By Amari D. Pollard
When nostalgia hits I have this habit of looking through old family photos. So the other day when I found myself drowning in it, I started looking through a pile of pictures I keep on my desk and came across one where I was wearing this awful blue terry top hat thing and an equally appalling matching tracksuit. At first I wasn’t sure if I should be mad that my parents let me leave the house looking like that, or that I ever thought such an outfit was cute; but then I saw the smile on my face, the unadulterated happiness and naiveté that lifted the corners of my lips, and the fact that I looked like the Cookie Monster didn’t matter anymore.
In that saved memory, I found something to be envied about my preadolescent self. I remember her confidence, and the unwavering belief she had—that she was undeniably beautiful and any aspiration she conceived in her mind would come true, there was no possibility it wouldn’t. It didn’t matter that her love of food showed in the roles on her arms and legs or that becoming the next Disney Channel star was actually very far out of her reach, because she was flawless in her eyes and that was all that mattered.
But over time she gradually faded away—started measuring her fat with the tips of her fingers, introverting due to fear of judgments, questioning her capabilities, smiling a little less—until she just disappeared. Suddenly, the way people saw her or how she thought people saw her started to overwhelm her self-perception.
It’s hard, growing up and trying to maintain your sense of certainty in a society that is constantly telling you you’re not good enough: from the nasty comments of your peers, to the photoshopped perfection smiling back at you from the pages of magazines. And it’s sad because you can’t protect anyone from it; but looking through those photos I wish I could have.
Now, as I grow older so much of my mindset is geared towards reverting; sifting through all the built-up layers to find my way back to the little girl I was.
I think it all starts with relearning how to properly talk to myself, to love myself (regardless of whether he does, or my friends do). There is something to be said about the attitudes we have towards ourselves.
Dove did this experiment where they had women write down how they felt about themselves that day in a diary. Later that day those same women while eating at a café overheard a conversation between two friends (really two actresses), where one friend said the exact same things to the other friend that the women had written about themselves. By hearing their thoughts reflected out loud each woman was appalled by the harshness of her words; realizing that instead of self-shaming ourselves, we need to appreciate what makes us us.
Each day, as I continue to grow I think it becomes easier for me to do that. I look in the mirror and instead of analyzing every imperfection, I like—I love the girl looking back at me. I love her bushy eyebrows and big lips and pudgy nose; but more importantly I love who’s behind all those superficial features . . . and that’s all you can do.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.huffingtonpost.com