Thursday, January 3, 2013

Beauty, tight jeans and self esteem

I've dealt with depression for most of my life. I have also dealt with desires to kill myself. A poor self-image. Self-hatred. And an obsessive compulsive disorder. etc. It has been a long road to rediscover that I do love myself.

While battling those feelings, I've also had people accuse me of excessive vanity. The irony of this is pretty funny to me. I secretly battled feelings of low-self esteem while publicly being labeled a vain person. I was labeled as such at BYU by people who shall remain nameless---

Anyway, continuing on...

I never thought I was beautiful growing up. As a kid, I remember being told how ugly I was. I was ridiculed for my weight. I was told I was worthless. I was spit on. Punched. Teased. Laughed at. Almost everyday. My elementary school years were horrible. 

Eventually, I lost weight and regained some of my self-esteem. I saw myself as someone who had some worth, but it was only from being skinny, tall, tan, with good hair and clothes. (Truthfully my style was so mixed up, I was a total poser but I thought I was awesome at the time in the wardrobe department.)

Then I graduated from high school and gained a lot of weight. I eventually began losing it. (Weight is something I still struggle with.) I'm never skinny enough even when I'm at my skinniest. And when I get skinny, I still feel self-conscious about my size.

I was diagnosed with OCD by my therapist at BYU. I never thought I was OCD about anything although he said I was a textbook example. I usually don't let people's comments about me leave easily. I actually have stayed up for hours at night obsessing over what people say about me. Usually stress triggers these OCD episodes where I cannot turn off the cycles of thoughts in my head. It is a very hard thing to work through. Its like a tape recorder in my head on repeat. Not fun.

At BYU, I used my OCD as a means of combating my low self-image. I figured out that I could control my appearance and thus my self-acceptance. I would control how I felt about myself by wearing the nicest clothes to flatter what I thought was an extremely bad body and appearance. I had a long list of rules which I'd use for my clothing. I couldn't wear certain things---and still don't... (Why hawaiian shirts haven't been banned, I'll never know. Socks with sandals. Baggy-saggy jeans. Sweats. Most colors beyond neutrals and dark colors. Neon. Clothing which doesn't fit properly.) I would spend 20-30 minutes picking an outfit from my closet the night before. I would try on different outfits, compare in the mirror, and make sure I looked my best.

This is a good thing, in a way, except I was obsessive over it. I was ONLY attractive if I wore my tight jeans, slim fitting shirts, the right coat, the right hair, etc. I was very self-critical.

I didn't have many friends at BYU---I was rarely invited to hang out by friends. I was told by one friend that he assumed I was so popular given how attractive I was. Sadly, it wasn't true---most of my Friday nights were spent with me wondering if I'd have a friend ask for me to hang out. Despite my attacking myself for my appearance to boost my self esteem, I didn't see my worth. I was good looking, nice, funny, and a good student. What ELSE prevented people from talking to me? What else prevented people from inviting me to hang out?

I convinced myself it was something inborn that was unlikeable in me.

I look back and I see how ridiculous my thinking was.

I sought help from the therapist---a straight man---who would compliment me and say he wished he could have my style. He'd challenge me to break my obsessive compulsive rules about clothing and style. (I even purchased a hoodie sweatshirt---the only one I own---which previously was on my list of things I'd never wear. I'm actually wearing it today. haha.)

Then I had to learn that I was beautiful for me. Not because of my clothes and style. It took a long time. I had friends who helped me. I had men and women who'd admire me---giving me compliments that I'd look good in anything. Some even said I was far more critical about my looks than necessary. I had a friend who said I was his most attractive friend and he wondered why I'd be friends with him---the whole time, I thought a similar idea that "If he knew what I was really like, he wouldn't be my friend!"

I still have rules for fashion, but they're not OCD strict. I still wear tight jeans. I still wear fitted shirts. I don't worry about it thought if I am not at the height of fashion (btw, I'm not a brand whore---half of what I wear is from a thrift store... it matters to me more than fit, style and comfort even if its a brand no one knows.)

We're all critical of ourselves. No matter what we look like. However, we all have the capable of being beautiful no matter what we look like.There's beauty which can reflect from the inside to the outside. THAT kind of beauty cannot be created by wearing nice clothes.

Do I love myself? Usually. Do I believe I'm attractive? Usually, but I still have my moments of doubt. Is my worth tied to my looks? Rarely ever.

Its a good feeling. Try realizing your own beauty and worth sometime.

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