My Struggle with Learning to Like Myself

I always considered myself an ugly duckling. I had glasses and braces in high school. I was introverted, awkward, and self-conscious about my body. I had butterfingers, tripped over my own feet, walked into inanimate objects and lost balance.

Now, I’ve accepted my awkwardness, nearsightedness, and even my clumsiness. However, I still struggle to feel beautiful. I have lived for almost 25 years and every single day, I have thought negatively of myself, and it all comes down to my weight.

Growing up, I was referred to as the “healthy” one while my sisters were the beautiful ones. I grew up being constantly berated by my mother for being overweight and one day, at the age of 12, it escalated to pure humiliation when she took away my plate of food during lunch as I was about to dig in and in front of guests, said angrily, “you’re too fat, you need to stop eating.” I locked myself in the only functional bathroom in the house and cried for two hours. I never looked at my mother the same after that. 

But weight was an issue much earlier than that. I grew up with a weight-obsessed mom who drank tea boasting laxative properties everyday and a father who casually mentioned she had a large abdomen—even though she had given birth to five kids. It skewed my body image so much so that I disliked being touched, because contact with another human being caused me anxiety and body-shame. I became so accustomed to wearing pants and sweaters that even now, I still wear long sleeves in 100 degree weather.

Although, I was considered to be average weight in high school, I still considered myself fat. These feelings led to short bouts of starvation and purging, which then led to despair as I struggled to abstain from food, which eventually led to self harm.

I was slowly self destructing and my emotions were taking over my life and spiraling out of control. It affected my relationships with others and I distanced myself from them. I was only either in school or at home, refusing to hang out with friends because it meant other people seeing me. I drowned myself in books and found solace in passively experiencing new things in the comfort of my room without being judged. I was extremely emotional, quick to anger and prone to sadness. I once spent an entire first period of junior year crying with my head buried in my arms.

I knew I was troubled and I yearned for self acceptance. When I saw other women, I become envious. Not of their bodies but of the aura they exuded. What I admired and what I lacked most of all was confidence.

I naively believed my weight defined my self-worth. I didn’t strive to be thin, I just wanted a smaller number on the scale. To me, the numbers mattered. But somewhere along the way, it changed.

It all started with a bra. I never understood what the big deal about bras were. It’s just another article of clothing which was unimportant and no one was looking at my bras, anyway. But on a whim, I walked into a bra store and asked to be measured. The clerk said, “36D.” The bra I was wearing, which my mother bought me, was a 32B.

Professional that she was, she hid her surprise, directed me to the dressing room and gave me a bra to try on. It fit like a glove and I was overwhelmed and emotional. I didn’t feel self-conscious or the need to cover my chest. I wasn’t spilling out of the bra and it made my breasts look their size. It felt comfortable. It felt right. I was 21.

Soon after, I bought pants that fit over my hips without the loose baggy look from the knees down. While I still wore long sleeves, cardigans became my clothing of choice rather than bulky sweaters that hid my body. Despite the progress in my physical outlook, mentally, I still had a long way to go.

When a friend of mine told me a guy at work asked her if I was single, hinting at a possibility of a future date, I told her, “it doesn’t mean he’s interested.” She said I was pretty and I told her to stop lying. I smiled as I said it, but it took the both of us by surprise.

Those words flew out of my mouth so fast, I realized how much damage my psyche had endured and how much I have to overcome. Even today, as I walked past a mirror, I took a glance at myself and thought, “who would ever like you when you look like that?” These thoughts are second nature but no one should have to think that way.  

As I write this entry, I am shedding tears, apologizing to myself for treating myself so horribly. I don’t want to feel this way and never want to feel this way again. This isn’t an epiphany. Changing the way I think about myself is going to take time. Although I don’t think it now, I want to think I’m beautiful. All these years of self-loathing, self-pity, and self-shaming is going to take years to undo. But it’s going to be worth it. Because I’m worth it.

Naz is an old soul living in a 24-year-old’s body. She enjoys learning history, listening to music and watching TCM. She daydreams of traveling, joining the UN and saving the world.