Learning to Love the Skin I’m In

My whole life I’ve been dissatisfied with the way I look. I could list off things I disliked like a rapper, quickly coming up with a staggering amount of items that traveled from the very tip of my head to my toes. It was a running commentary on how unhappy I was with my appearance; a poisonous, vitriolic narration of my life.

And these thoughts would run through my mind like a train rushing off the tracks, sending discourse and displeasure rushing through my body like a rolling wave of adrenaline. No matter where I was, who I was with, or what I was doing, there was always a dark corner in the back of my mind reserved for this seemingly endless amalgamation of negativity. I was always tormented by it, caught up in the hatred that jabbed at me like barbs and settled in my heart, causing it to become a sinking ship of despair.

In the ocean of my mind, white-capped waves raced across the surface, creating a turbulent and dangerous journey. Every morning I would wake up and sigh heavily as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror through bleary, sleepy eyes. Then I would shuffle myself into an outfit that was comfortable and easy to take on and off since it was liable to be changed several times throughout the day and go about my business in a fog. 

What if I fought to clear the haze? What if I became a beacon of light, shining through the darkness and guiding myself to a place of happiness? What if I became the navigator of the ship that is my heart and caused to beat in time to a rhythm of thoughts that were positive? What if I changed the dialogue in my mind and rewrote the script of my life?

For so many years I have longed to look and be different than I am. If you asked, I could rattle off everything I sought to change, like a fireworks display; boom, boom, boom. I have wanted to change my body; make myself taller, thinner, more athletic. To change my nose; to straighten it out like a line painted cautiously and carefully onto a blank canvas and shrink it to the demure, button-like noses I have always envied. To change my skin; smooth it out and even my complexion like a field cast in pallid moonlight. To change my hair; eliminate the way it curls up at the slightest touch of water and explodes when exposed to humidity. To change myself on the whole; make myself smarter, funnier, wittier, kinder, braver, and any other positive superlative that exists in the English lexicon.

What if, instead of searching for everything wrong with myself, I noticed what was right? What if, instead of labeling things as “bad” or “ugly” or “undesirable”, I just accepted them as they are? My body contains cellulite and curves, yes, but these are part of what make me look human and allow me to wake up each morning and make it through the day. My nose may not be ruler straight or small and centered square in the middle of my face, but it is a sign of my heritage and a reminder of the family to which I am so proud to belong. My skin may be blemished, scarred, and difficult to deal with on the best of days, but it shows who I am and what I’ve been through. My hair is another distinctly recognizable feature that is unique and beautiful. And though I may not be the smartest, funniest, wittiest, kindest, or bravest, I possess all of these qualities and so many more that make me the person I am.

Learning to love the skin I’m in is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are moments where I wish I could physically jump out of my skin and run away from all my thoughts and all the pressures of the world, freed of the burden these things place on my shoulders. There are moments where I wish I had never developed anorexia and had not spent any time lying still in a hospital bed, watching snowflakes drift by outside the window as life passed me by just as quickly. There are moments where I regret the choices I’ve made and decisions that have designated the path I’ve traveled.

But it is also a battle worth fighting; I charge straight into the thick of it, armed with a shield constructed of all the support I have from friends and family and a sword made of all the love I carry with me every minute of every day. And it is a difficult war to wage, but still I soldier on, because it is worth every ounce, every fiber, every infinitesimal atom of my being.”

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