When I was little, one sentence nearly single-handed destroyed my confidence, happiness, and self-acceptance: “When you’re a bit older, you could be a model, but you’ll need to lose some weight.” Those words were like a saw to my heart and childhood carelessness. To be clear, it wasn’t said by a model scout or someone already in the business, but by very close members of my own family who would often point out how fat they thought I was.
They did have a point: at that time in my life, I wasn’t a slim child, nor was I tall with Kenyan marathoner legs. In all actually, I was a chubby kid who loved sweets and had no idea about rational eating or keeping a balanced diet. I wasn’t aware of what it took to be a model, the kind of hard work and luck you needed to achieve something in the industry. Nobody ever explained to me that being a high-fashion girl was more like winning the lottery than an actual job with a set career path. If you were one of the lucky ones, you’d have to be a very strong person able to resist constant comparisons and comments about your own body.
With those arguments, I would rationally say I chose not to be a model, but then again, I didn’t need to choose anything. I was far from being the model type, with my genes and facial features not being the kind the modeling world typically looked for. Still, I took this “good feedback” seriously and began comparing myself with girls on the Fashion Channel, which slowly chipped away at my confidence.
I remember being so worried about how I looked and how big my belly was that I started wearing oversized t-shirts to hide in. I was so ashamed of my body that I refused to show it to anyone, even my boyfriend. Even with this self-doubt, I wasn’t doing anything to change it. I was expecting perfection without any work. I remember eating a huge bar of chocolate, then breaking down in tears, mad at how fat I was. I hated myself for being so weak, so powerless.
With time, my body started to transform. I became more proportional and boys noticed me more, which helped me to understand that I wasn’t as ugly as I’d thought. Even so, it took me over 25 years to really believe it.
I began acting like a self-confident woman who liked her own body and felt sexy, highlighted by my “too small, too short” clothes. It was a public image, though, and when no one was watching, I was very aggressive with myself. I’ve always seen a fat person when I look in the mirror, even when I looked unhealthily skinny. My opinion about myself didn’t change from positive comments because, on the inside, I was the same kid who knew she needed to lose weight to become a model, to be loved, and to gain admiration.
I have to say – thank God I never was a pretty kid. I was able to focus on myself and my studies rather than my looks. I had to work hard instead of falling back on my appearance, which allowed me the chance to graduate from one of the best Universities and gain respect among my coworkers. With time, the attractiveness came, but I already had a strong mindset of who I am and awareness that being pretty is just a temporary thing. There will always be someone younger and more attractive, but who cares? When you really love yourself, when you know that you deserve to be loved not because you are skinny but because you’re a great person, you can shrug off stupid comments about how imperfect you are. Imperfections make you alive. I learned how to take care of my body and my soul, how to be balanced with myself, and it’s something far more important than being a model (although I do love to pose for my friends).
I know that all of us have the power inside to start loving ourselves, not for how we look, but for who we are. We’re able to treat our own body well by exercising to keep in shape and far from the pharmacy. Being a balanced woman who loves and believes in herself is far more attractive than someone who just happens to be pretty.
photo by Monika Glod – blogger
Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading