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The Maze

April 19, 2009

When I was growing up, I was not comfortable with my body at all. I have always been considered “overweight.” For as long as I can remember, my stomach has never been flat. Due to bad eyesight, I’ve had to wear glasses since I was three. I have pale skin that burns instead of tans when exposed to the sun, and my dark hair gets greasy very easily. One can say that I’ve been given a well-endowed chest. I felt very awkward. It was difficult for me to go to school with girls who would spend lots of time on their appearance. I felt intimidated by them— especially when we were in the locker rooms for gym class. In middle school, I would change in the stall in order to avoid their scrutinizing gaze and whispered giggles. During class, I would wear long pants and a loose-fitting tee while they wore their shorts and tight shirts. I felt even more awkward during certain units in gym. Tumbling is what really sticks in my mind the most. You were given a letter grade for each thing you were able to accomplish. For example, a bent-leg cartwheel was a C, a roundoff was a B, and a perfect cartwheel was an A. Can you guess what I was able to do? If you guessed the bent-leg cartwheel, you’re right. However, I was able to manage a bent-leg roundoff, but I can’t remember if that ever got graded.

In high school I began wearing large sweatshirts to cover myself up. I couldn’t stand seeing my body, let alone having other people look at me. This prompted commentary at home— which comes with living with one of those girls who spends time on her appearance. I would receive comments like, “Ew, you’re going to school looking like that?” and “You need to [insert action] your [insert body part]. You look [insert adjective of a negative connotation].” Although my parents would tell me not to listen to her (she’s just trying to get a rise out of me) and that I was beautiful, I never believed them. If I looked in the mirror (which I usually tried to avoid doing) I would point out all of my flaws to myself. I felt like I was in a maze with very little light, fumbling along trying to find my way out of the dark.

I honestly believe what gave me the initial push to gain confidence in myself was theatre. In the fall of my sophomore year, I was cast to play a role in my high school’s production of Up The Down Staircase. I had an amazing experience, and I made lots of great friends. I auditioned for the spring musical that year and I also was cast in that. Although being on stage really unnerved me, the exhilaration I felt afterward made it worth the anxiety. I also made new friends and strengthened existing friendships. Every time I participated in another show, it was like somebody was handing me a brighter light to help navigate the maze. First it was a small candle, then a flashlight, a lantern, a floodlight, and finally all the lights turned on.

My newfound confidence began to manifest itself in my clothing, my discovered happiness with using earrings to express myself, and my general carriage. My junior year of high school, I was asked to go to prom by my then-boyfriend. I did have a lot of concern over my dress, but I was able to find one that I really loved and thought I looked great in. (My dad actually picked it out, and he found my dress for senior prom. He has good taste.) For the first time, I honestly felt that I was beautiful and the compliments I received at prom made me glow. Let’s forget that the boy broke up with me the following Monday. Those thoughts and feelings carried over to my senior year, which was hands down the best year I spent in high school.

I’m currently a sophomore at Carleton, and although I have lost weight since middle and high school, I’m still considered as “overweight.” My stomach is still not flat, but I have no problems about that. I still wear glasses, but it’s been years since I’ve been teased about them. Plus, I think that they are part of who I am. I don’t worry about what people think of my pale skin, and I’ve discovered a shampoo that actually works well for my hair. I’ve come to terms with the size of my chest, and the fact that I wear a size larger than a C doesn’t bother me anymore. Being on stage still scares me, but I still involve myself with performing, whether it’s choir or theater. The only time I wear sweatshirts is when I’m cold and they are not extra-large. Most importantly, when I see myself in the mirror I see my big smile. 😀 I absolutely love who I am, and I am so happy that I’ve been able to find my way out of that maze.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    April 19, 2009 9:04 PM

    In a recent post about Susan Boyle on Shapely Prose, I found a quote that really resonated with me (and reminds me of this post):

    “What makes people stop laughing — or at least, what makes you stop caring if they do? The discovery that something about you is utterly remarkable. Because it is. It might not be an angelic voice or some other showy talent. It might be humble, even difficult for others to notice. You might not know what it is yet.”

    I think when we all find that something utterly remarkable about ourselves–like your experience with theater–we can begin to accept ourselves for the amazing, talented, beautiful people we are.

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