For my entire college degree, I hated wearing pants and jeans because of how I’d fit in them. I had gained so much weight in high school and college, that I resorted to wearing dresses or tights whenever possible. I wore loose clothing that covered my torso. I just never felt like I was wearing anything right because my body was so wrong.

A few years ago, I went to shop in Hong Kong with my parents. We were looking at some formal dresses, and it turned out I needed a larger size. The lady who was helping us, looked like she was amused at my chubbiness, and went and got me a size up. I felt terrible, and when the dress came out, it looked too long on me. I couldn’t tell if the dress was bad, or if my body just made it look bad. Now I know it was both.

Today, I decided that I wanted to try pants. I wanted to know what size I was after I’ve lost weight over the years. I took several pairs of pants, ranging from 26 to 30.

Inside the fitting room, my teenage memories paid me a visit. As I went through puberty and also gained weight, I moved from size to size. It was scary to move from a 24 to a 26.

Back to 2016 — today, I was wearing a pair of pants that fit me well. I could also wear a size smaller, but it would fit too tightly at the crotch and it’d bunch up my hip. I could make myself feel better by telling me I fit in a smaller number, but I wouldn’t actually feel better. I wouldn’t look better in a smaller size. I looked and felt good in the right size.

I felt good about myself until I went outside and showed my boyfriend one of the skirts I wanted to get. He said, “that looks so big”. I reacted negatively, thinking that he meant that I was fat. I told him that “this is my size, and I would look good in it”. Well, it turns out that I misunderstood what he said. He meant that he didn’t like how it was poofy and long. He’d always encourage me to get shorter, tight-fitting skirts. But that’s not the point — I felt like I was challenged at that moment, and I feel like I’ve overcome an obstacle that I’ve set for myself.

I had this expectation of what a woman’s body should look. I kept thinking that various parts of my body should be bigger or smaller, higher or lower. I kept thinking that I was making a piece look bad, and never the other way around. If I could, here are some things I would tell my past self:

  1. Look at higher-quality stores.
    Some clothes are just poorly designed or have bad cuts, so it would probably look bad on most people. When I was a child, my family was average/poor, so we’d often shop for sales or budget stores. If that’s you, try on clothes at nicer places. It’s free to try, and having a good pair of jeans is better than having many ill-fitted ones.
  2. Do not focus on the numbers.
    Numbers do lie. A person in a size 2 or 4 dress will not necessarily look better than another person in a size 6 or 8 of the same dress. When you look and feel beautiful, nothing else matters. Obviously, this applies for weight as well.
  3. Keep the fitting room to yourself.
    My mother does not have to inspect every outfit, even though she wants to. If possible, pick your own clothes and sizes, and try them on. Only buy the ones that make you feel and look good.
  4. Don’t compare.
    Yes, those mannequins look fantastic in everything. Have you noticed that some of them have bobby pins to keep the outfit together because of how unrealistically thin they are? Aside of that, going through puberty can be hard when you’re taller and/or bigger than most girls. You’ll feel like a Shrek when you’re supposed to be a fragile butterfly like everyone else. What other people look like doesn’t even matter. In this fitting room, it’s just you and the clothes. You look great in it? Good. What about other people, or that smug mannequin? Shut up and buy it already.
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