It’s 2010. I’m in high school and there’s a website called “FormSpring”, a place where people can anonymously submit thoughts, questions, or in my case, rude remarks about my physical appearance.
Pig nose. Volcano face. People asking me if I was a boy because I didn’t have much cleavage (and I still don’t!). I don’t consider myself someone who was bullied in high school because I know there are others who have had it worse and but looking back, it’s insane how these comments have stuck with me longer than most of my high school friends.
While the Internet was a damaging place for my self-esteem, it was also a place full of research. So, in high school, I looked up all the ways I could clear up my skin and then spend my $20 monthly allowance on skincare products and makeup so that I wouldn’t be called a pizza face. This was just one of many times where I did something for the sake of other people’s opinions, a habit I have not yet quit. I remember a moment when my cousin and I were looking at ourselves in the mirror, and my cousin told me that pretty girls weren’t smart and that smart girls were ugly. I looked at my reflection and thought, “I must be ugly.”
It was a strange time when former First Lady, Michelle Obama, was called a “gorilla”, even though she’s one of the smartest women out there and incredibly influential. I say strange because I had felt conflicted with myself – thinking absurd thoughts that perhaps I was ugly because I was smart, that I should give up my mind for some physical beauty if a genie ever appeared, and other unrealistic thoughts because I craved for the same attention that my pretty friends got from now-irrelevant high school boys.
Fast forward to now, eight years later, there’s Instagram, Tumblr, and tons of other websites where beautiful women are scattered and always on display – picture perfect with clear skin, amazing bodies, hair done by the gods, and flawless makeup. Both media and society are over saturated with pretty girls everywhere, creating this pressure and standard to be flawless and perfect. But there is something odd about this obsession with perfection. It appears to be never-ending.
The pressure also seems to have layers. “Oh, once I have clear skin, I’ll work on growing out my hair, but at the same time, let me go to the gym and get my body looking like this, and then I’ll get this done and then I’ll do this”—but when does it ever end?! There’s always weight loss commercials, new skincare products, new makeup products, new clothes, new shoes, new teas, new this, new that – advertisements that set the standard of how I should look and that I should buy it as soon as possible. Of course, I’m human, I feel this pressure to be pretty, so I’ve succumbed and have spent many, many paychecks on makeup and clothes, and embarrassingly enough, I even got myself into debt trying to keep up with everything and everyone.
Now, I’m a young adult, but I still struggle with my appearance and some days, I feel more insecure than I was when I was a teenager. But overall, I have more good hair days than bad, and I would say that I am more confident than I was in high school, as I’ve learned quite a bit about makeup from YouTube, but hey, I’m not saying I look like Beyoncé. To be frank, in recent years, the compliments I’ve received about my appearance definitely stroked my ego – an experience I never felt in high school – and I grew accustomed to knowing and feeling that I was less ugly. But, makeup has its limits and I can’t wear it 24/7.
For example, last year, in 2017, when I went into my now former job to pick up my paycheck, I had just gotten out of the gym so picture me sweaty, probably a little stinky, with no ounce of makeup on, and hair tied. So, when my old coworker said, “Whoa, you look so different,” I was taken back.
She wasn’t wrong. But after the recent years of being complimented and called “beautiful”, I wondered if my ego was actually fragile and I wasn’t as strong as I had thought myself to be. Of course, she shouldn’t have said that, but, a year later, I’ve realized that life isn’t a game of fairness and kind words so there will be many, many things people will say and do and the only thing I can control is my reaction. I don’t hate her for what she said, I actually thank her for saying that because it’s catapulted into this thought-provoking post, and as an aspiring writer, anyone who makes me write is someone I appreciate.
And if you’ve gotten this far, thank you! I appreciate each person who reads my content. Truly, I do. As I’ve rambled about my high school insecurities, most of them I’ve managed to “fix” with makeup and skincare, I found myself in a new situation I can’t conceal quite so easily. For most of my adolescent years and in my college years as well, I have always been skinny. Thin with ribs showing. Thighs that never rubbed together. Size 25 in jeans.
But with my lifestyle choices the past two years, I found myself at the heaviest I’ve ever been, with stretchmarks in places I had never seen before, clothes I had for years not fitting, constantly deleting photos because I couldn’t believe what I saw nor did I recognize myself, but perhaps the thing I struggled with the most and continue to struggle with are the unwarranted comments made by anyone and everyone.
I get it. I don’t look the same as before and I’m not bashing anyone, but this whole experience of being called various things from my family, friends, and others was new and is still new for me. So new that I have not managed my emotions well and to be quite honest, I cried in the bathroom of my work place last night. I was overwhelmed thinking of how much I’ve had to take in. All the comments about my weight gain, my body, and whatever else had accumulated and finally came out in the form of tears. I forgot I was human and the façade I had put up by making fun of myself had cracked and so did I. It was inevitable and it was time. I’m not invincible. I let the tears and pain run out and I woke up feeling a little bit tougher and little bit wiser.
I’ve learned an incredible lesson here, one I wouldn’t have learned if my body never changed, and for this wisdom and strength, I thank my body and I vow to be more kind to my body, because I haven’t been lately. Hating myself and hating my body is a dangerous path that leads nowhere good and I want to walk proud of what I have now.
While I begin on this journey for a healthier me, I also want to work on a new obsession. I don’t want to be constantly worrying about how I look that I forget how I act and treat others. Even though I have no control of other people’s opinions about me, I would hope that when others think of me, they disregard my physical appearance and think about how I made them feel and if I was a good friend. And it’s easy to say, “I hope they say good things about me,” but there comes a time when hope and faith doesn’t cut it and actions speak louder than words.
Nothing in life worth having ever comes easy and if I want people to think of me as an honest friend, someone who has a lot of integrity, and a woman of her word, then I have to be truthful, I have to mean what I say and say what I mean, and be there when I promise to be there. Material things such as long hair, cute clothes, and whatever else are superficial and attainable. But good friends can’t be bought and I’ve always said that if I want good friends, I myself must be a good friend. Beauty eventually fades but having heart and integrity will always be in style. And that is a trend I’ll be following forever.
Thank you for reading.
This is a post I wrote and posted in a few hours, which is lighting fast compared to my previous posts that take months to write and proofread, so it’s not as strong and powerful as I’d like it to be, but I wanted to share this personal post on my website because being vulnerable is important. And if you’d like to cringe at my original post, you can find it here.
Also, today is September 9th, which means it is my friend, Andrew H’s birthday! Thank you for loving me no matter what size I am. You are kinder to me than I am to myself. Happy birthday, Andrew. No matter the distance, I value our friendship and I thank you for being my friend. You deserve the best today and forever.
2 thoughts on “The Obsession with Perfection”
Beautifully said – I feel like we have all gone through something like what you have described. My entire life I have been extremely self conscious, which has made me try to be someone I am not to “fit in” with the popular kids. Over the past year I have been trying to fully and truly embrace myself – good luck on your journey! ❤