When I agreed to be a Debutante, I knew it would involve posing for professional pictures that would then be “cherished for a lifetime”.
So I spent all summer working out at least twice a day. I lost ten pounds, tried out all these new makeup combinations, found a new hair product, and kept overanalyzing every aspect of my body.
And attached to this post is the so-called “Picture To Be Cherished For A Lifetime”.
You’d think, knowing that I tried the best I could for three months, that I’d be satisfied looking at this picture, but I’m not.
My cheeks are too chubby. I have a small neck. My arms are too big. I always kinda have a double chin. The list goes on and on…
I feel pathetic that I spent three months of my life trying to look good so that I could be proud of a picture that I would never be proud of, anyway.
It’s not selfish to want to be healthy. I genuinely enjoy fitness (Since I was twelve I’ve been trying to run a half marathon in every state and I’m a Pure Barre enthusiast). Working out makes me feel better and it’s vital for overall wellbeing. But all the time I spent working towards this look was day after day of selfishness. The time I spent overanalyzing my body, and working out more than I needed to each day, was time I could have spent focusing on other people instead of myself. I could have been reading about current events, calling friends, helping my parents make dinner, spending time with my brother, learning new things, or volunteering, anything to leave a lasting impact on the world or on someone else. Instead, I just wanted to continue trying to look good for a picture. I somehow mistakenly equated “finding myself” with “becoming thinner”. I thought that if I could attain my ideal body size, then all the other pieces of my life would fall into place.
And now I am sitting here writing this with those ten pounds back on my body and all the pieces in my life no more together than before. Because life happens, because I can’t work out twice a day in the craziness of college, because this semester I chose people over abs, and, more importantly, because I want to make change in this world—not change on my body.
Sometimes I wish I’d be perfectly toned and someone would think I have a good body, but I wish more that someone would tell me they appreciate my heart, that they love my eyes or some feature that I have zero control over, that someone would laugh with me (or slap me across the face) about how ridiculous I am to care about looking good for one set of professional pictures. I wish more that I could talk about real beauty, about my hopes and dreams and quirky personality traits. I wish I could dive deeply and passionately into my activities/friendships/relationships and never think twice about how I look or how anyone else looks. I wish I could think about cancer survivors who are thankful to have any hair at all, to be any weight, to be alive. I wish I could think about all the good things my body can do, like run half marathons and swing dance. I wish I could see myself as more than a picture, more than a number on a scale, more than a 1 to 10 rank up against millions of other women.
Sometimes I think, “If only I was more attractive, then ____ (fill in the blank).” Then this guy would like me. Then this girl would want to be my friend. Then these people would invite me to their parties. Then that person would take me seriously. Then I’d be more confident.
But after three months of chasing after an unattainable attractive level, I realized it isn’t worth it. Because that guy still won’t like you, because he wasn’t, and never will be, good enough for you. That girl still won’t want to be your friend because if she cared about your heart she’d already be your friend. And what kind of friend is that who’s only around when you look good? Looks fade, people.
And the confidence?
Do you know how long it took for that photographer to get me to relax enough for her to even take this picture from this angle? So long. I wasn’t more confident ten pounds ago. Maybe I felt a bit less anxiety over the idea of people sizing up my body, but I wasn’t more confident. Because confidence is knowing yourself. And by trying to attain an unattainable body, I lost myself.
You scroll through Facebook and see a lot of pictures. But behind those pictures are stories.
That’s what really bothers me about social media: the filtering doesn’t just make you look better; it also takes away every human aspect to the picture; it erases the story.
My New Years Resolution is not the classic, cliché resolution to try to become thinner, but instead it’s to try to find myself. The me who laughs about stupid puns, not the me who laughs about spending three months trying to look good for pictures. The me who appreciates compliments about my heart and not the ones about my body. The me who chooses others over myself. The me who can actually walk confidently because of my inner beauty, who can stand up for myself and know when a guy isn’t good enough, who can demand respect for who I am, regardless of how I look. My New Years Resolution is to try to find the me who eagerly listens to others’ stories. Because there’s a lot more to each of us than our filtered, professional pictures.