The layers of letting it go

The layers of letting it go

Students such as junior Jasmine Lee are subjected daily to pressures to appear “beautiful,” causing them to spend time worrying about themselves instead about their school work or other important obligations.

We often hear the common cliché “true beauty and success is what lies on the inside.” It’s easy to let these words go in one ear and out the other, especially as a teenager on the brink of graduating from high school and really starting his or her life.

As a teenage girl, however, I think I’m more likely to ignore these words than anyone else.

I’ve never had an issue with my weight before. I was always healthy, but this slowly started to change once I began having a thyroid problem in seventh grade that threw off my metabolism. From there, this inner battle between myself and the mirror seemed ongoing, as after losing the weight, I entered high school with a weight gain that increased my size 4 jeans to a size 12.

I joined field hockey my freshman year thinking that I could find myself there, but soon discovered that it would be better not to continue it than deal with boys supporting the rival team making sumo wrestling noises at me whenever I ran by.

I was better at faking sick, staying cooped up in my room and tuning out the world by blasting songs and dreaming of the day when I could finally be out of here and really start my life than dealing with people at school. I didn’t want anyone to have to see me when I was secretly so unhappy with myself. I found that what I used to love to do—sports like swimming, going to friend’s houses, taking pictures and performing the songs I wrote onstage—became a burden because I didn’t want anyone to have to see me when I was secretly so unhappy with myself. I wasn’t putting in as much effort as I was used to in school. Instead, I took a lot of this effort and somehow put it into dwelling on myself.

Every day I said I would do something and finally follow through on what I wanted to do and accomplish, but I’d find myself waking up feeling horrible and going to sleep crying. I even tried one of the worst things you can do for any amount of time: not eat. But pushing my plate away at dinner and only packing a piece of fruit for lunch made my family catch on, and the worry built up for them as well as the problem persisted.

It would take a long time before I could finally realize what I was doing to myself, and this summer I finally was able to do something about it. After all of the wasted time taking this energy and putting it against myself, I worked hard, educated myself on the proper way to maintain myself and carried out what I always wanted to do: come back to who I am through shedding the layers (both physical and emotional) that had held me in the state of not feeling worthy of anything.

At times I still find myself slipping back into that twisted mentality where I’m not good enough, or pretty enough, or thin enough to let people see me—especially people that I’m afraid will judge me if I lose myself again. Even though I may want to throw my blanket over my head and take a “sick” day at times, I have to tell myself how hard I worked through this everyday struggle to maintain the confidence I’ve found in myself again.

I have to remember how I battled through those moments when friends would eat ice cream or other treats in front of me and I had to refuse them with a polite “No, thank you. I’m not hungry.” I have to remember the times when I was so unhappy with myself that I skipped out on pool parties or wore baggy shorts over my swimsuit just so no one would judge me and I wouldn’t have to focus on judging myself.

But I know who I am now and have come to accept all of the qualities that make me, me. I am big-boned, caring and have a big heart. I’ve found a way to tune out what I thought defined me–what other people think or say–and have finally found the beat to my own drum.

But I’m not asking for a pity party. Instead, I want the rest of us to find it in ourselves to believe that we are worth it and that we owe ourselves the confidence and acceptance that makes us who we are. Variety and difference is what makes the world beautiful, especially as teenagers trying to discover who we are in it.

After all, it was William Shakespeare himself that wrote, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” And now when I step on that stage, I know it’s the real me looking back at the world, eye to eye, never to turn away again.