my waist. “You look anorexic. Are you anorexic? Eat, Madelon, eat!” Well, I was eating. I was always eating. However, I wasn’t eating full meals, I was eating snacks periodically throughout the day. A granola bar between classes, a “full” lunch at the cafeteria, another granola bar before sports practice, a “dinner” with mom at home. Small portions, but I would eat throughout the day.
For a long time in Fort Worth, teenagers and the college girls have been wearing t-shirts that are a size too large for their body. I was wearing large t-shirts when my body was barely a medium. The reasonings you’d hear were always along the lines of “it’s comfortable.” It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I really realized I wasn’t wearing these large t-shirts because of that reason. Don’t get me wrong, it was comfortable, but just as I had bought a jumper for high school that was a size too large, I bought t-shirts that were too large. All to hide the smallness of my waist. I was hiding to avoid the “are you eating enough?” questions or the comments like “man I wish I was your size.”
I decided I had enough by sophomore year of college. I really saw myself in a mirror for the first time and had the revelation that it really looked like I was wearing a bag on my body. My body did look like I wasn’t eating enough in comparison to how large this t-shirt that enveloped me was. I realized my self-worth that I hadn’t before. I was starting to get comfortable in my own skin and accept myself for who I was.
I had spent the majority of high school accepting myself for who I was psychologically that I didn’t pay attention to my outer self. Of course I was self conscious of acne, but I knew that was normal, teenage stuff. I had been at the Excel center here in Fort Worth for two or three weeks of my senior year of high school working on who I was mentally and getting my depression in check. I had been posting in this social hub of mental wellness I created since I left the Excel center, trying to help others be confident in themselves.
Every Christmas, my parents gave my sister and I three gifts on Christmas Eve after we would get come from the 11:00 service at church. Three gifts because that’s what Jesus got. But instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we received an ornament, pajamas and a book. The Christmas of my senior year, my mom gave me a book titled You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holley Gerth. This book made me realize that my insecurities with myself were definitely showing. Of course your mom knows you better than anyone, but it made me really look at myself and think about how I was treating myself. A change was needed. I stopped wearing these oversized t-shirts because all along I had been lying to myself about why I was wearing them to cover up an underlying problem. It was a long time coming, but it really took some introspection and learning about myself to realize how long it had been happening.
Feel good about yourself. Learn about yourself. Spend time with yourself. The more you learn about yourself, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself.