The Ugly Truth as told by Me:

My story isn’t one with an overwhelming happy ending, my story is the raw and ugly trust behind body image issues and the long lasting effect a negative self perception has on a person. My story goes something like this:

Growing up, I was always deemed to be a ‘big girl’.  Adults never commented but children, children with their honest and unthinking ways weren’t always kind. I remember the first time I teased about my weight.

I was in grade 4 and the Leon Schuster movie, (a name I conveniently forget) had come out into cinemas and was all the rage. At some point during this period it was decided that I was no longer cool by the friends that I had proclaimed to be my BFFs.  At this stage, I hadn’t realized that I had slowly been ostracized from my group of friends, in my mind they were always just busy, until one day they accidentally on purpose bumped into me, raised their right and said “Owe, fat one”.

It was the first time in my life I had realized that my looks were a contributing factor in whether or not society would accept me. After all, if my very best friends were able to find flaw in who I was as a person because of my looks, what was to stop total strangers from judging me on the same grounds.

From that day I slowly lost my self confidence. The worse I felt, the more I ate, the more I ate the more I hated myself and the unhealthy cycle of self-loathing continued. It was my own catch 22.

Because of the continuous cycle, I let my issues define who I was to become. I was too afraid to try out for sports because it would require me running AND WEARING SHORTS. So I decided that I would be the academic. The only problem is, I was never the best at that either, the disappointment of failing at my own thing added to my catch 22.

Over the years my weight fluctuated, I would diet occasionally but never because I wanted to myself, but because some random person would have made a direct and/or off-handed comment (which was worse than a direct comment) about my weight, OR overlook me and pay attention to another person who was more acceptable in size. The weight loss was never for me- never to help me feel good about myself but rather a desperate attempt at being noticed, a desperate attempt for people’s approval.

Throughout high school and a great part of varsity I avoided any kind of photo where I hadn’t spent hours doing my hair and makeup. I avoided any kind of flirtation- after all why would someone be attracted to me? I second guessed every intention by guys and girls alike, friends and flirtations – I saw sinister intentions behind every smile I received and would self-consciously check my face in order to ensure nothing was smeared across it. The unavoidable consequence was that I never really opened up to new people and as you have already guessed it- I was a 22 year old virgin in every regard. I had never held a boy’s hand yet alone kiss one.

At some point in third year I tried on what I would lovingly referred to as my fat pants. You know that extremely comfy pair of pants that would fit loosely no matter how many burgers you ate during the week? – Yup, those ones. To my utter horror, my fat pants were too TIGHT! I had to go and buy a whole new wardrobe of size 42s. I pause here to emphasize that I by no means think a size 42 is too big, but at the time it was something that I could not properly deal with. It was the turning point in my life- I went on a massive LIFESTYLE CHANGE…. I don’t say diet because I honestly believe that a diet is a temporary solution to something you hope to have long lasting effects. I lost a WHOOPING 30 KGs!

30 Kilos down, my life was just starting. I had the confidence to tackle job interviews, flirt causally with random strangers and embrace the world- except, that wasn’t how things were going down. I still doubted people’s intentions when they spoke to me or invited me out. I let guys abuse me in the sense that I started seeing myself in a lesser light (I need to pause here to explain so as not to give my friends reading this a heart attack- I had reached a point where a guys interest was enough to spark my own, a guy wanting to kiss me was enough to let me let him. I had reached a point where I no longer respected who I was).

As it turned out, the happiness I expected to find in the losing the weight was just always out of my reach. I think what I was experiencing was a little bump called depression- I would smile and be happy for my friends and family but come home and cry myself to sleep every night.

One day, a strangely perceptive friend made the comment that a lot of people had noticed I was sad- and here I thought that I was a budding actress :/-
She proceeded to tell me that she thinks  that she understood why I was perpetually sad:
Having lost the weight, fitting the ideal image of what is physically acceptable, I expected my life to take a new direction down the right path, except when I realized that good things don’t just happen, my disappointment weighed me down.

The realization that happiness doesn’t come hand in hand with what society has always expected me to believe I needed to be took me a long time to accept. But finally I have. I now know that the only way to be happy and consequently beautiful to the world is to learn to love and accept you. Look into the mirror and appreciate something that you like about yourself, decide to be healthy and strong- not skinny and breakable. But ladies, here is it is:

Although the realization is there, and I have made the decision to turn my life around for the happy, it’s not something that can be done overnight.  Just the other day, a guy told that I carry a lot of baggage and that I have a protective barrier around me because of the baggage. Obviously I had no idea what he was referring to and asked him to explain. His response was startling:

“Michelle, you are one of the most insecure people I have ever met. You can’t meet new people without being socially awkward; you care far too much about what other people think of you. You block guys out who are trying to get to know you and you give so little. It seems that you have been so badly hurt in a relationship that you build fortresses around yourself to protect your heart because you’re not quite over it.”

His response, although clearly absurd, was entirely true. I am still one of the most insecure people around, I can’t walk into a room and just be who I am, and I still second guess why someone would find me attractive. My natural response to situations is sarcasm or the shy bird – neither true reflections of who I really am or at least think I am. And every decision I make, I make after consideration of what others might think. Finally, he was right,  I am coming out of a bad relationship, a relationship where I was hurt more than what should have ever been possible by the one person who should have and will always have loved me unconditionally, ME.

But,  as I have already confirmed, I am healing and slowly recovering from my abusive relationship with myself. I have realised that I deserve the very best from none other than me. I have entered into a new flirtation with myself, I flirt a little, spoil a lot – I am slowly “courting myself” slowly learning to love who I am and what I look like.

The progress is a step by step affair- but eventually I will reach a point where the only person’s opinion of what I look like will be mine, because in the long run, the only person whose happiness I will honestly have to account for is my own. LADIES- don’t deprive yourself of your own love.

I hope that my story will at least help one other person to realise that the only person who can affect your happiness is you. It is irrelevant what others may think you look like, if you learn to love yourself, those worthy of loving you will soon follow.



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