I went to Alaska in 7th grade. Straight legged jeans, loose sweatshirts to hide my body, and the same purple glasses I had since 3rd grade in hand, I went to Alaska. I wasn’t comfortable with myself, I didn’t want to leave the car. I didn’t enjoy the beauty at hand because I was too worried about what I looked like.

I don’t know why, but one thing I won’t ever forgot was a short ferry ride in Alaska. I went to the balcony on the back of the boat to enjoy the fresh air and watch the motor push away the water. It so effortlessly pushed away the water as if the water had no hold on it. But the water was supporting the whole boat. I wish I could’ve pushed my negative emotions away like that. But then I saw this small girl in a sweatshirt, skinny jeans, and flip flops.

What a wacky combination I thought to myself. But because she was skinny, she could wear anything and pull it off. What a perfect combination. She was warm on the top but could still let her feet breathe on the bottom. As a fat middle schooler, I tried to hide my negative feelings of body image under a layer of clothing that I thought was “appropriate” for my body. I didn’t want to give people a chance to notice my body because they would first notice and great and appropriate combination of clothes that I was wearing.

I hated myself, and all I could think about was how good that girl looked in her sweatshirt, jeans, and flip flops. She was laughing with her friends and looked so carefree. I couldn’t be so carefree — I was always so worried about what I looked like. I always had to take the effort to put on shoes even when I went out for a few minutes because flip flops didn’t feel “appropriate” for me.

Clothes have always been a major part of my life. My evolution through my clothing has defined me. You can tell how I’m feeling based on what I’m wearing. Starting in 6th grade, when I really decided myself what I wanted to wear, I wore baggy jeans and sweatshirts because I didn’t know any better. In 7th grade, I wore the same baggy jeans and sweatshirts because I realized I hated what I looked like. I was so envious of everyone else’s thin legs and ability to not care what they wore because they looked so good in everything. In 8th grade, I cracked down. I ate one bowl of fruit and one bowl of salad every day for lunch and stopped myself from eating any snacks at home. It was truly a case study in self control — never have I worked that hard towards losing weight than I did in 8th grade. And it worked. I didn’t weigh myself, but I did feel myself getting thinner and taller. And other people noticed too.

In freshman year, I started wearing tighter looser jeans, although they were still pretty loose. I did wear the same pair of jeans every day, but my tops got tighter as I felt more comfortable with myself. Soon, near the end of freshman year, I bought myself an actual pair of skinnier jeans (still not totally skinny), and I still remember the first morning I wore them. I went straight to the bathroom when I got to school and stared at myself in the mirror for a solid five minutes to convince myself that I didn’t look like an imposter.

An imposter in the sense that I didn’t deserve to wear those jeans. I thought I was too fat to deserve those jeans. Skinny jeans were for skinny people. I myself subconsciously judged “fatter” people who wore skinny jeans and didn’t want to fall prey to the same judgements. My friend coincidentally came into the bathroom at the same time as me, and I asked her how I looked. After receiving a satisfactory “okay” from her, I somewhat confidently went to my pre-calculus class. I started wearing those jeans day after day after that, and I slowly began to gain confidence in myself. I was slowly making my way to join the skinny jeans club and making my way to be the girl in a sweatshirt, skinny jeans, and flip flops.

Then that summer, I stumbled upon a pair of black skinny jeans in Forever 21. Long story short (because I’ve told this story so many times), I felt confident enough to buy them, and I actually wore them. Sophomore year was my “stylish” year — I broke out of the clothing boundaries I had locked myself into.

And I wore skinny jeans, a sweatshirt, and flip flops. I don’t know if this was actually the first time or just my first recollection, but it was on a Sunday morning when I went to take a practice AP Calculus BC exam at school. It was May, and it was cold in the morning but not cold enough to fully bundle up. I remember putting on my flip flops with my outfit and feeling and immense sense of pride. I had finally made it. In about 3 years, I had made it to where I want to be.

That doesn’t mean my body issues have ended. There are still days where I feel morbidly fat and always think people are staring at me. But there are also days where I feel happy with my body. My next goal is to feel comfortable in a bikini. My struggles to lose weight and my relationship with food will probably still be in turmoil for a long time, but I’m getting closer to feeling comfortable with myself.

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