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Since I was a kid I’ve had body image issues concerning my weight. When I was just six-years-old, my grandmother criticized my chubbiness. When I got to junior high, the girls in school — the popular ones, at least — were always extremely skinny and I wasn’t. Sometimes they would even go out of their way to make me feel insecure.
“Ugh, I’m so fat,” said Angela, perhaps the most tiny and obnoxious girl in my grade. We were both in the girls' bathroom at the same time and knowing this, she thought it would be a good idea to criticize her own image in the mirror so I would feel guilty about my own. Her eyes flickered back to me for my reaction. I didn’t show it to her, but inside I felt awful and embarrassed.
In the years to come, I even developed an eating disorder. Sometimes I would barely eat a thing for days. I grew skinnier, but I was miserable. It took a lot of time and many therapy sessions to move past it. Even though I eventually abandoned that kind of self-destructive behavior and gained some healthy weight back, the bad thoughts remained. There was a constant struggle inside my head about whether or not I deserved to eat my meal. I had to learn how to shut that inner dialogue down.
Help ended up coming in the form a friend. When I got to college, I met a girl who was smart and strong-willed and I respected her. But when she went out to parties, she loved wearing “slutty” outfits. At first, I was perplexed by this. On a daily basis, she was so chill and composed. It was strange to see her — let’s call her Marie — in this different context. Until that time I thought very poorly of women who dressed in such a revealing manner. Seeing Marie — a person I admired and respected — take on this wild and free persona changed my view of other females and how they dressed.
I was still scared, but I wanted to try it out. I had this notion instilled in me from previous life experiences, like the one in the girls' bathroom at middle school, that someone who wasn’t rail thin couldn’t wear certain things. I questioned whether I had the right to try to look sexy. I wanted to overcome my body image issues so I thought, “To hell with it! I’m going to go out with my friend and will look however I want to!” Having Marie by my side made me more comfortable and confident, even if I still had some nerves. I started wearing whatever I wanted to despite my fears.
Sometimes I would get ugly criticism for it. While I was living in Hollywood, the mecca of body image issues and eating disorders, I went out to the nightclubs in nothing but my spiky bra and my short shorts. I loved the outfit and so did a bunch of men and women I partied with that night. When I was walking back home, though, one guy on the street started jeering and said that I shouldn’t be going out like that because I didn’t have the body for it. I was incensed with rage and when I got home I started to cry. But the next day, I looked back on the photos that my friends and I had taken and remembered the good parts of the night and how confident I felt before that idiot crossed my path. I felt like a rockstar. While it was a tough experience, in the end it built up my self esteem.
What ended up mattering more was that I was enjoying myself. Other people’s opinions started to matter less. I was having fun and learning to be free. I developed a new respect for myself and appreciation for my body. “Other people might not like it, but I don’t care,” I thought.
Sometimes I still have those negative thoughts about my appearance that I grew up with. It’s hard to remain positive and confident 100% of the time, no matter who you are. But when I start to feel that way, I put on whatever little dress or revealing top I damn well please and force myself to get over it and just have fun being me.