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When I knew I was beautiful

October 1, 2010

This is an anonymous submission to the ongoing series “When did you know?”, an examination of the intersection of labels and identity. Information on how to submit your piece to the series can be found on the Join Us page.  To see all posts in this series, click here.


I knew I was beautiful when I heard my best friend say it.

Sure, boys flirted with me, men flirted with me, but that meant nothing to me.  I knew what they wanted, and I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction.  They flirted with me because I could give them what they wanted, but what woman didn’t have that?  It was hollow, and their attentions never made me feel beautiful.  If anything, I considered myself plain, with wide eyes and an easy smile.

My eyes looked especially large because I had been starving myself for quite some time.  I wanted to be beautiful, and I felt beautiful when I could feel my ribs scratching beneath my thinning skin.  The more attention I got, the less I needed it.  I would go outside in shorts and a sports bra to go biking, liberated by the absence of cloth on my waning shoulders.  I was beautiful and independent and powerful.  I didn’t need anyone to tell me I was beautiful, because I felt free of them and their hungry leers.  Unfortunately, I was forever trapped by my own thoughts and rules, my obsessions with how much I could eat and when.  I had to keep fading away and become a shadow within myself, in order to completely free myself from needing their acceptance.  Only my own approval mattered, and I would never let me have it.

He invited me over for blueberry pie.  I have a sweet tooth, and I had to have his mom’s homemade crust.  I stopped by, late one night, and stared nervously at the huge piece of pie in the bowl in front of me.  There was no way I should eat all of that.  It would ruin how good I had been that day.  While we talked about nothing, I cut the piece in half and nibbled on the smaller bit.  Half would be okay.  Half wouldn’t ruin me.

“Why did you cut it in half?  Why not just eat until you don’t want it anymore?”

“I don’t know how much I want.  This way, I know how much I had.”

“You do know that you’re beautiful, don’t you?”

I put down my spoon and decided that I wasn’t going to cry.  Me?  Beautiful?  But he always teased me about what I wore and whom I dated and what I did for fun.  For years, we harassed each other about the dumbest things, because it was fun, and I never thought much of it.

But now I was beautiful.  My mother told me all the time, but he said it.  It had to be true, if he were willing to risk the status quo of our relationship in order to tell me.

“I am?”

It was around that time that I started to eat again.  It has been hard, and I am not completely healed.  I frequently forget that I am beautiful, and I feel very plain and unspecial.  However, I know that I have worked too hard, I have accomplished too many things, and I have loved too much to not be beautiful.  All of me is beautiful, but my eyes are the most beautiful part of me, because they speak of all that I am.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 8:32 PM

    Such a simple story, yet too profound for words. Perhaps the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat tell it all. Every person is beautiful, and deserves to be told so, by someone who will not benefit at all. yes, even parents tell their children they’re beautiful for selfish reasons.

    I’m glad to know that such a simple act of kindness from your friend was healing for you.

  2. October 3, 2010 1:55 AM

    Thank you for having the courage to post this; your honesty is incredibly moving. As important as it was for your best friend to acknowledge it, it seems that the most powerful recognition of your beauty is your own. Reading your words, I can tell how far you’ve come in personally reconciling your own conceptions of yourself – good luck on the rest of your journey! 🙂

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