When I was a kid, I used to have a step mother. She bought me clothes two sizes too big for my body because she perceived me as large, and even though I probably wasn’t, I began to see myself in the same way she did. I only have negative memories of the time she spent in my life, each one likely linking to some complex I still carry with me as an adult. A few years ago, the same woman tried to add me as a friend on FaceBook and I couldn’t have blocked her fast enough.
I feel sad for the little girl who grew up loathing her body, conscious of the way every piece of clothing clung to it and fearing rejection from her peers. I’m twenty-four years old and I’m still dealing with my self-image, although I have made quite a bit of progress since I was a teenager. I’m thinking less about how others view me and turning my attention towards myself. Honestly, though, there are still times when I catch my reflection in a shop window as I’m walking down the street and am surprised at what I see.
The same thing happens when I see photos others have taken of me. I’m caught so off-guard and wonder if that’s how I look all the time. It’s not always a good surprise, either. When I saw the photos family members had taken of me and my husband on our wedding day I was so disappointed in myself. I was horrified by the way I looked in my wedding dress and couldn’t believe I had chosen something that made me look so awful. It’s a shame, because I felt very beautiful while wearing the dress (if not a bit uncomfortable!), but now my memory of the way I felt is tarnished because of those candid photos. Luckily, the professional photos did a better job at flattering my figure, although I still grimace when I look at them because I’m unsure of how truthful they really are.
There are times when I am pleasantly surprised by a candid photo, and that happened today. My husband took a few photos of me when I wasn’t paying attention and at the time I was sure they would be awful, but looking at them actually puts a smile on my face. I’m reminded of the work I’ve done to get into shape and how it’s actually working, and I feel appreciative of how much effort I’ve put into myself over the last few months. It’s like I’m beginning to see myself for the first time.