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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pretty as a Picture

As a little girl (hey I'm a teenager now kay?? i'm like, all grown up and don't need anyone to tell me what to do, i know all ;P I swear, we're not like that all the time!!! It's a largely untrue stereotype, honest to God! lol), I never really cared what I looked like. I wasn't into dressing up, make up and handbags, high heels and pretending to be a princess. I'd dress up my Barbie dolls, but then I'd make some boys (my parents wouldn't buy my sister and I boy dolls haha) so I could act out my stories that I made up for them. I wasn't quite able to ignore the fact that they were still so obviously female, even when I cut their hair short and dressed them in t-shirts and shorts I made out of tissues and sticky tape, or even, haphazardly sewed, or stapled, spare pieces of material (I was creative!). But I wasn't big on caring about looks.

My mum did my hair for me until I was eleven. My parents chose my clothes until I was in year 6, although I was given choices. But it didn't really matter to me.

I don't know when looks became so important to me. In year seven I emerged out of my shyness to make some friends at school, just before leaving to go to high school. What I do remember is how much I hated myself.

We had a year seven reunion today, about three quarters of our year seven class turned up. We were looking at a Powerpoint where, in year seven, we had each made two pages with pictures of ourselves and written a little bit about us and our primary school memories. What struck me about mine was that under "Dislikes", I had written "Me". I was a little bemused by that, seeing how open I had been about it then. I remember telling my friends on a regular basis how I didn't feel they should be friends with me, how I was a "loser", and whatever other words were derogatory at the time. I'd talk about it all the time, I felt I wasn't worth them. I didn't deserve to be cared about. I was twelve.

I think that because I had been so shy and without many friends all these years, that I felt, subconsciously, when I did make friends, that I couldn't deserve them. If I hadn't before, why would I now? I was just a little more visible. And realising that I was desperate to be noticed, accepted.

It was in about year seven that I began considering my weight. I've never really been one to read magazines. Our family didn't even own a TV for the first eight years of my life, because they thought it had too many bad influences, which I'm inclined to agree with, to a point. Sure, with my new found friends, I would look through their glossy new "Girlfriend"s every month, but it seemed pretty stupid, even then. I don't really find pictures of models and celebrities to be something I desire to look like. I am aware of the falsity of those images, the pressure and extreme measures taken to be that thin, etc.

No, where I began to care about my weight came from somewhere much closer than that. My mum. I remember, in year six or seven, one of her comments as I walked into the room where she was sitting, "You look pregnant!" My mum has never been one for tact.

I haven't forgotten this yet, obviously, because no matter how much I tried to ignore this, it attacked me somewhere deep inside. How easily we remember past wounds! I know I remember hurtful words clearly, while forgetting kind mentions. This in part is due to how I would seize upon any negativity from others and twist it, digging the arrow in deeper. My worst enemy has been myself, but with others lending weight to the negative thoughts about myself, I was trying to protect myself by making sure their messages stuck, that I would remember. How is that protection? So that I would not embarrass myself, that I would not delude myself into thinking I was pretty, an acceptable body shape, and possibly even reveal that I thought so, when it wasn't true. I was driving home these "truths" so that this embarrassment could not occur, for if I thought I was better than I was and others saw that, would they not just deride and scorn me? And although I thought I was not deserving of these friends of mine, that did not mean I didn't want them. I did, oh I did! To feel loved, it was wonderful. How selfish of me, to want friends who I would only bring down through our friendship. Yet another thing I must hide deep within, another shameful secret to bury. I didn't want to be selfish.

I don't know about you, but one thing I learned from my peers was that belittling yourself was a good thing. If someone complimented you, you would disagree. "You're so pretty." "No, I'm not,", before listing imperfections which proved why the girl in question could not be pretty. Being smart was something I learned to hide early, no one wants to be a "nerd", not even me, who would read at recess and lunch, while walking home, and through the holidays until she was ten or eleven. Even accepting a compliment, in my mind, has come to seem conceited. Even if what is stated is true. It's ridiculous, I know. But from my subconscious observations of others, this is what I put together.

And also, putting yourself down got you assurances. For, even if you thought badly of yourself, if you were wrong others would tell you so. So, even, as I told myself that these reassurances were just what my friends were saying to be nice (After all, they were nice enough to be friends with me, and who on earth could be so nice that they would befriend someone like me?); a small part of me hoped, and wanted to believe that they meant what they said in all honesty, that they were right.

My mum has told me time and time again how I am putting on weight, how if I keep eating the way I do and not exercising, I will end up unable to walk from how fat I am by the age of 20, how fat I am getting, how much I am "expanding", etc. She is always bugging me to exercise.

Why won't I?

For a start, I have never really been good at sports. This makes for being extremely embarrassing for such a shy girl. The public humiliation of always being picked last for a team, of letting down the team, was something I hated. Standing there unwanted, because I wasn't good enough, isn't that enough to make anyone cringe? People tend to either act like they don't care, and play even worse on purpose, or, like me, avoid being placed in such a situation as much as possible. I knew the only way to get better was through practice, but through practice I'd have to play, and I couldn't do that. I have engaged in sports over my primary school life, swimming, tennis, and soccer. But it was worse because my dad was really good at sport, in particular soccer. I wanted to make him proud of me by being like him, good at soccer. I love watching soccer, and playing it. However, for a long time, I didn't want him to see that I was bad at it, as I knew I would be, and so I wouldn't play soccer with him. In year seven I actually did play soccer for the under 13's or 14's girls for school, and it turned out I was a decent defender. It was fun, our team was good, and we won the majority of our games. Come high school and we didn't really have any teams, and I knew I wasn't good enough to play for a club. I was scared to try out since I was scared to be rejected. However, I did organise for my friends and their parents and my dad and people from my church to play soccer most Saturdays for approximately the next two years. It wasn't as skilled, teams were unevenly numbered and sometimes there were barely any people, but it was fun. That eventually petered out.

Reason Two: My mother and I have had a fairly turbulent relationship for most of my adolescent life, just to break the stereotype haha. We argue about a lot of things, but to me, if I exercised, it would mean that she had won. She would know that she had gotten to me, with everything she said. I would have lost. That would never do. So I would lose weight in my own way, and I would be happy and so would she. But I would not let her win. Her telling me about my weight was not going to get to me. It did. But she would only win if she knew how that affected me. I could not allow that.

Why? Why did it matter if she wanted me to exercise? I could have. It shouldn't have mattered who suggested it, when it was the healthy way to go.

I'm still not sure what the reasoning is behind this "not letting her win" thing that I have.

I know she only means well. She wants me to be healthy, and fit, and not overridden with diseases and weak before my old age. She wants me to have the best in life. But, she is blunt in typical Indian manner, and my easily hurt self has been wounded deeply. I am trying to gain self-worth. I am trying to believe that beauty is from within, and that outer beauty doesn't really matter, that it fades anyway. That true beauty comes from the heart and overflows to the outside. A beautiful soul is the most important thing. I know this. But I still can't abandon my foolish fears.

I want to look nice because I want other people to like me. I'm scared that if I don't look nice no one will want to be around me. I know people aren't that shallow, but I need to be accepted so much. It's somewhat irrational.

The End, for now.


  1. Deleted your comments if you wanted to have another go... here is the original:

    I find it so encouraging and, uplifting that you had such a strong reaction to what I said... I guess the fierceness with which you believe this helps me to understand your sincerity and see the truth in it, at least a little...
    thank you.
    And for calling me a friend (:
    You're an amazing writer, and more than that, an amazing person. I am glad to have you following my blogs, and to be following yours.

  2. Have you considered therapy? And I don't mean that in a bad way. I've been in therapy and am all for it.
    You obviously have some deep rooted self esteem issues. Sometimes, these things work themselves out, and sometimes people need help. There's no shame in that.
    I've seen your picture somewhere in the earlier posts and can't understand where this is coming from. But I also know that me saying that helps nothing.

  3. Thanks for being so honest, posts like this make people think (that's definitely what the world needs).
    You know, a lot of people are, in fact, shallow. It's sad to say but a good percentage cares about how you look. Sometimes, the answer is to be comfortable with yourself and not care. I bet you that most of the shallow folks are far from being models.
    It usually works out at the end, I've learned that - hard way though :)

  4. Mulled Vine: I actually meant the post itself that I wrote, which you copied and pasted ;P
    But sure haha.

    Expat: (Your name is Bella?)I see a counsellor... Not regularly at the moment, but for a while there. She went away for a bit so I dunno when I'll see her next, I think my parents are hoping I'll be okay without it, because it's expensive, but I would like to continue.
    I don't think I have ever posted a picture of myself here yet, although I may be wrong... But yeah, and I'm grateful for what you said in that last sentence. I think it's far worse with my younger sister though, she's really thin and still thinks she's fat, exercises obsessively and has done a number of other things I can't really mention on here due to people who know her... =/

    JoJo: thanks (: